A Springboard For Singapore Businesses Into The Region

SBF’s Singapore Enterprise Centres are helping local firms gain a firm foothold in Indonesia and Vietnam.

GlobalConnect@SBF, an initiative by SBF in partnership with Enterprise Singapore (ESG) launched in 2019, has helped hundreds of Singapore firms make the leap into international markets as they seek to bring their businesses to the next level. The initiative aims to help businesses expand globally by leveraging SBF’s knowledge, expertise, and business networks to make the right decisions when it comes to internationalisation.

Under the ambit of GlobalConnect@SBF, SBF set up two Singapore Enterprise Centres (SECs) last year – one in Jakarta and one in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) – to provide on-ground support for businesses venturing into Indonesia and Vietnam.

The SEC@Jakarta and SEC@HCMC are set up in 2021, and are staffed by SBF’s Singapore based Country Heads and local market advisors with in-depth market knowledge and business navigation know-hows. The two SECs work to connect Singapore companies with potential partners through various networking platforms and match-make business opportunities, as well as offer practical market access advice. Other than facilitating Singapore companies to venture into the two markets, the SECs also provide advisory support to Indonesia and Vietnam companies looking to set up a business presence in Singapore.

Hisyaamuddin Bin Abu Bakar (Syam), Country Head (Indonesia) of SBF
Amy Wee, Country Head (Vietnam) of SBF

BiZQ speaks with Hisyaamuddin Bin Abu Bakar (Syam), Country Head (Indonesia) and Amy Wee, Country Head (Vietnam) of SBF, on what the SECs have achieved in the past one year and how they have helped Singapore companies enter these two markets.

How have Singapore businesses with operations in Jakarta and HCMC been impacted by the pandemic?

Syam: Everything changed when COVID-19 struck in early 2020. The travel restrictions impeded business discussions to a large extent, and most businesses have had to rely on virtual platforms to conduct their meetings.

COVID-19 presented unprecedented disruptions to economic activities, but many Singapore businesses remained resilient, striving to adapt and overcome the operational challenges in Indonesia. While there were reduced business activities during the pandemic period, Singapore remains one of the biggest foreign investors in Indonesia.

Amy: Singapore businesses in Vietnam operating in HCMC have experienced four months of lockdown last year due to the pandemic. This posed a significant challenge as conducting business in Vietnam traditionally relied heavily on personal relationships.

Looking ahead, the Vietnamese government’s key agenda for recovery is to re-build the economy to pre-pandemic levels. In particular, the government has prioritised “living with the virus safely” to ensure that the way of doing business can go “back-to-usual”.

What are the key opportunities for Singapore businesses in Indonesia and Vietnam?

Syam: There are several key emerging sectors in Indonesia today. Technology solutions, which cut across all sectors, will be in demand as an enabler for Industry 4.0.

Another area to note is digitalisation, especially in the B2C e-commerce segment. Singapore companies can tap on digital platforms and virtual marketplaces in Indonesia to bring their products into the market. Together with ESG, we are curating a programme to help Singapore companies enter Indonesia via one of the top e-marketplaces and supporting them for product licensing registration.

The renewable energy sector also presents opportunities where Singapore companies can leverage their expertise to play a role in building local capabilities and infrastructure. “Software transfer”, which involves training local professionals, can be another potential area that Singapore companies can explore.

Finally, reliable logistics and supply chain services for pharmaceutical and wellness products during this pandemic period have become an important priority. Singapore logistics companies equipped with the right handling capabilities can look at forming partnerships with complementary local Indonesia companies to enable seamless supply chain flows.

Amy: Digitalisation, and particularly in e-commerce, is a rising opportunity because of pandemic-related restrictions and travel limitations, which apply even between the cities in Vietnam.

Renewable energy is another growing sector. Singapore companies can play a role in helping local companies develop their capabilities and infrastructure.

There are also opportunities for Singapore companies to set up medical consultancy services in the market, especially at a time when travel is restricted. In this area, SEC@HCMC is currently helping Singapore-based International Cancer Specialists set up such services in Vietnam.

In the built environment sector, the Vietnamese government has approved a plan to develop the provinces surrounding Ho Chi Minh City with better infrastructure and amenities. SEC@HCMC has built strong relationships with key Vietnamese partners who have access to these build and construction projects.

What are the achievements of SEC@Jakarta / SEC@HCMC since their inception a year ago?

Syam: SEC@JKT has been helping Singapore companies to secure business deals in Indonesia market and this includes searching for partners, providing assistance for the incorporation of their business, and advising them on registration procedures and regulations applicable to different industries.

In 2021, one key highlight was helping Singapore’s home-grown supply chain and logistics company, YCH Group to expand their footprints in Indonesia. YCH Indonesia, subsidiary of YCH Group, together with PT Multi Terminal Indonesia, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to jointly explore the feasibility of developing a Smart Growth Centre in Jakarta, which is envisioned to be a crucial supply chain multi-modal infrastructure to support the rapid growth within Jakarta and the hinterland.

Amy: We provided market advisory services to Singapore companies related to investing in Vietnam. We also supported companies in their search for partners including distributors, joint-venture partners, and manufacturers.

Through our advisory services, we have helped Singapore companies close deals. For instance, we assisted an automotive parts supplier Alltrade Enterprise to close a deal with a Vietnamese importer.

On the ground, SEC@HCMC offers practical advice on market access matters, including customs clearance procedures to Singapore companies looking to export to Vietnam.

To increase awareness about opportunities in Vietnam, SEC@Vietnam has also held four webinars under SBF’s FYIstival series. The webinars featured speakers from the Vietnamese government agencies and as well as decision makers from Vietnamese companies. The business matching sessions after the webinars led to the forging of partnerships between the participants and speakers.

What are the plans for the SECs in the year ahead?

Syam & Amy: The SECs are looking forward to organising more in-market business activities including business mission trips and overseas market workshops in partnerships with our local partners this year, while monitoring the COVID-19 situation closely at the same time. Although virtual meetings allow us to stay connected to a certain extent, face-to-face interactions are still crucial in building the relationships required for doing business and securing business deals, and these cannot be replicated via the online space.

For more information on GlobalConnect@SBF and our SECs, please visit https://globalconnect.sbf.org.sg/ or email us at globalconnect@sbf.org.sg.