The Ultimate Guide to Starting an Online Business in Singapore

Singapore is one of the best places to start because of its booming economy and strategic location. It has an annual gross domestic product of $400 billion, or $70,000 per capita. It’s positioned within a six-hour radius of any other Southeast Asian country, making it a gateway to even larger economies. This article will guide you in launching an online business in Singapore.

Step 1: Plan Your Business

The first step is to draw out a detailed plan for the company you want to start. What idea are you focusing on? A good business should solve a problem that people have. It could be simple or complex problems that you encounter every day.

This phase is where you carry out problem discovery. Talk to people around you and find out which problems they need to be solved. Once you pinpoint a problem you’re interested in, you can conceptualize a solution.

Step 2: Create A Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

After zeroing in on an idea, you need to build a minimum viable product (MVP) to showcase to potential customers. An MVP is a prototype of the product you intend to offer. It’s not the final solution, so it can have minimal features and capabilities.

The idea of an MVP is to create something that gets the attention of a potential customer and collect feedback. You can use the feedback to increase to improve the product to a point where it’s suitable for the market. An MVP prevents you from sinking significant money into product development at the earliest stages.

Step 3: Understand Singapore’s Regulations For Businesses

According to Singaporean laws, all online content, including e-commerce websites, is considered broadcast content and falls under the authority of the Singapore Broadcasting Authority (SBA). 

Certain types of online businesses are automatically licensed once you create them. However, in some cases, you’ll need to apply for a license and get it before you start selling to customers. For example, if you’re selling medicinal products, you must get a permit from the Health Sciences Authority (HSA).

Your online business may be subject to additional regulations depending on the products you’re selling. This mostly applies to strictly regulated products like alcohol, medicine, gambling, second-hand goods, financial products, etc.

Step 4: Incorporation

You must register with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) before launching a business in Singapore. You can choose from one of these legal structures:

  • Sole Proprietorship: A one-man corporation with the owner personally responsible for any debts.
  • General Partnership: When two or more people agree to form a company and share responsibility for managing it. They’re jointly responsible for corporate debts.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC): The corporation assumes a separate legal identity, meaning the owners aren’t personally liable for corporate debts.

The requirements to register a company in Singapore include

  • At least one shareholder
  • At least one director, one of whom must be a local resident
  • Share capital of at least 1 Singaporean dollar
  • A company secretary, compulsorily a local resident
  • A statement describing the business activities
  • Personal identification for each shareholder, director, and secretary
  • An Articles of Association outlining the rules governing the company
  • Memorandum of Association, a legal document signed by all shareholders acknowledging their intention to form a corporation

Step 5: Launch the Business

After incorporation, you can set up the infrastructure and launch the business. Key things to consider include

  • What e-commerce software to use (Shopify, WooCommerce, Magento, BigCommerce, etc.)
  • How you’ll receive payments online
  • Your method of delivering goods to customers
  • Security of customer data
  • Marketing and advertising (social media, search engines, websites, radio, etc.)

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