Singapore Emerging As Favourite Destination For Indian Entrepreneurs, Companies Students

06 May 2013

Immigration News

Ash Singh was born in Canada and educated in Hong Kong. But ever since his first start-up — when still in university — was acquired by a Singapore-based company in 2004, Singh has lived in Singapore. He was 22 then. A serial entrepreneur, Singh has invested in six digital media companies and is CEO of Interactive SG, a business accelerator in Singapore.

"I prefer Singapore over other countries for my entrepreneurial journey because it is, for me, the most pro-business country." And, he stresses, it's not just the low tax rate that's the attraction. "The government here offers various schemes and resources at every level of business to give you the best chance to succeed," adds Singh.

Diversity and multiculturalism are among the top reasons for him to have decided in favour of Singapore as his work and home base. An avid basketball fan, he is a shareholder in Singapore Slingers professional basketball team. And in his free time he's busy with his favourite hobby: promoting turbans through The Turbanizer, a mobile app that he has developed.

For Professionals Too

It's not just entrepreneurs who are rooting for Singapore over other destinations, including popular ones in the West. Gunit Chadha, co-chief executive officer Asia Pacific and member of the group executive committee of Deutsche Bank says: "For Indian entrepreneurs, Indian companies and Indian students, Singapore is fast emerging as an important destination in a growing look east mindset." In his Asia Pacific role, he is keen to connect Indian entrepreneurs to their counterparts in Thailand, Indonesia or the Philippines; or have Indian public sector companies share experiences with government-linked companies in Singapore.

For Indian companies, Singapore provides an ideal location for regional or even global headquarters, he feels. "For the financial services sector across investment banking, hedge funds, wealth and asset management, Singapore has a great talent pool with many professionals coming from India," adds Chadha. To be sure, Singapore has even become an attractive destination for Indian finance professionals from the UK and the US who want to move because of a tight job market there and Singapore having emerged as one of the key banking hubs in the world.

With a low average individual taxation rate, which is further lowered for those who make significant investments, the island nation is indeed an ideal choice. Besides, for Indians, the country is hospitable and unlike Dubai — another attractive location for Indians — provides an easier path to permanent residence and later citizenship for those eligible. Tax Cushion For All "Most taxes such as wealth tax, gift tax and capital gains tax are not there and there's no global income-tax for tax residents of Singapore.

It's a territorial tax system and hence you are taxed only on what you earn here. There are no restrictions on overseas investment. It's a great location for high net worth individuals (HNIs) from India," says R Narayanamohan, chairman of Singapore India Chamber of Commerce. Narayanamohan has lived in Singapore for over three decades and runs his own accounting firm.

Singapore's attractive tax regime includes a top personal tax rate of 20% which kicks in only on income exceeding S$320,000 (around Rs 1.4 crore). Up to S$320,000 there are gradual tax rates starting at zero for the first $20,000. Further, there are no estate duty or inheritance taxes and the corporate tax rate of 17% can be concessional in some cases and go down to 5-10%.

"Singapore offers multiple incentives for entrepreneurs, including the global trader incentive programme; and an R&D incentive which includes a cashback scheme by the government," says Sonu Iyer, tax partner and national leader, human capital services at Ernst & Young. Those setting up regional headquarters there are also eligible for sops, she points out. She, however, adds a word of caution about the stricter rules put in place by the Singapore government recently in granting employment passes and permanent resident status.

The Millionaire Club

A report by Boston Consulting Group released last year put the number of millionaire households in the island nation at 188,000 or around 17% of its resident households. This means Singapore, which has a population of 5.31 million, has the largest percentage of millionaires in the world. Singapore's uber-rich population has grown, with 10 in every 100,000 households now classified as ultra-high-net-worth or those with more than $100 million in private financial wealth.

"It is becoming quite common for some members of business families from India to relocate to Singapore. There's a strong business case, especially for those looking to expand in markets like South East Asia and Japan. Besides, there are tax and lifestyle advantages and a large ethnic Indian population too," says Amitabh Singh, an independent consultant and expert on personal taxes.

Haven for HNIs

Ronen Palan, a professor of international political economy and an expert on offshore wealth and tax havens at City University in London, explains that Singapore is turning into an attractive location for HNIs, including many from India, with laws tailored to attract foreign capital. "The advantages of Singapore include a well-organised financial centre and political stability combined with a highly secretive regime.

The Singapore government will not be as easily intimidated as might be the governments of some of the Indian Ocean tax havens," he says. Sameer Sain, co-founder and managing partner of Everstone Capital, is yet another Indian HNI and entrepreneur who chose Singapore. Educated in the US and having worked in the UK, the US and India, he decided to move to Singapore in 2010.

"Our investments are largely India-and South East Asia focused and Singapore's strong reputation as businessfriendly, regulatory and tax regime makes it an attractive regional base. And the sound infrastructure enables businesses to attract top tier global talent," he told ET Magazine from Singapore where he now lives. The fact that his partner and co-founder of Everstone Atul Kapoor is a citizen of Singapore and has lived there for many years also helped. "Singapore provides the best gateway to India and the rest of Asia," avers Sain.



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