Innovate to internationalize: S’pore SMEs speak out

Eric Lew, Executive Director, Wong Fong Engineering

Fostering a culture that supports innovation is critical for SMEs seeking to expand outside of their local markets, shared panelists at the Going Global with Innovation seminar organized by IE Singapore.

Panelists hailed from diverse businesses which each have found success outside of Singapore through innovation and the ability to identify niche areas in which to operate.

Technology played a crucial role in helping global logistics firm YCH reduce land cost, shared CEO of YCH Bennett Neo. The company patented a warehouse solution named Fusionaris, which incorporates an Automatic Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS), to enable a 66,000 pallet capacity storage facility to operate in a 50 metre high building occupying 100,000 square feet of land. An equivalent facility constructed using conventional means would have required double that land size and significantly higher costs.

For Clement Wong, CEO of BeMyGuest, the firm’s success lay with identifying opportunities in emerging markets which have yet to fully embrace digitalization. BeMyGuest provides a platform for small-to-medium sized tourist attractions in such markets to connect with large travel agencies overseas, so their services can gain broader visibility among tourists.

BeMyGuest has since expanded to include a payments system for its clients. Additionally, digitizing the ticket booking process for tourist attractions has enabled its partner travel agencies to save on freight costs.

The same holds true for Lim Chee Kean, CEO of Ascent Solutions, who noted the difficulties with going global, particularly for a startup with no track record. “In the early days, we told ourselves that if we wanted to sell to the world, we had to occupy a unique space that nobody else is closely looking at.”

Ascent Solutions went to market 6 years ago with the launch of a GPS tracking solution for companies transporting cargo across Africa. Back then, this was a space few companies occupied. The company is now one of the largest occupying this space in East Africa. Unlike many startups who first started operating in Singapore, Ascent Solutions went global from day 1, and is now exploring other opportunities in Singapore.

“The best money can be made where there is the least competition,” said Lim, adding that what keeps him awake now are difficulties associated with collecting payment from customers.