Seven tips on expanding your business to Singapore

Bob Dearsley highlights the benefits of opening an international business in Singapore – as well as how you can get started there.

Rated as the #2 place in the world for ‘ease of business’ (behind New Zealand) by the World Bank it is no wonder that more businesses are looking to set up a hub in Singapore. In fact you can set up a business in a matter of hours in Singapore. It is strategic to the Asia Pacific region, in which it acts as a hub – and has quickly established itself as a prime location for start-ups and SMEs alike due to its pro-business environment.

Its well-developed technological infrastructure, robust legal and IP regime and access to global investors enable SMEs and start-ups to thrive, protect their property and grow – all of which are invaluable factors to a business looking to expand to or start in a new market.

Singapore is thoroughly invested in its business community – particularly start-ups and SMEs. Start-ups and SMEs can easily secure funding, as Singapore provides various private and government funded initiatives to help them to get off the ground.

In addition, Singapore’s tax system is the best in the world – and one of the lowest. Since 2010, the corporate incoming tax rate has been fixed at 17%. It’s calculated on the basis of the company’s chargeable income. This tax rate applies regardless of whether the business is a local or foreign company. The effective tax payable is actually considerably lower once other government incentives, subsidies and schemes are taken into account.

Another benefit of operating in Singapore is its strategic location in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region which makes it easy for businesses to conduct their activities – from engaging with new clientele to marketing to a large audience. It also has excellent connectivity internationally and is home to the world’s best airport, Singapore Changi International. From Singapore, 50% of the world’s population are within six hours flight.

But, it’s also important to appreciate the fact that while its strategic location is indeed highly beneficial, Singapore is also one of the world’s major commercial hubs and the fourth-largest financial centre in the world.

And, only recently, according to the Global Startup Ecosystem Report and Ranking 2017 report, Singapore was identified as the #1 location for start-up talent, dethroning Silicon Valley as the top dog for qualified individuals. The research survey was comprehensive; 150-pages covering over 10,000 start-ups across more than 100 cities.

However, even with these incredibly beneficial advantages aiding your start-up or SME, it’s vital that you take the time to understand the marketplace, address the necessary business elements before moving to Singapore and clearly understand the challenges of working there.

Setting up a new business in Singapore is relatively straightforward, but in order to help any prospective SMEs or start-ups looking to expand, we’ve outlined the process briefly which will help you to get your business up and running – as well as succeed in Singapore.

Research and plan

Before you embark on your journey into Singapore, you need to evaluate your business’ service offerings, the specific need you are trying to address and your potential audience in the APAC region. With this in mind, comprehensive market research, analysis and observation will help you to determine how beneficial the move to Singapore could be for your organisation. Establishing the viability of your expansion first will ensure you do not part with significant funds on the venture – only to see it fail. Take your time, plan, plan and plan again until you have all the information you need to go ahead.

Once you have planned it all: register your business

Firstly, your business must register with the Accounting & Corporate Regulatory Authority (ARCA), submitting your application for a new business online using Bizfile. If you want to set up a branch of your business in Singapore, you must appoint two local agents to act on your behalf – who must be residents of Singapore, citizens, permanent or foreign with an employment pass. There is also a special passed called an ‘EntrePass’ which you can apply for at the Ministry of Manpower before incorporating your company.

Get the right licence

Application for licences and permits can usually only be done after the successful incorporation of your company. Depending on the nature of your business you may need a series of licences or permits. Most licences can be obtained online however, removing a significant amount of effort.

Utilise assistance from government agencies

Singapore is renowned for its pro-business regime – and readily provides resources and support for SMEs, start-ups and new businesses. There are various government agencies from which you can seek help in growing your business in Singapore, such as:

– Economic Development Board (EDB)
– Standards, Productivity and Innovation Board (SPRING)
– Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ARCA).

Each of these government agencies can assist you in getting the support you need to grow, finance, manage and scale your SME or start-up.

Choose a business structure

When registering your business in Singapore, you need to define and specify the type of legal entity you want to form. This could be a sole proprietorship, partnership, a limited liability partnership or a private limited company – the choice is yours. What’s crucial is that you know what options are available to you.

Get an address

In order to register your business, it needs a local, physical address. With this in mind, before you consider registering your business, take the time to evaluate the area and find a suitable location for your operations. Ensure you find a strategic location for your business’ operations – as this may assist your business tremendously, depending on what you do and your target market.

Register your domain

Your website meets your prospects before you do – and on that basis, you need to get a website online. Of course, there are numerous ways to get your website up-and-running along with a Singaporean domain name, but it’s vital that you have one! How will anyone engage with your new Singapore-based business online if you do not? If you would like help with this, try Asia Registry.

These tips should serve as a brief basis for your SME’s or start-up’s expansion into Singapore – as well as highlight just why Singapore is such an excellent opportunity for any business.

Bob Dearsley is author and curator of the SME and start-up blog, ‘No More PR & Marketing Bollox’ and CEO of The B2B Marketing Lab.

Further reading on international business

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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