What to consider before opening a business in Singapore

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAScandAsia interviewed Norwegian business consultant Claus Gaasvig to hear why Singapore is a good place to setup a company and to get a few tips on how to get the most out of it.

Claus Gaasvig has been living in Southeast Asia for seventeen years, first studying in Thailand for 4 years and then working for Innovation Norway, consulting businesses for twelve, until last year where he decided to take the step and start his own company. It is called NorBiz Asia and though his work is still centered around consulting small and medium sized Scandinavian companies he now has an opportunity to provide more types of services. He facilitates everything from market research, company registrations, recruitment and direct representation of companies.

All in all, Claus believes that Singapore offers the full package. The city state is a nice and easy place to bring family and spouses. Even though Singapore is pricier than its neighbors, depending on your type of business, Claus Gaasvig believes the money you save on wages and low rent in other Southeast Asian countries can be earned back through Singaporean efficiency. The language barrier is small, bureaucracy low, arranging meetings with officials or other businesses are easy and last but not least Singapore is the most important regional hub. It is also very convenient to use Singapore as your companies regional head office, as many Scandinavian Companies are already doing. Claus Gaasvig has five main areas that are important to take into consideration if you want to get the most out of Singapore.

  • To succeed you need a regional perspective. Do not just come to Singapore to do business in Singapore. Look at Singapore as a place to start up and then expand in the region. You don’t have to open up an office in all Southeast Asian countries, you can go to Singapore and then find distributers, agents and partners that already have operations in the countries you have an interest in.
  • Don’t forget you are in Asia. Although Singapore seems modern regarding culture and the way you do business, if you scratch a little deeper you will still find traditional thinking.
  • One of the most common mistakes is a lack of planning. If you want to start a company you have to plan for the long term. Even though Singapore is very efficient, you are not going land a contract first day here. But then again things can go really fast with prober planning.
  • Employment passes have become harder to get. Currently, if you are going to hire a foreigner you have to advertise the job in the Singaporean governmental job bank first. But even though it was easier a few years ago, it is still easier than most of the neighbouring countries. If you are an entrepreneur and plan to hire yourself it is not possible to apply for your own employment pass, this means you need to do it through a consultancy or public accountancy.
  • If the rent is an important factor, try to search for an office in a business complex outside the central businessdistrict (CBD). The rent is considerable lower even on the fringe of the CBD, and only minutes away from the fancy Skyscrapers. NorBiz Asia forexample is located in modern offices only 5 minutes away from CBD and the Norwegian Embassy.

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