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How start-ups should approach business in Asia

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The re-emergence of Asia is a defining megatrend of the 21st century. New Zealand has been a pioneer in reducing trade barriers with this dynamic region, creating tremendous opportunities for businesses. However, engaging with the new Asian consumer is not an easy task. Opportunities need to be balanced with the uncertainty still inherent in these markets. The competitive landscape and customer needs are often in flux as markets mature and businesses need to remain nimble to flourish on such fertile but unsettled grounds.

Gaining a better understanding of the needs and wants of Asian consumers requires activating a network of local business partners. Regulatory barrier and cultural subtleties are also difficult to navigate and resource constrained start-ups are well-advised to nurture key relationships when engaging with Asian markets.

Unfortunately, establishing a business network is the most difficult when it ought to be the most useful. One of the key challenges is to create win-wins for all network partners and to facilitate ongoing knowledge sharing that fosters market learning and innovation. The foundation of knowledge sharing is trust – the glue that holds the network together. But will building trust alone suffice?

There is a risk that businesses overemphasis building trust and lose sight of other important factors. Blindly trusting a local business partner may reduce the ability of the business to realise its full potential. This is because partners may withhold important information as an insurance policy or simply not put enough energy into developing an opportunity when they do not have a sense of ownership. The business may enter a circle of trusted business partners but remain out of the loop as market learning is impaired.

To realise full potential, a more holistic view on managing the partnership is needed. In particular, establishing accountability for shared business goals with the business partner is often overlooked as control might erode trust. However, shared goal setting allows businesses to further refine and develop a market opportunity leading to win-win’s for both partners and creating a pathway for mutual learning. Through shared goal setting businesses also learn whether their local business partner is fully commitment and gain valuable market insights.

Shared goal setting can also spark innovation. While the local business partner has valuable insights about the needs and wants of distant customers, as well as the cultural savviness for engagement, New Zealand businesses typically have resources and capabilities to carry out innovation, and creatively solve problems. Combining these different sources of knowledge is a winning strategy that can lead to sustainable business success for both partners. It requires a commitment of both partners to invest time and effort in the relationship, communicate frequently and keep an open mind about emerging new opportunities.

Dr Antje Fiedler is an alumna of the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s Velocity programme and a Senior Lecturer the University of Auckland Business School.

 

Dr Antje Fiedler

Dr Antje Fiedler.

Dr Antje Fiedler

Dr Antje Fiedler.

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The re-emergence of Asia is a defining megatrend of the 21st century. New Zealand has been a pioneer in reducing trade barriers with this dynamic region, creating tremendous opportunities for businesses. However, engaging with the new Asian consumer is not an easy task. Opportunities need to be balanced with the uncertainty still inherent in these markets. The competitive landscape and customer needs are often in flux as markets mature and businesses need to remain nimble to flourish on such fertile but unsettled grounds.

Gaining a better understanding of the needs and wants of Asian consumers requires activating a network of local business partners. Regulatory barrier and cultural subtleties are also difficult to navigate and resource constrained start-ups are well-advised to nurture key relationships when engaging with Asian markets.

Unfortunately, establishing a business network is the most difficult when it ought to be the most useful. One of the key challenges is to create win-wins for all network partners and to facilitate ongoing knowledge sharing that fosters market learning and innovation. The foundation of knowledge sharing is trust – the glue that holds the network together. But will building trust alone suffice?

There is a risk that businesses overemphasis building trust and lose sight of other important factors. Blindly trusting a local business partner may reduce the ability of the business to realise its full potential. This is because partners may withhold important information as an insurance policy or simply not put enough energy into developing an opportunity when they do not have a sense of ownership. The business may enter a circle of trusted business partners but remain out of the loop as market learning is impaired.

To realise full potential, a more holistic view on managing the partnership is needed. In particular, establishing accountability for shared business goals with the business partner is often overlooked as control might erode trust. However, shared goal setting allows businesses to further refine and develop a market opportunity leading to win-win’s for both partners and creating a pathway for mutual learning. Through shared goal setting businesses also learn whether their local business partner is fully commitment and gain valuable market insights.

Shared goal setting can also spark innovation. While the local business partner has valuable insights about the needs and wants of distant customers, as well as the cultural savviness for engagement, New Zealand businesses typically have resources and capabilities to carry out innovation, and creatively solve problems. Combining these different sources of knowledge is a winning strategy that can lead to sustainable business success for both partners. It requires a commitment of both partners to invest time and effort in the relationship, communicate frequently and keep an open mind about emerging new opportunities.

Dr Antje Fiedler is an alumna of the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s Velocity programme and a Senior Lecturer the University of Auckland Business School.

 


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