Co-innovation networks like Global Innovation Alliance (GIA) is helping SG companies expand overseas


To view the original source of this article on The Business Times, click here.


Since NinjaOS chief executive Vignesh Wadarajan founded the firm in 2017, it has doubled its revenue yearly to 7 figures and won over Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan, one of the world’s largest bottlers, as a client.


The firm has served more than 600 food and beverage (F&B) outlets in Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia and Japan. It employs over 30 people, including about 20 remote workers overseas.


Going global, staying local

Vignesh, 39, started NinjaOS when he found out that vendors were charging eateries commissions on sales to use their delivery, takeaway and other software. “Most merchants were not tech-savvy enough to set up their own sites and systems, so they paid,” he said.


Instead, NinjaOS charges a flat monthly fee to develop and maintain online ordering systems for their clients. “Even when your sales grow, your cost (with us) remains the same,” he explained.


More recently, the startup has taken its innovation to the next level with the help of global partners.


In 2020, NinjaOS experienced a surge in enquiries from F&B outlets around the world affected by Covid-19 restrictions. It joined Enterprise Singapore’s (EnterpriseSG) Global Innovation Alliance’s (GIA) Jakarta month-long acceleration programme in October 2020 to find out how to best venture into Indonesia, one of NinjasOS’ target markets.


The programme is run by EnterpriseSG’s partner Plug and Play Asia Pacific (APAC), and includes workshops, mentorship and networking opportunities.


The GIA is a network of Singaporean and overseas partners in key innovation hubs and demand markets, set up by EnterpriseSG and the Economic Development Board to help companies connect and innovate with overseas counterparts, and expand abroad.


Plug and Play introduced NinjaOS to F&B owners in Indonesia, and shared insights on the market and eateries’ priorities, such as securing customer loyalty.


“Having an innovative offering is only the first step to a successful overseas expansion,” noted Jonathan Lim, EnterpriseSG’s director of the Global Innovation Network.


“Businesses must also cultivate deep in-market knowledge and form strategic partnerships with local stakeholders, so as to navigate a foreign landscape and anchor their business abroad.”


NinjaOS’ biggest win was getting connected with Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan at Plug and Play’s virtual APAC Summit 5.0 in June last year.


It worked with the bottling giant and other software providers to build a cutting-edge e-commerce store for its business-to-business sales. Previously, Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan was handling these sales manually via paper, Vignesh said.


“We built the system from the ground up with Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan’s instructions, integrating software from inventory to logistics management, and even mapping services because it delivers to rural areas where Google Maps is not good enough,” he shared.


The partnership has been so successful that NinjaOS started a second project with Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan in June this year.


Vignesh said the experience has put NinjaOS on a different footing. “Apart from the boost to our brand, we’re now confident that we can meet the needs of multinational corporations. We’re looking at pitching to some of the F&B chains and larger players in the region.”


Tips for scaling overseas

For companies, innovation and internationalisation work hand in glove to drive growth, said Jonathan Lim, EnterpriseSG’s director of the Global Innovation Network. These are his tips for success overseas:

  1. Build partnerships: Local partners can be a boon when navigating foreign markets. The EnterpriseSG GIA acceleration programmes, for example, have in-market partners to help Singapore firms plug into the market’s innovation ecosystem, and get access to market insights, local talent and guidance.

  2. Customise offerings: Firms can gain an edge by creating offerings that meet emerging needs. Through co-innovation programmes, they can jointly develop and test-bed in-demand solutions with foreign partners, before scaling these into the market together.

  3. Seize opportunities: Singapore companies should keep their eye on emerging opportunities, such as those in South-east Asia – one of the fastest-growing regions for tech and digital adoption. For example, markets like Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand have a rapidly growing middle class that is tech-savvy and eco-conscious. This could fuel growth in areas like agri-tech, smart city, digital health, and e-commerce.

How Plug and Play Can Help

Plug and Play is the ultimate innovation platform, bringing together the best startups and the world’s largest corporations. Collaborating with startups is a great source of inspiration and innovation, but it can also be a challenge at times. Let us show you how to adopt the concept of open innovation to help your business succeed.


#GlobalInnovationAlliance #GIA

 

NinjaOS is part of our GIA Jakarta Acceleration Program Batch 2 and GIA Manila Accelera which seeks to help Singaporean startups expand their market reach to the largest emerging market economies in Southeast Asia.


The GIA is an initiative of Enterprise Singapore (ESG), in partnership with IMDA. Comprising a network of Singapore and overseas partners in major innovation hubs and key demand markets, GIA programmes focus on technology and innovation. Plug and Play is Singapore’s GIA Partner in Jakarta and Manila.


To find out more about our GIA Jakarta program, click here.

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