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Speech by Mr Raymond Lim,Minister for Prime Minister's Office, 2nd Minister for Finance and Foreign Affairs, at The Finals Of The First NUS MBA Global Business Challenge, Cerebration, 16 May 2005

17 May 2005

Professor Tan Chorh Chuan, NUS Provost & Deputy President

Mr Lim Chin, Dean, NUS Business School

Distinguished Judges,

Participating Teams

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good Evening

1. I am delighted to join you this evening at NUS' inaugural global business challenge, Cerebration. First, let me congratulate NUS and its partners on a very successful competition. I was told that the competition received very good response with more than 100 teams from 14 countries submitting entries. To the overseas participants here this evening, welcome to Singapore.

2. Some years back, I was privileged to have the opportunity to work with local entrepreneurs to create a pro-enterprise environment and nurture an enterprising spirit amongst Singaporeans. We had some success stories and more will continue to unfold. Over the years, it is most encouraging to witness their success not only here in Singapore, but also their ventures overseas.

3. Some of you from China here may have visited 77th Street Plaza in Beijing. This youth shopping complex is managed by 77th Street, a street wear fashion chain founded by Elim Chew who started out with only a small store and a capital of $15,000. Today, the brand name is synonymous with young trendy fashion and has not only captured the market in Singapore, but also in Malaysia and China.

4. Many of you would also know OSIM, who specializes in healthy lifestyle products. It started from humble beginnings but grew to establish an extensive distribution network of more than 500 outlets worldwide. More recently, some of you might have read about Ya Kun Kaya Toast opening an outlet in South Korea in The Sunday Times last week. Even though the taste of toast, half-boiled eggs, butter and kaya may be new to the South Koreans, Ya Kun was able to capture their attention and who reportedly love the taste.

5. Success stories as these are inspiration for local companies aspiring to venture overseas. Did their venture overseas come easy? I believe not. I am sure the participating teams here would agree with me. Just as you thought you have made it after defeating your competitors through all the rounds, a ?twister? blocks your path. But I was told the teams managed to untwist it in 24 hours and your business plans look set to go. In reality, going international brings local companies ample growth opportunities, but it also presents great challenges. Just as it is in the hypothetical scenarios, the challenges of the business globalization are not insurmountable.

6. For a company that is contemplating breaking into overseas markets, its success depends not only on its ability to differentiate itself by leveraging sustainable capabilities and possessing the necessary capital to finance its global aspirations. More importantly, its success in the international arena also depends on the strength of the company's connections in the market place.

7. Since the re-launch of the Trade Development Board into International Enterprise Singapore, or IE Singapore, three years ago, the agency has adopted a new mission: "To help Singapore-based companies grow and internationalise successfully." It focuses on helping Singapore-based companies to develop market insights, growth strategies and build up their internationalisation capabilities. In extending international market frontiers, IE Singapore has launched several Networks such as Network China, Network India and Network Indonesia. Together, they provide Singapore-based companies with conduits to discuss and pursue business opportunities for trade and investments in these rapidly expanding economies. These Networks organised and supported numerous seminars, events, and trade and investment missions, which are all instrumental in garnering business deals and paving the way for consortia formation.

8. Our Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with our key trading partners served as super highways on which our ?Made-in-Singapore? goods can access international markets. To enhance the practical benefits of FTAs for Singapore businessmen, IE Singapore launched an FTA outreach programme to explain and highlight the workings of the FTAs and the opportunities they present, as well as to bring companies to meet prospective partners.

9. Outside Singapore, our firms are often dwarfed by much larger competitors. To share resources, minimize risk, increase collective bargaining strengths and achieve certain economies of scale, Singapore companies ought to work together in groups when venturing abroad.

10. On this, IE Singapore's International Partners Programme or iPartners Programme was launched to link smaller local companies up with industry leaders for overseas ventures, so that they can offer a more competitive value. Since its launch in 2003, the iPartners programme has facilitated nine (9) alliances which will benefit 58 Singapore-based companies and are projected to achieve over S$430 million in overseas sales.

11. Singapore companies venturing overseas to find new growth opportunities can also tap on IE Singapore's expertise. In 2004, IE Singapore served over 30,000 companies in various ways, from handling enquires for information to providing incentives, organizing seminars and taking them on missions abroad. With a global network of 36 offices around the world, and more than 100 staff based outside of Singapore, they are reliable sources of information and conduits to useful government and business contacts. At a more involved level, its commercially-run consultancy arm, Global Business Insights, or GBI for short, helps Singapore companies to develop and evaluate market entry strategies.

12. Looking ahead, I see even more exciting prospects for internationalisation. Opportunities abound around us, and Singapore is uniquely placed to seize these opportunities. We already have a head-start in venturing abroad, and we must continue to build on this lead and contribute to the development in this region.

13. I am confident that IE Singapore's strategic thrusts to catalyse private sector-led internationalization, to maximize connectivity with growth markets and to leverage on Singapore's brand name to promote export services will augur well for Singapore's expansion into overseas markets.

14. Thank you.