To go global, Singapore companies need Market Intelligence
Singaporean companies that have made it big on the international stage can be counted on the fingers of one hand: Capitaland, Singtel, Singapore Airlines (in part thanks to the nature of its business, to be fair), Singapore Technologies, DBS... it becomes difficult to think of more. Compared with the achievements of some other Asian economies that modernised post-WWII – think Japan, Korea, Taiwan – while ‘brand Singapore’ is well established globally, few of its home-grown companies have succeeded outside their home territory in any significant way.
There are multiple reasons for this state of affairs, some historical, some cultural and others geographical. The first two will take many years to change, however the constraints imposed on companies’ efforts to expand overseas by Singapore’s geography and its effect on management’s mind-set can be addressed relatively easily. That’s where Market Intelligence comes in.
As a small and compact market with relatively homogenous sets of consumers and B2B customers, Singapore is very well known territory to its home-grown market leaders. They know what their customers like, how much they are willing to pay for it and who they are competing with for those dollars. In other words, doing business in Singapore is second nature to these home-grown companies. Not so the rest of the world. Most overseas markets worth exploring (and there are many, with markets many times the size of Singapore’s) are more complex, harder to understand, more heavily competed, and above all just very different from Singapore.
But help is at hand. Market Intelligence (MI) – especially end-to-end MI that makes use of multiple information sources supplemented by strategic analysis that prioritises options and produces strategic recommendations grounded in hard facts, is a highly cost-effective means of identifying overseas expansion opportunities and making rational decisions about global growth.
Market Intelligence has two main building blocks, and companies venturing overseas or thinking of doing so need both. First, ongoing market monitoring, which tracks a company’s international business environment, including its existing and potential markets, competitors, regulations, disruptive technologies and so on. This keeps all the key decision makers informed on a frequent and regular basis, often via an automated system that selects the information that is most relevant to each stakeholder, with a special ‘feed’ for the CEO.
And secondly, issue-driven projects, which look more in-depth at a particular strategic opportunity such as a possible acquisition, a new market entry or a competitive gap, or a threat, such as an unexpected competitor, a budding price war or a squeeze on supply chain margins.
In GIA’s latest global market intelligence survey of 989 companies, 91% of companies in the Asia-Pacific region said they had benefited from Market Intelligence, and 83% planned to spend more on Market Intelligence in the next two years. But adopting Market Intelligence and making it work for the company is something that has to come from the very top. The companies that benefit most from Market Intelligence have the function reporting directly to the CEO or at most one layer removed. Those companies that use Market Intelligence less successfully have up to four layers between the MI head and the top boss.
Global success stories which relied on Market Intelligence to assist their meteoric rise during the 1980s and 1990s, and still rely on it heavily today, include Motorola, Shell and GM. Maybe one day that list will be joined by a Singaporean brand name – if so it will be one with a visionary CEO.
Pete Read, Senior Vice President at Global Intelligence Alliance