Starting a business in this “Little Red Dot”?
By Azhar Risyad.
Let’s take a quick peek at Singapore’s economic landscape:
- It ranked 13th on the world in terms of total exports with total of US$ 352.1 billion in 2010.
- It ranked 14th on the world in terms of total imports with total of US$ 311 billion in 20101.
- Inflation rate of 4.6% in 2011 and expected to be 2.1% in 2015 (year’s average).
-  Country risk rated ‘AAA’ by Fitch Rating on 28th April 2011
- Rated Number 1 as the safest city in Asia Pacific (Mencer, 2009)
- Rated Number 1 in terms of quality of life in Asia and Number 32 in the world (Mencer, 2008)
- Rated Number 23 most desirable country to live on worldwide (United Nations Development Index, 2007)
- Ranked Number 11 in the world due to its strong reserves of foreign exchange and gold
- Ranked Number 5 in the world and Number 1 in Asia as the country with least corruption
Photo illustration of Singapore CBD taken from Marina Barrage by M.B
From the snapshots above, what pop up into your mind? Yeap! Singapore has a good corporate governance system and foreclosure policy; appropriate central bank policy under the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS); strong protection of property; great public infrastructure and so on. Coupled with its huge potential as the trade hub in the region, these factors make Singapore a fine place to start a business! Practically speaking, by melting all these features together in one “pot”, there are tons of business opportunities we can develop!
Now, as a foreigner in this land, if we see such a gleaming business opportunity, how do we start our business? Amazingly, the registration process is not difficult and all the information required is readily available on the web! Let’s take a quick look on how to get started:
First of all, we need to obtain information as part registration preparation. We have to ensure that we meet the eligibility criteria of setting a company. Besides, we need to check the availability of our chosen business name, find the Singapore Standard Industry Classification (SSIC) code and choosing the business location. For Singapore citizens and PR, we need to check our Outstanding Medisave Liabilities. For some industries, such as food and beverages establishments or education centres, we need to obtain appropriate licenses and permits. As I have mentioned previously, this information is freely available on the web. Check out here for more details of this first step.
Secondly, register your business with Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) through their web platform BizFILE. You can engage any professional law firms, accounting firms, corporate secretarial firms and service bureau found in yellow pages to do your registration. Even better, you can do it yourself and save some cost! Check out thislink for information, such as fees and processing time, on incorporating a local company in Singapore. Visit thislink to incorporate a foreign branch office in Singapore.
Thirdly, and the most important of all, we need to pay the registration fees. And… once the registration is approved, Congratulations! You are now ready to reap that business opportunities of yours!
In a nutshell, if you have met all the prerequisites, your new company is going to be incorporated 15 minutes after you pay the registration fee! It is that easy! Aren’t you amazed? However, I have to warn you that some delays might occur if you need authorization from other authorities in Singapore.
That was the registration. The next thing is getting funding. There are some ways to obtain additional funds to get your business up and running. The funds can be classified into two types, “Loan” and “Equity”. We can find out information about these two funds quickly online. Personally, I like these websites on loans and equity because not only they do contain useful information, but they also list down some of the parties providing those additional funds. You might want to check out the Micro Loan Program if you are looking for loans, or try Angel Investor for equity type of funds.
If you are asking what are the basic requirements to obtain these funds, it is simply a good-sounding business plan. There are some other technical requirements, such as personal tax assessment, but if you manage to “wow” the potential investor with your business plan, you can always work around those cumbersome technical requirements.
We have now covered the overview of how we start a business in Singapore and how to get some funds to start it up. The question now is: “What kind of business is good to do in Singapore, at this point of time or in the near future?”
Well, personally, even with all the goodness of doing business here, I still prefer to do business in our beloved country, Indonesia. Why?? Simple! Tons of opportunities exist there! I remembered what my professor said in class, that we are a product of time and space. This means each of us has different biases, perspectives and preferences in the way we interact with the world. Hence, through the exposures that I have thus far, I am leaning towards Indonesia as a place to fulfill my aspirations.
With that, how about if we, together, scout for that gleaming business opportunities all over the world?
 Extracted from International Trade Centre. www.trademap.org
 Extracted from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/sn.html
 Extracted from Economic Development Board, http://www.edb.gov.sg/edb/sg/en_uk/index/why_singapore/singapore_rankings.html