High-Impact Entrepreneurship

Think big, think Asia

ssshhhh I'm the new internReprinted from GrowVC. Original article here.

By Vinay Dora K. A digital native, Vinay has seen web technology and its business development from close quarters through his experience with startups and corporations like Yahoo! Inc. A learner for life, Vinay is active in the student community circles with recent stints at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm School of Economics, Peking University China and as a media panel delegate at Harvard University’s HPAIR conference.

Asian economies in the last two decades have witnessed a meteoric rise, in particular the Chinese, Indian and the South-East Asian economies. Though the recent crisis in the West had had its rippling effect on Asia, many believe its only a matter before the animal spirit of the dragon (China) and the tiger (India) reemerge. China and India aside, there’s an exclusive four, together known as the Asian Tiger and Dragon economies – Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan, who have established themselves as world-class destinations for business.

While most economists and analysts are upbeat about Asia’s prospects, startup companies and the media have showed disproportionate interest in Asia. Take the case of European tech startups, most of whose expansion plans invariably end with either the Silicon Valley or the alleys of New York City. However a positive consequence of such a move is that there’s substantially lesser competition in many regions across Asia than in the West.

Why this indifference or deliberation when it comes to expanding to Asia? Some say it’s the cultural difference, while others just haven’t given it a thought. Well, if you haven’t given it a thought, consider these numbers:

# 4 billion or 60% of the World’s population live in Asia
# Asia will be the largest economic region in the next two decades
# 18% of Asian web traffic are on mobile, a growth of nearly 200% since 2010
#262 million Facebook users in South-East Asia & India, with another 200 million in Renren, the Chinese equivalent
# Chinese & Indian economies are the 2nd & 3rd largest in terms of purchasing power parity

Asia, despite its massive diversity, longstanding traditions and contemporary challenges of inequality, is still surging ahead and pretty fast. No wonder many of the world’s leading entrepreneurs are exploring ways to establish themselves in the region, especially in China and India. And here’s where South-East Asian nations have a massive advantage. Not only are they proximate geographically to both China and India, but they themselves are a combined strength of 613 million, becoming the 3rd most populated region in the world, and offering another lucrative market for entrepreneurs.

So how do South-East Asian countries score on the tech and social media front? Well, here are some numbers, courtesy Bernard Leong’s research. They include:
# 550 million total mobile subscribers
# 139 million Internet subscribers
# 3 million LinkedIn users
# 11.4 million Twitter users
# 6 million Foursquare users
# 54% of Singaporeans use smartphones
# 90% of Indonesia’s web users are on Facebook

Further according to the same report, Singapore seems to be the preferred regional headquarters for IT and Media companies, especially for sales, business development and marketing. The government agencies there seem only too happy to offer their support to entrepreneurs.

So the next time you think big, think Asia. And remember the route from Europe to Asia need not always be via the US.


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