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When small businesses meet big opportunities

Raj Subramaniam, Executive Vice President, Global Marketing and Communications, FedEx Services | Jan. 14, 2016
In Asia Pacific, SMEs account for 98% of all businesses, employ 50% of the workforce and contribute 42% to GDP, so it is important that they continue to succeed and grow.

A good example of this is Singaporean cycling apparel company, RedWhite Apparel. Launched in 2014 by Amreet Singh and Yuvaraman Viswanathan, the company fuses the founder's love of cycling ultra-distances of 200 kilometers or more. Frustrated by uncomfortable or low quality bib shorts that they had purchased in the past, they set out to produce their own high-performance, but affordable long distance bib shorts for the modern cyclist. Going global has been a key business goal of the organisation since launching and that strategy has paid off, as the company now exports to markets such as Taiwan and Malaysia.

Unlocking SMEs' potential

Despite many SMEs recognising the significance of the export opportunity, so few are actually doing it. As such, it is clear that there are barriers that need to be overcome. Globally, SMEs harbour concerns about not being paid or incurring foreign exchange losses; and some worry about the costs of exporting. However, one common thread runs through all these misgivings - in most cases, they can be overcome with the right advice and support.

Such support programmes do exist. Most are national initiatives, but there are also supra-national sources of support. One example is the International Trade Centre (ITC). Established jointly by the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation in 1964, the ITC creates integrated solutions by building institutional, managerial and entrepreneurial capacities simultaneously at government, institutional and enterprise levels. It offers up-to-date information solutions that cover tariffs, trade agreements, and the competitive landscape in potential export markets. Its custom-built market analysis tools have over 340,000 users worldwide and it ran almost 450 capacity-building workshops in 2013. Both in terms of what the organisation provides and the way it delivers, the ITC sets a good example for national SME support programs to follow.

Whether it's from national or international sources, most exporting SMEs realise that there is information out there to help them, but the majority would welcome more support. When it comes to SME non-exporters, over three-fifths in the research study said they'd never received any advice or support. This is the group that is in most need of support programmes. Left to go at it alone, SMEs turn to the internet, the media and their logistics service providers for expertise on exporting.

A shared imperative

At FedEx, we're happy that SMEs view logistics service providers as a valuable resource when it comes to exporting. However, we see the imperative to support SMEs as a shared one. Only 10% of SMEs believe they have the support they need to export successfully, and this should serve as a shot across the bows for the other stakeholders involved, such as banks and national governments.


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