Last Updated Jan 2017.
Expanding the business beyond its native location is an ambition that many start-ups and established companies harness. For Singapore based businesses this is even more pertinent in view of the limited size and population of this country. However, pursuing such goals is often fraught with challenges – one of the main being the expansion costs & overheads.
Well, the good news is that the Singapore government through its agency – International Enterprise (IE) now provides funding support to help companies defray overseas setup and market promotion costs. And this is offered though the Market Readiness Assistance (MRA) Grant.
Sounds interesting?…of course!, financial grants and pay outs like the PIC scheme have always been more than welcomed by the business community. So, in this post let’s try to gain more clarity about how the MRA Grant can be utilised for your Online Marketing efforts, and answer basic questions such as how you can benefit from this Grant, what activities it covers, what are the qualifying criteria and so on.
What is Market Readiness Assistance (MRA)?
IE’s MRA program is designed to enable businesses venture overseas; explore, expand and export to new markets. At a broad-level, the program consists of tools and initiatives under the 3 categories of Information, Learning and Financial Assistance. The Financial Assistance component is aimed at providing assistance by way of funding, tax rebates, covering exhibition/tradeshow expenses, etc for companies that are looking at entering new markets. While more details and the full program overview can be found on the IE website, here’s an Infographic that summarizes the criteria and steps involved in claiming it for your overseas Online Marketing Initiatives –
MRA Grant – the Funding Support and Qualifying Criteria
MRA Grant, the funding support element under the Financial Assistance component is obviously one of the most exciting. It covers a Singapore SME for the costs incurred towards overseas market setup and market promotion activities.
Who qualifies for this Grant?
- SME’s having their Global Headquarters in Singapore
- Annual turnover of less than S$100 million per annum
What is the Funding Support given?
- 70% of the cost for eligible activities, capped at S$20,000 per company per fiscal year
- Maximum of two applications per fiscal year (starting from April to March of following year)
- Limited to one activity (from the pre-determined list) per application
Supported activities are pre-scoped by IE and Online Marketing is one of them. Complete list of activities supported and common FAQ’s can be downloaded from the MRA Grant webpage on the IE website.
Online Marketing expenses claimable under the Grant
Effective from 1st April 2015, companies can now leverage the MRA Grant to fund their internet marketing activities targeted for overseas market. Activities supported are –
- Search Engine Optimization
- Search Engine Marketing such as PPC Campaigns
- Social Media Marketing Campaigns
- Online Advertising Campaigns
- Listing/Subscription fees on global E-commerce platforms having international reach
The MRA Grant allows you to claim up to 70% of the costs spent for the above.
Scenarios that are covered, and not covered
Do take note that the Grant is solely for the purpose of overseas expansion and not for local promotion. Let me explain with a few examples –
Eligible for the Grant –
- A Singapore based Online Shop who wants to promote its brand and export its products beyond Singapore to neighbouring countries (or any country for that matter)
- A local IT Company wanting to market its cloud-based Software as a Service tool globally
Not eligible for the Grant –
- A Singapore business that services only a local clientele cannot claim for their online marketing promotion costs
- A local restaurant or hotel wanting to promote their services overseas to foreign tourists coming to Singapore cannot claim the MRA Grant even though it may be targeted to overseas customers
Disclaimer: the above are sample scenarios and do not represent real cases. IE reviews each application on a case by case basis so it’s best to consult their representative for the final say.
Steps for Applying and Claiming the MRA Grant
The procedure for applying and claiming the expenses are quite straight forward. MRA applications can now be done through Singapore Government’s newly launched Business Grants Portal which is setup to be the one-stop portal for applying all government grants. Besides MRA, application for other grants such as the Capability Development Grant (CDG), Global Company Partnership(GCP), etc can also be done through this integrated portal.
Here’s the rundown of Steps involved –
Step 1: Request a quotation from an Online Marketing Agency along with supporting documents such as Audit Report or Marketing Spend Plan.
Step 2: Register for a CorpPass account in order to login in to the Business Grants Portal. You will need to setup your Company Profile (ACRA information, Financial Statements, etc) in the Grants Portal before you can make an application.
Step 3: Apply for the MRA Grant by completing in 6 easy to fill sections. Then vendor’s quotation/proposal and supporting documents must be submitted at this stage. According to IE, MRA application may take upto 20 working days to be processed.
Step 4: Await the Letter Of Offer (LOF) from IE, before you sign and commence the project with the vendor. LOF is made available through the Business Grants Portal under the “My Grants” section.
Step 5: After completing the project within the support period (as prescribed in the Letter Of Offer), send your claim with relevant supporting documents/reports to IE within 3 months. Approved grant amount will be credited directly into the Company’s Bank Account
WebSell has helped various Singapore SMEs in their overseas marketing plans along with the required documentation & quotation of services for Grant processing. All Search Marketing Campaigns are setup and managed by Google Certified individuals
Points to take note of
Keep in mind these important points while applying and claiming the MRA Grant for your Online Marketing activities –
- IE does not accept Retrospective (backdated) applications. An application is considered retrospective if you have paid/given deposit to the vendor or already signed the contract/PO with them or commenced with the project
- Maximum timeframe to carry out project activities is 6 months or less (as stated by IE in LOF)
- Costs incurred for Audit Report or Marketing Plan during application stage are not claimable under the MRA Grant
- Post-project Reports, Analytics Reports and SEM Spend reports should be provided during Claims submission
- Sole proprietors & partnerships are eligible but will be assessed by IE on a case by case basis
- Companies are free to appoint any agency or consultant to carry out the project work, but should exercise due diligence before appointing
- Grant cap is S$ 20,000, claimable in 2 applications and only for the approved amount by IE. There is no carry forward of unutilized amount of grant to subsequent years
- Companies cannot apply for Double Tax Deduction benefit in addition to MRA Grant for the same eligible expenses
Leveraging the ubiquity of internet to market to your potential customer has its own advantages. One is the reach that it offers, second being the flexibility and precision to focus your marketing efforts. Location, demographic and intent based targeting helps you deliver your message to the right audience at the right place.
With government agencies like IE Singapore offering funding support, the MRA Grant helps alleviate some of the key challenges that companies may face in expanding beyond their shores. So, go ahead and use it to your advantage!
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