How specialty chemicals distributor took off in Singapore

Desk research carried out in Yorkshire and eventual overseas trips to Singapore helped specialty chemical distributor, Surfachem International, a trading division of Surfachem Ltd,  break into the crucial South East Asian market in 1999.

For the next five years, Surfachem International, which distributes quality chemical ingredients from leading manufacturers to many industry sectors including personal care, homecare, Industrial, institutional and pharmaceutical, developed exports to Singapore direct from its Yorkshire bases in Elland and Leeds.

After generating enough sales to understand the market potential for its diverse products, Surfachem International, which has a strong international sales team and a shipping manager with 30 years’ experience of the international logistics market, researched and appointed a distributor in Singapore to represent the business and grow its sales there.

Surfachem International sales manager, Martin Chambers, says: “In spite of its small size, Singapore is hugely influential and a significant research and development hub for companies from India to China. This means that contacts made in Singapore can be beneficial to increase sales across the Asian region as a whole.

“Our Singapore trade has increased tenfold since we started to forge a business relationship with our distributor there in 2004. We now plan to grow our Singapore business further and are investigating the potential to set up a Surfachem International business entity in this market before too long.”

Surfachem Ltd was founded in 1981, has 100 staff and a £54m turnover, 30 per cent of which is generated through its exports to 95 countries via Surfachem International which facilities chemical industry sales outside of the UK and Ireland equating to 450-600 metric tonnes per month.

Martin Chambers adds: “As far as South East Asia and Singapore is concerned, it is crucial to understand the market and local business customs. Western exporters should always maintain respect for the hierarchy within a business delegation.  However, businesses should be aware that a different approach may be required with an ethnic Chinese, Indian-orientated or a multinational company.  The decision making in Asia is consensual and can require some patience on the exporter’s part.

“Globally, the many different countries and end-user markets we cover require a localised approach with regard to the range of chemical ingredients we promote and the technical knowledge we offer as added-value to assist customers in the formulation of chemical products using our raw materials.

“By delivering this approach, we see the growth of our business in the next five-year to be largely in overseas markets.”

Surfachem is a recognised supplier to the personal care, household and institutional care manufacturing industries in the UK and Eire and has a subsidiary company in Norway and a representative office in Poland.