Few local SMEs plan to expand globally: Poll

This article is more than 12 months old

Only 14 per cent of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) here intend to expand overseas while almost half had no interest in taking their business beyond Singapore soon, a survey found.

In the poll by QBE Insurance of more than 400 companies, 45 per cent said they will not explore expansion across borders - a figure that rises to 56 per cent for smaller SMEs.

Of SMEs operating only in Singapore with no intention to go overseas, the top barrier, cited by 42 per cent of them, was insufficient funds to expand abroad, while 38 per cent cited unfamiliarity with foreign markets.

Other prominent concerns include the level of competition in other markets, regulatory and legal compliance and political instability.

The QBE Insurance survey report suggested that another factor behind the lack of appetite for venturing abroad could be the improving perception of the economy in Singapore, driving a belief that sufficient growth can be attained locally.

Half of the respondents feel the economy will improve in the next 12 months, while just 24 per cent feel it will become worse.

While local SMEs may not yet feel ready to capitalise on growth prospects in new markets, 44 per cent are expecting an increase in sales in the next 12 months, up from 40 per cent in the previous year, the survey found.

It also found that digitisation appears to be a key focus. Some 95 per cent of companies surveyed this year use, or intend to invest in, digital technologies.

Barriers to digitisation remain. Among SMEs that already incorporate online business processes, 48 per cent noted the perceived high cost of investment as a problem while 39 per cent admit their workers lack the skills to utilise new technologies.

Fewer yet view cyber security as an issue, with only 23 per cent of all SMEs seeing security of sensitive data as a concern, while 35 per cent of smaller SMEs admit to having no cyber protection at all. - THE STRAITS TIMES