Most Singapore SMEs pick Asean as top destination to grow: SBF survey

Tuesday, July 24, 2018 - 19:11
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More than three-quarters of small and medium-sized enterprises in Singapore plan to expand in the South-east Asian region, according to a report released in July.

The Asean bloc was picked as an expansion venue for 77 per cent of respondents, against 22 per cent eyeing China and 15 per cent looking to South Asia.

The survey, commissioned by the Singapore Business Federation and carried out by HSBC, polled more than 1,000 companies between November 2017 and March 2018.

ASEANBUSINESS walks you through a few of the report’s findings.

Chances and challenges

Indonesia and Malaysia were key target markets, followed by Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar, with Asean-friendly businesses coming from the wholesale and retail trade, manufacturing and financial and insurance construction sectors.

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But business executives still saw question marks hanging over issues such as economic and political conditions in the region, with perceived difficulty in getting permits and licences as another barrier to expansion. Other concerns included a lack of market knowledge and difficulties finding local support for their operations.

Respondents also cited a lack of clear, accessible information on plans for Asean economic integration and free trade deals as an obstacle to their companies.


  • 87 per cent of respondents are already on the other side of the Causeway
  • A solid 75 per cent of respondents cited the ease of building relationships
  • Malaysian skilled labour was ranked the most attractive among regional peers


  • Indonesia is attractive to Singapore companies, with 81 per cent of respondents already doing business there
  • 37 per cent of Singapore businesses plan to grow in Vietnam in the next two years
  • It was rated the most favourable marked in the region in terms of its potential for consumer demand


  • More than three-quarters (76 per cent) of respondents already have a footprint in Vietnam
  • 30 per cent of Singapore companies intend to expand there in the next two years
  • Potential for customer demand and the investment climate are seen as pluses
  • So are favourable business costs - which attracted 63 per cent of respondents

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