19 Jan 2017

The Business Times


IT looks like Singapore's small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have been busy selling their wares overseas - running up the highest average annual exporting revenue per company of US$2.21 million.

The global average: US$1.5 million.

A study commissioned by FedEx Express, titled "Global Trade in the Digital Economy: Opportunities for Small Businesses", found that exporting revenues made up 87 per cent of these companies' overall revenue.

The findings came from 9,000 interviews done in 17 markets; 512 of those interviews were done in Singapore. Non-exporting SMEs were excluded from the survey.

Highest average annual exporting revenue aside, Singapore SMEs also emerged top globally in terms of average annual revenue, with this figure coming in at US$2.56 million through intra and inter-regional exports by companies in key sectors such as manufacturing, wholesale/retail and consumer products.

Within the region, these SMEs' top export markets are Malaysia, China and Indonesia; beyond the region, the top markets are India, the USA and the UAE.

Air transport is the most-used method of export, at 71 per cent; more than half of these SMEs (54 per cent) started using air transport in the last three years.

When it comes to intra-regional competition, China is perceived as the biggest threat - 56 per cent of interviewees thought so - followed by Malaysia (26 per cent) and Hong Kong (23 per cent).

Aside from regional rivals, rising production cost and competition from local companies were identified as challenges.

Despite this, these SMEs expect 2017's average growth in intra-regional and inter-regional exports to be 28 per cent and 25 per cent respectively.

Nearly a quarter of those polled (23 per cent) have grown their pool of full-time employees in the last 12 months to support business growth.

Khoo Seng-Thiam, managing director of FedEx Express, said: "As the research shows, engaging in cross-border trade to complement local business operations help Singapore-based SMEs maintain steady growth. And for the foreseeable future, one critical enabler that will help them gain broader access to overseas markets is e-commerce."

Indeed, three-quarters of the SMEs polled generated revenue this way. They saw a 25 per cent rise in e-commerce revenue in the last 12 months; nearly a third of them (31 per cent) expect further growth this year.

Kurt Wee, president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (ASME), said: "In a fiercely-competitive business environment where customer needs are becoming increasingly specialised, SMEs must remain agile and continue reinventing their e-commerce and other service delivery platforms to thrive."

Source: The Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission