The rapidly growing ASEAN consumer market presents opportunities for quality exports


ASEAN consumer market

ASEAN consumer marketCraftsmen from a European interior design firm flew in to work on the restoration and redecoration of an historic building for an ASEAN client. The drapes and curtains were specially designed and woven by craftsmen whose traditions went back generations, to techniques used in European palaces. The same was said of the traditions behind the gold inlay carvings that adorned the door frames.

The materials and paints for the walls and ceilings of each room, as well as the lighting and sound system, all utilised the latest in technology. The local engineers overseeing the restoration project confirmed that the technology and craftsmanship used was not available locally. The European craftsmen worked diligently on weekdays to complete their tasks on schedule, and then spent the weekends swimming and rejuvenating at an island beach resort.

Demand is skyrocketing for luxury goods in ASEAN markets

There is an abundance of business opportunities in the rapidly growing ASEAN consumer market which desires the same high quality luxury goods as North Americans.

ASEAN, which stands for the Association of South East Asian Nations, consists of 10 tropical Asia Pacific countries. ASEAN is focused on rapid economic modernisation with brand new highways, rapid rail, seaports, airports and information technologies connecting the region. Investment in infrastructure expansion continues to create opportunities for businesses in the sector. Competitive pricing and budget airlines also make air travel within the ASEAN region more affordable.

The region is on a major international sea route that connects Japan, China and the rest of East Asia with India, the Middle East, Africa and Europe. North America is also a major export destination for many ASEAN manufactured goods.

The middle class in major metropolises such as Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Jakarta and Manila have firmly embraced the “West coast lifestyle” of North America, while also giving it an added Asian flavour. This affluent ASEAN middle class is willing to pay premium pricing for artisan, organic and all natural products.

For example, you can enjoy Alaskan crab at a Chinese seafood restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, or grilled Pacific salmon with maple syrup at a Singapore fine dining establishment. All of this is complemented with fine wines from Europe, Australia and North America. ASEAN residents also tend to rapidly embrace the latest in technology.

The ASEAN region is a winter getaway destination that draws tourists from well beyond Asia, with people travelling from the Northern and Southern hemispheres all year round. The region also offers retirement schemes for pensioners that attract participants from developed economies.

You need to research the ASEAN consumer market to tap into its opportunities

This is an excellent time to do market research for export opportunities.

Study market opportunities by analysing data from:

  1. Research on the ASEAN Region
  2. Research on individual ASEAN member countries
  3. Research identified business prospects in target countries

Research should utilise evidence based data from primary sources.

From these sources, we learn that ASEAN is made up of Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. Taken together, the ASEAN region is the 3rd largest economy in Asia, with a combined GDP of US$2.6 trillion (2014).

We also learn that the ASEAN Economic Community was established in 2015 with a combined population of over 622 million people, making this a major world market. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into the ASEAN region increased to US$136 billion in 2014.

What do I need to know about the individual ASEAN countries?

The ASEAN region is not a homogenous market. Identify the country that offers the best opportunities for initial business. This could then serve as the base for subsequent launches into the other ASEAN countries. Define your export goals and obtain factual information that supports your goals.

Do a comprehensive political, economic, social and technological (PEST) analysis of the ASEAN countries, and determine the market size. Assess the economic and market conditions such as seasonal changes, short as well as long-term trends and growth potential.

Once you have completed those steps, identify actual and potential, local as well as international competitors. Finally, evaluate the possible impact competitors will have on your market share, pricing strategy and profitability.

Discover your best options by researching identified prospects

When it comes to identified prospects, you must evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) of doing business with them. What are the benefits of doing business with the identified prospects? Assess the ability of any prospects to deliver on promises.

Next, analyse the information and market data to evaluate the business risk. Decide if this justifies doing business in the target country and with the identified prospect. If it does, you’ll need to develop an export plan and market strategy.

Once you do, commence negotiation of an international trade agreement with the identified local prospect, and utilise evidence based data.

You must also include clearly defined goals that are specific, measureable, achievable, realistic and timely with an evaluation and review (SMARTER) process in place.

With these steps completed, you’ll be well on your way to a successful entry into the lucrative ASEAN market of your choosing!

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the contributing author, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forum for International Trade Training.

About the author

Author: Siddha Param

Siddha Param has advised both importers and exporters on negotiating international trade agreements and resolution of disputes. He also co-authored the book Global Productivity Mindset: Opportunities and Profits Post-2008, available through McNally Robinson.

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