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Singapore start-ups in Thailand get a leg up with new alliance

Compared with Singapore, where there are 200,000 instances of online shopping each day, Thailand has two million.

[BANGKOK] Compared with Singapore, where there are 200,000 instances of online shopping each day, Thailand has two million.

Mr Eric Cheong, co-Founder of Park N Parcel, a Singaporean company offering self-collect and delivery services, is keen to tap into the Thais' appetite for online commerce.

He told The Straits Times his firm is looking to set up with major e-commerce partners in Thailand by the fourth quarter. Thailand will be the second market for the firm after Singapore, because of the sheer number of digital consumers in the country."The volume is so much bigger here," said Mr Cheong.

Singaporean startups like Park N Parcel are looking forward to a huge push for their businesses in Thailand with the launch of Global Innovation Alliance (GIA) Bangkok, an entity fostering partnerships in the digital economy between Singapore and Thailand.

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The launch was attended by Dr Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development, in Bangkok on Friday (April 27).

This is Singapore's second GIA. The first was launched in November last year (2017) in Beijing by Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat to strengthen connections between Singapore technology companies, entrepreneurs and investors with the established ecosystem in China.

GIA is supported by Enterprise Singapore, the government agency for enterprise development.

GIA Bangkok's launch is based on the same principle of partnership and acceleration of digital businesses, with Dr Koh emphasising the vibrant entrepreneurial atmosphere in Thailand that makes it a natural choice for the second GIA. "Over the past two days, I had the privilege of meeting various Thai technology ecosystem players, and have developed a deeper understanding of the public and private efforts driving innovation in Thailand," he said. "There are tremendous opportunities in the Thai market and the broader Southeast Asia region, with the digital market expected to grow from US$50 billion (S$66.3 billion) in 2017 to US$200 billion by 2025." Dr Koh also recognised Thailand 4.0, a digital economic model launched in 2016 by the Thai government, and its link to the rapid growth in Bangkok's tech ecosystem. "There is also a growing amount of capital that supports the development of startups in Bangkok, with the emergence of close to 100 venture capital firms, corporate investors and accelerators, as illustrated by investments of about US$280 million cumulatively over the last five years," said Dr Koh.

The GIA strengthens Singapore's connections to major innovation hubs around the world to create opportunities for Singaporeans, students, entrepreneurs and businesses to gain overseas experience, connect and collaborate with their overseas counterparts.

Vice Minister of Digital Economy and Society, Dr Pansak Siriruchatapong, said at the launch that Thailand could rely on the partnership with Singapore to find solutions to several projects currently being pushed by the government involving SMEs, big data in the public sector and in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC).

Apart from the GIA launch, Dr Koh, Vice Minister Pansak and Singapore's Ambassador to Thailand Chua Siew San also presided over the signing of 10 MOUs to create market access for Singaporean startups, drive partnerships between both sides and build entrepreneurial talent One of the MOUs is a partnership between the Action Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE) and the Thai True Digital Park to set up the True Digital Park - ACE Singapore Centre as a base for Singapore startups in Bangkok.

Prior to the GIA Bangkok launch, eight Singapore startups - Averspace, Bountie, Chynge, HelloGold, i1Machines, MarkedShot, Park n Parcel and Vault Dragon - had a five-day immersion programme introducing them to Thai laws and regulations regarding businesses, government incentives and the banking system.

Mr Ivan Lim, Founder of Averspace, a B2B solution firm, said he wanted to launch a digitalising document management system within the year, particularly for the Thai retail sector. He said GIA Bangkok can help speed the setting of his firm, introducing it to the right people in the large retail chains he has his eye on.

Thailand has 90 million mobile subscriptions, which is a mobile penetration of 133 per cent, and 46 million internet users, or 67 per cent penetration. Some 62 per cent of the population, or 42 million people, are active on social media, according to Techsauce, a Thai website for technology news.

Startups in Thailand received more than S$360 million in total funding in 2017, a 100-fold increase from the total funding of S$2.75 million in 2012. The number of VCs and corporations investing into startups also increased to over 90 in 2017 from 74 in 2016, according to Techsauce.