Some times we are awed by the size of markets and of countries which appear to have an impressive breadth and depth of talent.
But it is interesting to note some “small economies” and with “small populations” have definitely “punched above their weight”. Sweden has just 9.7 million people and Singapore has approximately 5.47 million people as of 2015.
In spite of harsh weather, a small population and remote landscapes, Sweden has become a powerhouse of innovative and prosperous companies like Ikea, Volvo, Tetrapak and the retailer, H&M.
According to Sweden’s Ambassador to Singapore, Mr Hakan Jevrell, “Sweden has a tradition of encouraging curiosity, creativity and innovation, which helps nurture growth and prosperity. The innovative climate in Sweden has thrived thanks to economic stability, long-term nation-wide investments on research and development, a focus on critical thinking from an early age and a climate of open to new influences”.
He continues to explain that, “In the beginning of Sweden’s industrialisation 150 years ago, we didn’t have many people and our harsh climate didn’t help. So we had to find solutions to work together. This has built up a strong tradition of cooperation among the people, and an ethos to work hard and contribute to society”.
Similar to Singapore which is a small country, Swedish companies have learned to look outwards – and in fact Sweden has a strong presence of more than 250 companies in Singapore. For example, paper is one of Sweden’s largest exports to Singapore with 10% of Tetrapak’s global output coming from its factory in Jurong.
Another example of collaboration is with the engineering group, Cavotec. “An openness to new ideas, a willingness to pool expertise and experience to develop new technologies and new ways of doing things, have helped drive our development,” says Mr Chantharan Ramasamy, Cavotec’s general manager for South-east Asia.
Such collaboration and focus can be a model for all of our businesses seeking ways of improving productivity with less staff and of improving customer satisfaction by partnering to listen more effectively to customers. Even “the little guys” can punch above our weight and make a difference.