X-HUB TOKYO, a program supporting the overseas expansion of startups in Tokyo, held its #2 Overseas Expansion Seminar “Take Singapore for Gateway to Asia Market -Tips for successful global expansion -” on August 13th.
The event featured Mr. Fabian Tan, Enterprise Singapore Regional Group Director, Mr. Kosuke Sogo, AnyMind Group Inc. and Mr. Yoshiyuki SHIBUSAWA, Managing Director of JAFCO Group Co., Ltd. The speakers introduced the characteristics of the Singapore market and its business attractions, focusing on Singapore’s positioning as the hub of Asia.
In addition to the latest trends for the new normal era, they also shared their thoughts on the business strategies necessary to enter Singapore.
The characteristics and attractiveness of Singapore’s ecosystem
Mr. Fabian Tan
Enterprise Singapore Regional Group Director
- First, we will invite Mr. Tan, who is engaged in supporting SMEs and overseas expansion of Singaporean companies, to talk about the activities of Enterprise Singapore and the attractiveness of the Singapore market.
Enterprise Singapore (ESG) was established in April 2018 through the merger of “International Enterprise Agency (IE),” which supports Singapore companies in their overseas expansion, and “Standards, Productivity and Innovation Agency (SPRING),” which supports SMEs.
Singapore is a small country with a population of about 5.7 million and national land area about the same size as the 23 wards of Tokyo. However, in the business scene, Singapore is highly regarded both domestically and internationally as the center of Asia. For example, according to the World Bank’s ranking on the ease of doing business by country, Singapore was nominated in 2018 as one of the world’s easiest countries to do business.
- As the startup scene is also booming in Singapore, please tell us about the characteristics and trends of the ecosystem.
Singapore’s startup scene is constantly growing, with 3,800 alone in tech-related industries. There are also about 9 unicorn companies and more than 220 venture capital funds actively supporting startups.
Among the startups, fields in tech-related industries, such as industrial robotics and AI (artificial intelligence), are particularly attracting attention. As Singapore has is limited in its number of population and workforce, improving operation efficiency is crucial. In addition, following the goal “30 by 30”set by the government in order to raise the food self-sufficiency rate to 30% by 2030, there is a lot of interest from companies in food tech and agri-tech areas.
In Singapore, I feel that business preparations and movements are increasing, albeit little by little, towards the end of the pandemic. Singapore has a variety of networks that are key to expanding in Asia. I encourage all Japanese companies to join me in aiming for Asia, and the world, from Singapore.
The Secret of Overseas Business Development from Singapore
Mr. Kosuke Sogo
AnyMind Group Inc. CEO
- Next, I would like to invite Mr. Sogo, CEO of AnyMind Group, a Singapore-based company, to speak about his experience with overseas development.
We, AnyMind Group, are developing a wide range of projects to support businesses online. We have developed software providing integrated support for production, e-commerce site construction, marketing and logistics. We currently operate in 17 locations within Asia, including Vietnam, India, Thailand and Malaysia. We have raised more than 6.8 billion yen in funding to date, and have been diversifying our business through M&A.
Our company was founded in Singapore in 2016, and since that time we have seen tremendous potential in the Asian market. In addition to the increasing population, I saw that many industries were growing steadily, and was convinced that if we did business in a growing region in a growing industry, our business would surely succeed.
- What are some of the key points you consider when doing business in Asia?
Personally, I think there are two main points to consider. The first point is that, in order to build a strong organization, it is essential to hire and train managers specifically for overseas offices. One of the reasons why we actively pursue M&A is because it allows us to hire excellent presidents. Local teams in each country drive the business forward, and that is what allows the company to grow in a stable manner.
However, managing a local organization is not a straightforward task. Each country and region has its own culture and language, so we have had to rebuild our organization many times. Currently, we are meeting with the managers of each region to learn about the important values on either side and to share the vision of what we want to achieve through our business together.
The second point is to develop you business while keeping overseas expansion and global strategies in sight. By adapting our products and business model to global standards while localizing our sales and marketing, we believe that satisfactory results will be achieved in each country and region.
Our long-term goal is to become a world-leading technology company by creating a business model that can be used around the world. In the future, we are aiming to go beyond Southeast Asia and expand into Africa and South America, so let’s work together to boost business from Asia.
Drawing up a business strategy for startups aiming to expand into Asia
Mr. Yoshiyuki SHIBUSAWA
JAFCO Group Co., Ltd. Managing Director
JAFCO Investment (Asia pacific) Ltd President & CEO
- Finally, I would like to invite Mr. Shibusawa, Managing Director of Jafco Group Corporation, to speak about his experience in Asia so far.
JAFCO Group invests in companies in various industries such as IT services and healthcare in regions including Japan, US and Asia. I have been involved in venture capital investment consistently for almost 30 years, and have moved my base to Singapore in 2012. For the past 10 years or so, I have been involved in all aspects of overseas investment and have been actively engaged in VC investment activities in Singapore, India, Indonesia, Vietnam alongside other Asian countries.
Having met many entrepreneurs over the years, I have come to realize that the common denominator among those who have achieved success is that they all started out as “unorthodox.” I have been strongly moved when I see entrepreneurs that are known as “unorthodox” because they act differently from others around them develop their business with a strong sense of purpose and passion. It seems to me that such people eventually gain social recognition and create services that change society.
- Could you give a message for Japanese companies looking to expand their business in Singapore and Asia?
Every country in Southeast Asia differs in market maturity and characteristics, so it is difficult to package them all together. Nevertheless, Japan is a member of Asia, and there are enormous opportunities in Asia. Once you have decided to take on a challenge in Asia, you should first delve deeply into the reasoning behind you choosing that region and why you are trying to tackle it.
Venture management is a continuous process of change. If you look at successful business owners in Asia, you will see that they all have the resilience to keep changing. Once you have decided on the direction you want to take, don’t forget to move your business forward with a sense of speed. It is also important to identify the core of your business and have an axis that will not waver even when times are tough and difficult.
When doing business in Asia, it is also important to have a strong attitude of “once you design a strategy, just go for it.” In doing so, try to involve not only investors but also other parties. As a member of the Asian community, I encourage you to take a bold step forward with a mindset of “living in harmony” with the people around you.
- In this event, we shared the characteristics and attractiveness of Singapore’s startup ecosystem and the secrets to success in overseas business. X-HUB TOKYO will continue to provide useful information for startups aiming to expand overseas as well as the latest trends in open innovation through various events.