Google opens its office in Singapore

SINGAPORE: US tech giant Google officially unveiled its new Singapore office located at Mapletree Business City on Thursday (Nov 10), looking to create an office that resembles its headquarters in Mountain View, California.

“We wanted a place that reflected our headquarters and have more of a campus feel to it so we were looking for a building that we could shape, influence the design and create a space that fosters creativity and spontaneous collaboration,” Mr Sengupta told Channel NewsAsia.

The Internet giant started operations in Singapore with only 24 people in 2007. The local team has since grown to 1,000, and is its fastest-growing office in the Asia-Pacific. Most of Google’s senior management team overseeing Asia-Pacific operations are also based in Singapore.

The new Google office at Pasir Panjang (Photo: Tang See Kit)

Mr Sengupta added that Google is ramping up its engineering team in Singapore to support its vision of reaching out to the next billion Internet users.

“We started the engineering team this year (and) we expect it to grow over the years,” he said. “Singapore is at the heart of a major change in how people in Asia are using technology and so for us, we want to have a team that’s based close to these users.”

A search on the tech behemoth’s recruitment page showed 76 available positions in Singapore at the moment. When asked about how big the local workforce would eventually become, Mr Sengupta declined to reveal specific numbers.

However, the Singapore-based senior executive told Channel NewsAsia that he remains “pretty optimistic” about further expansion despite an increasingly sluggish global economy.

“We are always cautious and very careful about how we grow … but I think we are still in a growth industry,” Mr Sengupta said. “Apart from Google, there’s an ecosystem of companies that are trying to take their services and products globally and so from that perspective, I remain pretty optimistic that as a growth industry, we can keep growing.”

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who was present at the opening, said: “We hope you’ll be able to bring with you the spirit and energy and connections, not just in Mountain View but also in other campuses around the world, to this campus in Singapore.

“Tech is disruptive and your objective is to disrupt the world… We expect to be disrupted but at the same time, we want to make sure we come out on the right side of the disruption, and we depend on you to help us to do that,” he added. 

PM Lee Hsien Loong posing for a wefie with the crowd. (Photo: Calvin Hui)


Google also announced on Thursday that it will roll out a new multi-year programme, Code in the Community, in Singapore early-2017.

Mr Sengupta said the new initiative is part of Google’s aim to help get the younger generation excited about technology and engineering, and eventually consider taking up a career in these sectors.

“We feel this has an opportunity to reach out to children at a particularly impressionable age and get them excited about technology and the creative industries,” he said. “We want lots more Singaporean parents to turn around and ask their kids: ‘Why aren’t you becoming an engineer?’ That’s our broader goal.”

Google’s computer science and computational thinking course aims to provide training for about 3,000 children from less well-to-do backgrounds over the next three years. The tech giant will partner self-help groups such as the Chinese Development Assistance Council, Singapore Indian Development Association, Mendaki and the Eurasian Association to identify these children. The classes, which will be targeting children aged eight to 15, will be run by non-profit organisation 21C Girls and local start-up Saturday Kids.

Inside the Google office (Photo: Tang See Kit)


Meanwhile, Google is also helping local small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to embark on digitisation. In collaboration with nine other industry partners such as SPRING Singapore and International Enterprise (IE) Singapore, the “Go Global” initiative was launched in November last year.

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) manufacturing business, Poli Medical, is one of the local SMEs that has leveraged Google’s capabilities. Following discussions with the tech giant earlier in June, the 40-year-old company rolled out a YouTube campaign for one of its new brands, TruLife.

“As you can imagine, for a large and traditional business that has been running for quite some time, it’s quite difficult to change the direction of the company,” said the company’s director Dylan Hu.

Before collaborating with Google, Poli Medical did not have a budget for digital marketing. “And so for me to go to management and say there’s this new channel of reaching out to people and let’s step up 20 per cent of our budget on this, was very difficult,” he added.

Through the YouTube campaign, the company was able to gather consumer insights from Google AdWords and use them to craft new marketing strategies for both the Singapore and regional markets. The campaign’s click-through rate of 27 per cent also translated into significant brand awareness which helped it to enter regional markets such as Cambodia and Myanmar, Mr Hu added.

In a speech delivered at the opening ceremony on Thursday, Minister of Trade and Industry (Industry) S Iswaran said the focus on the digital economy and partnerships with companies like Google will create opportunities for local SMEs to enter online and global markets.

“While the digital economy presents challenges, it also offers new opportunities for companies and individuals… However it is equally important that companies adopt an open mindset to embrace new technologies and business models, while individuals take advantage of the various training programmes to equip themselves with the relevant skills sets,” Mr Iswaran said. 

Additional reporting by Calvin Hui.

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