A Platform to Support Internationalisation

SBF’s FYIstival initiative is a digital space designed to help local businesses expand overseas.

Every year, SBF conducts business missions and exchanges to countries in regions such as Americas, Europe, Middle east, Africa, South Asia, ASEAN, and North Asia, to help them pursue growth opportunities and extend their global footprint. But the COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions last year changed that.

To help companies keep abreast of the opportunities in overseas markets amid the uncertainties, and as part of its GlobalConnect@SBF programme, SBF launched FYIstival, SBF’s first interactive digital space, which integrates multiple forms of information and interactions through online webinars, business matching sessions and clinics, and virtual chatrooms. Visitors to FYIstival can also access briefs, articles, and reports on the markets of their choice, as well as engage in group chats or one-to-one messaging with fellow FYIers, who participate in FYIstival virtual chatgroups.

Following the success of the African Edition of FYIstival in 2020, which attracted over 900 visitors for its virtual space and online activities and garnerned encouraging feedback from its FYIers, SBF embarked on an expansion of FYIstival with the support of Western Union Business Solutions, Standard Chartered Bank, and UPS as corporate partners to cover more regions and markets.

With their knowledge and networks in regional markets, Western Union Business Solutions, Standard Chartered Bank, and UPS provided important support to scale up FYIstival to the regions of South Asia, ASEAN, and Japan under three new FYIstival editions, namely:
• FYIsitval: The South Asian Edition – from March to June 2021
• FYIstival: The Japan Edition – from April to June 2021
• FYIstival: The ASEAN Edition – from May to August 2021

To date, SBF has conducted around 26 webinars and 122 business matching or clinic sessions with more than 190 local and international speakers for over 2,800 participants.

Mr Soo Wei-Chieh, Executive Director, Africa, Middle East, Central and South Asia, SBF Global said “We are heartened by the positive feedback from participants and organisations such as overseas business chambers, embassies and trade promotion boards for FYIstival: The African Edition. With the reopening of borders, there will be a gradual focus towards physical business missions and trade fairs. But we believe that FYIstival will continue to play an important role as an integrated platform for Singapore businesses to interact with fellow businesses from various parts of the world, especially as digital engagements can be built with many more countries with greater ease.”

BiZQ spoke to FYIstival’s principal partners Western Union Business Solutions and Standard Chartered Bank, as well as champion partner UPS, who collectively came on board in 2021 on the importance of going global and how FYIstival can enhance their support to Singapore businesses in this area.

Why do you think it is important for companies, especially SMEs, to internationalise their businesses in today’s economic landscape?

Sam Fitzpatrick, Regional Vice President and Head of APAC, Western Union Business Solutions: Internationalisation offers all companies, especially SMEs, new opportunities to grow their revenues. The pandemic has forced the adoption of new technology and digitalisation of working practices, leading to a broader acceptance of online interactions and transactions.

This is likely to fuel economic recovery and spur the growth of cross-border trade in services in the coming years. Our forecasts project the value of international trade in services rising from USD $6.1 trillion in 2019 to USD $8 trillion by 2025. This equates to an increase of almost a third (31%) in the value of global flows over this period and is an opportunity for SMEs to diversify their operations and explore new opportunities to lower manufacturing and labour costs.

Patrick Lee, Cluster CEO, Singapore & ASEAN Markets (Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand and representative offices), Standard Chartered Bank (Singapore) Limited: Companies, especially SMEs, have to internationalise to sustain growth and adapt to the rapidly changing consumer and market landscape. The COVID-19 pandemic has also reminded us that building resilience against disruptive events is key to a company’s survival.

Today, internationalisation is more than just adding customers and markets. Manufacturers need to tap into a network of regional suppliers to minimise supply chain disruptions. By diversifying their operations within the region, companies can build stronger capabilities and leverage market expertise.

Vibhav Varshney, Head of Marketing for UPS Malaysia and Singapore: In today’s economic landscape, the scale of one’s business should not be limited by geographic borders. The rapid growth of ecommerce today has enabled SMEs to enter new markets more easily, giving them new opportunities to expand their presence and reach. SMEs can take advantage of other markets’ growth and development, move their activities in the value chain to more competitive regions, and at the same time diversify their operations and associated risks. This geographical diversification of the markets where a business operates in, is proving to be a boon in the current volatile business environment.

What is one primary concern that you think companies may have in their internationalisation journey?

Sam Fitzpatrick: Many SMEs are hungry to explore new markets and pursue international opportunities, but are also concerned about information inefficiencies. At Western Union Business Solutions, we share insights and information to help companies in their internationalisation journey. Ultimately, ensuring that payments arrive in full remains critical to both the success and survival of a business. There are innovative digital solutions available for international transactions. Businesses should choose platforms that can provide near real-time payments, the capability to hold cash balances in multiple currencies to reduce conversion fees and an interconnected ecosystem.

Patrick Lee: According to a recent Standard Chartered survey exploring opportunities for intra-ASEAN growth, respondents viewed adapting business models to industry practices and conditions within ASEAN as the most significant challenge.

From our experience supporting our Singapore clients, we understand that companies’ ability to diversify their supply chains, digitalise for impact and effectively leverage local partnerships is key to their success when venturing outside of their home-market.
We help our clients understand the regulatory, business, and environmental landscape of each of the markets they are venturing into. Through our regional presence and in-depth local knowledge, we support these companies in transitioning from a single-operation site to a regionally connected market.

Vibhav Varshney: One major challenge that small businesses face is navigating through the administrative norms and hurdles while expanding into a new market, as well as understating consumption patterns and competition. In turn, businesses must develop a robust supply chain and tackle new processes such as customs brokerage. In the world of international commerce, even simple transactions may often be complicated by a web of taxes, duties, and regulations across multiple jurisdictions.

How has your company, through FYIstival, helped these SMEs fulfil their internationalisation aspirations?

Sam Fitzpatrick: While optimism is returning to the SME sector after the height of the pandemic, preparing for volatility will lessen the impact of snap lockdowns, border closures and market fluctuations. SMEs that can embrace agility and pivot their strategies to adapt to market challenges will thrive, not just survive. At FYIstival we shared insights to help SMEs in their internationalisation journey and provide information that is not always easily accessible to them.

Patrick Lee: We enable greater access to capital, cashflow management, liquidity, and risk management for SMEs to help them adapt and innovate better. Through FYIstival, we offered relevant local insights to companies interested in the specific markets and sectors, and support their financing and risk management needs to transition to more sustainable and resilient business models.

Vibhav Varshney: UPS is laser-focused on helping SMEs in their internationalisation journey from start to end through door-to-door shipping and this aligns very well with the aims of FYIstival. With over 80 years of brokerage expertise and a global presence, we can help them mitigate varied hurdles to grow their business across cities such as planning their product journey, providing a tailored approach to their logistics operations and integrating their backend systems for easy management of inventory, orders, and payments regardless of delivery location.

The GlobalConnect@SBF programme, started in November 2019, is an initiative by SBF and supported by Enterprise Singapore to help businesses expand globally. You can catch up on past FYIstival webinars and sign up for upcoming ones here.