You are here
Building on a seal of approval
- Mahesh Sivaswamy, chairman and managing director, BLPL Singapore
- Terence Chan, CEO, CAD-IT Consultants (Asia)
- Helene Raudaschl, managing director, Indoguna Singapore
- Robert Lim, CEO, Wiselink Technology
- Amit Sujan, president and CEO, ITCAN
- Lee Yen Meng, CEO, Linnhoff Technologies
- Moderator: Vivien Shiao, editor, The SME Magazine, The Business Times
The Business Times: What is your company's core business and how has participating in the Enterprise 50 (E50) Awards benefited your business either locally or abroad?
Mahesh Sivaswamy: BLPL Singapore is involved in container shipping activities in Asia with its headquarter functions in Singapore. We consider winning the E50 Awards a recognition of our efficiency and commitment to our customers and partners. E50 also gives us a platform to enjoy greater business opportunities and support in our endeavour to internationalise and take our business across many countries.
Terence Chan: CAD-IT is a system integrator providing solutions for Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), Service Lifecycle Management (SLM) and Internet of Things (IoT), with offices in Singapore, China (including Hong Kong), Indonesia, Ireland, Malaysia, Thailand, the United Kingdom, the United States and Vietnam.
Winning the E50 Awards helps in the branding of CAD-IT as a trustworthy and well-managed company, and is a strong motivational force for all our staff globally.
Helene Raudaschl: Our core business is in food manufacturing and food supplies. Indoguna was established in 1993 as a meat company importing chilled meat from all over the world, with affiliated companies in Dubai, Hong Kong and Indonesia. Since then, we have expanded our product offering to include other premium food products like seafood, fine food and an assortment of artisanal cheeses, chocolates and caviar.
Indoguna also operates a fully-operational butchery. Indoguna has selectively introduced premium brands and an online retail arm to the retail and consumer communities.
Participating in the E50 Awards has given us a lot of recognition in Singapore from a publicity point of view. The E50 Awards recognises local, privately-held companies who have contributed to economic development in Singapore and abroad. E50 companies are an elite group with the privilege of using the E50 logo on their corporate collateral identifying themselves as the cream of Singapore's business crop. Being an E50 company is a valuable mark of recognition for any local company, and Indoguna is proud to be part of it.
Robert Lim: Wiselink is a fast-growing company in the area of distribution and marketing of electronic components. Our core business is in the distribution of these electronic components all over the Asia-Pacific region, acting as a supply channel partner between more than 20 suppliers to over 500 Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and Contract Electronics Manufacturers (CEMs) in various industries.
Amit Sujan: ITCAN is a Singapore-headquartered IT tech services and solutions organisation with regional presence in Malaysia, Hong Kong and Australia. It has over 700 employees, an extensive client base throughout APAC and Asean and services a variety of industries including banking and financial institutions, insurance, telecom, SME, healthcare, hi-tech, manufacturing, public sector and pharmaceuticals.
Lee Yen Meng: The core business of Linnhoff Technologies Pte Ltd is design, manufacture, research and development (R&D), sales distribution, and after-sales service of asphalt-mixing plants with German technology and related ancillary products, targeted to pavement contractors and hot mix asphalt producers, which normally involve projects including highways, airports, race tracks and road maintenance.
Being an E50 Award winner has given us recognition both in Singapore and abroad. Participating in E50 has benefited our customers and vendors as well, by providing them confidence in whom they are trading with and thus able to build long-term partnership and support.
Our customers and vendors are confident that we are a reputable and established business partner, with a proven track record in many aspects, including our reliability and customer satisfaction and our financial health. The benefit also extends to our partnership with our banks, providing them with confidence in supporting us in our overseas expansion. Internally, our staff also become more motivated knowing that their daily hard work is recognised.
BT: What is the biggest advantage for your company in winning the E50 Awards several years in a row?
Mahesh Sivaswamy: Winning E50 several years in a row is a testimony of our company's ability to remain consistent in the volatile and ever-changing shipping environment.
Terence Chan: Winning the E50 Awards five years in a row through different market conditions demonstrates CAD-IT's resilience and gives the assurance that the company is doing things right, consistently and sustainably. It is also a testimony to our stake holders (shareholders, staff, customers, suppliers and partners) that their trust in CAD-IT is well-placed, and that CAD-IT can be relied upon.
Helene Raudaschl: Winning the E50 Awards several years in a row gives our employees a big boost and motivation that we are doing the right thing. In fact, our employees are so proud that we are now the fifth-year award recipient! That is my biggest advantage as our employees have always been the company's biggest asset. It is sometimes regarded by many local enterprises as a sought-after stamp recognising excellence. With a heightened public profile, Indoguna can enjoy greater business opportunities.
Robert Lim: After participating in the E50 Awards for five years and being awarded in all five of them, the recognition has definitely benefited Wiselink locally and abroad. The most direct benefit is the increase in credibility of the company to both our suppliers and customers. Winning the award for five years now definitely acts as a seal of approval to our business model and quality offerings. More importantly, it helps to create brand awareness and help open doors in our search for new supply channels.
Amit Sujan: ITCAN is honoured to be accorded the prestigious E50 Award 2015 for the fifth time in a row. It shows success that stands the test of time. It's a recognition of our achievements and the trust of our clients.
This prestigious award is a firm testament to ITCAN's sound business model, reaffirms our management values and the visionary plans we have for the future. It establishes a new milestone in our long-term plans to strengthen and build the company's resources. This milestone in our journey to excellence will fuel us to even-greater heights of success and will surely raise the bar in IT service standards.
Lee Yen Meng: The biggest advantage is that being a multi-winner of the E50 Awards has given us higher recognition, which we hope will make the path easier for the company to be listed on the Singapore Exchange one day. We believe that our several wins (five times, four in a row) will give us a boost if listing is considered as five times are better than one. This recognition also raises our profile and standing in the market; it also increases our target audience's confidence in our products.
BT: The Singapore business climate has been tough going of late. What is your company doing to continue staying relevant?
Mahesh Sivaswamy: It is not just Singapore but the global business phenomenon which is uncertain but the regions or the economies we are focusing on, predominantly in Asia, are still having enough and more opportunities to grow in the business segment which we are in. We have been doing back-and-forth integration of our businesses in such a manner that they support each other at the same time they remain independent; this in a way has made us stand apart and unique in our industry
Expanding our operations with our own offices in 10 different countries under our logistics arm Transworld GLS has been another important factor which has helped us to get closer to our customers and offer customised solutions to remain as our customer's first choice. Transworld GLS does not have any geographical limitation and is in fact now a global logistics solution provider.
Terence Chan: CAD-IT has always embraced a mindset for global growth, recognising that the small domestic market of Singapore is not viable and sustainable for the long-term growth of any company. We have been increasing our global footprint over the years as well as breaking into new markets and industry sectors with a complete range of product offerings while staying within our core competencies.
To stay relevant, CAD-IT is always innovating and improving its processes and seeking new solutions for our customers that are in the forefront of technology.
Helene Raudaschl: To stay relevant in the Singapore business climate, Indoguna has been continuously flexible and innovative. We have been producing and sourcing for products that will fit the climate. After all, everyone needs to eat, and we know that people want to eat better in terms of health, and are particular about the selection of food more than ever before. To suit the modern market's tastes, Indoguna sells products that are gluten-free, nitrate-free and nitrite-free.
From a business aspect, Indoguna are not commodity buyers. We seek to obtain products that are consistent in quality. Most of our suppliers are trusted business partners, and we visit the farmers and producers who supply to Indoguna to ensure the quality of the produce as well as to build up business relationships. Indoguna focuses on providing quality food at various price points.
Robert Lim: The most crucial element for Wiselink to stay relevant is innovation. Be it internal innovation such as improving processes within the company, or external innovation such as searching for new products to carry, innovation proves to be a vital aspect in this tough period. While internal innovation helps to reduce our operating costs, external innovation helps Wiselink to adapt to the changing requirements of this fast-growing industry.
Above all, Wiselink encourages its employees to never stop learning, as they too have to be prepared for changes to stay ahead and competitive. In this trying period, neither the company nor the employee can stand still.
Amit Sujan: ITCAN has encountered various challenges in recent times. We believe, though, that every challenge brings an equal opportunity. During difficult times, we work to ensure key stake holders share common goals, encourage staff to stay motivated and inspire them to rise to the challenge and deliver results beyond expectations. Our philosophy of doing more in difficult times has helped us consistently achieve a 30 per cent growth year on year in these market conditions.
Lee Yen Meng: Be it good times or bad times, we have been staying lean in our organisation and the world has been our market. A big portion of our business comes from the international market. We are keeping a close knit of selective vendors with proven track records of quality and deliverability, in order to improve our product performance. We also stay close to dealers and customers in order to understand and be updated with the current market needs.
Internally, we continue to upgrade the skills of our people by utilising government training grants and also the sharing of knowledge, information, and experience among our people. We also come up with new products and innovation in upgrading our asphalt plants. We are aiming to be more competitive by developing better design, higher quality assurance, and sourcing for better components for our asphalt plants.
BT: Going forward, what do you foresee in the future of your company, and what government policy changes would you like to see to help SMEs in Singapore in the year ahead?
Mahesh Sivaswamy: We have organically grown our business in the last 10 years, the majority of which has been a very tough and challenging period for our industry. The industry has been clouded with a variety of challenges, but we have grown significantly and have made ourself a reliable and consistent service provider which our customers and partners have acknowledged making us to say with confidence that we are well set to reach our goal of becoming a strong regional shipping line.
Further, the support of the government of Singapore has been a pillar of strength to the industry. Our company has been working very closely with various authorities including PSA and MPA who continue to remain an important partner in our growth. We have also got very significant support and guidance from IE Singapore to internationalise our business activities.
Terence Chan: Going forward, CAD-IT's current business model of achieving higher skills, innovation and productivity both within the company and for our customers, will remain relevant even into the future.
In recent years, the government assistance for SMEs is laudable. Schemes like PIC (Productivity and Innovation Credit Scheme) and WDA (Workforce Development Agency) funding have greatly helped many companies such as CAD-IT up the technological ladder and enhanced our global competitiveness. Teaching the SMEs to fish rather than giving them the fish will see the government grants go a long way in the transformation process.
Our government can be more proactive in seeking out promising SMEs with track records and giving them a leg-up in their transformation into world-class global organisations in a more purposeful and structured way by means of special programmes that include handholding, grooming, match-making with suitable M&A partners, preparation and funding for listing.
Currently, local SMEs are left much on their own to seek their own way into the international arena. With more leadership and assistance from the government, we would be able to see more promising SMEs become Singaporean MNCs with higher rates of success.
Helene Raudaschl: We foresee growth in the food and beverage (F&B) industry in the years ahead. Improvements are continually being made to Indoguna's logistics and hardware to strengthen the company's offering in the coming years and to ensure Indoguna continues to stay at the forefront of the F&B supply industry for many years to come. I think if we can continue receiving the current support from our government, it will be very encouraging already. In fact, I have not seen any government doing something similar to help their business enterprises in other countries. This is particularly true as we have businesses in Hong Kong and Dubai. I am very grateful for all that have been supported.
Robert Lim: Going forward, Wiselink aims to expand into other countries by setting up offices closer to our customers. Through such an expansion, we hope to capture a greater market share and, more importantly, improve our service levels by being closer to our customers.
However, in the year ahead, we would like to see some changes in government policies to help SMEs. Firstly, it should seek to provide greater financial and technical support for innovations in the company. By providing greater financial incentives, SMEs would be more inclined to innovate and improve productivity.
Secondly and more importantly, government-led campaigns should also be launched to change the perceptions of Singaporeans seeking jobs in SMEs. Many SMEs face difficulties in attracting local talents and have to often turn to foreign labour to fill the job vacancy.
Furthermore, resource constraints also restrict the ability for SMEs to engage in employer branding. Ultimately, by educating locals, SMEs can greatly benefit from this in their hiring process.
Amit Sujan: Given the uncertain US-China economic stability, it's important for SMEs to grow their organisations in a less-labour dependent way and automate as much processes as they can, While companies are already on their way to do so it remains a challenge as at the end of process chain we need a human to run the machines (computers). Companies in certain sectors are already struggling to find local talent. We truly support the initiatives from the government to adapt and groom local talent to ensure they are better equipped for more challenging jobs and roles they aim for in future.
If possible and deemed appropriate, the government can allocate a specific foreigners quota to the companies for a certain period and do a review of the situation after the quota is consumed so that we can assure our clients with more accurate project status. This will result in fewer uncertainties and disappointments on waiting to find the local talent or a foreigner EP to be approved. This will also help the end clients to plan for their workflows and business continuity.
Lee Yen Meng: Going forward, we hope the company will be able to increase revenue by staying relevant and close to our customers and from the new market that we are targeting.
As for the government policies, we would like to see improvements in the assistance for overseas expansion and regulations in overseas trading, including:
- "Credit insurance" for customers, where certain selected customers are able to mitigate the risk in payment, thus enabling us to reach out to more customers.
- The government to be more generous in subsidy to grow business locally and internationally.
- Increment for the limit of grants for overseas expansion, for example, MRA (Market Readiness Assistance) grants for participation in overseas trade fairs that are not covered in iMAP (International Marketing Activities Programme) for companies like Linnhoff that participates in around 10 overseas exhibitions annually.
Participating in exhibitions help create awareness of us overseas and build mileage to our coverage in other markets as one method of overseas market development.
- Overseas expansion grant should not only be limited to the cost of exhibition, but should cover more aspects, for example, accommodation, air tickets and advertisements.
- Local support overseas should be improved. For example, IE Singapore could set up more offices in Africa to provide wider coverage and more comprehensive support for Singapore SMEs by providing information about the country's economy and infrastructure projects.
- R&D grant from the government for product development.