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Asia Market Entry – What Does it Take? Part 1

October 17, 2019


Published on Linkedin on August 17th, 2019 


As a business professional who has successfully performed multiple market entry projects for numerous American companies into Asia over the last 17 years, I thought I would write this brief article to highlight some key elements to be aware of when non-Asian multinationals are considering establishing a direct presence into the Asian region. 


A trigger which prompted me to write this article was because a close friend of mine who was performing a market entry project for a foreign multinational recently had his contract cancelled because his client cited their lack of patience in establishing a sustainable business model in the region. 


Let’s be honest, Asia market entry is not easy.  It really isn’t.  It takes: 

  1. Time 

  2. The right people

  3. Enduring patience

  4. A focused but highly curated long-term strategy

  5. A committed and realistic budget to make things work

If the client isn’t prepared to make a commitment to each of these items above to enter Asia, then they should consider saving their money and not waste their resources until they are ready to commit to each of these key elements to drive success.


I’ve seen many companies come and go because they thought they could conquer the region by sending a key executive from their headquarters to Asia and that individual would grow the business right out of the gate.  Not only is this a myth but it clearly shows a common misunderstanding of many foreign companies who have never had any exposure or have had very superficial exposure to Asia.  


Let’s consider the first point of ‘Time’:


Patience for Time


I’ve performed Asia market entry for foreign companies that: 

  1. Have had an indirect channel in Asia with an established sales pipeline 

  2. Started off with a complete blank sheet of paper in region. 

In both instances, the key to ensuring success is to manage the expectation for committed deliverables by educating the client on the importance of time when building long-term relationships.  This fundamental understanding of developing and nurturing business trust is a key first step to sales. As a result, longer revenue cycles are realized as compared to the usual (quicker) sales timelines in the client’s home country.  This is a fundamental element to consider in Asia.  Western cultures with their sales engagements see sales as transactional while Asia sees sales as rooted in relationship.  Granted, any long-term business partnership is grounded in relationships but in Asia, the process for qualifying a partner starts with relationships from the moment they step in the door.  Establishing trust takes time and thus, sales cycles in Asia typically take 30% to 50% longer than sales cycles in those of Western countries.  


Bottom line, unless you already have a strong pipeline in region with strong channel partners or localized staff who knows how to drive regional sales grounded in relationships, you will need to set expectations based on the following if you are considering entering Asia with no business foundation:

  1. Consumer goods / short sales cycle products: 6 – 9 months to drive initial volume sales

  2. Enterprise sales / long sales cycle products or services: 9 – 12 months to close your first beachhead win.

  3. Service Provider / OEM partnership cycles: 12 – 18 months to close a partnership agreement.

These timelines are rough guidelines and results for many companies may differ somewhat but the differences will not stray too far from my stated figures above.


That’s it for now.


In my next article, I’ll discuss about point number two which is ‘The right people’.


About the Author:


Peter Hum is the Founder and Managing Director of StrateValue Pte Ltd, a leading boutique business management and Asia market entry firm based in Singapore. With more than 26 years of international business and global telecommunications experience, Peter has held successive career roles ranging from technical, marketing, sales, executive management, and serial entrepreneurship across Asia and North America. He specialises within the fields of Telecommunications, Business Analytics, Enterprise Software, and Digital Services. Peter has provided strategic and operational guidance to senior level executives in some of the largest multinational organisations in the region.


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