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Taking local firms into China

Ms Hua Qianni, 26, is one of the youngest centre directors at International Enterprise Singapore (IE Singapore) to be given an overseas posting.

She is currently based at the organisation’s Shanghai Overseas Centre in China, where she and her team assist Singapore companies that want to expand into Shanghai and the surrounding East China regions.

They also help to build a pipeline of Chinese trading companies that can strengthen Singapore’s status as a trading hub.

When Singapore businesses expand their footprint overseas, turnover will increase, as well as quality global jobs for Singaporeans. The impact of this is especially high for small and medium-sized enterprises, explains Ms Hua.

Tailoring needs

She cites the example of Jumbo Group, a company that expanded into Shanghai with IE Singapore’s help.

Ms Hua notes: “This Singapore food and beverage company recorded a 46.3 per cent surge in net profit to $15.5 million for the full year ended September 2016.

“It attributed the revenue increase to the group’s two new Jumbo Seafood restaurants in Shanghai, as well as an overall increase in takings at its other restaurants.”

To achieve this, she had to build and maintain a good network of in-market contacts and delicately handle local government bureaucracy.

Ms Hua deals with companies across a spectrum of industries and she must accurately understand their needs. “This is something I had to pick up very quickly in my current role in order to be able to open doors and secure partnerships for our local companies in the market,” she adds.

Her previous role in IE Singapore on the corporate group side (Lifestyle Business Group) provided the fundamentals of interpreting a company’s needs through knowing what to look out for and asking the right questions.

As part of this overseas posting, she also holds the position of vice-counsel (commercial) and covers Zhejiang as an East China regional focus.

Ms Hua was also recently invited to represent the Singapore consulate in Shanghai and IE Singapore to speak at a Hangzhou crossborder e-commerce summit, alongside industry heavyweights such as chief executive officer of Alibaba Group, Mr Daniel Zhang.

“It was definitely a valuable opportunity to share the capabilities of Singapore companies as well as our unique role as a gateway to Asean in cross-border e-commerce,” she recalls.

The right direction

Ms Hua first found out about the scholarship through an annual tea session organised by IE Singapore. There, staff shared their onthe- job experiences. Among them was former Shanghai centre director Ho Chee Hin, whose insights steered Ms Hua in the right career direction.

While applying for her scholarship, she interned at the statutory board’s South Asia desk. This additional experience helped her better understand and develop an interest in the job scope.

Local mid-term scholarships are also available. Upon graduation, scholars can take up a wide range of roles, be it market-focused, industry- centric or trade-related, within the organisation.

What also attracted Ms Hua to join IE Singapore was the privilege of coming in from a government perspective to push out initiatives that benefit Singapore companies, while still staying in touch with the needs of the private sector.

On the scholarship, Ms Hua, an international relations major, graduated from the London School of Economics (LSE) in 2012.

During her undergraduate years, she was the president of LSE’s 3,000-strong China Development Society and collaborated with Chinese-oriented organisations, allowing her to develop networking skills and market knowledge of China early.

Some individuals she engaged with remain valuable contacts in her current role.

Ms Hua looks forward to building a thriving business hub here with globally competitive companies and leading international traders.