With a population of 650 million and nominal GDP of US$3.1 trillion, ASEAN is en route to becoming the 4th largest economy in the world by 2030.
According to the World Bank, Asia’s emerging markets are expected to account for more than 45% of global growth in 2020. Much of this growth is driven by the increasing consumption of the burgeoning middle class in Southeast Asia.
Due to its excellent infrastructure, skilled talent pool and strategic location., Singapore has historically been an ideal hub for global companies to testbed new products and services before rolling them out to the rest of Asia and beyond.
In this article, we will explore some of the hottest industry trends and in-demand business ideas in the region to help you identify potential opportunities to capitalize on.
1. Rapidly Growing Healthcare Sector
A rapidly expanding middle class and, for some, the beginnings of a greying population, has been driving the boom in trade of medical devices in Southeast Asia. ASEAN’s medical device market, which was worth about US$4.6 billion in 2013, is expected to double to US$9 billion by 2019, according to Pacific Bridge Medical.
Singapore, a leading regional and global biomedical hub, is home to more than 30 medical technology firms that have set up manufacturing bases in the island nation, according to its Economic Development Board. All of the largest medical technology firms also have their regional headquarters in Singapore, tapping the state’s extensive entrepôt trading network.
Players in the healthcare ecosystem are eager to adopt technologies such as robotics and automation to free up nurses from manual, repetitive tasks, and support limited manpower.
Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), for instance, wants to explore using robots to better manage falls among elderly patients. Health insurance provider Prudential Singapore is also harnessing new technologies such as machine learning-based solutions to simplify and shorten the process of administering medical claims from eight major hospitals.
2. Hub of Innovation and Research
According to Deloitte, 51% of survey respondents from various technology firms expected to boost their AI investments by 10 percent or more in 2019, and 80% indicated that their AI investments had driven return on investments (ROI) of 10 percent or more.
Singapore currently ranks No.2 in the Global Smart City Ranking and is one of the earliest adopters of A.I. technology. S$2.4B was invested in infrastructures and grants in 2018 alone through the Smart Nation Initiative. On top of investment, all datasets collected by public agencies have been made available to the public through online portals so anyone can participate and co-create solutions to benefit the city-state.
Beyond that, the first phase of Jurong Innovation District will be completed in 2022. The district will act as the hub for R&D and prototyping labs for companies focused on advanced manufacturing & automation, autonomous vehicles, smart robots and assistive technologies.
In addition, up to $4 billion grants will be directed to industry-research collaboration for companies within the district.
3. Continued Growth for E-commerce
The number of digital buyers in the world is expected to reach 2.14 billions by 2021, a quarter of the world’s population.
Singapore’s E-commerce market is enormous. Total revenue in 2019 totaled to almost 5 billions, only second to neighbour Indonesia (11 billions) in the region.
When it comes to purchasing power, Singapore is an Asian Powerhouse. It leads the region with an Average Revenue Per User(ARPU) of US$1222.40. Which is 7 times more than Malaysia (APRU of US$185.06) and 16 times more than Indonesia (APRU of US$75.66).
Between 2017 to 2019, all major E-commerce markets have experienced year on year growth of at least 15%. Selected markets(fashion, electronics & media) are expected to see total revenue grow by 20% in 2020.
Given the high level of smartphone penetration and purchasing power, the growth trend of the E-commerce industry in Singapore is likely to continue.
4. Emphasis on Financial Literacy
With higher life expectancies, a higher cost of living and greater market volatility, the stakes are higher when it comes to the kinds of financial decisions a young adult has to make today compared to 50 years ago.
Singapore recognizes this and is actively preparing future generations by incorporating personal finance education in the teaching traditional education curriculum. These new finance education curriculums have already been added to local polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education to give youth a good foundation in financial literacy.
With better financial literacy, the need for financial planning and personal finance tools will increase drastically. Fintech companies are anticipating this demand ahead of time by providing products that compliment the government’s initiative. Budget tracking applications that syncs with your bank accounts like HeyNugget and knowledge community like Seedly are some of the examples.
5. Personalized Fitness Industry
The region’s health and fitness industry grew by 5.7 percent a year between 2014 and 2018, according to US-based firm Market Research, and is expected to hit 6.4 percent annually between 2018 and 2023.
The fitness industry has evolved tremendously over the last few years. Consumers are no longer satisfied with generic membership access offered by big gyms chains. Personalized fitness is the name of the game. Traditional gyms are replaced by boutique studios and fitness playgrounds.
Through innovation of new concepts such as immersive fitness and group fitness, smaller players in the industry are able to effectively differentiate themselves and acquire their share of sticky fanbase.
6. Increased Demand for Childcare Services
As Singapore seeks to further improve its productivity as a nation, more mothers are returning to the workforce full time. 8 out of 10 women between the ages of 30 and 39 are working or actively looking for a job. Making dual-income families a norm.
This trend is set to increase the demand for pre-school places in the country. Based on estimates, 40,000 new childcare places are required by 2022 to meet increasing demand.
The Government will also double its annual spending on the pre-school sector to $1.7 billion in 2022.
7. Move toward Clean Sustainable Energy
According to Deloitte, the renewable energy industry is primed to enter a new phase of growth driven largely by increasing customer demand, cost competitiveness, innovation, and collaboration.
Singapore recognizes this shift in paradigm and is actively supporting the growth of the local sustainable energy industry.
For a land-scarce country, solar is Singapore’s most effective path to a renewable energy source. Located in the tropical sunbelt not all that far from the equator, Singapore enjoys an average annual solar irradiance of 1,580 kWh/m2/year, EMA points out.
Singapore aims to power 350,000 homes on solar by 2030, much of these projects will be fulfilled by the private sector.
Local corporations such as Capitaland has already echoed the government’s call by installing over 20,000 solar panels across 6 of its commercial buildings.
8. Birth of a New Industry – Gaming
2018 was a monumental year for the mobile gaming industry. YouTube had its biggest 12 months ever in gaming, with over 50 billion hours of game-related content consumed, while Amazon-owned Twitch also saw exponential growth in its number of creators, viewers and the total volume of content consumed.
As Gen Z continues to subvert Millennial social behaviors, game-focused platforms and eSports, in general, are moving very quickly from the periphery to become the platform of choice.
With the launch of the First global esports HQ in December 2019. Singapore is in pole position to become the centre for global Esports development.
Entertainment juggernauts like One Championship have already put in motion their project to launch the world’s biggest Esports Championship Series in Singapore.
The opportunity is not limited to events and broadcasting. Local gaming peripherals producers Razer and SecretLab have all seen tremendous growth in the last few years.
9. Healthy Eating
Eating well is fundamental to one’s health and well-being. However this is not always easy for those with a busy schedule which happens to be the majority of working adults in Singapore. It is no wonder the country is facing an issue of rising diabetes over the last decade.
However, this unpleasant trend has proven to be quite the opportunity for entrepreneurs in the food industry.
As more locals learn the importance of healthy eating as a result of awareness campaigns from the government, there is a growing demand for healthy food that’s both delicious and hassle free. YOLO Foods is one of such companies seeking to fill this demand. By combining nutrition science and culinary art, YOLO personalize, plan and deliver healthy food to help locals maintain a healthy diet.