Top 35 APAC Market Entry Tips By Country

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Asia Pacific offers huge opportunities for ambitious UK tech and digital scale-ups.

It is an ideal time to boost the UK’s digital trade with the Asia Pacific region. Southeast Asia’s digital economy hit US$100 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow to US$300 billion by 2025 despite the challenges of COVID19. The region also saw 40 million new Internet users in Southeast Asia alone, bringing the total number of internet users to 400 million – the same size as the US market. Amongst the key tech sectors where demand is strong are – Smart Cities, Transportation, Prop-tech, Healthcare and med-tech, eCommerce and logistics, education, and advanced manufacturing…to name but a few.

According to McKinsey, demand for digital services is soaring and Asia’s strong talent base suggests that the region can develop considerable strength in this area.

Globally, McKinsey estimates that about $800 billion to $850 billion may be spent on traditional IT services during 2020, and $200 billion to $250 billion—or 20 to 30 percent of the total – on digital IT services, such as the design and integration of IoT, AI, machine learning and blockchain.

In five years, digital is expected to be the main driver, reaching $550 billion to $600 billion of an estimated $1.5 trillion of spending on IT services – 40 to 45 percent of the total.

Indeed, this may be an underestimate given that the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting rise in physical distancing, triggered an acceleration in digitization.

Asia Tech Sector Growth - McKinsey

You can view the full McKinsey & Company article from which these extracts have been taken here.

The APAC market is something of a jigsaw puzzle. Plenty of opportunities but also a multitude of different nations, jurisdictions, and business networks. Understanding and delineating the right market entry strategy, partners and operations need time and proper consideration. There are pivot points for expansion in places like Singapore and Hong Kong. There is the economic dominance of China across and its own complexities to enter and engage there. There is vibrancy and demand in places like Malaysia Vietnam, Australasia, Korea, Taiwan and Japan.

With the help of our global marketing partner gigCMO, we have put together a list of the top market entry tips by country to help with your expansion planning into the region.

India

India

  • Be prepared for delays in getting approvals while entering the market and setting up your business. Bureaucracy and red tape continue to be significant bottlenecks. 
  • The professional culture is hierarchical; decision making is often centralised. The most senior person often makes decisions on who to do business with an organisation. Despite this, people lower down in the hierarchy might continue having discussions with you even though they lack decision making powers. 
  • Hire local talent to the extent possible. India is a diverse country with many different languages and customs. While English is the official language, verbal communication is often in the local language, and relationships are based on regional affinities. Make sure you hire trusted executives who will help you navigate these realities. 
  • Indian consumers are price sensitive irrespective of purchasing power and are less swayed by emotional appeals alone. It is not uncommon for an affluent consumer to ask for discounts on a high-end car. 
  • Foreign brands are aspirational. At the same time, there is a growing wave of patriotism. Brands need to tap into the local culture while maintaining aspiration to connect with consumers. 

China

  • A completely different mindset – When a solution cannot be agreed upon, it’s very likely because the thinking and logic behind addressing the problems are entirely different. Make sure you understand where they come from.
  • It has its own highly advanced technical ecosystem (mobile centred), which is integrated into people’s lives and businesses, efficient and fast-paced. Still, it can be chaotic to an outsider because it’s never tailored to a foreigner or foreign company, even if you know the language.
  • Whether it’s B2B or B2C, popular brands are still a significant purchase decision, from individual consumers to governmental purchasing department – “Have I heard of this brand?”, “If not, who’s endorsing the brand?”
  • Be prepared for the long-term return, but be aware of the quick gain they want from you (profit, market share, or if you make them look good in front of the government).
  • The government’s initiatives and policies heavily influence industrial trends. Currently, AI and healthcare are the most sought after sectors.

Japan

Japan

  • Get to know who you are doing business with thoroughly –understanding each other’s language doesn’t mean you know each other’s intentions or abilities. Japan is very ethnocentric.
  • Get to know the “average” employees of the company you’re working with – Some old-fashioned companies are populated with people who are not suited to the kind of innovative thinking that you might need to succeed in your venture.
  • Understand the ecosystem of the company you’re doing business with. In Japan, there are still many reciprocal obligations between a client and its suppliers, which means that business decisions can be taken based on loyalty rather than the best outcome.
  • Don’t underestimate the bureaucracy and the “kata”, i.e. the “ways things work”.
  • Look for the maverick talent. Many talented people in Japan will be very excited if you can propose something more out of the box and will be very loyal and open doors for you.

Taiwan

  • Taiwanese are very polite. Not like the Chinese or Japanese politeness, Taiwanese are more moderate and genuine. 
  • Businesses in Taiwan look up to Japan and Japanese technology and learn a lot from them. However, they have not reached the Japanese’s quality level, and there are still gaps in inequality compared to Europe and North America. 
  • Taiwan has a combination of Chinese and Japanese culture. It has inherited the traditional Chinese culture (Confucius, Taoism, Laoism, etc.), which heavily influence its business ethos, but not like Mainland China; Taiwan is modernised with Western influences. 
  • People and businesses in Taiwan are open-minded and are willing to learning new things, new ideas, and are excited about innovation. 
  • Cultural and political sensitivity make Taiwan a unique place. Taiwanese don’t deny their deep Chinese roots, but their identity is Taiwanese, especially for the younger generation. Therefore, it’s essential to tailor the messages when communicating to Taiwan. 

Singapore

  • It has a skilled workforce, but it also has a shortage of labour. Depending on the business industry, the Ministry of Manpower has stringent requirements for hiring labour. 
  • Singapore’s geographical size is only slightly bigger than the Birmingham city area, and its population is just over half of that of London. This means that there’s limited sample size for big data. 
  • Be aware of the cultural and racial differences and multiple religions, respect them, and make sure a balance amongst different ethnicities when doing business with them. 
  • It is one of the leading fintech centres in the region. 
  • With high per capita incomes, the wealthy city-state is ahead on many metrics. For example, average order values in Singapore’s e-Commerce sector are three to four times higher than those in the rest of the region. Ride-Hailing trips and Food Delivery orders reveal similar patterns. This strong spending power makes Singapore’s Internet economy worth $12 billion in 2019, comparable in size to its much larger neighbours.
Singapore
Indonesia

Indonesia

  • Although Indonesia is an archipelago, most people live in Java and Sumatra, and 95% of the population is Muslim. Comparing to the neighbouring nations, the population is younger. 
  • eCommerce like Shopee and Tokopedia targets the younger generation who travel more, spend more and save less, which is a contrast to the older generation. 
  • The majority of the population is very layback. Although money motivates them, they are generally content and comfortable where they are. The workforce quality is not as good as in the Philippines. They are friendly, generally happy, and look up to the Westerners. The elite Indonesians, including Chinese Indonesian, work very hard and go to public schools and work in the government or global corporations. They are also generally happy as the competition is not as fierce as if they were in Singapore. 
  • They are very open and appreciate other cultures and ideas, and welcome foreign investments. However, like many other APAC countries, working closely with a trusted local partner is essential to cut through some red tapes. 
  • Due to the Chinese diaspora, Indonesia is exposed to China’s digital economy initiatives, be it e-commerce, fintech, MedTech, etc.
Vietnam

Vietnam

  • Vietnamese are Westernised, attracted to Western brands and lifestyles, and willing to pay a premium. 
  • Ho Chi Min City and Hanoi are the wealthiest cities in Vietnam, and this is where the majority of the target consumers reside. It appears that purchasing power is low in non-metro areas of Vietnam – a factor that companies need to account for when forecasting demand. 
  • Local talent is cheap but not very qualified. Therefore, companies must rely on sending in ex-pats to lead their Vietnam operations, making this a cost-intensive exercise but worth the effort considering the attraction that foreign brands hold. 
  • Vietnamese employees are receptive, easy to instruct, and punctual in their delivery. They look up to their superiors, maintain harmony and are less prone to debates and arguments. 
  • Since the local industry is not very developed, companies may often find themselves doing business with other foreign entities. 

To find out the best inflexion points for your expansion across the region, register and attend one of GTM’s expansion workshops, where you can meet on a 1-2-1 basis resonant in-country experts and get right-sized sector-specific advice to land and expand there.

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