Singapore's tech companies: Fida International

Mr Huang (extreme left, in white), 57, Fida International’s founder and managing director.

SINGAPORE - When Mr Jack Huang started his own company some 20 years ago, he chose to focus on South-east Asian markets because the region was too small to interest the big boys.

He built his contacts and distribution channels in countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Myanmar and even expanded to India and less obvious markets such as Lebanon, Madagascar and Egypt.

Fast forward to the present and he is reaping the benefits of those early investments. The distributors with whom he developed business relationships years ago have become big players in their own countries.

Today, his competitors are targeting the fast-growing South-east and South Asia regions, because business has slowed down in more mature markets.

Mr Huang, 57, Fida International's founder and managing director, said: "The special relationships we have built over the years with our business partners in the region means that we can operate in many countries without setting up our own offices there."

Fida International owns the Prolink brand, whose networking and communications equipment, such as modems, routers and uninterruptible power supply (UPS) devices, are sold in more than 20 countries in the region.

Mr Huang founded his company in Singapore in 1991 as a distributor for the Prolink brand, which originated in Taiwan. When SingNet launched its first commercial dial-up Internet service in the early 1990s and chose the Prolink modem, few knew its origins, said Mr Huang.

A few years later, wanting to move away from distribution and into manufacturing, he bought the brand and started the company in Singapore. Over the years, Fida developed its own expertise in communications devices. It still maintains its own research and development team.

While many brands now subcontract design and product development to contract manufacturers, Fida continues to develop and design its own products in-house.

The Taiwan-born businessman explains why he decided to become a Singaporean in the mid 1990s. He recalled the challenging years of travelling with a Taiwanese passport.

With such a passport, he said, he could enter a country only through its capital city. So from Singapore, he had to fly to Kuala Lumpur and drive to Johor Baru instead of simply driving across the Causeway.

Taking the ferry to Batam was also impossible. He had to fly to Jakarta, and then on to Batam.

"There was only one way for me to do business here. So I became Singaporean," he said.

This article was first published on August 6, 2014.
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