SMEs have limited markets in Singapore, most especially if they are targeting a niche. However, in this country full of potential, businesses are encouraged to spread their wings and go global. The MRA (Market Readiness Assistance) does just that by helping out SMEs tap into new markets and expand to different countries. The MRA is a program under the IE (International Enterprise), a Singapore government agency spearheading the growth of Singapore-based businesses, which serves as a big push for SMEs to finally take that leap towards international expansion. The MRA supports SMEs by giving them access to market information, letting them learn from industry experts, and granting them financial assistance, otherwise known as the MRA Grant.
The MRA Grant
The most substantial of all the three mentioned categories, the main goal of the MRA Grant is to expedite the growth of Singapore SMEs overseas. This grant offers financial assistance for setting up the business in another country, negotiations with business partners abroad, as well as overseas market promotions. SMEs may hire third party providers to help them accomplish all these activities and attain their goals.
Overseas Market Set-up
Before jumping into global expansion, the very first step for an SME is to do market research and feasibility studies. This market assessment activity is supported by the MRA Grant, as well as all the activities involved upon entry of the SME into its new market abroad. This may cover filing and registration of all paper work, protection of intellectual property, licensing, franchising, permits, and all the other technicalities needed when budding in a foreign land.
Overseas Business Partners
Applicable in a B2B set-up, the MRA Grant helps SMEs identify potential business partners, and will be able to aid in the costs for establishing licensees and franchisees, agents, distributors, and joint venture partners.
Overseas Market Promotion
Promoting your business overseas can be in a more tangible form such as hosting events or participating in roadshows or exhibits. The MRA Grant could cover costs incurred from the services of the PR or marketing agency, usage of materials, space rental, and other resources.
2. Online Marketing
The MRA Grant has also embraced promoting businesses through digital means. Some of the projects and campaigns supported by the MRA Grant are:
- Web-based Advertising – Being a “push” strategy, advertising through social media, website banners, Adwords, etc. introduces your brand to a multitude of the right potential customers by being in front of them at the perfect time.
- Social Media Marketing – More of a “pull” strategy, your social media pages, especially when localised, will create a community for your customers to interact with each other and engage with your brand. It is always best to create different social media pages based on location, and formulate customised strategies to publish more appropriate content for each of the cultures involved.
- Search Engine Marketing (SEM) – This involves Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns that any business needs to be easily findable by their customers worldwide, cementing their online presence.
- E-Commerce Listing – Online retailers will benefit most from this, as the MRA Grant will be able to shoulder the listing or subscription fees for global e-commerce platforms with international reach.
Who are eligible to apply?
First off, your business must be headquartered in Singapore. And being an SME, your annual turnover must be less than S$100 million per annum, which will be based on your most recent audited report. However, this is not applicable to local businesses providing services locally and offering them to foreigners abroad, such as a restaurant or a hotel.
- A maximum of 70% of the total cost of eligible activities
- Capped at S$20,000 per company, per fiscal year, which starts on the 1st of April and ends on the 31st of March the following year
- Limited to one activity (from the pre-determined list) per application
- Maximum of two applications per fiscal year
- May be applied as early as 6 months before the intended start date of the activity, but not later than 15 days before
Things to remember when applying
After filling in the MRA Application form, you may already request for a quotation, reports, and plans from your appointed provider. All these paper work must be submitted to the IE for approval. Once approved, the IE will send a Letter of Offer and that is the only time that your project can commence. Note that the MRA Grant will not be awarded for ongoing projects or projects that have started before the date of the offer. Lastly, all projects must be completed within 6 months from the date of offer, and reports must be sent in to IE for claims.
There aren’t any restrictions when choosing a third-party provider for the services you want to avail; the only challenge now would be making the smartest choice on who you can trust to expand your business with. So choose wisely and make it count! For more information, you may view the MRA Guidelines or visit IE Singapore’s Website.