September 2017: This has certainly been a busy month for us here at Stratability as Founder and CEO Julie Choo took part in the Enterprise Nation Go Global Singapore Trade Mission at the end of September, together with an extended trip to explore expanding our business into the ASEAN region.
It’s natural as smaller businesses grow to look at expansion through exporting into other countries. We cover how to do this international expansion properly in our book, THE STRATEGY JOURNEY® (coming out via Kickstarter in November 2017 with general release in early to mid 2018).
So, to ensure we practice what we preach, or rather teach, to others, that is exactly the journey that Stratability is embarking on at the moment, together with a bit of blue sky strategy thrown in.
Over the 3 days of the Trade Mission, Julie, and other delegates from digital businesses in the UK who are looking to expand into the Singapore and ASEAN markets, spent time with companies including Unilever, HSBC, KPMG, IRIS Worldwide, Singtel Innov8, Delphi Digital and more.
There were talks from and tours of tech and digital accelerators and co-working spaces. These included muru-D, a Singapore-based accelerator funded by telecoms giant Telstra. Also Singtel Innov8’s famous Block 71 where they highlighted some really cool drone technology to defuse flying bombs. KPMG’s Digital Village was another stop. They are moving FinTech innovation at a lightning pace with the support of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). Unilever’s Level 3 Foundry really delivered on the accelerator experience. There was a giant blow-up unicorn, great free coffees and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and a Smart Home Lab with space for demonstrations and tests as part of Singapore’s bid to be a giant test and innovation lab for all things digital and IoT (Internet of Things) as part of its Smart Nation initiative.
Of course there was great support from Singapore’s Economic Development Board (EDB), which highlighted how they believe that ’80 of the top 100 global tech companies are based in Singapore’, really showcasing the level of innovation in Singapore and how it was really becoming a hub for digital innovation and digital transformation.
In fact, there are ways to fast track the process for SMEs like Stratability to join Singapore’s GeBiz platform where it can bid for government projects and be seen, as well as many grants, that’s right, grant funding, that supports SMEs. There was also great support and advice as a local business leader Kok-Chin Tay (or Mr Happy!) who led by example by talking through his experiences and showed the delegates how to navigate Singapore’s landscape including leveraging services like AIESEC UK – a Global Talent programme for graduates assisting UK businesses in Singapore.
Also on hand to support were the UK ASEAN Council, HSBC, KPMG’s local accounting team, the UK Department of Trade (DIT) and the British Chamber of Commerce (also known as BritCham) – providing small and medium size businesses (SMEs) like Stratability with support on the ground to set up a local network of contacts in Singapore. Many members of the group expressed their frustration about the level of support from some of these groups with big promises but little follow through or quality, so we will certainly be trying them out and updating this post and blog to provide details of our experience. More on this soon! Julie thinks it’s important to provide transparency on these services as any problems will help them improve leading to a better service overall for SMEs – so we will not be sugar coating anything – with poor service and empty promises highlighted.
What came out loud and clear according to Julie was that ‘Singapore is very business friendly’ with the infrastructure and government support for entrepreneurship and SMEs to setup and do business not just in Singapore but also across the ASEAN region using Singapore as a base. Julie has spoken on our blog before about the unique climate for business that Singapore has brought together and all these elements were clearly displayed throughout the trip, but the further support and opportunities to expand into ASEAN were even more impressive.
While Singapore has just under 6 million residents, the ASEAN block of 10 countries as whole has over 600 million people, so many more business opportunities to pursue. It is here where Julie sees many blue sky opportunities for Stratability as we take our product and service offerings to these markets where local entrepreneurs and SMEs are more hungry for support from Stratability’s e-learning platform services and training – including our Business Shaping for Entrepreneurs course. While not a direct lead from the Trade Mission, Stratability has been invited to do a full DEMO with a big business network as well as a university/polytechnic in Singapore in January already (this was the reason and advantage gained from extending the trip – according to Julie).
The Trade Mission also included a fun challenge held by IRIS Worldwide! Julie and other delegates learnt a lot about Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative including the many innovative ways Singapore and the businesses that operate within it, have implemented SMART digital technologies with a human touch. The delegates were broken up into 4 teams and got to go out into Singapore via Uber or Grab, with a mission to find out and present on the topic – ‘How can our clients lead the Smart City agenda in Singapore?’ Julie’s team worked on Samsung and she presented her and the teams’ ideas on the Samsung Apartment and how Samsung connectivity can be used to support three generation families across Singapore. The other groups also worked on Shell, Starbucks and the Marina Bay Sands Hotel.
The final day comprised of a really interesting final session. A panel of UK businesses who are already doing business in Singapore talking about how they find doing business in the region. It was great to hear their experiences and have the chance to ask questions – answers by the likes of Margaret Manning OBE, the CEO of Adelphi Digital and Andrew Pickup who is Head of Communications at Microsoft as well as being Chair of the IT group at British Chamber of Commerce in Singapore.
The Trade Mission was a great success for Stratability. As well as meeting other UK businesses who are keen to expand their business into the region in partnership with us, we connected with leading experts in Singapore and were able to talk to them about Stratability and The Strategy Journey, all of which was well received. We now have our work cut out for us as we prepare for this DEMO in January when Julie returns to Singapore, and we are also following up with meetings to form potential partnerships with some of the other UK founders on the Trade Mission including THE SOCIAL KINETIC, who are design thinking experts in the medical technology field, and THE HOUSE, a digital branding agency.
UPDATE: Since the Trade Mission, Stratability is now set up to operate in Singapore – led by local Capability Director Lauren Houghton and local Business Development and Coaching Lead, Sam Chia. Check out their profiles here.