When, where, how? Top Tips for doing Business in Asia

Business Insights

By Siddharth Shankar.

Asia is an increasingly important market for British business. It’s predicted that its share of global GDP will increase to 35% by 2030 – which is equivalent to Europe and the United States’ share combined. Furthermore, it’s estimated that by the end of the next decade seven of the world’s top ten economies are likely to be in Asia.

British businesses are already benefitting from the growing market for British goods in the region. Last year was a record-breaking year for British exports. UK firms sold more goods overseas in the 2018/2019 financial year than at any other time since records began – worth a total of £639.9 billion. This was in part helped by a significant uplift in exports to Asia.

Exports to Taiwan increased by 40% in the last financial year, to India by 19% and to Thailand by 17%. Nowhere is the demand for UK exports growing faster than in Asian countries.

However, doing business there can be a daunting prospect. Here are some top tips for success.

    1. Respect the culture

To successfully do business in Asia, it’s critical to get to know the local culture and respect it. One of the most important customs to adhere to is respecting elders. Age is associated with wisdom and authority.

In business meetings or when networking in Asia, show that you understand this by acting with the proper degree of respect to the elder persons in the room. It will help the people you are doing business with to trust that you will acknowledge and be sensitive to their culture in all your dealings with them.

    2. Avoid the trap of big promotional campaigns

Going all out on an all-singing, all-dancing marketing campaign isn’t always the most successful way of making a splash when you launch a product in Asia.

Success lies in thorough research and careful targeting of market segmentation and consumer behaviour. Many businesses, when launching in Asia, engage in activities such as giving out free samples of a product at an event or in the streets. However, in marketing a British product in Asia, the brand story is key. Asian consumers love the quality and heritage of British products and it’s almost impossible to convey this effectively through marketing activities such as this.

If consumers fail to understand the brand’s value they are highly unlikely to follow through and purchase the product. Targeted activities are much more effective. For example, partnering a magazine aimed at your target market and attaching a free sample of your product with an internal feature that conveys the brand value.

    3. Pick your moment

The best time to launch a product in Asia is usually during one of the big festivals. Though it’s key to develop an understanding, even within this, of the most beneficial moment to launch.

For example, if you’re launching a product in China, Chinese New Year is the perfect time to take the plunge. However, you wouldn’t want to launch in the first three days of the holiday. This time is reserved for only basic shopping, with people instead visiting family and friends. From the fifth day of the holiday onwards is ideal. This is a great time to run a promotion in a market or shopping mall.

If you’re launching a product in Japan or Korea, the Christmas holidays will be key. This is the biggest shopping season in these countries so allows a brand to make maximum impact. In essence, having a full understanding of local consumer habits is crucial.

    4. Location is paramount

Many businesses, when exporting to Asia for the first time, make the mistake of automatically launching a product in the capital city. Be warned, this is not always the best policy. Pick the city you launch in carefully, based on thorough research, not assumptions.

For instance, if launching a fashion brand in India it may be prudent not to launch in a city that is politically sensitive or more traditional in its customs. Instead, pick a more commercial, modern city that is likely to be more open to a Western brand.

Siddharth Shankar is a leading expert in trading with Asia and CEO of Tails Trading, an innovative new solution helping UK SMEs to export their goods to Asia. Visit www.tailstrading.com to find out more.