Singaporeans in Hong Kong and mainland China: how the ‘third wing’ of the Lion City’s economy took flight
- Singaporean firms have over the decades moved from a ‘first wing’ – the domestic economy – to a second, namely regional expansion
- Now a new group of entrepreneurs is assimilating into other economies and building localised businesses rather than brandishing the city state’s brand
For close to a year, she pulled 13-hour days at work, even on weekends, picking up what was “three years’ worth” of experience relating to the ins and outs of doing business in China – and regaining her confidence.
“I didn’t mind because I wanted to learn,” Teo said. “In my first week at Alibaba, one thing already stood out for me: what can be scarier than knowing that the people smarter than you are also more hardworking than you?”
To be successful in China, you must be able to play by their rules
Interacting with the locals, rather than sticking with a circle of expatriates, also helped her grasp the Chinese way of thinking and doing things, while peeling off many preconceived ideas she had held about the country.
A ‘THIRD WING’ SPROUTS
Today, Teo heads her retail technology start-up 8XP in Shanghai, part of a growing group of Singaporean entrepreneurs looking to make it in the world’s most populous nation. The Singapore Chamber of Commerce and Industry in China has more than 1,300 members, according to its website.
“In China, the opportunities were and still are tremendous. There’s a lot of energy and ideas, and people are always doing something,” said Josh Lim, co-founder and executive director at Shanghai-based investment and advisory company IJK Capital Partners.
He has been living and working in China since 2010, after securing a job with a private equity firm in Beijing fresh out of university.
“I was just plain curious about China,” said Lim, who turned down three other better-paying job offers in Singapore because “adventure was more important than money”. “That set the stage for me to try something different, fun and cowboy-ish. I loved it. There were few rules and little structure for things in general. It felt very different from Singapore.”