A modern city-state, Singapore is an island country in Southeast Asia. With a land area just over 700km², it is not surprising that many do not think much about the country’s economy. But contrary to that, Singapore is actually one of the wealthiest countries in the world. In 2014, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) ranked Singapore the third highest on GDP per capita, just behind Qatar and Luxembourg.
Reflecting this success would be the upcoming 50th anniversary celebration of the nation’s independence. Leading up to the National Day Celebrations, a number of “SG50”, activities and events have been popping up over the year, which saw many of our local rental & staging businesses playing key roles in hyping up the occasion with dazzling lights and fancy projections.
Have you seen our Facebook posts on the 3D projection mapping done a few months back on the facade of Fullerton Hotel? Recently, the light projection in the waters at Singapore River also captivated visitors with animated carps. All these were part of the celebration put up by the nation to attract crowd and promote tourism.
In terms of verticals, we also saw an interesting Edtech application in this issue as demonstrated by Nanyang Polytechnic in their collaborative learning classroom – which further highlights Singapore education institutions’ forward-thinking and ability to implement audiovisual technologies across different sectors, be it for entertainment or education and more.
And of course, how can we forget about the Singapore Sport Hub that opened last year. Hailed as one of the biggest projects in Singapore, the audiovisual elements involved in this massive infrastructure were also proudly done by our leading integrators.
In addition to all these excitement, we also saw overseas manufacturers and international integrators such as Tripleplay, Tendzone, IHSE and Pixel Projects, setting up their regional headquarters here recently in Singapore – clearly refl ecting the industry’s confi dence in the region’s potential and Singapore’s infrastructure to provide good support.
Last but not least, we must not also forget about the government’s push for Smart Nation, as mentioned in Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s opening address at the Founders Forum in April. Riding on the momentum, Bosch signed a technology consortium with NCS to develop IoT solutions that will enable Singapore to be a world-leading smart, connected nation. Though the focus is on IT, however, with the AV-IT convergence buzz going on nowadays, it is something we should look out for.
Overall, it seems like the proAV industry in Singapore is set to go on for a while, but in the midst of these happenings, are there underlying issues which need to be addressed? SI Asia spoke to several leading integrators and consultants to gain insights.
Growth of Audio Visual
On the growth of audiovisual business in Singapore, local integrators and consultants were generally upbeat about it. Joe Fong, Deputy Managing Director of Electronics & Engineering, remarked, “Although the growth rate may only be limited by government institutions and educational sector, our nation’s SG50 and SEA games have also contributed some AV business to rental and equipment suppliers.”
True enough, the nation’s SG50 celebration and the upcoming Southeast Asia (SEA) games have certainly given our AV businesses a reason to rejoice. When asked if the Smart Nation’s initiative plays a part as well, Sujith Sivaram, Executive Director of ESCO Pte Ltd, shared, “Yes, riding on the Smart Nation Initiative, the AV business in Singapore is set to grow beyond the nominal growth forecasts for the economy of 2-3%.”
“Whilst healthcare and educations sectors are expected to be the major spenders, retail and government sectors are expected to invest signifi cantly in new technologies.” – Sujith Sivaram, ESCO
In addition, Sujith also mentioned that the increased investment in communication infrastructure and adoption of new technologies would also contribute to the growth of Infocomm Technology business.
But what sectors are predicted to see the most growth? A myriad of opinions ensues, but government and education verticals seems to be widely agreed upon by all since the Singapore government announced the Smart Nation initiative. Other verticals that were mentioned include corporate and retail.
“Corporate and government are verticals that we expect to have a huge growth, in addition to the retail industry as well.” – Jesse Liu, Pixel Projects
“We believe government and educational sector, will lead the volume growth. This is especially true as the government is leading Singapore to become a Smart nation in its 10-year masterplan.” – Joe Fong, Electronics & Engineering.
Interestingly, Lin Asia also weighs in on the increasing number of Houses of Worship projects going on in Singapore. Having completed a project in a Hindu temple recently, Kelvin Lin, President & Principal Consultant of Lin Asia, commented, “It’s not just the mega churches, but smaller churches, temples and mosques as well. I think there is a far greater awareness on AV integration within their facilities nowadays compared to the past.”
So what do our interviewees think of the solution trends? What type of solutions do they foresee will have the strongest growth? Jesse quickly pointed out conference systems and Digital Signage while Sujith commented, “With the impetus on improving the communications infrastructure, conferencing solutions are likely to exhibit strong growth.”
He continued, “Solutions which offer innovative and refreshing technologies will lead the growth wave as far as projections, displays and other AV solutions are concerned.” Joe, meanwhile, weighed in his opinion on display system and content acquisition solutions involving IT. In a different line of thought, Kelvin shared his views on selling solutions as an integrated AV package. “I think it (the solution) will always come hand-in-hand.” He continued, “Unlike in the past where audio and video solutions were addressed separately, they are now looked at as one product. So instead of just doing audio installation like what we used to do, we are now expected to marry our audio with visual/video.”
Importance of After Sales
Needless to say, After Sales service has always been an integral part of any integrator’s business. Our interviewees each shared their views on its importance:
“When we take on a job, we also factor in the effort that we will need to provide as the warranty support and post warranty support. At the same time, we will also propose a maintenance service contract to our customers and explain to customers the importance of having a professional service team to look after their critical and expensive AV setup.” – Jesse Liu, Pixel Projects.
“Of course it is important! AV Integration is a holistic service, of which post sales service is an inseparable part. For over a decade, ESCO has been engaging customers through our ESCO Care & Global Managed Services (GMS) programmes.” – Sujith Sivaram, ESCO.
“Yes. It has been E&E’s business philosophy to invest heavily in aftersales service even before actual business begins. No customer will engage a vendor who is just interested to sell boxes.” – Joe Fong, Electronics & Engineering.
Biggest Business Challenge
During discussion, two key issues came up when we asked our interviewees about their biggest business challenge. They are: manpower/talent acquisition and clients who do not understand the quality of the work they do, hence price sensitivity.
On manpower issue, Joe shared, “Our business started to become challenging since 2011 when the Singapore government began to control manpower workforce into Singapore.” Agreeing, Jesse also remarked, “Lack of qualified manpower is a big challenge for us, hence we are recruiting new graduates to train them in-house and on the job.”
But the biggest challenge here involved the clients. As Kelvin puts it across, some clients do not truly understand the value of the work and often, compared the products they have, with cheaper alternatives that they think will produce the same results.
“With the digital revolution, audiovisual equipment are made cheaper and more convenient. Looking at cost versus quality, some clients seem to miss out on the quality of the audiovisual hardware and think that it is the norm. So one of the biggest challenges integrators have nowadays is how do they justify the cost of quality to their client.” – Kelvin Lin, Lin Asia
Future of AV – Trends and Figures
In terms of future business growth for Singapore and the region, our contributors were mostly hopeful and positive. Ranging from 20% to 35%, these are just some growth fi gures they have predicted for their business in the next 5-10 years. Besides Singapore, what picture do they see for Southeast Asia as a whole? Sujith of ESCO chipped in, “We see SEA market poised for stellar growth in the coming years; the strength of the US dollar is providing an immediate boost. Many of our customers have shared their plans for expansion of facilities within the region, hence we expect each of the market to provide as much opportunity as Singapore does in the coming years.”
*This article was first published in the June-July 2015 issue of Systems Integration Asia.