[SINGAPORE] SCP Consultants, with a new president at the helm, is gunning for more master-planning contracts in its core market of China and hopes to enter new territories such as Indonesia, India and Cambodia.
It is open to acquiring companies to gain expertise more quickly to expand beyond urban planning to architecture, landscaping and even interior design.
"We will do more projects that can spin off into downstream projects to ensure there is a chain of activities that we can go into," SCP president Foo Say Boon told BT in a recent interview.
"We would rather acquire than be acquired," he said. A preferred target could be an architecture firm that is "strong enough to compete for projects by itself".
SCP is among a handful of Singapore companies that have taken their know-how from their urban-planning experience in Singapore to build cities abroad.
Mr Foo himself is no novice in China, given his involvement in the initial stages of master-planning for the bilateral Singapore-Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP) project while he was with the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) of Singapore.
Thanks to the opportunities arising from China's urbanisation drive, SCP grew rapidly from a company managed by a few founders in 2004 to a company of 266 employees, of which close to 90 per cent are based in China.
Mr Foo took over as president of SCP last year after spending several years in China as SCP's executive vice-president of China operations.
SCP is now looking to bring its headcount to 280 by the end of this year and 350 by next year as it guns for more contracts this year to meet its revenue target, which is being raised by 10 per cent every year.
This year, it is hoping to achieve revenues of 190 million yuan (S$38.1 million), after setting a 170 million yuan target last year and racking in actual revenues of 150 million yuan.
"It will become more and more difficult now because we need to secure more contracts" as there are fewer large-scale projects available, Mr Foo said.
Already in its pipeline are two projects in China from two Singapore developers. Discussions for new projects in India and Indonesia are underway.
SCP is also looking to deepen its presence in South-east Asia further in countries such as Laos and Myanmar, where it ventured into interior and landscape design work for Myanmar Muse CBD Exhibition Center in 2012. It is in talks in Cambodia with "a party with a land bank".
To be close to its clients, SCP set up branch offices in Taiwan and Myanmar last year, in addition to its branch offices in Shanghai, Nanjing, Beijing, Chengdu, Shenzhen, Guiyang and a China headquarters in Suzhou.
As China expands its urbanisation drive into rural areas, SCP is catching the wave and moving beyond the all-familiar first and second-tier cities to rural areas in China.
"We have done a lot of urbanisation planning but rural planning is something new to us, so we need to shift our skills, tactics and ways of working," Mr Foo said.
Notably, SCP was engaged in 2011 in concept planning for the China-Laos Economic & Trade Cooperation Zone for Vientiane and project planning for China-Kazakhstan Huoerguosi International Border Cooperative Center - border projects of high diplomatic significance.
Mr Foo noted that such border projects open the door to a new market for SCP.
SCP is not afraid of challenging markets, Mr Foo quipped. In 2012, it entered Urumqi in Xinjiang where it undertook a concept plan for new energy and modern agriculture.
More recently, it was in Nigeria competing in a design competition for a free trade zone in the city of Lekki. In South Sudan, it recently met relevant authorities for a regional plan for the capital city Juba and its surroundings.
There are bound to be challenges in different markets, Mr Foo said. Even within China, there are stark cultural differences across different regions.
SCP's experience in China offers many "useful lessons and knowledge that can be applied, though not blindly, in the countries that we go", he said.