Singapore’s Douglas Foo on MSMEs & the Global Market

Photo Caption: MR. DOUGLAS FOO, Founder and Chairman, Sakae Holdings Ltd / President, Singapore Manufacturing Federation/ ASEAN Business Advisory Council (Singapore)

A business leader and celebrated philanthropist hailing from the prosperous nation of Singapore, Douglas Foo is a recipient of various awards and accolades due to his outstanding management and entrepreneurial efforts. In 2013, he was awarded the Public Service Star Award from His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Singapore and has been the country’s representative as member of the ASEAN Business Advisory Council since 2012. Beforehand, Foo has received numerous accolades—amongst them are the ASEAN Youth Entrepreneur Award (2004) and the ASEAN-China Young Entrepreneur Award (2011).

As the Founder & Chairman of Sakae Holdings, Ltd, Foo is well-recognized amongst the top business circles in the region. His company started out with Sakae Sushi in 1977 and has grown into a global food conglomerate with over 200 outlets worldwide. Foo at the helm of the Group, spearheaded the growth and expansion of Sakae Holdings. No stranger to the global market and building a business from the ground up, we asked Foo about his impressions on MSMEs, prepping for the global market, and the challenges this sets up for the ASEAN.

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Q: How can the business sector and national governments empower the MSMEs to better position them for the global market?

Foo: MSMEs are in exciting times because of the many opportunities created by globalization and technological advancements. There are two areas which our MSMEs can be empowered:

Collaboration – Our governments have laid a strong foundational framework of diplomatic ties for our businesses especially MSMEs to leverage in forging business alliances across ASEAN for mutual benefits. However, there could be more assistance in facilitating collaborations, whether it is helping small companies to collaborate with the larger ones or other MSMEs, or on the global front, with other MSMEs around the world. Such collaborative measures will empower and create opportunities.

Innovation – Our MSMEs are grappling with all these new technologies that are coming on stream. It is a disruption for most, but at the same time, it is a great opportunity where these enterprises can embark on scaling up into far larger businesses where they may not have been able to do without technology as an enabler. In Singapore, our government is providing assistance through various schemes and programmes for MSMEs to adopt innovative solutions with technological levers to remain competitive and relevant in a global market.

That said, MSMEs have to change their mindsets towards change and adopting new technology to innovate or to collaborate to internationalize. They must accept that they have limited resources and need to collaborate with other enterprises to augment manpower expertise and financial resource in a changing economy.

Q: In coming up with an “ASEAN” product, what areas for collaboration between the ASEAN Member States (AMS) do you see are readiest?

Foo: One area most ready is cyber security especially with the rise of the digital economy. If the whole of ASEAN can become more cyber-secure, it will become an attractive place to do business, and this is something which becomes a competitive advantage for this region as we move towards Industry 4.0 and the IoT.

3) In setting up regulations for the growing One ASEAN market, what do you suppose are the most pertinent challenges that AMS need to address?

Foo: The most pertinent challenge is the non-tariff barriers. Presently there are different standards and regulations within AMS. There needs to be in place a recognized ASEAN standard and agreement. For instance, Halal food definition varies from country to country within this region. In some countries, this certification is not recognized and it affects the seamless movement of goods especially at the customs clearance point.

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The Prosperity for All Summit is organized by the ASEAN Business Advisory Council, headed by its current Chair and the Philippine Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion. The summit is a one-day event focused on “Driving growth through micro and small entrepreneurs in Trade, Services and Agriculture”, and will be held in the City of Dreams, Manila, Philippines on April 28, 2017.