Singapore is a great place to start a business. The government takes special care making sure that the process is as smooth and as fast as possible. I think it is a good idea to start a business there.
That being said, it depends what kind of business you would like to open. If you are looking for something cutting edge/innovative/Silicon Valley like atmosphere, then it is probably the wrong place. Firstly, there is a shortage of elite CS/engineering talent. Secondly, the culture is unforgiving of mistakes. Failure is not in the dictionary. Thirdly, you will have to think global from day 1 (Singapore has a huge advantage in this – see 3rd para).
The government however understands all these issues that are pulling the country down and have in recent years tried to boost the entrepreneurship scene by setting up various funds. Neverthless, the lack of talent and high cost of living still turn business/startups away. This might change in the coming years but that is for the future to see.
On the other hand, if you would just like to open a sales office, then Singapore is probably the best place on earth. There is a lot of managerial talent. Almost all MNCs have a sales office footprint in Singapore so reaching out to the Asian market is easier than say opening in Malaysia/Indonesia. Hence, it might be easier for you to launch within the ASEAN region or even to India and China.
Nevertheless, the downside is that office space in Singapore can be expensive depending on where you buy/rent (every few hundred meters makes a huge difference to the price since the country is so small). Also, cost of living is really high. For this reason precisely, many MNCs only have sales offices and not engineering/back offices(they have them in India/China rather). It can be expensive to maintain staff. However, again, the government has various programs to help businesses cope with the steep prices. Also, the corporate tax rate is one of the lowest world wide.
Global businesses will find it advantageous to site their headquarters in Singapore. Strong trade and investment makes Singapore the most competitive Asian country and the world’s easiest place to do business.
By situating their international HQs here, companies benefit from Singapore’s network of over 50 comprehensive Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements. They also gain from Singapore’s many free trade agreements and the Investment Guarantee Agreements. Companies can always rely on protection of their ideas and innovations through Singapore’s rigorous enforcement of its strong intellectual property laws.
Registering your business
Foreign businesses that wish to set up a representative office in Singapore may approach these government agencies:
- Banking, finance and insurance – Monetary Authority of Singapore
- Legal – Attorney-General’s Chambers
- All other industries – International Enterprise Singapore
A useful summary can be found at EnterpriseOne.
You can read more about starting a business in Singapore from the official Ministry of Manpower Singapore Government website.