A group photo during the April signing of MOUs between representatives of Singapore firms VeriTAG and Y3 Technologies, and Rizon Technologies (a joint venture between Y3 Technologies and Chongqing Transport Group), together with IMDA CEO Tan Kiat How and colleagues.
Ms Samantha Fok speaking at a breakout session on Chongqing during the recent IMDA SG:Digital Industry Day.
By Billy Teo
China, the world’s second-largest economy, is a big market that is experiencing high growth. With the tech sector roaring, there is no better time than now for Singapore firms to plug in – which is why the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) led a business delegation to China’s city of Chongqing in March 2018.
IMpact had a quick catch-up with Ms Samantha Fok, IMDA’s Director of ICT Industry Development & Internationalisation, to find out more about the trip, its purpose and the positive outcomes – including a second trip in April.
What was IMDA’s objective in leading the business delegation to Chongqing?
Our key objective was to help open doors for our local companies that are interested in entering the Chinese markets and looking for potential partners, and to explore the opportunities in demand there. That’s why we brought along nine local companies – veriTAG, Tuple Technologies, Y3 Technologies, Tourforce, Sense Infosys, ECS Computers (Asia), FreshTurf, ST Electronics and Fooyo – as part of the delegation to Chongqing.
Chongqing is major city located in south-west China, not far from Guizhou and Sichuan. (Google Maps)
What makes Chongqing an attractive location for Singapore tech companies?
Chongqing is Singapore’s third government-to-government collaboration under the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative (CCI).
As such, the companies and government agencies there are receptive to exploring partnerships and collaboration with Singapore companies.
The China-Singapore (Chongqing) Demonstration Initiative on Strategic Connectivity, shortened to CCI, was launched during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Singapore in November 2015.
Both countries signed three agreements to launch the project in Chongqing, focusing on four priority areas of cooperation, namely financial services, aviation, transport and logistics, and ICT.
Additionally, the Chongqing government is keen to develop in new areas like big data, artificial intelligence and smart cities. Hence, it is an ideal location for our tech companies to seek opportunities and partners.
Chongqing also has the vision and drive to develop and modernise its economic sectors. The municipality has one of the highest populations in China. Its GDP growth rate of almost 10% last year makes it one of China's fastest growing cities.
Senior Minister of State, Dr Janil Puthucheary, visited the Flash-Go (一七闪店) 24-hour unmanned convenience store to understand the underlying technologies during his trip to Chongqing in April 2018.
How did the March trip benefit the Singapore tech companies?
For instance, during the two business-matching and networking sessions organised by Tencent WeStart and Liangjiang New Area, companies from these ecosystems participated and met with Singapore firms to discuss and explore new business opportunities.
One positive outcome from these sessions is that veriTAG has teamed up with Chongqing Cloud Mail Information Technology, creator of China’s first unmanned convenience store Flash-Go. They will collaborate on creating a one-stop, 24-hour solution for providing quality food at affordable prices using veriTAG’s food safety and traceability solution and Flash-Go's self-service platform.
Collaboration opportunities abound between Singapore companies and their Chinese counterparts. For example, veriTAG and Y3 Technologies also found a partner in Chinese firm Rizon Technologies – a joint venture between Y3 Technologies and Chongqing Transport Group – to collaborate on supply chain technologies for China’s Belt and Road initiative.
Overall, the March trip subsequently resulted in the signing of two memoranda of understanding for veriTAG, which were witnessed by Mr Tan Kiat How, CEO of IMDA, during his trip there in April 2018.
IMDA also facilitated a partnership between Social Credits (one of the fastest growing financial big data service providers in China) and SG:D-accredited DC Frontiers to collaborate on the mutual access of data.
DC Frontiers will integrate Social Credits’ datasets into its service offerings for the Southeast Asia (SEA) market, while Social Credits will integrate DC Frontier’s SEA company datasets into its service offerings in China.
We hope that these outcomes would spark a trend in collaboration between tech firms in Singapore and Chongqing.
A panoramic shot of the Hongqihegou (红旗河沟) area in Chongqing.(Photo: 山城崽儿)
What were some key learning points from the Chongqing trips?
An important learning point to note is that China’s tech sector is advancing at a rapid pace.
Companies there have started developing deep tech capabilities and most of their technologies are quite advanced.
For example, China is home to the world’s top two supercomputing facilities.
One important point I want to emphasise, is that it is possible to succeed in China. Our companies such as Jing King Tech Group, iSPRINT Innovations and Y3 Technologies have expanded and grown there.
The key is in deciding how your company would operate in China. Setting up a partnership is another way to gain market access, and finding the right partner with complementary strengths, and knowledge of the sector that you are targeting, will go a long way.
Therefore, we encourage Singapore companies to continue to pursue business, innovation collaboration and co-development opportunities with their counterparts in China.
In your opinion, what can Singapore tech companies bring to the table?
Singapore companies are known for their robust processes, strong project management capabilities and exposure to best practices. Another strength would be our application of technologies in various sectors.
Singapore companies can also partner with Chinese technology and product companies to target the South East Asia market, which we are more familiar with.
What are some follow-up activities since the business trip to Chongqing?
We are working with Enterprise Singapore to identify more business-matching opportunities for Singapore companies to be introduced to Chinese companies there. These include in-depth country briefings and in-market immersion programmes.
We will also partner Singapore-based ICT companies that are 'ABLE' and 'READY' to internationalise. This is what we mean.
ABLE: Companies must have products and solutions that they can bring to other markets.
READY: Companies must be in a position to expand their business outside of Singapore.
Editor: Do write in to email@example.com to reach out to IMDA's Internationalisation Platforms and Partnerships team.
1. Teaser image: Photo of 'Jiefangbei CBD, Yuzhong' in Chongqing by Baycrest licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5.
2. Photo of 'Night of Hongqihegou, Jiangbei' in Chongqing by 山城崽儿 licensed under CC By 3.0.