Expanding to Singapore

Expanding to Singapore

Embarking on the journey to expand your business into the vibrant market of Singapore demands a thorough comprehension of various essential elements to navigate potential challenges successfully. Whether you're a fledgling entrepreneur or an established entity, this comprehensive guide aims to equip you with the requisite knowledge for a seamless entry into the Singaporean business landscape. From understanding the prerequisites for establishing a business to delving into the complexities of managing manpower and human resources, this page serves as your indispensable resource to make well-informed decisions and thrive in the dynamic business environment of Singapore.

How to set up a business in Singapore?

So you've dreamt of expanding your horizons and setting up your business in the dynamic market of Singapore? Well, get ready to embark on an exciting journey! But before you pack your bags, knowing the lay of the land is crucial. This guide lays out the key considerations for establishing your company in Singapore, ensuring a smooth and successful transition.

Things to consider for starting a Company in Singapore: 

Business Plan: Singapore thrives on innovation. Before diving in, a thorough business plan is your roadmap to success. Research the viability of your business idea in the Singaporean market. Analyse competitors, identify potential roadblocks, and forecast long-term demand. This is where insights on local business trends and consumer preferences become invaluable. Emphasise that comprehensive research is imperative for making informed decisions and steering clear of potential pitfalls.

Identifying Sales Channel/Partners: To effectively navigate the market, establishing strong sales channels and partnerships are your secret weapons. Research proven distributors, logistics whizzes, or sales agents in your field. Choose experts with connections, industry know-how, and smooth operations. This dream team builds a reliable supply chain, ensuring products land in customers' hands like clockwork, boosting satisfaction and your brand's reputation.

Local Labor Market Insights: To navigate the vibrant Singaporean labour market, understanding local workforce expectations is crucial. This journey starts with appreciating the "wage symphony." Research prevailing salary ranges and benefits packages for your desired skill sets, ensuring your compensation offer resonates with top talent. But compensation is just the opening act. Dive deeper into the "work-life balance ballet," exploring cultural norms around working hours, flexibility, and employee well-being. Lastly, consider the "industry expertise tap dance." What skill gaps exist within your sector? Are there in-demand talents you haven't considered? By mastering these local rhythms, you'll attract the perfect performers, harmonising your Singaporean business success story one satisfied employee at a time.

Networking & Support:  Launching a startup in Singapore's dynamic landscape can feel like scaling Mount Faber alone. But fear not—a robust support network awaits. Business associations and chambers of commerce offer mentorship, shared resources, and access to a thriving entrepreneurial community. Consider them experienced guides, connecting you with strategic partners and resources.

The Singaporean government actively champions startups. Initiatives like Startup SG provide funding, talent development, and incubation spaces—crucial safety nets to propel your venture forward. Other government agencies like Singapore Business Federation, Enterprise Singapore, Economic Development Board also offer various kinds of services for Start Ups and even grants could be applicable. Workforce Singapore assists you to tap into the local talent pool and ensures enterprises can become manpower-lean while remaining competitive.

Remember, you're not alone in Singapore. Tap into the network, capitalise on government support, and watch your startup soar as a beacon of success against the iconic Marina Bay skyline.

Cultural & Language Considerations: Singapore's a melting pot of cultures, and understanding this is key to your business success! English is your go-to for meetings, but respect the diverse languages spoken by offering translations of key materials. Punctuality and respect for different cultures and religions are musts, along with a friendly, collaborative approach. Building genuine relationships goes a long way, so don't hesitate to chat about local dishes or weekend plans. Remember, saving face is important, so tread softly and avoid direct criticism. Embrace the cultural quirks like kiasu (fear of missing out) and kiasi (afraid to lose),and learn from your local partners. By navigating these cultural nuances, you'll unlock a thriving market and build strong, trusted partnerships in Singapore!

Infrastructure & Resources: Landing in Singapore? Finding your space is easy! Pick from cool co-work spaces, busy city towers, or quiet suburbs. Everything you need - electricity, internet, banks - all works like clockwork. Permits might seem tricky, but help is just a step away. Co-sharing workspace is also very popular if you don’t need a big office to start with. 

Local Partner: Going it alone in Singapore? Think again! Partnering with a local expert is your compass to smoother sailing. They know the ropes, from local regulations, customs, and hold the keys to valuable networks and resources. Eliminate bumps and dead ends with their insider guidance. Don't just set up business, unlock your Singaporean success story with a local ace by your side!

How to Set up a Company in Singapore?

Setting up your B2B company in Singapore requires a clear roadmap. Here's a simplified guide to navigate the company setup process: 

Business Structure: When choosing a business structure in Singapore, you have several options, each with its own advantages and disadvantages:

  • Sole Proprietorship: This streamlined choice is ideal for solopreneurs with low-risk ventures. It's quick and easy to set up, but remember, your personal assets aren't shielded from business liabilities. If growth and funding are long-term goals, this solo act might not be enough.
  • Partnership: Joining forces with 2-20 like-minded individuals can be a powerful move. You combine resources, expertise, and workload, but remember, shared decisions and joint liability come into play. A rock-solid partnership agreement is key to harmonious and successful collaboration.
  • Private Limited Company (Pte Ltd): The golden standard for startups, a Pte Ltd offers a separate legal entity from you, protecting your personal assets and unlocking easier access to funding. The setup involves a bit more paperwork and ongoing compliance, but for most businesses, the benefits outweigh the initial effort.
  • Public Limited Company (PLC): If massive expansion is your vision, a PLC might be your future. By selling shares to the public, you can raise significant capital, but be prepared for the highest level of regulations and public scrutiny. This heavy crown is best worn by established businesses ready for increased transparency and accountability.

Registration Process: Here are some steps required to register a company in Singapore

  • Pick a Peak Name: Ensure it's unique, brand-aligned, and available on ACRA's online portal.
  • Preparing Your Documents: Gather ID proofs, business plan, and shareholder details.
  • Ascend ACRA Online: Choose your business structure- whether it's a solo venture, a partnership, or a company and submit documents.
  • Securing Your Summit: Reaching the top requires a small investment. Government fees vary depending on your chosen structure and share capital. Consider it an early step towards achieving your business goals.
  • Reaching the Peak: With all documents submitted and fees paid, Within 1-2 weeks, ACRA will announce your arrival at the summit: your official company registration!

Though costs of company registration vary based on company type and complexity, you can expect fees for name search, registration, and licences.

Local Regulations: Operating in Singapore's dynamic business environment requires awareness of its robust legal framework. Here's a starting point for responsible and compliant operations:

1. Core Compliance Pillars:

  • Employment Laws: Ensure adherence to minimum wage, working hours, and leave entitlements to foster a stable and productive workforce. Ensure you understand and follow the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAPEP) guidelines and understand the

Complementarity Assessment Framework (COMPASS) scoring system before you consider obtaining an Employment Pass for an expat. Employers should not discriminate on job-seeker’s characteristics that are not related to the job, such as age, gender, nationality or race. 

  • Data Privacy: Uphold the highest standards of data protection through compliance with the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) to safeguard customer information. PDPA provides a baseline standard of protection for personal data in Singapore and complements sector-specific legislative and regulatory frameworks such as the Banking Act and Insurance Act.
  • Intellectual Property: Protect your valuable inventions and branding through securing trademarks and patents, minimising potential infringements. The Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) – a statutory board under Singapore's Ministry of Law – oversees IP protection in the country.

2. Industry-Specific Regulations:

  • Food & Beverage: Obtain necessary licences and adhere to stringent hygiene regulations to guarantee food safety and public health.
  • Construction: Ensure adherence to rigorous safety protocols and secure relevant permits to ensure responsible development and project completion.
  • Finance: Navigate the intricacies of banking and investment regulations with meticulous compliance to minimise risk and maintain financial integrity.

3. Proactive Knowledge Acquisition:

  • Government Websites: Regularly consult resources from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and other relevant agencies to stay updated on regulatory changes and emerging legal requirements.
  • Professional Expertise: Engage with competent legal and accounting professionals for personalised guidance and support in navigating the complexities of Singapore's legal landscape

Banking & Finance: Navigating Singapore's dynamic financial landscape starts with finding the right banking partner. Local banks like DBS and UOB offer comprehensive services, while global players like Citibank and HSBC provide familiar convenience. Choose a bank aligned with your transaction volume, online preferences, and foreign currency needs. Access essential business accounts, explore growth-oriented loans, and leverage trade finance solutions. Look beyond traditional banks – tap into innovative fintech platforms and government initiatives like Startup SG. Secure your financial footing, then scale your Singaporean business with confidence.

How do I go about manpower and human resources?

Managing manpower and human resources (HR) effectively is crucial for any business venture in Singapore. Here are some key things that you should consider:

Work permit/visas: Singapore offers a range of work permits to cater to diverse skill sets and industry needs. Here are some key options:

  • Employment Pass (EP): For highly qualified professionals and executives earning at least S$5,000 per month. Employment Pass (EP) candidates need to pass the points-based COMPASS in addition to meeting the EP qualifying salary.
  • EntrePass: For entrepreneurs and business owners looking to establish or expand their ventures in Singapore.
  • S Pass: For mid-level skilled professionals with relevant qualifications and work experience.
  • Work Permit: For skilled and semi-skilled workers in specific industries such as construction and manufacturing.

Look for reputable partners with an Employment Agency (EA) licence issued by the Ministry of Manpower to kick start your talent acquisition journey.  

Payroll Administration: In Singapore, flawless payroll hinges on understanding key regulations and meticulous record-keeping. Salaries (paid monthly) and CPF contributions demand accuracy, as do itemised payslips. Navigate annual tax filings and employee income tax deductions with finesse. Modern payroll software streamlines processes, while HR & payroll experts ensure smooth sailing. Master these pieces, and your Singaporean team stays happy, your business thrives.

Tax and Social Security Management: Understanding Tax compliance, Central Provident Fund (CPF) is crucial for building a stable and compliant workforce.

  • Central Provident Fund (CPF): Central Provident Fund (CPF): Consider CPF as a mandatory savings plan designed for your employees' future. Both you and your employees contribute a portion of their monthly salary (capped at SGD 6,800, subject to change) towards retirement, housing, healthcare, and education. This ensures a secure future for your team while keeping you compliant.

  • Work injury compensation insurance (WICA): As an employer, it's mandatory to procure work injury compensation insurance for:
  • All employees engaged in manual work, irrespective of salary.
  • All employees performing non-manual work, earning a monthly salary of $2,600 or less (excluding overtime payment, bonus, annual wage supplement, productivity incentive payment, and allowances).
  • Skill Development Levy (SDL): SDL is a compulsory levy applicable to all employees, including foreign ones, working in Singapore. It's an additional payment on top of your monthly CPF contributions. The levy for each employee is 0.25% of the monthly total wages. The minimum payable is $2 for an employee earning less than $800 a month, and the maximum is $11.25 for an employee earning more than $4,500 a month.

Singapore Employment Laws:  In Singapore, protecting your workforce and fostering a fair environment begins with understanding key employment laws.  Here are some key provisions of the Singapore Employment Act 

  • Contracts & Wages: Written contracts are mandatory, clearly outlining salary, work hours, and leave entitlements. Minimum wage varies based on industry and skill level.
  • Working Hours & Leave: Standard workweek is 44 hours, with overtime pay required beyond 40 hours. Employees enjoy annual leave, sick leave, and national holidays.
  • Termination & Redundancy: Notice periods must be followed for termination based on performance or redundancy. Severance pay may be required by law in certain cases.
  • Discrimination & Harassment: Discrimination based on race, religion, gender, and other factors is prohibited. Companies must ensure a safe and harassment-free environment.
  • Central Provident Fund : Contributions to the Central Provident Fund (CPF) is mandatory for most employees, providing retirement savings and income protection.

Other Employer Costs & Insurance: Singapore businesses face more than just CPF and SDL. Beyond these essentials, consider offering medical & dental insurance, work injury compensation, professional liability insurance, training programs, and attractive bonuses or perks. These investments foster a positive work environment, attract & retain top talent, and ultimately, fuel your Singaporean success story.

Should I set up my own entity or outsource to a local expert?

Singapore's alluring market awaits, but HR and payroll intricacies can snag your progress. Forge your own path – design perks and react fast, but face DIY hurdles. Alternatively, partner with a local HR and payroll expert – navigate smoothly with their knowledge, while you steer towards business goals, not paperwork. Choose your adventure: solo exploration or guided journey – to conquer Singapore's HR and payroll jungle. 


Outsourcing HR & Payroll

Managing HR & Payroll In-House


Generally cheaper, especially for small teams. Payroll software and hardware expenses are avoided.

More expensive due to salary costs for in-house HR and payroll staff, plus potential software and hardware expenses.


Access to experienced HR and payroll professionals who specialise in Singaporean regulations and compliance.

Requires hiring and training qualified in-house staff with knowledge of Singaporean HR and payroll practices.

TIme Commitment

Less time spent on HR and payroll tasks, freeing up internal resources for core business activities.

Significant time commitment to setting up and managing in-house HR and payroll functions.


Easier to scale HR and payroll services up or down as needed.

May be less flexible, especially with fixed-cost salaries for in-house staff.

Language and Cultural Understanding

Local experts better address language & cultural nuances

In house team may not have that level of expertise


Outsourcing provider handles compliance with Singaporean regulations, but ultimately, you remain responsible for ensuring compliance.

Full responsibility for ensuring compliance with Singaporean HR and payroll regulations.

Innovare: Your Partner in managing Payroll, Compliance & More

Innovare, an Employment Agency (EA) licensed holder) with its extensive partnership and network, can assist you with company setup, initial market research, recruitment as well as manage your HR matters in a compliant manner for your new company. We recognize the challenges new businesses face as they embark on their entrepreneurial adventure. We can alleviate the burden of payroll, compliance, immigration and more from day one, allowing you to focus on growth with complete peace of mind. Think of us as your experienced guide, helping you clear the path, avoid the pitfalls, and reach your destination with success. Partner with Innovare to navigate the intricacies of business setup in Singapore and get your payroll & HR managed compliantly & seamlessly.

Contact us today to book a consultation and discuss your needs with our experts.