In the last 10 years, Singapore has emerged as the center – or hub, as it is more popularly known here – for many sectors: banking, financial services, information technology and logistics. More hubs are on the way: wealth management, biotech and even international arbitration.
So what really makes Singapore an attractive center for so many different types of businesses? Geographically, Singapore is very well positioned, an easy distance from the two economic Asian giants of China and India.
That combined with business-friendly policies, excellent facilities for expatriates to live and work, the deliciously varied cuisine on offer at the hundreds of cafes, bistros and restaurants across the island and above all almost everyone speaks English, so no language issues unlike in Hong Kong and Tokyo.
In the last decade, Singapore has executed a wonderful image makeover. No longer is it seen as a staid, no-chewing-gum country offering limited lifestyle experiences. It is now seen as a vibrant, fun city offering a kaleidoscope of lifestyle experiences in dining, entertainment and sport. A year-round concert calendar at the Esplanade, Formula 1 night race on the city streets, fine dining by Michelin star Chefs, all-night partying at Clarke Quay and world-class events, such as the World Gourmet Summit and the Audi Fashion Festival, that bring hordes of upscale visitors to Singapore.
Then there is upscale shopping experience. A decade ago, haute-couture was associated more with Hong Kong than Singapore. That has now certainly changed with more bespoke designer wear and accessories now available here. At Orchard Road, several stand-alone stores of luxury brands have sprouted in the newfangled malls.
No wonder, there is already talk of Singapore emerging as a lifestyle and luxury center for Asia.
A place that consumers from around the region visit to get their slice of unique experiences. A place that houses the regional headquarters of the major lifestyle and luxury brands.
A place where senior business leaders gather to discuss the opportunities and challenges of growing the luxury market. A place that sets the trends for the upcoming fashion season and the next. In short, Asia’s answer to London and Milan.
This aspiration is appealing and eminently achievable. So what could possibly hold back Singapore from becoming the lifestyle and luxury hub for Asia?
One could argue the size of the Singapore market is not big enough to justify this positioning. But that holds true for banking and information technology as well.
Singapore has always punched above its weight because it has established itself as a regional powerhouse, not just a one-market entity.