Many of us are familiar with the advantages of setting up a Singapore-based business, making it an attractive location for startup founders and entrepreneurs in Southeast Asia.
Aside from its benefits, the city-state has also made it relatively easy and quick to incorporate your business in the country—that’s if you are a local. Truth be told, the process isn’t as straightforward for foreign directors like myself.
Before diving deeper into the details, let’s quickly review why it’s worth incorporating in Singapore.
Strategic geographical location
Being situated right in the heart of Asia, Singapore’s strategic location gives businesses a steady platform for expansion in the region and increased connectivity to the rest of the world.
With extensive air connectivity as a result of a robust supply chain management system, Changi Airport serves more than 100 airlines with over 62.2 million passengers passing through the airport each year.
On top of being a centralised hub, this also gives founders and modern business owners easy access to an open market of four billion people in Asia.
Free trade agreements (FTAs)
To keep up with the dynamic global landscape, Singapore has one of the most extensive networks of free trade agreements. To date, it has implemented 22 bi-lateral and regional FTAs including the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which opens up a gateway to a plethora of suppliers and service providers around the globe.
This is a big deal especially for companies looking towards expansion in Southeast Asia as these trade agreements include treaties with all 10 members of ASEAN, giving you a better edge when entering the regional market.
Ease of doing business
Unlike other nations around the world that require founders to be physically present to incorporate their business in the country, setting up your company in Singapore is incredibly swift and seamless. In fact, the incorporation process can be done completely online and in just a matter of minutes.
More and more business owners are becoming more reliant on digital solutions thanks to the rise of remote setups and the current state of international travel.
With a fully digitised procedure, foreign directors easily incorporate their companies in Singapore and get started with their operations in no time.
Politically stable environment
Compared to its counterparts in the region, Singapore has consistently ranked as one of the most politically stable countries in the region, making it a highly conducive environment for growth.
With the ongoing geopolitical strife between China and the US, many businesses are steering clear from these territories, leaving Singapore as the better and more sustainable alternative in the long run.
Access to funding and resources
Unlike big multinational corporations, startups rely heavily on external funding to kickstart the growth of their business. Fortunately, the Singapore government is incredibly supportive of startups from all sectors and has grant schemes and tax incentives in place to encourage foreign entrepreneurs to join Southeast Asia’s leading business hub.
Apart from government initiatives to provide funding for startups, there is a wide array of credible venture capital funds, incubators, and accelerators in Singapore designed for both local and international entrepreneurs.
Why it can be difficult for foreigners
Physical presence is required
Unlike local founders, foreign directors have to go the extra mile and make their way to Singapore as most incorporation packages require applicants to be physically present for a plethora of reasons.
This includes everything from paperwork, bank account opening, proving the legitimacy of the documents, as well as multiple director coordination.
While this requirement is justifiable to a certain extent, it is incredibly taxing on the director’s end, considering that additional arrangements have to be made from booking flight tickets to even finding the time to travel all the way to Singapore.
The process is backward
Before getting your Singapore-based company up and running, there are various requirements that founders need to adhere to prior to carrying out business activities. In Singapore, at least one local resident must be a part of the company’s group of directors. For founders who have no existing network of connections in the country, this step can be rather challenging to fulfil.
Having a local registered business address is also another requirement that directors need to achieve before commencing operations.
Some might say that the process is backward as most systems across the globe prioritise getting companies registered first before taking care of the nitty-gritty details like forming your board of directors or having an office address.
For some firms specialising in business registration for companies, there is a lack of transparency in the information provided to foreign directors upfront. Incorporation packages may come with hidden fees and additional requirements, leaving founders in the dark once it’s time to make a payment.
It is also likely that such companies are more focused and persistent on selling their services rather than building trust in their customers first, which may not sit well for most foreign directors.
Unfortunately, we weren’t exempted from these challenges. Having gone through these pains firsthand ourselves, we decided to solve the problem for other founders. Here’s how we did it.
How we solved the problem
Seeing fellow directors face the same problem, we took matters into our own hands and created a comprehensive solution that would streamline the incorporation process for Southeast Asia founders.
Earlier this year, we launched a solution stream, Aspire Kickstart, to equip startups with everything they need to launch their business in Singapore.
In just 10 minutes through a 100 per cent digital application procedure, foreign directors can incorporate their companies in the city-state and get a business bank account both at the same time.
Full Stack Data Founder Rishabh Srivastava’s experience included making multiple physical visits to various firms and banks, along with an endless amount of documents for verification. With Aspire’s incorporation process, all of that has been cut down to a tee.
With minimal paperwork and transparent pricing, founders can let our team of incorporation specialists take over and facilitate the entire registration process from submitting all application paperwork to ACRA, filing legal documents and financial reporting on behalf of new business applicants—all for an affordable price that won’t break the bank.
Being a startup ourselves, we understand how important it is to generate savings and create inexpensive solutions for fellow entrepreneurs.
As much as we would have liked to have a seamless incorporation process during our time, we are glad to have created and extended this service to aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners in Southeast Asia to give them a head start in their entrepreneurial journey in the city-state.
Since our incorporation, Aspire has reaped significant benefits and seen exponential growth in our business, and hope that fellow founders can enjoy a piece of the pie that Singapore has to offer as well.
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Image Credit: Aspire