Four EU Gateway | Business Avenues missions for the Information & Communication Technologies sector have targeted South East Asia from 2017 to 2020.
The first EU-funded business mission for ICT took place in May 2017. It included product & service showcases at CommunicAsia 2017 Singapore, one of Asia’s biggest industry events, and a standalone exhibition in Bangkok, Thailand.
Picking up momentum from the first successful event, the second mission was held after one year, once again including product exhibitions in Bangkok and at NXTAsia, part of ConnecTechAsia Singapore.
Up next, in 2019, the business mission continued the then established streak of success in Singapore and Thailand for the selected European ICT companies.
In 2020, efforts were made to organize a virtual mission at ConnecTechAsia to secure participants’ safety in times of COVID-19 pandemic, while still providing unrivalled business services and EU-funded support to European companies.
The Programme team put in massive work to help the business missions reach the magnitude they did. As a result, over 600 expressions of interest were received and 191 participants attended one or more missions to South East Asia, in representation of 22 EU Member States.
Almost 4000 Asian company representatives visited the EU pavilion at the exhibitions. The Programme helped set up more than 2200 business meetings before the start of the mission weeks, and by the end of the EU-funded missions approximately 2300 B2B meetings were considered useful by the companies.
The business missions also helped increase the talent pool hired in the sector, in Europe. To keep up with the growing business demands in Asia, approximately 1000 jobs were created.
A survey conducted 12 months after each of the first three in person missions revealed that 81% of the 114 respondents had already established business collaborations or was expecting to do so in the future.
Undoubtedly, all the EU-funded missions represented a unique opportunity for European ICT companies to expand in South East Asia and strengthen their business in the region. But why were Singapore and Thailand chosen as the focus destinations for this sector?
Singapore, South East Asia’s ICT hub, spins estimated revenues of $190 billion in this sector. The nation’s Infocomm Media 2025 plan places emphasis on six strategic areas that are expected to bring in the most growth, including big data and analytics, applications for the internet of things sector, future communications, cybersecurity, intensive media, and cognitive computing and advanced robotics.
This auspicious policy and investment environment is fertile ground for ICT companies worldwide, especially European ones, in a variety of fields that supplement the growing demand, like ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) solutions, AI, cloud computing, ICT and sustainability, communications of the future, and data security.
Aside from these, Singapore’s e-commerce market is experiencing steady growth. This subsector alone is expected to reach €4.6 billion by 2025.
The other destination of interest for the business missions has been Thailand, a market known for its hardware products, software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions, cloud services, and e-commerce. The IT software production sector, focused on systems integration, deployment, support and outsourcing, stands out as one of the fastest-growing areas in the region.
Thailand is the second largest buyer of ICT products and services in the ASEAN region, particularly focused on digitalizing the public sector and creating a digital economy where solutions for online services, the Internet of Things, smart vehicles and transportation, e-healthcare, e-commerce and robotics abound.
Governmental programmes like the ICT Policy Framework 2020, the Digital Development Plan for Economy and Society, the Third ICT Masterplan, and the Plan for Digital Government, have propelled the sector forward, making it increasingly attractive for European companies.
The two markets are not only accessible for innovative companies in the sector, but also particularly receptive to solutions that help push the sector agenda forward. The Free Trade Agreement (FTA) signed in 2018 and approved by the European Parliament in 2019 has been instrumental in boosting the trade of goods and services between the EU and Singapore.
Thanks to EU Gateway | Business Avenues, European ICT companies were able to leverage Singapore’s Smart Nation policy infrastructure and Thailand’s commitment to undergo a digital transformation.
In 2017, there were over 10,000 European companies active in Singapore and the size of trade deals had surpassed the €100 billion landmark. With the FTA in place, and the remaining tariffs removed, international cooperations are now more accessible.
The Information & Communication Technologies sector is exceptionally promising and the many success stories generated by the business missions prove it.
Slovenian company XLAB brought its flagship product ISL Online to ASEAN markets at the business mission in 2017.
I believe that persistence is a key to success in any foreign market. According to my experience of doing business around the world for the past 15 years, I feel that Asian markets are not easy to approach. However, they offer tremendous opportunities to those European companies, which accept the challenge and are ready to show a long-term commitment to doing business in Asia. — Jure Pompe, Co-founder & CEO, XLAB (Slovenia)
FERNBACH, a Luxembourgish company representing a group of medium-sized entities in software and consulting, brought FlexFinance, a tool dedicated to the finance sector, to South East Asia. The business mission in 2017 helped the company forge a new partnership.
We expect growth of up to 25% due to the EU Gateway | Business Avenues mission. — Dr. Denis Diop, Managing Director APAC, FERNBACH (Luxembourg)
Another success came from Irish company Solgari, which also announced establishing a business partnership in the region following the mission.
IBIZ have also become a customer of ours and we are launching Solgari integrated with Microsoft Dynamics 365 into their customer base. — Edward Grant, CFO, Solgari (Ireland)
FA Solutions from Finland found success at the business mission in 2018.
The key thing with the EU Gateway | Business Avenues programme has been that people work together here: the team has worked with us to help us get contacts and understand the market better. In that sense, it has been totally different compared to going to an exhibition on our own. — Hannes Helenius, Chairman of the Board, Partner, FA Solutions (Finland)
ManWinWin from Portugal got its first-ever client in Thailand and established several partnerships in Singapore. The prolific business mission in 2018 was where this all started.
The mission was a game-changer for us; we redesigned our business development efforts. (…) This revamp in our business model resulted from both ICT business missions, I am sure of this, they both kind of ‘opened our eyes’ for this. We are exploring this new business model because of these ICT missions! (…) Being under the EU umbrella, having a booth at the exhibition, presenting at the exhibitor spotlight, all this gave us traction in the region. Being chosen by the EU to bring what is most advanced, digitally, in Europe to Southeast Asia that is solid traction that made potential partners feel comfortable in getting to personally know us.
— Rodrigo Seruya Cabral, Managing Director, ManWinWin (Portugal)
Watch more accounts from European companies that were able to overcome regional customs and regulations and make the right connections in South East Asia in the playlist below:
While European companies, in any sector, find it difficult to enter Asian markets on their own, the Information & Communication Technologies sector is particularly competitive. Local markets, as open as they are to new solutions, can also be hard to access without the right local professional network.
Thanks to the programme, many European companies made their way to South East Asia and are now selling their solutions on those foreign markets.