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Singapore companies need to rethink their business models

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SINGAPORE: Rapid urbanisation, rising consumerism and wider use of technology are some "megatrends" that experts at the Singapore Human Capital Summit said are pushing companies to rethink their business models and hiring strategies. These trends have spawned more demanding consumers and smarter employees. While larger Asian firms are quick to adapt, the smaller ones find it a challenge to kee p up. Indonesia's dynamic economy has opened up new opportunities for players like Bank Mandiri. The country's strong consumer base, rising income and growing Internet users are paving the way for new markets and businesses. The bank invests about US$100 million a year in information technology (IT), to keep up with increased transactions via electronic channels. It is also beefing up its retail banking, risk and talent management systems as part of its transformation to reach wider markets. Zulkifli Zaini, president director and CEO of Bank Mandiri, said: "We are very lucky because we already have the foundation to grow." Small businesses can learn a thing or two from the Indonesian bank. Tony Nash, managing director of IHS, said: "With rising incomes and rising education come more demanding customers. So companies, particularly Asian companies, are going to have to focus much more on customer service, customer empathy and delivery satisfaction." The economic forecasting firm IHS said some Japanese and Korean brands are already making headway in customer service, but others lag behind. "Lower-end brands, maybe, out of China and other places, they really are not competing in that premium market space yet. And as they compete in the premium market space, they will develop those customer-focused activities," said Mr Nash. As more global companies and talents head to Asia, experts see the need for staff training for empowerment and growth. Narayan Pant, Professor of Management Practice at INSEAD, said: "As you see competitive pressure develop in organisations, I think organisations are looking for skill sets that are more adapted to the needs of the future. And they are saying, 'Can we equip our participants with these skill sets?'" While the road ahead may be bumpy, experts said technology has somewhat levelled the playing field for smaller firms. Combined with innovation, small companies can use the Internet to tap wider markets and attract young talents. Source CNA / cc