Singapore plans to boost business with India tech sector

Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations Mr S Iswaran sharing more about the Global Innovation Alliance (GIA) network at YourStory's TechSparks, one of India's largest start-up events on Oct 11, 2019. PHOTO: SISWARAN/FACEBOOK

Singapore has launched a plan to boost business partnerships with India through tech innovations.

Announcing the expansion of the Government's Global Innovation Alliance (GIA) network, Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations S. Iswaran hailed it as a "milestone" in economic cooperation between the two countries.

It is an attempt to connect Singapore's tech start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises to India's technology ecosystem.

"The Indian start-up scene is very vibrant, and Bangalore accounts for a quarter of the start-ups in India… the talent flow we can engineer through this partnership is immense," Mr Iswaran told The Straits Times on the sidelines of Techsparks, a tech start-up conference in Bangalore.

India is a significant trading partner of Singapore, with total bilateral trade amounting to $26.4 billion last year. Singapore, whose investments in India have soared in the past decade, became India's largest investor last year.

Much of that investment has been in traditional sectors such as consumer goods and building infrastructure, as well as in property development. The new alliance will be aiming to direct attention to start-ups, especially those in the digital space.

"Internationalisation remains the key driver of growth for Singapore companies," said Mr Peter Ong, chairman of Enterprise Singapore which helps small and medium enterprises in the Republic navigate global markets.

"India's growing e-commerce consumption, drive towards digitisation, and aspiration for infrastructure and urban solutions - not only smart cities but also physical infrastructure - are growing areas that Singapore companies can pay heed to," said Mr Ong.

The innovation alliance in Bangalore was kick-started by Enterprise Singapore signing memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with three companies that will help start-ups test bed and quickly scale up in India.

Anthill Ventures, an international speed-scaling platform, for instance, was one of the MOU signatories. Nominated by the Singapore Government to conduct an immersion programme, the company will hold boot camps to demystify the Indian market and regulatory mechanisms for Singapore-based start-ups looking to enter India through Bangalore.

"Most companies keep throwing more money to scale up and enter new markets. But the way we do it is to minimise initial scale-up costs by giving the companies access to distribution channels," said Mr Prasad Vanga, founder of Anthill Ventures.

For Indian firms, the ties with Singapore offer a gateway into South-east Asian markets.

Said Mr Iswaran: "The digital economy valuation for Asean, for example, is expected to grow from around $16 billion-$17 billion to at least more than $215 billion by 2025. It is a significant market opportunity. We think that there is much scope to work together in collaboration."

Correction note: An earlier version of this article wrongly quoted Mr Peter Ong as mentioning fiscal infrastructure. It should be physical infrastructure. We are sorry for the error.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2019, with the headline Singapore plans to boost business with India tech sector. Subscribe