COMPANIES new to internationalisation can now access enhanced support for overseas market promotional activities, including marketing support, e-commerce initiatives, and trade shows, said IE Singapore on Monday.
These initiatives, which are now covered under the Market Readiness Assistance (MRA) grant, were introduced to mirror companies' feedback that they need greater support in this area.
"We think it is important for us to take the lead. For instance, we feel that going forward, companies should really have an e-commerce strategy," said IE Singapore's chief executive officer, Teo Eng Cheong.
"So even if the company is not thinking about it, we want to put it out there so companies can start thinking about it and making use of this grant. And that's because we believe we should be thinking about the future and not the current state."
In the same vein, companies should start thinking more deeply about their branding to take advantage of the rise of consumerism in Asia.
"If you believe in the rise of the consumer in Asia, the fact that market is growing, and they are ready to consider new brands, it's an important time for our local companies to build a global branding, Asian branding, to target the new Asian consumer who is open to new brands and new tastes," said Mr Teo.
The MRA grant, which is designed to help companies new to internationalisation, supports specific activities.
The Global Company Partnership (GCP), on the other hand, is aimed at companies which are looking to deepen their global footprint. Companies can tap on the GCP grant to fund their capability building, market access, and manpower development.
According to IE Singapore, while their programmes are not specifically targeted at SMEs, take-up among SMEs has been high. For instance, of the 28,000 companies helped through IE's GCP and MRA last year, 80 per cent were SMEs.
For the next three years, SMEs will get increased support, in the form of raised grant support level from 50 per cent to 70 per cent for all activities under the MRA and GCP grants.
Separately, IE also outlined four broad areas they will take into consideration for companies which apply for the International Growth Scheme (IGS), which aims to support high-potential companies in their growth overseas. To qualify, applicants must establish their global headquarters in Singapore, have a good track record with some international presence, have a sound and ambitious internationalisation growth plan, and create economic spin-offs for Singapore.
Companies that qualify for IGS will enjoy a concessionary tax rate of 10 per cent for a period not exceeding five years on their incremental income from qualifying activities.
Said Mr Teo: "As we grow in the next phase, we feel that local enterprises play an important role in our economy. They provide a lot of jobs for Singaporeans and add a lot of value to our GDP. So having a deep pool of local companies that have a lot of competence, competitiveness on the global stage, and that have resilience is a very important part of our strategy."
South-east Asia is an obvious choice because of proximity both geographically and culturally, he said.
"Our SMEs are comfortable in South-east Asia and many of them have operations in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, etc. And with the Asean Economic Committee we hope the whole region will grow and become even more vibrant and that will lead to many more opportunities," he said.
Mr Teo also highlighted China and India as having opportunities for local players.
"But, we always encourage our companies to look beyond Asia if they have the appetite and they have the capabilities. So even places like Africa will be relevant for our SMEs."