Opportunities for Singapore consumer SMEs in Philippines; Keppel joint project opens

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Singapore President Halimah Yacob (L) signs the official palace guest book as Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte (R) looks on, during their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Manila, Philippines, 09 September 2019.
SEPTEMBER 10, 2019 - 4:47 PM

MANILA - Singapore lifestyle, food and consumer companies are getting a chance this week to explore the Philippine market at a pop-up event in Manila.

President Halimah Yacob toured Singaporium, a lifestyle and food pop-up held by Enterprise Singapore, at The Podium Mall in Manila on Tuesday (Sept 10).

The pop-up aims to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with their internationalisation plans by giving them the opportunity to test the market response to their products.

Seventeen Singapore companies, including game cafe chain Playnation, SF Group (Collin's), YHS International (Yeo's) and Wok Hey, are showcasing and selling their products at the pop-up, which runs till the end of this week.

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Enterprise Singapore assistant chief executive Tan Soon Kim said: "The Philippines is one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia, and has achieved consistent and healthy gross domestic product growth of over 6 per cent in the last few years. It has strong fundamentals that make it an attractive investment destination.

"In particular, we find strong potential in the areas of the consumer sector and infrastructure, and emerging areas such as digital economy and agriculture."

He added that the Philippines is one of the largest-growing consumer markets in South-east Asia, with a population of 107 million, which increases by two million every year.

"With its growing consumer class... the demand for quality and greater variety of products is increasing," he said.

Mr Tan acknowledged that businesses have to understand local regulations, business norms and employment practices, and for newcomers, business registration and approval processes can be complex to navigate.

Finding good local partners is important, he said, adding that Singapore companies should invest substantial efforts in engaging various in-market contacts to identify a good match.

Enterprise Singapore also works closely with institutes of higher learning to expose students to working life abroad and to build a pipeline of future talent for Singapore companies in these markets.

Mr Collin Ho, founder and CEO of food and beverage brand Collin's, said consumers in the Philippines have an affinity for Western cuisines, which makes the country a potential place for expansion.

"Various issues such as time management and logistics planning have to be factored into our considerations more deeply and carefully. But it is a huge country with massive potential, one in which we are very excited to explore and venture further," he said.

Collin's has more than 300 employees in 25 outlets across Singapore. It also has overseas presence in Indonesia, Cambodia and China.

Madam Halimah also witnessed the opening of the Podium, a joint project between Keppel Land and BDO Unibank, a member of Philippine conglomerate SM Group. The project is an office and retail mixed-use development.

Keppel Philippine Properties, a subsidiary of Keppel Land, holds a 40 per cent stake in the Podium, while BDO and an associate company hold the remaining stakes.

The total net leasable area of the Podium is about 140,000 sq m, comprising about 50,000 sq m of retail space and about 90,000 sq m of office space.

Keppel Land CEO Tan Swee Yiow said: "The Podium is a landmark commercial development that hosts multinational companies and retail tenants, and its successful completion is a testament of the strong relationships, network and execution capabilities that we have built up over the years."

THE STRAITS TIMES