The big read: Can an apple fall from the tree in Singapore as more companies expand overseas?
The business support ecosystem available in Singapore is also a big help for local businesses looking to grow, the companies surveyed said.
Mr Ng from EtonHouse said that based on his overseas experiences in conducting business, he found that few countries had their equivalent of ESG, which is dedicated to supporting the growth of local businesses. .
He noted that even where similar agencies exist in other countries, their operations tend to be “quite small,” unlike the range of solutions and programs ESG administers here.
“So, by design, Singapore is already very lucky,” he added.
In addition to ESG, SBF also supports local companies in their projects abroad. An example of SBF’s initiatives is its Singapore Enterprise Centers (SEC) set up overseas to facilitate forays by Singaporean companies.
“Through our SECs in Jakarta and Ho Chi Minh City, SBF assisted 32 companies on projects in Indonesia and Vietnam in 2021. We just opened our third SEC in Bangkok, Thailand earlier this year,” said an SBF spokesperson.
On the other hand, the overall safe and stable business environment in Singapore can hamper local businesses’ ability to manage uncertainty, which is an integral part of growing as a global business, Ng said.
“The not-so-good part of this system is that when it comes to dealing with uncertainty in this world, we’re very inclined to look (to others to take the lead),” he said. , adding that sometimes such occasions call for courageous leadership and decisive risk-taking.
Similarly, NTU’s Dr Tan said coping with “a difficult business environment that is not well-defined, well-structured” overseas can be difficult for Singaporeans, who are used to a more refined business infrastructure. at their home.
And while Singapore’s small size can be an incentive for its businesses to look outward for growth, it can also be a hindrance due to the small pool of human capital available.
Given the Republic’s attractiveness to global giant corporations, local companies often have to compete for the same talent pool. “The biggest (foreign) multinationals, being as big as they are, are more able to afford a talented individual… In short, you might say it’s the ability to pay” said Mr. Seah of food retailer Lim Siang Huat.
ShopBack’s Ms. Chow expressed a more optimistic view on this, saying that local talent employed by international companies in Singapore is akin to “master’s degrees”, further deepening their skills and broadening their visibility.
The skills learned can then help local businesses grow if those talents join them later, she said.
Ms Chow suggested that more help could be offered to local businesses – SMEs or multinationals – so that they can compete with their larger counterparts on a level playing field when it comes to attracting talented employees.
ESG’s Mr Siow acknowledged that Singapore’s small economy and population “will always limit the number of our local global businesses”. But technology and digitization can help make size constraints “less daunting”, he said.
NTU’s Dr Tan added that while lack of talent may be a barrier for some industries, it is less so for some technology and service sectors which may not be labor intensive to grow. .
“So big is not all. Small can be really beautiful,” he said.
LOCAL BUSINESSES AIMING HIGHER IN THE POST-PANDEMIC WORLD
Indeed, constrained or not, some local companies that have achieved global success are looking to further growth.
After entering more than 50 markets with its exports, Secretlab last year announced plans to increase its current workforce of 200 people in Singapore by around 50%. Much of the expanded workforce consists of engineers and designers, reflecting the company’s continued focus on its flagship product, gaming chairs.
It also plans to “continue to invest heavily in research and development and ergonomic studies”, while keeping a close eye on maintaining quality.
“And as a business grows, even a 0.01% defect rate would mean that 1,000 customers would be affected when we produce 1,000,000 chairs a year, for example. It is therefore absolutely crucial to ensure that we are doing the right thing for our customers,” said Mr. Ang, CEO of Secretlab.
As for ShopBack, it believes that a supportive entrepreneurial ecosystem is key to generating more successful local businesses.
Ms Chow said that just as tech giants like Google and Microsoft have made Silicon Valley what it is today, local businesses also have a role to play in “creating that community”. entrepreneurs in Singapore.