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Govt reviewing policies to extend more help to SMEs venturing overseas

Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck said this after a visit to bus and coach manufacturer SC Auto on Wednesday. 

SINGAPORE: The government is reviewing policies to extend more help to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) venturing overseas.

Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck said this after a visit to bus and coach manufacturer SC Auto on Wednesday.

SC Auto has improved work processes at its 100,000 square feet factory in Senoko to cope with manpower shortage.

Its warehouse spanning 20,000 square feet used to be bustling with workers trying to get parts to put together coaches or buses. But now with productivity improvements, the factory has saved workers from making some 200 trips between the warehouse and production area.

But even after the company's efforts, manpower constraints have slowed output to only 120 vehicles last year, compared to its capacity of 200 coaches or buses a year.

To expand its business, SC Auto is in the midst of setting up a factory in Myanmar, with support from Singapore government agencies.

SC Auto had bought a plot of land in Myanmar to build the factory, which will have a capacity of 400 vehicles when the facility is up and running.

Mr Teo said companies with value add such as SC Auto will get more help in venturing overseas.

He said: “We are making improvements to our internationalisation programme which we will announce later. But I believe that there is always room for improvements to our current programme in terms of reviewing our policies or where we can make it more effective for them to expand overseas.”

SC Auto is hoping for more help to overcome teething problems faced by Singapore firms starting up overseas.

Rachel Lee, managing director of SC Auto, said: “We need a chance to train these people. For example, for the facility in Myanmar, in future when we set it up, I will need to have people from Myanmar (come) to Singapore to do that kind of training so they can reach the certain skill sets that we want. So when they are back in the manufacturing facility in Myanmar, they can set up the same kind of standards for us.”

Looking ahead, SC Auto hopes to increase the proportion of sales from overseas, from a third last year to 85 per cent in 2014.

Besides Myanmar, the company is also setting its sights overseas in markets like Hong Kong, Vietnam, Bangladesh and West Africa.

Mr Teo said firms can take advantage of diplomatic relations Singapore has with the region to expand. And smaller SMEs can pool resources to form a consortium to venture overseas.  

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