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Energising enterprises for 2020 and beyond

Analysts predict continued disruption and adversity in the coming year. Here's what companies can do to stay ahead of the curve.

OVER the past 25 years years, more than 600 local businesses have been recognised and rewarded for their excellence, innovation, sustainable and sound business models through the annual Enterprise 50 (E50) Awards.

Doing business is no easy feat. Behind each and every one of these enterprises is an entrepreneur who dared to take their vision a step further, to realise their ambitions.

The word "enterprise" embodies four characteristics: boldness, readiness, an adventurous spirit and ingenuity. These traits couldn't be more relevant today, especially in light of a challenging 2020.

In the year ahead, technology will continue to change our understanding of what it means to be human, and every aspect of how we live our lives. The emphasis on digital transformation on an enterprise level will be accelerated, in turn putting pressure on timelines and driving costs up. And, in the economy of increasingly savvy and sophisticated experience-seeking consumers, the demands for companies to be disruption-proof, competitive and sustainable donot let up at all.

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What can companies do to thrive in such an environment?


In today's experience economy, experiences create more value for a business than products and services when executed well.

We can take the cue from Agorae Pte Ltd, the holding entity for the Teledirect group of companies, the top winner at this year's E50, whose clients outsource their customer experience programmes, business-to-business sales or account management to them.

One quintessential trait of success is their ability to offer customers memorable and personalised customer care experiences that can be scaled, ensuring performance management and quality assurance. Recognising the importance of being able to predict their clients' needs, Agorae believes that their client-centric ethos will remain their first principle in driving future growth.

"One of our clients in the travel and accommodations industry needed to scale aggressively without compromising the quality of their customer's experience. We knew how important this project was to the success of their business, and we were not afraid to invest in building a dedicated facility for this campaign. We were also able to deploy technology to recruit and train the team effectively within the short timeline." said CEO Laurent Junique..

"We are well-positioned to deliver consistent and high-quality service to cater to the sophisticated needs of our clients. We certainly have a history and culture of successfully adapting to shifting industry dynamics and the ever-changing needs of our clients," Mr Junique added.

Agorae also believes that remaining agile in their operations, leveraging technologies to improve efficiency and continuous investment in their staff's knowledge and skills will guarantee that they stay relevant and are always on their front foot to be a key partner to new economy clients looking to disrupt traditional industries.


The old adage 'change is the only constant' remains especially true today where disruption is the new norm.

Homegrown fintech company M-DAQ Pte Ltd, the winner of the E50 inaugural 25th Year Digital Economy Award, owes its enviable absolute growth of nearly 1000 times and a CAGR of 900 per cent over the last four fiscal years to its culture of turning innovation into a business-as-usual function.

From what started in 2010 as a platform to facilitate cross-border business for various industries, M-DAQ today helps its customers deliver cross-border solutions that have resulted in 300 per cent growth in their customers' international business and a 1 per cent earning on gross sales, a new risk-free revenue stream.

"We started with a vision of a World without Currency Borders®, and made sure that we were anchored by a strong and clear mission statement. Even though we encountered bumps and valleys along the way, we kept an open mindset, never gave in and never gave up, and we were willing to test and learn and to see challenges as new opportunities. This way, there will always be hope to take the company beyond what you imagined possible," said Richard Koh, founder/CEO of M-DAQ.

Alongside its ambitious plans to go public in the next two years, M-DAQ, which has been backed by names including Ant Financial, EDBI, GSR Ventures, Vickers Venture, Kresna Group, Samsung Group and NTT Communications, also plans to reinforce its cross-border foreign exchange solutions for new verticals and with a new focus on regional SMEs.

Another example is Ademco (Far East) Pte Ltd, the winner of The Special Recognition - Transformation Award.

Having been in operations since 1977, Ademco prides itself as Asia's security provider, offering integrated security solutions to more than 8,000 institutional, commercial and government clients across Asia.

Already renowned as an innovator in Singapore's security industry well before disruption became a buzzword, Ademco has adopted initiatives from a 24-hour central monitoring system in the 1980s to introducing autonomous patrol robots.

Group managing director Toby Koh shared that the key to transformation is being courageous - be it in investing in a new solution or putting up a brave defence with naysayers.

Mr Koh said: "Especially when things are working just fine, not everyone will be prepared or willing to make a change. But there's always a better way to do things for greater efficiency to be achieved. For me, transformation is not just about being a better security provider, it is about tailoring a suitable solution for our clients and, in turn, continue to stay agile and scale Ademco geographically while looking out for our team, business partners and stakeholders."


Akribis Systems Pte Ltd, the winner of The Special Recognition - Internationalisation Award, is a mechatronics enterprise that delivers direct drive motion and control solutions, ranging from motor components to robotics actuators to systems level solutions. Founded and managed by engineers, product design and innovation have always been at the core of their business, and they remain passionate about research and development.

"We looked to grow our business here in Singapore when we first started in 2004. However, we soon realised that the true potential of our business was beyond our shores. From that point, we started to work with distributors as our primary sales channel in USA, Europe, China, Thailand and South Korea. Then in 2009, we made the most important decision since our founding by establishing a company in China." said Leow Yong Peng, co-founder and CEO of Akribis.

He adds, "The challenge ahead is one of continuing to stay relevant by developing products that are relevant to the industries, as well as to sustain profitability so that we are able to continue investing in R&D and reach out to new markets and regions for growth."

Akribis continues to innovate by digitalising and streamlining their manufacturing processes through robotics and automation which prepares them for long-term production sustainability and capacity scalability.

Today, they have expanded to Europe, Silicon Valley and Boston in North America, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia and Taiwan. In China, Akribis has presence in Suzhou, Shenzhen, Wuhan, Tianjin, Chengdu, Beijing, Hangzhou and Guangzhou, in addition to the main office and factory in Shanghai.

Mr Junique of Agorae also notes that globalisation is on the company's agenda.

"Increasingly, our clients need global transformative solutions which are mutli-lingual and multi-jurisdictional. Because of this, our presence extends beyond Singapore, into Malaysia, Thailand, China, Philippines, Japan and Spain. We will continue to expand our footprint into new exciting geographies in order to broaden our network of delivery centres." The Teledirect group of companies recently rebranded as TDCX.


At KPMG, it has always been our ambition to help enterprises in Singapore globalise, transform their businesses and cultivate stronger relationships for an enhanced ecosystem that delivers exceptional value to all parties.

As we mark the 25th year of the E50 Awards, we hope to continue to be a valued partner to aspiring entrepreneurs as we celebrate Singapore's enterprising spirit for the next 25 years and beyond.

  • Jonathan Ho is Head of Enterprise Market at KPMG in Singapore