PayPal: China, HK online demand for S'pore exports growing

The Greater China region is boosting local small and midsize businesses' online trade, and the payment provider believes e-commerce is the way forward for many businesses in Singapore.
Written by Ellyne Phneah, Contributor on
Cross-border trade for local SMBs is growing, helped by growing demand from online consumers in China and Hong Kong

SINGAPORE--Cross-border trade for local small and midsized businesses (SMBs) is growing, helped in part by growing demand from online consumers in China and Hong Kong, says PayPal.

According to data released Thursday by the payment provider, the total volume of transactions processed by the company in 2012 was US$145 billion, representing a 22 percent increase from the year before. Of this, cross-border trade accounted for US$36.3 billion, it stated.

PayPal added it has 123 million active accounts opened by merchants and users in 2012 and, 1.5 million of these are from Southeast Asia. It stopped short of revealing how many active accounts are from Singapore though.

Faraz Ahmed, general manager of PayPal Southeast Asia and India, did say at the media briefing held here Thursday that most of its customers in Singapore are SMBs, and any transaction data relating to the city-state are reflective of their collective e-commerce activities.

He went on to say that China is the top market for local companies given that exports there saw a 68 percent spike in 2012. This is followed by 55 percent increase in Hong Kong, which indicates the importance of the Greater China region trade to Singapore merchants, Ahmed noted.

Other Asia-Pacific markets showing healthy interest for Singapore goods and services include Japan, which has seen an increase of exports by 22 percent, and Australia with 20 percent, he stated.

The high online export growth was due to SMBs in Singapore creating products and services that are of appeal to international consumers, competitive prices and the convenience of selling through secure payment transactions, the executive explained.

Ahmed added with total trade volumes from traditional export channels in 2013 expected to remain flat, local SMBs will need to continue finding new ways to grow their businesses. "Cross-border trade has proven to be one of the new methods SMBs have taken to," he said.

One SMB which has benefited from the payment provider's service is Manek-Manek, an online jewelry store started by Helena Tang-Lim in late 2011.

Tang-Lim, who was also present at the briefing, said she initially limited her sales to customer in Singapore but the online fashion scene here is "quite competitive" and market is small, so she branched out to overseas markets mainly in Southeast Asia. Today, 90 percent of the companies' sales come from outside Singapore, she added.

As for the decision to sign up with PayPal, she said: "I needed to collect money from my customers, and since PayPal is a globally recognized platform, I can provide my customers with a reliable and secure online check-out experience.

"If you ask me to go the bank and ask it for payment processing [service], they will laugh because the business is run solely by me," Tang-Lim added.

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