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Lee Eng Keat, regional director-India, Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) -the lead government agency responsible for the economic development of Singapore-discusses the advantages that Singapore brings to the table for Indian IT companies looking to go global and expand markets, or to collaborate with global players to develop innovative products for the world market.
What is your take on the Indian IT industry and what advantages does Singapore offer to companies in this vertical?
Apart from this, these companies enjoy a strong advantage of having access to a cost-effective and English speaking workforce. The US and European companies are bridging the cost arbitrage by being in India, and that will continue unabated. Now the question is, what can Singapore bring to the table? The additional angle that Singapore offers is a great eco-system for Indian IT companies as we are close to many international technology players, along with having access to leading end-users in both MNCs and Singapore companies. The Singapore government plays a very active role in pushing the envelope of innovation.
Considering the global scenario in general and Singapore's eco-system in particular, what kind of innovations are desirable in today's times?
In Singapore, we are working with the Housing Development Board (HDB) and the Public Utilities Board (PUB) to develop the solutions that are required in the present scenario. Once we have identified opportunities, , we open the platform for technology companies and facilitate their interaction with statutory bodies to take the dialogue forward on the kind of products/solutions that are required, in order to address the identified needs.
What are the recent innovations that EDB has played a role in developing?
The Singapore government has supported innovations like the electronic road pricing systems, train monitoring systems, and has deployed mobile TVs on buses, etc. Specifically, the EDB has facilitated companies like Tech Mahindra to test-bed their mobile applications in Singapore, for example, the distribution of FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association) content through mobile phones. Tech Satyam also turned to Singapore to develop its business intelligence solutions and mobile applications, while TCS (Tata Consultancy Services) has set up a banking technology centre here. Recently, Siemens set up its City of the Future showcase centre in Singapore.
According to you, when is a company ready to venture into international markets like Singapore?
Does this mean that start-ups can never think of venturing into global markets?
Most start-ups are focused on domestic markets. That is their general characteristic. But for those start-ups that are looking towards international horizons, the Singapore government has a programme that offers seed funding or dollar-for-dollar investment funding to encourage them. But the condition is that these firms need to patent their IP (intellectual property) in Singapore.
How can start-ups apply for these programmes?
However, to qualify for the scheme, there are a few conditions, such as, a start-up is required to be a private limited company incorporated for less than five years in Singapore and must have a paid-up capital of at least S$50,000, but not more than S$1 million; it must carry out its core activities in Singapore and be involved in developing new or better products, processes and applications, etc.What benefits/support does EDB offer to firms that shift base to Singapore?
For those that are interested in exploring product development efforts or interested in using Singapore to serve the region, we help facilitate introductions that would help them achieve their goals faster.
For product development, EDB helps to identify possible technology partners, such as companies or research institutes that are able to augment their efforts and shortening their time to market.
Are there any examples of such start-ups from India or other countries that have received funding from the Singapore EDB? How are they faring now?
No publicly announced examples are currently available.
Any suggestions from your side for Indian IT start-ups to make the most of the opportunities in Singapore?
There are many ways in which start-ups can leverage on the opportunities that Singapore has to offer with its efficient pro-business environment, connectivity and extensive business networks. With regards to IT start-ups, the Singapore IT Federation organises networking sessions for IT companies in Singapore, and provides regular updates on developments in Singapore IT industry through websites such as www.ida.gov.sg. There is also the annual IT conference, CommunicAsia, where start-ups can obtain the latest updates on technology trends and get the opportunity to interact with other IT companies in Asia.