Finding good partners

2014-07-28 05:00:00.0

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How successful is Singapore Inc overseas? What do the firms need to have most when venturing abroad? Yeoh Oon Jin Executive Chairman PwC Singapore MANY local businesses are indeed venturing overseas given the relatively small size of the Singapore market coupled with challenges around manpower and rising costs. There are many obstacles Singapore firms face going overseas, but those who recognise and overcome them do very well. The key is to understand where Singapore's strength lies. Trustworthiness and integrity are qualities that differentiate the Singapore businessman. Singapore companies who are successful abroad are those who make the extra effort to understand and embrace the local culture while ensuring that business risks are mitigated. The ability to apply Western management concepts while maintaining Eastern values makes the Singapore businessman an ideal business partner. One key remaining challenge, however, is that with the competition for talent being so intense, management bandwidth will be stretched when companies venture overseas without additional resources. In a nutshell, successful businesses are the ones that begin the localisation journey the moment they set foot in another country. Many of them are reaping the benefits of this forward-looking step now. Pang Yee Ean CEO Surbana International Consultants SINGAPORE Inc is a trusted brand overseas that's often associated with high quality and reliability. Singapore companies must treasure this unique status and the respect earned by our earlier business and political leaders. Singapore companies should also strive to maintain this hard-earned reputation by conducting their businesses overseas responsibly and with integrity. There are always inherent challenges in entering new markets, which is why selecting good local partners on the ground is important. Good partners reduce our risks with their local establishment and network. For Surbana, we are taking it a step further by looking into strategic acquisitions to enter new markets. This will also allow us to grow our global talent base and increase our competitiveness in overseas markets. Laletha Nithiyanandan Managing Director Talent Design Potential SINGAPORE is often the first stop for international businesses coming to Asia so our firms are used to competing with these companies and in this way have more going for them when it comes to doing business overseas. However, many of us rely on efficiency and effectiveness as competitive tools to gain growth in other markets. But this is not as important in some countries, and so one of the areas that Singapore firms struggle with has to do with building relationships and using local expertise to guide us in penetrating that market. We tend to have a low threshold for inefficiency and take ourselves too seriously. Taking Singapore Inc to the next level requires us to learn how to not compare everything to Singapore but instead to fall in love with the virtues and advantages that each market has to offer and a willingness to live somewhere else for some time. Thomas Klotz Managing Partner, South-east Asia Roland Berger Strategy Consultants BANKING typically is not a sector in which companies are able to achieve major market shares abroad. Most countries are protective of their banking system and incumbents. It would take a very liberal government or regulator and a small country for foreign banks to have any chance at dominating – New Zealand comes to mind as the only example in Asia-Pacific. There is no reason for Singapore firms to not be successful abroad, but they will have to go through a learning curve: what works at home does not necessarily work outside – localisation is key. This has to be accompanied by the acceptance of higher risks and flexibility in managing. Mistakes and failures will be made; these will need to be accepted as the cost of doing business and have to be addressed quickly, serving as a source of rapid learning. Ronald Lee Managing Director PrimeStaff Management Services Pte Ltd FOR years, several local brands and companies have been flying the Singapore flag high on the world stage, with names like Singapore Airlines, Tiger Beer, BreadTalk and OSIM easily coming to mind. Aside from these stalwarts, Singapore Inc has gained more traction in recent years thanks to some newer players on the scene such as the Spa Esprit Group and Thai Express, which are enjoying growing success in the region and beyond. For firms to effectively venture abroad, they require not only solid balance sheets but also to first and foremost conduct proper feasibility studies and do in-depth research into the viability of the market they intend to enter. Failure to do their homework will severely negate their chances of success. Besides sufficient business preparation, they should also look into tapping any government grants or assistance that supports such overseas expansion programmes. Having the right supportive framework and ecosystem in place can make all the difference when venturing into unknown territories. Lim Soon Hock Managing Director PLAN-B ICAG Pte Ltd SINGAPORE Inc has had limited success overseas. Most of it can be claimed by our GLCs (government-linked companies). Sharing the honours list are a few large homegrown companies, such as OSIM, Hyflux and Tee Yih Jia. We still have some way to go to have more successful homegrown companies on the global stage, in terms of geographical coverage and magnitude of business. The banking sector is not a good example. Host countries' financial regulations and requirements make it near-impossible for Singapore banks to build scale and a presence to be of any challenge to the entrenched local players. That said, Singapore companies in other industries can emulate the success of OSIM, Hyflux and Tee Yih Jia. If there is one area where local firms can venture abroad and be very successful, it is to own intellectual property. Although the risks are high, the returns are also very high. It is all about finding the killer app that meets a compelling need to allow the company to transcend all global barriers and reach. Creative Technology has demonstrated this before. There is, therefore, no reason why Singapore Inc cannot produce more clones of Creative. Olivia Lum Executive Chairman and Group CEO Hyflux THERE are many Singapore companies that have established themselves globally in their industries. The brand value of "Singapore Inc" has contributed to the overseas success stories of Singapore businesses. At Hyflux, we started to explore new territories some 20 years ago. Even back in the 1990s, we realised that our growth and expansion would be limited if we only looked within our borders. Recognising the tremendous potential of China and Africa, we became one of the earliest Singapore companies to make a footprint in the emerging markets through investments and execution of large projects there. To date, we have some of the largest desalination plants in the world in Algeria and China. It is critical for companies going overseas to understand the local business landscape, laws and culture. Companies venturing abroad must have an appreciation of and willingness to adapt to local business cultures, have a sense of adventure, courage and patience when heading out to lesser-known territories. There are definitely risks, but if managed well, the results are very fulfilling. David Crammond Founder and CEO Maachu TO foreign companies and their governments, mention Singapore Inc and they think of the government-linked and not private sector companies, which have made an impact on foreign soil. With the exception of a handful of successful companies, the direct footprint of Singapore companies overseas is not significant in global terms. In my opinion, the main reason is a lack of understanding of the clients' needs in the overseas markets. Singapore Inc tends to focus on building their businesses to "work in Singapore". What needs to be done is to "build the business to work anywhere". We must not forget that what works here may not necessarily work outside Singapore. I have met many budding entrepreneurs in Singapore and found that their ideas are just not scalable. This is because they are focused on the unique opportunities and challenges in Singapore. When asked about overseas expansion, they have either not thought about it or have done only basic research. One solution to this "lack of market insight" is to bring in experienced outside talent to help drive overseas strategies and growth. Another solution is to tap our overseas Singaporean talents by luring them back and giving them leadership roles. For entrepreneurs and companies, there must be attractive incentives to encourage them to expand beyond the shores of Singapore and spread their wings and hopefully over time, Singapore Inc will have more footprints globally. Kong Chee Min Group Chief Executive Officer Centurion Corporation MAKING an impact overseas is a challenge, not only for Singaporean firms but also for companies worldwide looking to operate in a foreign market outside of their own. Singapore remains Centurion Corporation's home market but over the last two years, we have successfully ventured overseas into Malaysia, Australia and the United Kingdom providing workers' and student accommodation. From our own experience, we believe that firms must be able to comfortably leverage their current expertise and strengths in Singapore before moving to capture opportunities abroad. Firms need to understand the key differences in the foreign market, such as its economic situation and outlook, considering how these factors may impact their own operations, best practices, and financial standing, for example. Without a clear strategy of what they wish to accomplish in the targeted overseas markets, companies may find that their investment falls short of their expectations. Firms should recognise that success is based on a prudent approach when venturing abroad, requiring a long-term view in their investment approach. Max Loh Country Managing Partner Ernst & Young LLP SEVERAL notable Singapore companies have grown into global players in their fields; yet many can do better at venturing abroad. Companies have traditionally entered new markets through partnering local distributors or contract manufacturing, but not many have truly entrenched their presence. When venturing overseas, companies need highly flexible business models to respond to new opportunities and risks. Increasingly, success depends on the level of granularity and customisation in analysing and capturing opportunities, and developing new routes to markets, including acquisitions as a quick and enabling way. Also, supply chain effectiveness is important, in addition to product innovation, branding, sales and marketing. It is also important to establish an operating model that balances headquarter and local empowerment for responsive decision-making. Additionally, there is the need for diverse talent both in management and teams, to ensure the necessary mix of global and local market perspectives that are needed to drive tailored strategies for different markets and customer segments. Sonya Madeira Managing Partner Rice Communications SINGAPORE firms have for many years been encouraged to internationalise. We are seeing a growing number of Singapore companies entering frontier markets like Myanmar, where there has been successful trade delegations from Singapore's logistics, oil and gas, and financial sectors in recent months. Agencies like International Enterprise (IE) Singapore and Economic Development Board should also be lauded for their efforts in helping local companies expand abroad. However, these initiatives can only do so much. What is most important is a sound cultural understanding of the market they are entering. We have all heard of large corporations going confidently into a market only to pull out later. In many instances, it was not due to their business model but their inability to adapt to local market conditions. A country's culture ultimately should shape the way firms behave and strategise. Investing time to understand how business is conducted and immersing in the local way of life will bode well for Singapore firms looking to spread their wings overseas. Toh Han Li Chief Executive Competition Commission of Singapore GIVEN its limited domestic market, Singapore has been encouraging local firms to venture abroad to expand their market base. To this end, various financing and assistance schemes have been established by government agencies to help firms internationalise. Trade agreements such as the Transpacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), when concluded, will offer firms benefits like tariff reductions, greater market access and fair competition. At the government level, we also strive to harmonise regulations and technical requirements across borders so as to reduce uncertainty and regulatory costs for firms as they navigate overseas laws and regulations. At the same time, firms need to possess certain critical success factors to ensure success in their overseas ventures including a deep understanding of the relevant market as well as staying competitive, innovative and responsive to customers' needs. Ron Totton Managing Director, South-east Asia BT Global Services IT infrastructure and technology-related factors stand in the way of Singapore organisations expanding overseas. According to our latest Art of Connecting Global Business survey, an overwhelming majority (96 per cent) of Singapore business leaders say they are hindered by the digital infrastructure of their most desired markets and therefore find it difficult to expand into those markets. They also find their organisations' current technology inadequate. They believe having "reliable communications amongst all branches/territories" is the most crucial in contributing towards the successful operation of an organisation. The study also highlighted that Singapore businesses cited the United States and Hong Kong as their desired destinations for expansion due to their potential customer base, followed by China, Indonesia and Thailand. Technology and networks can transform the environment in which these businesses operate, at home and abroad. They help to orchestrate businesses, bring people together, identify opportunities and allow Singapore businesses to deliver great business outcomes. Tang Boon Ping Director, Asia Linksys and Belkin EXPANSION should always be on the radar for organisations, big or small, but organisations need to ensure that this is in line with their business objectives before undertaking such a move. It is important to recognise that the business environment in countries differ and as such, venturing abroad is very different to expanding locally. Through Linksys' expansion in this region and having successfully established ourselves in several markets, we found three "must-haves" for success – flexibility, people and marketing. There is never a one-size-fits-all model for operations and organisations need to be flexible to adapt to local market conditions, while its people need to adopt an open mindset to understand the local idiosyncrasies of the market. Marketing is then the final piece of the puzzle that is critical in brand establishment, understanding and reaching out to the right target segments for growth. Stephen McNulty Managing Director, Asia-Pacific and Japan Progress Software THE number of Singapore companies that have successfully expanded overseas over the years is commendable. Data from IE Singapore found that more than 26,000 Singapore companies were seeking business opportunities overseas in 2013, of which over 85 per cent were small and medium enterprises (SMEs). With stiff competition from local players in the overseas markets, especially those who are able to offer competitive price points for their products and services, Singapore companies can succeed by establishing strategic partnerships with local players and authorities. Based on our experience in the technology industry, we have seen how collaborations with local government agencies help Singapore businesses thrive in overseas markets. Singapore startups looking to venture into emerging markets can work with local agencies like Indonesia's Agency for Assessment and Application of Technology and the Philippines' Department of Science and Technology to identify pain points faced by local enterprises, which can help them better develop and deploy the right solution that meets the needs of the end-users. Lukas Raska Chief Operating Officer, Apac ESET SINGAPORE is an ideal breeding ground for business, with strong home-grown entrepreneurial talent. For Singapore companies, the wider region presents a myriad of exciting market opportunities with the chance to target millions of new customers. It's no surprise then that Singapore businesses continue to expand their horizons into neighbouring markets. Going regional has its challenges, however, particularly due to the inescapable differences between markets in such a diverse economic landscape. As a company which has a presence in all major markets across the region, we know that having the right in-market partners, distributors and resellers to provide cultural knowledge and invaluable market insight is essential for ensuring the success of any venture abroad. Business starts and ends with relationships and will always be crucial for any Singapore enterprise looking to position itself for success in a foreign marketplace. Dumont Jean-Michel Chairman Ruder Finn Asia SINGAPORE has in the last 49 years developed a very strong brand name for itself. We have seen government agencies as well as homegrown brands roll out brand campaigns to position Made-in-Singapore products and services that are built on trust, quality and innovation, having recently claimed the top spot for Asia in the recent Global Innovation Index (GII). As Singapore continues to play on the global economic stage, efforts to strengthen the country's brand must remain, if not intensify. Beyond country branding, companies must also look at their communication infrastructure as this is fundamental to their success – an area where Singapore companies can do much more regionally and globally. Developing and implementing a robust communication roadmap that dovetails the company's business plans not only enhances its brand but also protect its reputation. This will help augment the company's business development efforts, achieving the desired results. The communication must also be all-encompassing, helping to set the stage and positioning the company in the right space regionally and globally from the very onset. Herbert Vongpusanachai Managing Director DHL Express Singapore INTERNATIONALISATION is no longer an option but a necessity for Singapore companies who want to enjoy strong and sustainable growth. By expanding their footprints abroad, these firms can escape the confines of our limited domestic market by capitalising on the many opportunities present in our growing Asian neighbours, such as China and Myanmar. In 2013, a heartening 46 per cent of local SMEs already have overseas operations, and of these, 43 per cent are generating up to 30 per cent of revenue from abroad. We believe that the internationalisation trend will continue to grow as Singapore further enhances government initiatives to provide companies with funding to expand globally. Besides capital, businesses will also need to overcome the complexities of shipping overseas and have the right network to reach their target customers. By partnering with a logistics provider such as DHL, companies will not need to worry about customs and will also have constant visibility on their shipments' status. Additionally, DHL has a global reach of 120,000 destinations in over 220 countries and territories, allowing businesses to reach their target buyers quickly and effectively. Philippe Huinck Regional Managing Director, South and South-east Asia International SOS INNOVATION is critical if you want to grow. Without creating new products and solutions, existing offerings quickly become commoditised and it becomes difficult to stay ahead of the competition. It is important to always have a customer-centric mindset and look at how the company can adapt to customers' changing needs. Cross-cultural management is another key factor. It is important for a Singapore company to have emotional intelligence and bear in mind cultural differences when venturing overseas. It impacts how clearly your company's values will be perceived amongst stakeholders such as your customers, regulators and employees. The success of International SOS is based on innovation, adaptation and continuous evolution. Founded and headquartered in Singapore almost 30 years ago, the company has grown from strength to strength. The company started small, offering 24-hour medical care and evacuation services with a single control centre in Singapore in 1985. With increasing corporate travel and rising medical costs, our founders saw the need to provide Western multinationals in South-east Asia with top-notch medical services for expatriate staff. It was a whole new concept that just hadn't existed before at that time. From the early medical services, other areas of business were subsequently established, and the company started to offer security planning, medical consulting and crisis management in addition. International SOS has come a long way as we expanded over the years, operating in over 89 countries today. But our mission has not changed – we continue to help organisations protect their employees across the globe. Singapore remains our home to a diverse workforce comprising Singaporeans and 29 other nationalities. We are proud to have contributed to, and be a part of, Singapore's growth here and abroad. Daniel Soh Managing Partner Leadership Advisory Inc ON the whole, Singapore Inc has done well overseas. We can take a quick look at Keppel Corp, CapitaLand, Hyflux, BreadTalk Group, Charles & Keith, OSIM, Adam Khoo Learning Centre, Pico Art ... and many more. It is never easy to start. But over the years, Singapore businesses (and leaders) have earned a strong reputation of delivering high-quality products, impeccable integrity and the discipline of getting things done. For companies venturing overseas, they have to be mindful of the myriad of differences, from culture and language to regulatory regimes, and economic maturity means that companies cannot apply a one-size-fits all solution. For this reason, products and services, as well as business strategy, have to be localised to ensure that they address the specific needs of the local market. Besides possessing the hard science of market knowledge and competitive analysis, business leaders driving the growth must also possess the soft skills, which include having the highest standards of integrity, adaptability, flexibility and agility to respond quickly to a changing business environment. Neeraj Swaroop Chief Executive Officer, Singapore Standard Chartered Bank WITH Singapore being an entrepôt economy, having access to regional and global markets is important for Singapore-based companies. Increasingly, our clients are looking to expand overseas. Smaller Singapore companies tend to look towards expanding in Asean countries such as Malaysia and Thailand, while larger ones with the capacity to go further geographically set their sights on China, India and even Africa. When venturing overseas, SMEs may face challenges such as operating in an unknown market, understanding domestic regulations, obtaining marketing intelligence and most importantly, funding. Clients' feedback showed that having the right partner with in-depth knowledge of local market conditions and the ability to open doors and arrange for funding, will help them greatly in getting their operations running smoothly in the new market. StanChart's Global Account Managers who coordinate the financial requirements of SME operations overseas across multiple geographies have been assisting clients with their expansion plans by connecting them to the right people and arranging for funding by leveraging the strength of the clients' Singapore operations. This is how we value-add to clients and help them fulfil their business ambitions. Kanwal Nain Sahney Managing Director Specvision SINGAPORE is the regional hub for finance, distribution and in providing headquarter functions for both multinational corporations (MNCs) and homegrown firms. The government has been successful in pursuing the policy of internationalisation. Foreign direct investment by Singapore firms rose four times to S$400 billion from the year 2000 to 2010. It was just S$17 billion in 1990. This is impressive, but the corporate value creation overseas largely remained concentrated either in a handful of sectors or in setting up industrial parks. The fact is that we could never truly penetrate consumer or mass market segments abroad. Key reasons contributing to this scenario are: unfamiliarity with local laws; language barrier; and above all, lack of an entrepreneurial ecosystem back home. Moody's recent survey results about how Singapore banks fare in the neighbouring markets, therefore, do not come as a surprise. Over the past couple of years, this story has been unfolding with a new twist. Rising costs and acute manpower shortage at home are driving local firms either out of business or to relocate operations elsewhere. To venture abroad we need to integrate the Singapore quality, brand and reputation into our products. Due diligence in identifying niche sectors like hospitality, infrastructure, research and development, logistics, waste management, as well as good local joint venture partners and a good understanding of the overseas country's laws are imperative. Our government can continue to play an active role in helping to bridge partnerships. Lee Fook Chiew Chief Executive Officer Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants SINGAPORE firms are in a good position as the government has a slew of initiatives to support their internationalisation efforts. However, SMEs also need to have the right knowledge, network and infrastructure. For example, they need to have an understanding of local cultural nuances, laws and regulations and cross-border taxation requirements besides having suitable business partners and systems. SMEs can mitigate these challenges by tapping on the expertise of our accounting firms, including the small and medium practitioners (SMPs). Our accounting firms possess specialist knowledge in areas like tax and regulations, making them suitable business advisers. In addition, SMPs, being SMEs themselves, can provide more personalised services based on their intimate knowledge of their clients' strength, weaknesses and needs. To better help their clients globalise, our SMPs can bolster their capabilities by joining international accounting networks or partner foreign SMPs where they can further leverage on existing local expertise and infrastructure. Robert Wilkes Managing Director, Singapore Towers Watson ACCORDING to Towers Watson's Asian Trailblazers study, Singaporean companies have so far adopted well-defined globalisation strategies, adapting quickly to the challenges brought on by Asia's rapid growth environment. Singapore's business leaders must become even more comfortable with the region's ambiguity and develop skills that are effective in cross-cultural contexts to ensure their success continues. Some understanding of how their offering is likely to be perceived in a new market is important and a structured mergers and acquisitions (M&A) approach is vital if they plan to expand via a merger or acquisition, given the changing nature of this area and the shorter time between deal announcement and completion. Companies also need intelligent talent management strategies. If internationally mobile employees are expected to fill critical overseas positions, marketable retention plans will be key. Tom Evrard Managing Director FTI Consulting Strategic Communications Singapore WITH the support of organisations such as IE Singapore, Singaporean companies, and indeed companies across South-east Asia, have been stepping up the expansion of their global footprints, both through M&A and organic growth. We see stakeholder engagement and reputation management as key success factors for companies taking this step, as they face new unknown audiences, increased scrutiny and new regulatory regimes and business environments that have to be navigated. The media can be a key channel through which to raise awareness, build trust and demonstrate commitment to a new market, so it's important that expansionist companies are armed with a strong media relations strategy. They also need a well-planned approach to engagement with regulators and other relevant authorities – starting conversations early with key decision-makers can make or break M&A transactions and strengthen an organisation's market-entry efforts. It is also important to recognise the value of integration planning, should expansion be through M&A, as well as the cultural challenges that a Singaporean firm may have with employees in new markets so that new workforces understand the shared goals to realise both value and the new global vision. Lionel Lee Group CEO and Managing Director Ezra Holdings EXPANDING a business overseas can be very challenging and is certainly not for the faint-hearted. However, the key to success is careful planning. Companies should ensure that they allocate the necessary time, resources and investment to a new overseas venture. Leaders of organisations will need to invest significant time and energy into overseeing the launch of a new overseas venture. For example, when Ezra took over the office in Houston after our acquisition of AMC in 2011, I had to stay in Houston for an extended period of time, relocating with my family, in order to oversee the set-up of the business. Companies also need to be mindful of the cultural differences and regulations that might impact their operations in a new country; hiring local talent on the ground is essential to navigate these challenges. John Keung Chief Executive Officer Building and Construction Authority COMPANIES from Singapore's built environment sector have been active in emerging markets such as China, South-east Asia, India and the Middle East. Their overseas projects include residential and infrastructure ones, averaging S$2.2 billion of construction volume a year from 2004 to 2013. To succeed in overseas ventures, Singapore firms need to have good corporate governance, be agile in adapting to changing local business conditions, have a good knowledge of the local business culture and suitable local partners. To this end, the Building and Construction Authority has been assisting Singapore companies by providing market intelligence through seminars and overseas trade missions, as well as promoting Singapore's niche construction capabilities and services overseas. We also promote quality and timely delivery as the hallmark of our firms venturing overseas. Many Singapore firms are now enjoying the success of exporting consultancy works in the areas of green building, master planning, MEP (Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing) engineering designs as well as our know-how in Building Information Modelling (BIM). Koh Wee Lih CEO AIMS AMP Capital Industrial Reit SINGAPORE is a regional hub across a number of industries from financial services, property services to logistics. Companies based in Singapore enjoy the advantages of an established and open economy with clear regulations and policies in place. As they expand overseas, they take with them successful business models backed with capital. Nonetheless, to successfully establish a presence in a foreign market, strong networks and relationships on the ground are essential. In February this year, AIMS AMP Capital Industrial Reit leveraged the local networks of its sponsors AIMS Financial Group and AMP Capital to expand its geographic footprint and enter Australia. With the strong networks on the ground, the Trust successfully acquired 49 per cent of indirect interest in Optus Centre in New South Wales in a complex transaction with the strong support of its sponsors. The acquisition strengthened the Reit's asset base, diversified its portfolio and ensured greater returns to unit holders. It is a great example of the importance of having a strong offshore network to understand and tap the local market. Leong Soo Yee Singapore Head Acca IN a 2011 Acca (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) survey commissioned by the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra), an overwhelming majority of Singapore's SMPs in the accountancy sector recognised that expanding overseas will provide an avenue for future growth and risk diversification. However, nearly three quarters of them sourced only 5 per cent or less of their revenue from clients located outside Singapore. This brings into focus the enormous unrealised potential waiting to be tapped by SMPs. To facilitate expansion, SMPs need to familiarise themselves with foreign regulations, as well as come to grips with cultural and language differences. These were the most common impediments to overseas expansion and SMPs would do well to address these challenges early. Assistance from a trusted foreign partner may alleviate some of these "teething problems". Individual firms may also explore how they can collaborate with other SMPs or large audit firms in Singapore to launch a broader and more robust value proposition to foreign partners and clients. Other spin-offs in collaborating with other like-minded local firms may include referrals of audits and other engagements and the sharing of best practices. While we enumerate the challenges, we should not overlook the inherent advantages that Singapore SMPs have over their counterparts in the region, in particular their long familiarity with global standards on financial reporting, audit and ethics. Most firms are also already managing a multi-cultural mix of clients. These comparative advantages will ensure that Singapore SMPs who set their sights on expanding overseas will be equipped to play an active part in developing the "external wing" of Singapore's accountancy sector. Nasim Shahzad Managing Director Meinhardt Singapore Pte Ltd THE Singapore domestic market is small. The cost of doing business in Singapore is high, including manpower costs due to a limited labour supply. Consequently, Singapore private sector companies are relatively small. Arguably, Singapore's success is down to an inward investment-based model where the focus has been on creating a business-friendly environment where foreign MNCs can thrive. This is due to Singapore's sterling reputation for good governance. However, this may have hampered the success and growth of homegrown firms. Steps to remedy this situation include strong government support and fostering entrepreneurship in an entrenched risk-averse culture. This culture is seen in the difficulties in obtaining funding support from Singapore banks due to a conservative approach to business that does not support overseas ventures. The framework to develop Singapore Inc overseas is in place but we must continue to evolve a unique model that works for Singapore. We need to move on from a value-supporting and value-adding role to create value through innovation and entrepreneurship. As the Ministry of Trade and Industry has rightly pointed out, much of it "depends on whether our human capital is able to develop to its fullest extent and realise its potential". The globalisation of Singapore companies requires not just strong support from government agencies, embassies and local banks but, more importantly, the willingness of Singaporeans to relocate overseas. Unfortunately, the number of people who are willing to be posted overseas is extremely limited. This will inevitably limit the growth of Singapore Inc overseas. Annie Yap Managing Director AYP Associates Pte Ltd GENERALLY, Singapore Inc has not been that successful overseas with the exception of a few well-recognised retail and F&B brands such as Charles & Keith, OSIM and Paradise Group. When venturing abroad, what firms need the most is government support, a local network and an understanding of their environment. The government has indeed been providing us entrepreneurs with support via various organisations such as Spring and IE, be it in funding, branding or manpower training for our staff to venture abroad. Other considerations that the firms need to have would be a well-researched business plan – draft the worst-case scenario, be prepared for a two-year lead time – and the boldness to have the vision of expanding overseas. Compared to other countries, Singapore's entrepreneurial culture is rich. And, slowly but surely, more of the younger Singaporeans are choosing to set up their own businesses. Overtime, I am sure we will see more and more successful Singapore businesses overseas. Alan Leong Vice President, Asia-Pacific Silver Peak FACTORS such as plentiful land, labour and resources may be driving forces for Singapore Inc to expand overseas. However, as businesses become more sophisticated, fundamental elements that govern the survival and fuel the meteoric success of new entrants in any environment are data availability, cyber security and network performance. The primary challenge of offshore expansion for firms is their ability to replicate solid control over those elements on foreign soil, while seeking alignment in business operations across borders. The problem is compounded when markets differ in regulatory policies and industrial benchmarks such as trade agreements, data sovereignty laws and network connectivity standards. While businesses can only learn to adapt to native policies, they are empowered to adopt technology, such as WAN optimisation, which ensures maximal network performance across headquarters and satellite offices. With optimal data transfer rates and unabated business connectivity across boundaries, firms become fundamentally more resilient to deal with market forces beyond their control. Chris Comer CEO and Property Developer Castlewood Group REPUTATION is key when expanding overseas, and Singapore firms are fortunate to have an extremely strong foundation as a modern city known for its success as an efficient and effective business hub – capped off by an extremely accessible location and a forward-thinking government. However, certain industries will always struggle – such as the banking sector competing with local incumbent wide-scale rivals in neighbouring countries – and for a firm to truly validate itself when setting up shop in other markets it will still have to rely on the strength of the goods or services that it provides. Sustainable expansion must always be at the forefront for a Singaporean-based company to ensure survival. Before Castlewood Group began building our flagship luxury buy-to-lease hotel property development in Thailand for Singaporean investors, we kept true to the age-old tried-and-tested property rule of location, location, location, and ensured that Phuket was proven to be the tourist mecca for Asia in the years ahead. As you look into other markets for business opportunities to either establish a presence or for the next venture, the company needs to have done its due diligence and have its bases covered. Being based in Singapore may have certain drawbacks such as high overheads, limited access to resources, and a war for top-quality talent, but for the strategic business leader there is still no better position to be as a regional or global hub for many industries in order to strengthen the firm's expansion.