Swiss companies thrive in Singapore and Southeast Asia

For ninety years, Switzerland Global Enterprise (S-GE) has played a key role in supporting small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) from Switzerland and Liechtenstein as they reach out to international markets.

Synergy Media Specialists sat down with Daniel Küng, CEO of S-GE to discuss Swiss SME’s successes in Singapore and Southeast Asia.

In a country dominated by corporate giants in the services industry, how would you characterize the SME landscape in Switzerland today?

In Switzerland, we define only companies with less than 250 employees as small and middle sized enterprises. More than 99% of all Swiss companies are SMEs and they generate an estimated 20% of all exports. While the bulk of Switzerland’s exports are pharmaceutical and chemical products, more than 40%, SMEs are mostly active in the manufacturing and machinery sector.

Many of them can be characterized a hidden champions, global leaders in their niche. One example: Thermoplan from the center of the country supplies Starbucks with coffee machines since 1999 and has closed contracts with Nespresso and other large corporations since then.

Which industries are pursuing internationalization particularly in Singapore and Southeast Asia?

The manufacturing and machinery industry has been a traditional Swiss stronghold for the last decades, including notably medical technology in which Swiss precision is especially important and worthwhile. Not such a large sector but all the more emblematic for the country are food companies, making not just chocolate and cheese but specializing in innovative, fresh and healthy products such as Hero. The Swiss ICT sector, and in particular its Fintech and security firms, has also grown to international importance and is recognized more and more in Singapore and the region – this is how Switzerland’s historic strength in technology and finance has evolved.

Kindly cite recent success stories of SME’s that have exhibited growth in Singapore?

You could name a lot of Swiss companies that have thrived in Singapore, for example Endress+Hauser as a machinery company, Medela or Sonova, medical technology, or the already food firms like Hero or Ricola. A great fintech example is Netguardian – the Swiss start-up enables financial institutions to prevent financial crime before it happens and maintain secure and flawless client services. Named a Gartner Cool Vendor and awarded as TOP European FinTech company, NetGuardians is committed to be the market leader in risk mitigation. Headquartered in Switzerland, NetGuardians has opened offices in Kenya, Singapore, and Poland in the last 18 months.

Why is Singapore (as well as other markets in Southeast Asia) an ideal destination for Swiss SME’s?

Only 3% of Swiss exports currently go to Southeast Asia so there’s lots of room for growth in a dynamic region which still promises to be one of the most important economic groups of the coming decades. The rising middle class creates more and more demand for B2C but, by fueling infrastructure growth, also B2B. Singapore is ASEAN’s central hub and the ideal starting point for Swiss firms which don’t have much Asia experience yet.

What opportunities are present for Swiss SME’s in Singapore and Southeast Asia?

There are many opportunities for Swiss SMEs, among them is for instance the food technology industry. In recent years, Singapore’s overall maturation and growth of its food manufacturing industry has intensified the need to increase output. This has seen companies look to technology in order to boost production numbers, especially as domestic companies expand their global market sales reach – tapping on consumer markets in far-flung regions such as Latin America. With its established R&D and innovative food manufacturing technologies, Switzerland boasts companies that can offer Singapore SMEs ready-made solutions. Another sector where we see lots of opportunities is financial technology as already described, we advise Swiss companies from this sector actively to look into Singapore as a potential market.

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