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Local small businesses zoom in on F1 action

Many bag their contracts every year, and say their experience with this has been good for business

Singapore's small and medium enterprises make up about 90 per cent of companies which win contracts to supply goods and services for the smooth running of the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix.


ALTHOUGH the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix from Sept 15 to 17 is a high-profile event of global proportions, about nine in 10 of the firms contracted to ensure its smooth running are homegrown small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Contracted via a public tendering process, these SMEs punch above their weight, being responsible for vital jobs such as the setting up of event spaces, rigging the floodlights for the night race, or providing food-and-beverage (F&B) services to attendees.

The assistant technical director for the three-day event, Emmanuel Lee, when asked why contracting SMEs pays off, replied: "Their attention to clients' needs, their being flexible with changes due to the nature of the business, and delivering personalised service is more than what we would get when using larger business entities."

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One thing is clear - the services these SMEs offer tend to be relatively focused.

For example, Victor Enterprises Pte Ltd is in charge of fuelling the power generators used at the event; Tuck Lee Ice Pte Ltd is responsible for the provision of ice, and J&S Telecoms International Pte Ltd maintains the radio frequency used for in-circuit commentary of the race.

And many of these SMEs have become efficient in their area because they have been contracted for the job they do for the past several editions of the Singapore Grand Prix.

Tuck Lee Ice, for example, has been working with the organisers since the inception of this racing event 10 years ago; Victor Enterprises has been in on the action for nine years.

While all SMEs reported greater efficiency over the course of their work as they have become better at their jobs, they had little to say about whether their technical abilities have actually grown, or whether their job scopes have widened over the years.

Tuck Lee Ice's general manager Jeremy Hauw said this may be because some of the tasks involved are "pretty basic".

The business of getting ice to the event site entails the logistics of using forklifts and trolleys, and working these pieces of equipment quickly enough for cargo that is very perishable in Singapore's balmy evenings.

J&S Telecoms International said the overall scope of its involvement has stayed the same over the years.

But the company added that it is now able "to more efficiently deploy its equipment in the field, and keep it running with minimal downtime and need for maintenance".

Victor Enterprises also said it has enhanced its efficiency in running the refuelling projects; Tuck Lee Ice has become better with delivery times and allocating its manpower.

But a well-defined job scope does not always mean limited responsibility.

The brief for Tuck Lee, for example, may say no more than "provision of ice", but there are logistical, technical, and manpower issues to handle.

And apart from transporting ice, Mr Hauw said, the company has come up with decorative ice sculptures. It has also created gula melaka flavoured ice blocks for consumption in the hospitality suites, among other cold desserts.

Other just-as-vital jobs that are carried out by Singapore's SMEs include construction services, manpower provision, and general F&B services.

While Tuck Lee Ice focuses on one particular type of food, Steward's Solution as provider of F&B supplies stewarding staff, builds the kitchens for the hospitality suites, and sets up the Dockside food stalls on the Padang.

Training for ITE students and security staff

The William Angliss Institute Singapore has provided customer-service training for some 900 ITE (Institute of Technical Education) students and 1,000 safety and security staff members each year for the past five years.

The construction of the race track and other facilities is a major area that has been delegated to several SMEs.

These include Arina International Holding Pte Ltd, the parent company of Arina Hogan Builders, which builds the site offices, medical centre and international television compounds. Arina Hogan Builders also installs the race communication facilities and camera systems.

Kingsmen Exhibits is responsible for the grandstands and the hospitality suites, and DZ Engineering handles the lighting system, trusses and pylons.

But the SMEs The Business Times spoke to had one thing in common - they all say that participating in the Singapore Grand Prix has had a positive impact on their businesses, both in giving them more recognition in the short run, as well as in delivering to them more clients and customers in the long run.

They said the Formula One event has given them an opportunity to show what they can do, and with that, has come more contracts and jobs.

For instance, Kingsmen Exhibits said its experience in the Singapore Grand Prix has been pivotal in its bidding for subsequent international events such as the Youth Olympic Games and the South-east Asian Games.

And Arina International Holding said its Grand Prix experience has brought them the contract to build and manage the KF1 Karting Circuit.

Mr Lee said: "We are happy with our engaged contractors' quality of work, professionalism and adaptability.

"We are pleased to see the SMEs grow over the years, and gain recognition and exposure for the work they put in to make the event a success."