Since the Swedish Chamber of Commerce (SwedCham) was formed in Singapore its professional business activities have exceeded anything seen under the previous organisational format, known as SBAS.
“We have increased the volume of activities by 500 per cent and in 2018 we had on average one event per week! During the one and a half years SwedCham has existed we have increased our membership with over 40 per cent. And we were over 100 more at the gala in 2018 than two years earlier. These are incredibly good numbers for us. And it is very satisfying and fun!” says its General Manager Cecilia Oskarsson.
“We have four priority themes for 2019: Sustainability of course, and trade – with the landmark Singapore-EU free trade agreement that was signed on 16 October last year. We presented that within Eurocham and with a workshop held in January. The third theme is Innovation and digitalisation and design. And the fourth is Leadership and keeping Talent. We have had a People & Culture seminar and will have it again.”
“We also have five sub-committees that are our engine in SwedCham: Sustainability, People & Culture, Female professionals, Entrepreneurship who are responsible for or new ‘Business Blueprint’ guides, and Innovation,” continues Cecilia.
SwedCham also sits with Business Sweden and have extensive collaboration with them, including arranging seminars.
The Business Blueprint concept debuted in 2018 when SwedCham created the first such paper about Singapore.
For SwedCham the country is most definitely a hub for the region, highlighted by its new Business Blueprint, which debuted in 2018 with the first such a paper on Singapore as market. This was followed by editions on Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, advising businesses also on other markets. It is about guiding on how to successfully do business in Southeast Asia, based on input in roundtables with Nordic companies present in Singapore, plus guest speakers from the respective countries.
The template for the blueprint contains: establish a local presence, relationship building, sales and marketing, recruitment and organisation, financials, and support from government and trade organisations.
Business Blueprint Singapore
The Singapore edition describes it as a key market in Southeast Asia as well as an important strategic hub for conducting business in the region. Many companies not only base their ASEAN headquarters in Singapore, but also establish their APAC core there, using it as a base from which to manage their businesses other markets in the region.
“With Singapore we did not have a market outlook but did a business blueprint directly, in the form of a roundtable discussion where we invited not only our own Swedish but also all Nordic companies were invited to join and discuss to give tips and tricks and share experiences in doing business in Singapore.”
The result is a brief but very to-the-point paper with advice gathered from entrepreneurs and executives, from Nordic businesses in the region – worth studying for businesses considering entering the Singapore or even the Southeast Asia or APAC markets.
For instance, it states: “You need to have a local presence, in one way or the other. Flying into the country for quarterly meetings is not enough to build trust with potential customers and enable long term growth in the market.”
“Singapore is a transitioning place with people coming and going constantly so to be able to show that you are worth investing the time in is worth a lot. Once people realise that you are sticking around and that you have a love for the country and a genuine interest in its people and culture, relationships will advance to the next level and you will find a lot of doors suddenly open.”
The Business Blueprint Singapore also launches an alternative way to find a market: “Find a cluster of similar companies to collaborate with as this can make you stronger than trying to penetrate the market on your own. If you are aiming for a large client it might help to join forces with your cluster partners and ask for a joint meeting where several ideas, services or products can be presented at once.”
“We try to direct the talks into certain categories, and real experiences that are exemplified. For example if one arrives as new to Asia one often notices that this thing with business cards is something completely different here than it is in Sweden. You must have lots and exchange with everyone you meet,” says Cecilia.
“For us this is just a way to accommodate what we notice; that the companies want to meet in a less formal setting but also not entirely loose-fit, to have certain discussions.”
SwedCham has continued with the neighbouring countries. “Malaysia is very interesting, and we had the ambassador and Business Sweden’s project leader from Kuala Lumpur here. Then we had Thailand, and Indonesia, a country that is seen as one of the most interesting for our Swedish companies here in Singapore. Indonesia is really important now.”
The blueprints are available to members or by special request.