The locations of these cities are also ideal for businesses looking to further expand into other regional markets such as the Middle East and Europe.
Chennai, the largest industrial and commercial centre in South India, boasts a diverse manufacturing sector including automobiles, textiles and chemicals.
Singapore firm Venturer, which specialises in sustainable timber used in the design of buildings, set up a plant there geared to efficiently make components for construction projects.
It said establishing a base in the sprawling city has helped it significantly cut down on transport costs and production time.
“Most of our projects are in remote destinations or islands where accommodation, as well as bringing in a lot of manpower, is a challenge. In order to reduce that, our facility pre-fabricates components,” said the company’s regional manager Hams Tino.
With one of its projects in the Maldives, Chennai’s location is strategic for the firm. It takes just under three days for components to be shipped to the Maldives, slashing transport costs by about 30 per cent.
Mr Hams added that construction time for some projects have also been cut by a month since the company started its Chennai factory.
Another Singaporean business, sofa maker HTL, expanded its production capacity into India in 2021 with manufacturing plants in both Chennai and Pune, in the western Indian state of Maharashtra.
The company hopes its presence in India will help to enlarge its footprint on the global stage.
“(India) has very strong domestic demand, and is a great place to export to different parts of the world, specifically to the US, UK, Middle East and even parts of Southeast Asia,” said the firm’s global brand head Celeste Phua.
With its two Indian facilities, the firm said it can cut down shipping time to regions like the Middle East by 70 per cent.
The large pool of skilled workers is also helping the company boost its productivity.
“The sofa is a handicraft item. So India works very well because a lot of the (workers can) sew and cut. India also provides a very rich and diverse labour workforce for us to tap on, and expand our manufacturing capacity,” Ms Phua said.
Some firms are also looking to harvest growing opportunities in India’s waste management sector, especially as the Asian giant puts in motion efforts to go greener.
This includes turning trash, such as disposed electronic goods, into precious resources.
Chennai is among the most populous cities in India and it produces more than 5,000 tonnes of waste each day.
It is estimated that only about 20 per cent of the city’s waste is actually treated and disposed of properly. The rest ends up in landfills, which creates environmental and health hazards.
Singapore firm Blue Planet Environmental Solutions described the industry as one of the most underserved markets in India.
“We see a huge potential opportunity to ensure that we are able to solve the problem for the longer term by ensuring maximisation of processing of the waste and clearing of the existing landfills here,” said the firm’s chief executive officer Prashant Singh.
At Perungudi dump yard, one of the city’s two major dumpsites which spans about 170 football fields, the company carries out a process known as dumpsite mining in a section of the landfill.
Waste is sprayed with a culture to speed up decomposition and reduce the stench that attracts flies. It is then sorted and material such as iron scraps are sent to metal recycling facilities.
“All the resources that can be upcycled should be leveraged for upcycling, and whatever cannot be upcycled should be used for sustainable disposal,” said Mr Singh.
In Bengaluru, another Singapore firm is breathing new life into electronic waste – an industry that could be worth US$20 billion by 2030.
E-waste solutions company Vans Chemistry said India’s young population and digital boom are driving the sector.
India is the world’s most populous nation with over 1.4 million people, of which more than 65 per cent are younger than 35 years old.
“They need more and more electronics. That is why electronic product manufacturing is increasing, and so is the e-waste generation,” said the firm’s chief executive officer Venkatesha Murthy.
The company dismantles discarded computer parts, mobile phones and laptops to help in the recovery of precious metals such as lithium, cobalt and gold.
“Wherever possible we try to reuse the components so that we can extend the life of the electronic product instead of just going for the recycling. In the journey of recycling, we also consolidate the metals and plastics,” said Mr Venkatesha.
Since 2014, the company has processed more than 25,000 tonnes of e-waste. It is now looking to set up an integrated facility where it can recover and refine e-waste on its own.
Enterprise Singapore (EnterpriseSG) said it has centres in Chennai, Mumbai and New Delhi that help Singapore companies venturing into India.
The overseas centres by the economic development agency advises businesses on the local operating environment and guides them in navigating different governmental agencies.
By Alif Amsyar and Darrelle Ng. 19 Jul 2023
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