A Showcase Of Singapore Enterprises In China

The China International Import Expo remains a key platform for local firms to connect with new customers and suppliers in the world’s second largest economy.

Even amid the ongoing pandemic, Singapore businesses continue to show strong interest in the China market. This was reflected at the 4th China International Expo 2021 (CIIE) held in November, which was attended by the largest overseas business delegation from Singapore since the onset of COVID-19.

Despite travel restrictions, SBF, supported by Enterprise Singapore (ESG), led a group of 45 Singapore companies to CIIE, which was held at the National Exhibition and Convention Centre (NECC) in Shanghai from 5 – 10 November 2021. The theme of the Singapore Pavilion at CIIE this year was “Singapore-China: Seizing New Opportunities Together” 新中合璧 共拓商机.

Mr Matthew Koh, Director, Natura Biotechnologies Pte Ltd (right) hosting Singapore’s Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China Lui Tuck Yew (left) at his company’s booth at the CIIE 2021 held in Shanghai from 5 to 10 Nov 2021. Watching on is (centre) Ms Annie Wang, Executive Director, Global Division 2, Singapore Business Federation

The city-state’s businesses have featured prominently at the annual event since the inaugural CIIE in 2018, and established a reputation for providing innovative, reliable, and high-quality products and services.

“With the gradual economic recovery, Singapore businesses are eager to seize new opportunities for growth. China remains a top priority market for Singapore businesses, and CIIE is a key platform for them to connect with new customers and suppliers to diversify and expand their business,” said Mr Lim Ming Yan, Chairman of SBF.

He added: “Singapore businesses are well-positioned to serve the growing demand of Chinese consumers for differentiated products and value-added services.”

Building brand awareness

Making its debut at this year’s CIIE was Singapore-based Natura Biotechnologies, which was founded in August 2020 and engaged in creating botanical products with curative benefits.

“As a new company, Natura Biotechnologies’ objectives were to build brand awareness and credibility, develop and formalise co-operation with Chinese distributors and partners, and to meet like-minded Singapore companies that are developing in the Chinese market. In our opinion, our participation at CIIE has allowed us to meet all these objectives,” said Mr Matthew Koh, Director of Natura Biotechnologies Pte Ltd.

“Our Chinese distributors were thrilled that we were participating in the CIIE because the information and publicity generated provided them with valuable inputs which helped them market our products in their respective regions. ”

As a result of participating at CIIE, Mr Koh noted that Natura also benefitted from the extensive publicity in media channels such as Channel News Asia and Tencent, which helped to raise the company’s profile.

Making connections

As a value-add to help more companies understand market opportunities in China, SBF also organised a series of specially curated business activities in conjunction with CIIE. Most notably, in addition to pitching and matching sessions targeted at business leaders, government officials and policy makers, SBF held the Singapore-China Trade and Investment Forum (SCTIF) on 6 November 2021 in a live streaming format to cater to both audiences in China and Singapore.

More than 500 business leaders attended the session, which was graced by Minister for Trade and Industry Mr Gan Kim Yong . As part of a Ministerial Dialogue moderated by SBF CEO Mr Lam Yi Young, Minister Gan shared key insights on Singapore’s economic outlook, the country’s COVID-19 strategies and how businesses can take advantage of the continued growth of China’s domestic market, as well as opportunities in the digital and green economy.

(From left to right) Mr Ding Han, Manager, PetroChina Shanghai Marketing Non-fuel Marketing Company; Mr Wang Hao, General Manager, China Petroleum Technology & Development Corporation, SINACO Industries Pte Ltd; and Mr Matthew Koh, Director, Natura Biotechnologies Pte Ltd.

The SCTIF yielded impressive results, with no less than five MoUs signed at the forum. One of them involved 12 Singapore enterprises and PetroChina Kunlun Haoke Co., Ltd., a major retail chain of gas stations in China, and Sinaco Industries Pte Ltd., a wholly-owned subsidiary of PetroChina in Singapore.

The agreement will allow the 12 firms to sell their products online and offline through PetroChina Kunlun Haoke’s Gas Station Retail System in China, giving them access to a large segment of Chinese consumers. Natura Biotechnologies completed the signing of the MoU on behalf of the 12 Singapore enterprises.

“We were aware of PetroChina’s network of more than 20,000 petrol stations in China, managed by their subsidiary Kunlun Haoke. We saw this as a realistic opportunity with a strong partner and a brand recognised in China,” said Mr Koh, who worked with ESG and SBF to identify Singapore companies which had products that could be sold through this distribution channel.

“However, rather than approaching Kunlun Haoke as a single Singapore SME, we felt that it would be much more fruitful for all sides if we could put together a group of like-minded Singapore SMEs, backed by ESG and SBF. In this way, we would have sufficient range of products to engage Kunlun Haoke, and they would also see this as an initiative driven by Singapore businesses with the Singapore government’s support. “

Mr Koh advised other Singapore companies looking to enter China to tap on platforms already set up by organisations such as ESG and SBF.

SBF CEO Mr Lam echoed this sentiment. He said: “Internationalisation remains a key strategy for Singapore businesses looking for growth. Through platforms such as the SCTIF, SBF will continue to help Singapore companies fulfil their internationalisation aspirations by connecting with new and existing customers and suppliers and securing deals to diversify and expand their business beyond Singapore shores.”