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Feb 04, 2019

Singapore Reflection - Jessica Reiher

Having never travelled overseas myself, to me there was nothing ‘normal’ about Singapore. Everything had some kind of special flair

Jessica Reiher refelctions Singapore 2019

I tripped over a lot during my first few days in Singapore. Now this was partially a result of my chronic clumsiness and dizzying jet lag, but mainly due to the fact that I just couldn’t seem to take in enough of the city. I was constantly looking up and around at the stunning architecture, the stalls of Haji Lane and Chinatown, the landmarks, the people, and the cultural nuances that make Singapore so unique and special, attempting to fully immerse myself in the vibrant culture and experience and fight off the feeling of, “Is this seriously happening?”.

It was while thinking about our intents for the coming week in the session with Tracey Hamilton that I realised I didn’t exactly have any. Instead, I wanted to have an exponential openness to experience - taking and making the most of every opportunity on this trip of a lifetime, and experiencing all Singapore has to offer in the fullest (even if this meant pushing myself right out of my comfort zone). This goal manifested in so many wonderful and new experiences, down to trying unfamiliar food and drinks, chatting with locals and shop owners, and overall growing in my confidence tenfold.

Having never travelled overseas myself, to me there was nothing ‘normal’ about Singapore. Everything had some kind of special flair: from the food in the hawker centres, to the lights, to the singers and dancers on Haji Lane, to the bridges, to the diverse expanse of shops. Just walking down Clarke Quay or back to the hotel from the MRT, I was constantly in awe of the vastness, diversity, and beauty of the city.

For a country barely bigger than Lake Taupō, Singapore sure knows how to utilise what space it’s got, with thousands upon thousands of high rise buildings. But despite being a concrete jungle, it bursts with variety and life. Buildings of the most unique shapes and sizes, some that appear paper thin, others covered in greenery, fill the skyline (...and cause some people to trip over because they are always looking up).

Being exposed to the vivid social and cultural dimensions of Singapore right from the beginning of the trip was so exciting. With jam-packed days, we were constantly bombarded with new cultural experiences and knowledge. Haji Lane was the epitome of Singapore: fast-paced, incredibly diverse, modern, traditional, bursting with passion and vitality. The river cruise from Clarke Quay to Marina Bay Sands was the perfect way to see the city and landmarks, and it took a while before it properly sunk in that I wasn’t actually just looking at photos! From the Art and Science Museum, to the Shoppes at MBS, to the Gardens by the Bay, to a monsoon downpour, we got to experience so many iconic aspects of Singapore in just one afternoon. Even getting lost in the heart of Chinatown one evening was a great cultural experience. With it being Chinese New Year, the area was buzzing and so full of life, with so much to see. That same evening we got to hear the inspiring story behind and experience the incredible VR technology of Virtual Room, a fantastic team bonding experience. ‘Sharesies’ was the best way to have an array of eating experiences, but having the freedom to explore the bustling hawker centres was also wonderful. We had an awesome group of people who were prepared to try anything, including random fruit from a stall in the subway.

My knowledge about business in Singapore prior to the trip was mostly limited to what I had learnt from a couple of quick Google searches (“it’s a business hub!”). However, after this trip and having the privilege of hearing from 15+ different speakers, I feel I have a fresh perspective on the Singaporean market and its engagement with the international market. I knew Singapore obviously had something going on that made them such an exceptional hub for business and entrepreneurship, but now , I possess a much deeper understanding of why this truly is, and how New Zealand companies can use this to their benefit. I was introduced to the amazing opportunities in the region, for entrepreneurs and anyone in business, and was amazed at the potential Singapore has and offers to those who wish to take the leap into the thriving market there.

In our sessions with Shuttlerock, Facebook, and Techemy, I learnt about the benefits of doing business in Singapore, in addition to the advice the speakers gave about leveraging platforms and effective marketing.

The talk Tim Norton from 90 Seconds gave really resonated with me. He shared so much valuable wisdom from his experiences, including the massive challenges he has faced as an entrepreneur and how he has lifted himself back up from rock bottom. He showed just how much taking risks, perseverance, and striving for big things can pay off, and shared so many inspiring stories of failure and success.

I thoroughly enjoyed our visit to one of the eleven WeWork coworking spaces in Singapore, and my eyes were opened to a new aspect of cooperation, and fostering growth and diversity.

Sam Gibb from BANSEA and Endeavour Ventures was such an engaging speaker, with so much insight and wisdom to share. I struggled to take notes because I just wanted to listen and take in everything he was saying!

The speakers from NZTE, TradeGecko, SEAF, and Grab, as well as Charles Chow and the High Commissioner, all gave such deep insight into the Singaporean business culture and environment. I learnt that, somewhat in contrast to New Zealand, Singapore places great importance on methodical long term planning, has very clearly defined national priorities, has a more incentivised culture, and that the government is beginning to dedicate more time and money to growing startups and tech companies. Additionally, when it comes to environmental awareness and action, Singapore sits 20 years behind New Zealand. We also learnt about how marketing and distribution strategies must be pivoted to break into the Singaporean market, and about that scaling barriers and solutions.

The market entry strategy we formulated in the Business Challenge certainly showed the abundance of relevant knowledge we had gained around the Singaporean business environment and how New Zealand businesses interact with the Singaporean market, in the short time we spent there. Coming up with a relevant business idea that played on the different strengths of Singapore and New Zealand, and developing a comprehensive plan to enter the Singaporean market (including partnerships and distribution/marketing methods) was an awesome and highly enjoyable challenge - as was pitching it to a panel of esteemed and knowledgeable judges.

I am now a lot more interested than I was before in international business and the opportunities within this. I'd love to work supporting NZ businesses to break into the Southeast Asian market, utilising all the valuable knowledge I gained from this trip. I also took away so much knowledge about business and entrepreneurship in general, which will be very valuable regardless of which aspect of business I pursue in my future.

I really felt I learn a lot about all the different dimensions of life in Singapore. I was so glad we got to experience the social and cultural aspects in addition to all the amazing learnings about the business/political environment of Singapore. The connections, knowledge and lifelong friendships I gained will continue to benefit me in the years to come, and I am so excited to see how New Zealand’s relationship and my own relationship with Singapore blossom. This inspiring, incredible, phenomenal trip was quite possibly the best week of my life.