DBS SME Banking Partners Alibaba Cloud

The partnership will enable DBS SME customers to connect better with Chinese market and consumers.

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In its latest effort to help small and medium enterprises tap into overseas opportunities, DBS SME Banking has become a key local partner for Alibaba Cloud’s landmark China Gateway Programme.

Launched at the Alibaba Cloud Summit at Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre on May 30 with more than 1,000 attendees, it will provide firms with an in-depth immersion programme on doing business in the world’s second biggest economy, connecting them to Chinese companies and consumers via the Alibaba ecosystem.

The signing ceremony, which also included other key local partners, was witnessed by Chee Hong Tat, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Trade and Industry & Ministry of Education.

The other local partners are the Info-communications Media Development Authority, Enterprise Singapore, Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Singapore Management University Academy, SGTech, Action Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE) and TechNode.

“With the support of our partners here, we are confident of supporting local businesses of all sizes and from all backgrounds to grow beyond Singapore, especially into China’s market,” said Selina Yuen, president of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence International.

Under the programme, companies will be able to use Alibaba Cloud’s suite of cross-border compliance, security and networking products to connect their China operations with offices worldwide, as well as tap its applications in payments, e-commerce and logistics to better serve their Chinese customers.

"Overseas expansion continues to be a priority for DBS SME customers. However, many lack on-ground market knowledge and understanding of business requirements. To navigate these new markets, it is crucial that they work with the right partners and advisors to give their business a head-start,” Tan Su Shan, Group Head of Institutional Banking, DBS Bank, explained.

“DBS is honoured to be the banking partner for Alibaba's Cloud's China Gateway initiative, and look forward to helping our customers capture new growth opportunities in the Greater China region. Our customers can leverage our global network, on-ground expertise and partners to fast-track their growth plans,” she added.

Ranked first in the Asia Pacific in the Infrastructure as a Service, and Infrastructure Utility Services market in 2018 by Gartner, Alibaba Cloud has the largest infrastructure footprint in the Asia Pacific region, with 15 availability zones outside mainland China, covering markets such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia, India and Japan.

The move by DBS SME Banking to partner Alibaba Cloud comes at a time when local SMEs are being encouraged to expand to overseas markets such as China for stronger revenue growth.

Panel discusses opportunities and challenges for SMEs in China
A panel discussion during the event titled "The Playbook for Business Expansion in Asia", comprising DBS Executive Director and Chief China Economist Chris Leung, Alibaba Cloud Intelligence Malaysia's general manager Kenny Tan, ACE CEO Edmas Neo, Airwallex Head of Partnership Gajia Parsons, SGTech's Singapore Enterprise Chapter Chairman Sharon Teo and Head of IBS (Integration Business Solutions) APAC Transformation & Consulting, Henkel Francois Mercier – spoke about China's economic outlook as well as the value of local partners when expanding into overseas markets.

The massive size of the Chinese market holds tremendous opportunities and Mr Leung believes that among the promising sectors to invest in is technology. “It’s never too late. China is going to invest a lot more in 5G, AI, robotics and IoT hardware,” he said.

Despite the promise, economists have grown more cautious recently about the country’s outlook as continued trade tension saw the US increasing tariffs on US$250 billion of Chinese products in the month of May followed by China raising tariffs on US$60 billion of US products.

China’s economy has shown signs of slowing down as the resulting higher costs for consumers has had a dampening effect on its exports to the US – the world’s biggest market, as well on private spending and investment domestically.

Even with an uncertain outlook, Southeast Asia may benefit from a silver lining as some of the Chinese investment will be diverted to this region, Mr Leung said citing Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand as early beneficiaries.

The region also stands to benefit from China’s Belt and Road initiative, which seeks to revive overland and maritime versions of the Silk Road trade routes with heavy infrastructure investments.

“Going forward, China will put a lot more resources in Southeast Asia as ‘it is low hanging fruit’ for its Belt and Road initiative, amid growing global caution over trade,” Mr Leung said.

But whether it is Chinese investment coming to Southeast Asia or Singaporean startups and SMEs expanding to China, the value of having local partners is not disputed.

This can be due to not understanding the local culture well enough as Ms Teo said or because of difficulty with navigating the environment for startups without the right partners, according to Mr Neo.

Expanding into China can be challenging because of local business etiquette on matters such as accepting gifts, and the length and nature of business meetings may vary. Finding reliable partners who will be willing to share information of business processes and lesser known local laws can also take some effort.

Considering locations other than the main cities of Shanghai and Beijing may also help as competition tends to be high and talent expensive in these cities, Mr Neo added, speaking from experience. ACE, which Mr Neo heads, runs a centre in Nanjing providing co-working spaces and business support to foreign startups.

Despite the challenges, characteristics that businesses in other markets need to possess, such as staying nimble and agile, stays true for the China market, the other panelists agreed.

To find out more about the China Gateway Programme and how DBS SME banking can help with regional connectivity to China, email enquiries to businessclass@dbs.com

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