Faced with domestic pressure, Chinese tech giants expand to Singapore, Telecom News, ET Telecom


Singapore: Chinese tech giants thrive in Singapore as they face repression at home and increasing pressure in other key markets – but they may struggle to find talent in the city- State.

Messaging and gaming behemoth Tencent open a hub and TIC Tac owner ByteDance is on a hiring spree after establishing a regional headquarters, while e-commerce giant Alibaba invests in real estate and recruiting.

Tech companies are focusing on booming Southeast Asian markets as authorities tighten screws at home amid concerns about the growing power of the platforms.

Regulators have launched a blitz on the industry, hitting several companies with heavy fines and threatening to cut down massive companies whose reach now extends deep into the daily lives of ordinary Chinese.

Meanwhile, festering tensions between Washington and Beijing after an assault on Chinese tech titans during Donald Trump’s presidency make the United States an unappealing prospect, and problems abound elsewhere.

Chinese tech companies face regulatory pressure and sanctions from governments in other countries, including the United States, but also countries like India, ”Rajiv Biswas, Chief Economist for Asia-Pacific at IHS Markit, told AFP.

India has banned an array of Chinese apps since a border clash last year, while the European Union and other Western powers recently imposed sanctions on China’s treatment of the Uyghur Muslim minority, resulting in retaliatory sanctions.

But Singapore, a thriving financial center, has good relations with Beijing and the West, and tech companies have come to see it as a safe bet for expanding their operations without disrupting both sides.

In the current climate of geopolitical uncertainty “Singapore is seen as a more neutral country,” Chen Guoli, professor of strategy at the Singapore campus of the INSEAD business school, told AFP.

Frenzied hiring

In addition, long-standing unrest in Hong Kong, its traditional rival, may have dampened its appeal, although observers point out other factors are likely more important.

The influx of Chinese liquidity will be welcome in Singapore, whose economy has been hammered by the coronavirus and which is seeking to establish itself as a technological center.

It is already home to the main offices of the American tech titans Facebook, Google and Twitter, while ByteDance recently moved to larger offices in the financial district, and launched a recruitment drive.

Between September and February, a third of ByteDance’s job listings were in Singapore, more than double the listings it placed in China, with a focus on hiring specialist engineers, analyst Ajay Thalluri said. from the data and analytics company GlobalData.

Meanwhile, Alibaba last year bought a 50% stake in an office tower, where its Lazada e-commerce unit is the main tenant, while its subsidiary, fintech giant Ant Group, obtained a license to operate a digital wholesale bank in the city-state.

Alibaba “is building teams in Singapore with significant senior and mid-level job openings related to talent acquisition, product management and legal compliance,” Thalluri said.

The e-commerce company, co-founded by Jack Ma, came under fierce pressure in China, with authorities ending Ant’s record-breaking IPO in November.

Talent crunch

ByteDance and Tencent, which announced their expansion plans in Singapore in September, say they are primarily focused on growing their business in Southeast Asia, a booming region of 650 million people, rather than avoiding tensions elsewhere.

By stepping up their presence in Singapore, tech giants are hedging their bets in case friction with the West reaches a new nadir, analysts say.

Chen of INSEAD said Chinese companies need a “plan B” in case they have to separate their global and Chinese operations, in which case Singapore could become their international center.

However, a major challenge in expanding the city, with a population of just 5.7 million, is recruiting workers with the right skills.

“Technology is developing and accelerating at a rate that far exceeds the supply of talent needed to evolve,” said Daljit Sall, senior director of information technology in the Singapore office of global staffing firm Randstad. .

Singapore is trying to attract foreign talent, although this can cause discomfort in a country where the foreign population is already preoccupied, as schools offer classes to prepare young people for tech jobs.

Nonetheless, “there remains an urgent need to address these skills gaps now,” said Sall.


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