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Singapore’s plug-and-play platform to expand SMEs’ market reach in Asia

The International Enterprise Singapore (IE Singapore) has launched its Plug and Play Network that aims to ease the entry of Singaporean small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in key markets in Asia.

IE Singapore announced July 27 the launch of the network designed to provide support to SMEs through business advisory services, business matching, and market setup via co-working spaces.

This comes after survey findings by the agency revealed that local SMEs cited China (43%), Indonesia (38%), and Vietnam (28%) as top markets of interests in 2017. However, 59% cited the inability to find suitable business partners and contacts as a key challenge, while 44% cited lack of knowledge of markets.

The agency said the Plug and Play Network can enable SMEs to gain access to over 45 major cities across six markets, including New Delhi, Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, and Shanghai.

“Each market has its specific challenges and unique characteristics. To succeed, it is critical to familiarize with local business conditions and find partners with the right networks,” said Satvinder Singh, assistant chief executive officer, IE Singapore, in a statement.

“IE Singapore designed our Plug and Play Network to enable SMEs to gain access to co-working spaces, specialized assistance for market research and business connections, in a relatively lower-risk and resource-light approach. This first-of-its-kind network will allow them to establish physical presence and connectivity into growing markets in China, India and Southeast Asia more quickly and easily.”

IE Singapore’s Plug and Play Network is comprised of eight partnerships across China, India, and Southeast Asia. It will ease initial challenges SMEs face when going into an unknown market.

Leasing an office space can prove challenging due to regulatory requirements and high overhead costs. In China, for example, foreign companies have to submit an extensive range of documents to lease office space and endure a long processing time. Southeast Asian markets such as Vietnam require a lease period of two to five years.

“With co-working spaces, companies can set up easily and quickly without hassle of business registration, renovation and rental agreements. Business mentors and advisors are also on hand to provide guidance on set-up and business issues,” said the statement.

On the challenge of finding business leads, network partners can help SMEs tap into their search and business matching services for overseas business partners.

“In Vietnam alone, SMEs can stand to gain over 5,000 local business leads in 11 key sectors including retail, F&B and technology,” said the report.

In markets that are less homogeneous, SMEs need to navigate different local landscapes and regulatory frameworks to make the right business decisions. In India, where language, customs and business practices vary across 29 states, market research with a local partner familiar with the market will help SMEs make calculated decisions in their expansion.

The Plug & Play Network aims to benefit 200 to 300 Singapore companies each year. This was announced at the “Going Global with Digital iAdvisory Forum,” part of IE Singapore’s flagship events to drive digital transformation of SMEs for overseas expansion.

Photo: Oxygen Project


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