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International Expansion: Why is Singapore the Ideal Launchpad for Businesses?

International Expansion: Why is Singapore the Ideal Launchpad for Businesses?

There is a reason that Apple, BMW, Facebook, Omron, and Dyson all have regional or global head offices in Singapore. Yes, the Lion City’s wide network of trade agreements, attractive tax system, sound intellectual property laws, and efficient infrastructure make it a desirable location. 

However, its ability to tap into the wider Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) economy of USD 3.6 trillion is what truly sets it apart as a hub for business and investment in the region. 

For growing companies with global aspirations, International Business Development Managers (IBDMs) are often pivotal in directing these complex maneuvers. 

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The IBDM’s role, more often than not, goes beyond traditional corporate boundaries, with expertise spanning market research, strategic planning, regulatory compliance, and more.¬†

Their skills in identifying viable markets, understanding local regulatory landscapes, and creating meaningful partnerships are invaluable for companies venturing into new territories.

IBDM ASEANData source: IMF.org

In this article, we will look at the strategic importance of Singapore as a launchpad for companies aiming to penetrate the ASEAN market. We will also explore compelling case studies from two of Singapore’s hotbed sectors: one from the arena of fintech, and another from the medtech industry.  

These insights are crucial for business leaders and decision-makers, offering a roadmap for leveraging Singapore’s unique ecosystem to capture opportunities within the wider ASEAN economy.


The Case for International Expansion From Singapore

The insights from the HSBC Global Connections survey highlight the reasoning behind Singapore’s magnetism as a hub for international expansion.¬†

This survey, engaging over 3,500 businesses globally, reveals a noticeable preference for Singapore as an international expansion target, with 36% of companies planning to grow their operations in the city-state within the next two years. 

IBDM

The survey‚Äôs respondents suggested Singapore’s competitive edge is multifaceted, rooted in a skilled workforce adept in modern business landscapes and a flourishing digital economy.¬†

The city-state’s developed infrastructure, supportive government, and business-friendly regulatory environment offer a fertile ground for sustainable business growth.¬†

Finally, after the supply chain bottlenecks of recent years, Singapore’s strategic location and efficient supply chain management capabilities stand out in a global context where supply chain resilience has become critical.

Given its strategic advantages highlighted by the HSBC Global Connections survey, it naturally emerges as the optimal base for companies looking to expand into Southeast Asia and beyond, offering a robust foundation for sustainable international growth.


Real-World Examples of Expansion into ASEAN from Singapore

MedTech Expansion: Flagship Pioneering’s Singapore Expansion

Singapore’s prominence as a launchpad for companies looking to access the broader ASEAN market is well-established, especially in burgeoning industries like medtech.¬†

The rapid growth of the APAC MedTech market (forecasted at US$225 billion by 2030 with a CAGR of 10.5%)  underscores the immense potential of the region. Singapore, as a high-value MedTech manufacturing base and home to all 30 of the top 30 multinational medtech companies, acts as a major driving force.

An excellent example of this trend is Flagship Pioneering, a bioplatform innovation company, specialising in life sciences innovation, and founder of Moderna. The firm’s recent expansion into the Asia-Pacific region through a regional hub in Singapore highlights the city-state’s strategic significance.¬†

Flagship Pioneering recognises Singapore’s favourable environment for innovation and seeks to tap into the rapidly expanding healthcare markets across Southeast Asia.

This strategic move aims to foster collaborations with leading academic and healthcare institutions in the region. Doing so will accelerate the development and commercialisation of groundbreaking medical technologies customised to the needs of ASEAN populations. 

As¬† Noubar Afeyan, PhD, Founder and CEO of Flagship Pioneering, notes, “Flagship’s expansion into APAC…will allow us to accelerate the growth…of our companies and enable us to broaden their impact on human health…through strategic partnerships..in the region.”


Fintech Expansion: Futu Holdings Ltd’s Singapore Launch

Singapore’s reputation as a robust fintech hub makes it an attractive springboard for companies targeting growth in the broader ASEAN market. Futu Holdings Ltd, a leading online brokerage and wealth management platform, demonstrates this trend.

In 2021, Futu unveiled its new investment platform, Moomoo, and established its Singapore headquarters. This strategic move allows the company to capitalise on Singapore’s thriving fintech ecosystem, supportive regulatory environment, and proximity to a vast pool of potential users across Southeast Asia.

Leaf Hua Li, CEO of Futu Holdings Ltd., noted that ‚Äúexpansion into Singapore is a strategic decision to serve as a bridge into the rest of Southeast Asia. Singapore‚Äôs digital friendly environment, high-quality infrastructure, and efforts in adopting technologies have also made it an ideal location for us to expedite our foray into international markets.‚Ä̬†

This is a clear advocation for Singapore’s potential as a base for accessing the wider ASEAN market and engaging with its growing digitally savvy and investment-oriented population.


The Role of an IBDM in Supporting Expansion in ASEAN Markets

IBDM

Successfully entering the enticing yet complex ASEAN economic landscape requires strategic expertise and in-depth market knowledge, meaning an experienced IBDM plays a pivotal role in empowering companies seeking to expand across the region.

Market Analysis and Strategy Development 

For companies venturing into ASEAN markets, an IBDM serves as a key navigator. Conducting thorough market research is the first step, as the region comprises of many diverse economies with varying levels of development and specific market dynamics. 

IBDMs use a mix of quantitative and qualitative analysis to identify high-potential markets, analyse the competitive landscape, and understand consumer preferences and behaviours.

They collect data and synthesise it into actionable market entry strategies. Such strategies are customised for specific countries, factoring in factors like economic indicators, infrastructure, political stability, and cultural nuances that could impact business operations.  

An IBDM’s keen eye is also focused on underserved needs. For example, the aging population across several ASEAN countries creates an increasing demand for innovative healthcare solutions, eldercare products, and tailored insurance services. 

Countries like the Philippines and Vietnam have populations comprised mostly of underbanked individuals, showing demand for more accessible and inclusive financial services. Recognising these growing markets provides invaluable insight enabling companies to adapt and deliver offerings catering to this demographic.

Regulatory Compliance and Setup

IBDM
The ASEAN market, despite its collective drive towards economic integration, still presents regulatory complexities due to differences in legal systems, licensing requirements, and business practices. 

An IBDM with regional, on-the-ground experience expertly guides companies through this maze. They research and interpret regulations relevant to specific industries, ensuring operations adhere to local standards and minimising the risk of compliance issues.

The IBDM also supports various administrative and setup tasks critical for establishing a presence in a chosen ASEAN market. This could include company registration, securing necessary permits and licenses, establishing banking relationships, and ensuring local HR practices comply with existing labour laws. Their hands-on support can considerably mitigate the risk of fines and delays in establishing business operations.

Networking and Partnership Facilitation

IBDMs excel in building robust business networks throughout the ASEAN region. These connections span potential clients, distributors, government agencies, and local industry associations. 

This vast network is crucial for a new entrant seeking a smooth start. IBDMs play a matchmaker role, facilitating introductions and initiating conversations between potential partners.

Finally, An IBDM well-versed in local business culture helps foster mutual understanding between a foreign company and potential local partners. 

They identify complementary business objectives and opportunities for collaboration, playing a role in brokering and negotiating partnership agreements, joint ventures, or strategic alliances, all while being sensitive to local cultural nuances.  

In essence, having a dedicated IBDM facilitates access to valuable insights, resources, and established distribution channels for any business expanding into ASEAN.


Where to Next With InCorp

Singapore offers a compelling value proposition for growing companies with global ambitions. Its position as an investment hub, coupled with its strategic trade links and innovative ecosystem, makes it an ideal launching pad into the exciting yet nuanced markets of the ASEAN. 

An experienced IBDM, with a deep understanding of the regional landscapes, can serve as your essential navigator. For companies that see immense opportunity within Southeast Asia, it is time to strategically capitalise on these growing nations.

If you are ready to explore expansion opportunities across ASEAN in markets like Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines, as well as beyond in Australia and India, contacting InCorp is a powerful first step. 

Our seasoned experts possess the insights and connections needed to make your entry into these markets smoother and more successful. Seize opportunities in the vast potential of this dynamic region and schedule a consultation today to discuss your growth aspirations.

FAQs About International Business Expansion

  • The ASEAN market presents numerous advantages, including accessing a massive, young consumer base, tapping into diverse markets with varying development stages, benefiting from preferential trade agreements, and being situated in a region undergoing rapid economic growth.
  • Singapore offers a business-friendly environment with well-developed infrastructure, an attractive tax system, political stability, a skilled workforce, and an innovation-driven economy. It also boasts a crucial strategic location for reaching ASEAN markets.
  • Key growth sectors include fintech, medtech, e-commerce, digital technology, sustainability solutions, and industries catering to the region's aging populations and the need for enhanced healthcare infrastructure.

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About the Author

Eric Chin

Eric comes from banking background. He provides consultancy to local and foreign entities on the ideal market-entry strategies for setting up or expanding operations in Southeast Asia. Eric also provides advisory to fund managers and family offices on structuring as well as applicable tax incentives. He has also set up many VCC structures for licenced fund managers.

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