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Business Advice

Association sets up global help centres for SMEs

Move aims to provide cost-saving practical advice and networking opportunities to businesses expanding overseas
The Straits Times - April 9, 2012
By: Cai Haoxiang
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Association sets up global help centres for SMEs -- BH FILE PHOTO

SOYA bean chain Mr Bean was in a pickle last October when it tried to send its first shipment of ingredients to Shanghai for an outlet opening.

Documentation problems meant the goods were rejected and sent back, costing the firm $10,000 in administrative fees and spoilt ingredients.

'We wasted time and money. If we had local contacts, we could have asked someone who knows Customs declaration and clearance procedures for advice on how to get our goods cleared as soon as possible,' said co-founder Kang Puay Seng.

He and other small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) setting up shop abroad will now have a place to turn to for help when these sorts of problems arise.

The Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (Asme) has set up five global centres - in Shanghai, Beijing, Bangkok, Jakarta and Dubai - to provide cost-saving practical advice and networking opportunities to businesses expanding overseas.

The pilot project for Asme members will run for six months, said association president Chan Chong Beng.

Mr Chan told The Straits Times that the centres can link business people with legal, tax and accountancy professionals, as well as freight forwarders to help speed up the process of getting goods through Customs.

'We can also take them to meet other Singaporean, Malaysian and Chinese businessmen, eat together and go for recreational activities like jogging or badminton,' he said.

Mr Chan said the global centres are located at the offices of his interior furnishings company Goodrich Global and run by the managers there so there will not be any administrative or rental costs for Asme.

But the centres are not meant to provide the sort of official advice given by the 35 overseas centres of trade agency International Enterprise (IE) Singapore, he said.

IE Singapore's centres advise companies on business opportunities and risks in their respective markets, drawing on the agency's links to key government officials, enterprises and industry players.

The Asme centres aim to provide access to an informal network of tried-and-tested local contacts to ease business operations in the respective cities and even help with issues like where to send children to school, said Mr Chan.

IE Singapore's divisional director for alliance and partnership, Ms Wong Lee Ling, said it is important for trade associations and chambers to encourage their members to internationalise their operations.

'Ideally, we want to groom globally competitive companies to deal with increased competition from today's volatile global economy and take advantage of increased interest in emerging markets,' she said.

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