Adelphi Digital set up our business in ASEAN in 2011. We chose Singapore as our initial destination and have not looked back since. The business has grown at a startling rate, over 50% per annum and with a staff now of over 80 in Singapore alone we are not seeing any end to this growth potential.
With the IMF predicting growth in Singapore of 2% in 2016, and ASEAN set to become the fourth largest market by 2030, this is without doubt continuing to be one of the best business regions to be in.
Whatever sector you operate in, setting up in Singapore is simple; it takes a few days only to set up a business, open a bank account and rent office space. The government is stable and has a pro-business and trade policy. In the wake of Brexit, UK investments into the country are set to remain stable, and have the potential to increase.
In the digital and creative arena ASEAN is a hotbed of innovation. Mobile use, and with it social media, has provided a platform for businesses to reach their audiences on a mass scale.
When Adelphi Digital opened in Singapore, the digital landscape was relatively young. The emergence of new technology, coupled with an increasing recognition that digital is essential for business success, meant that we could leverage a market gap and provide consultancy services, as well as the more traditional end-to-end design and build.
Five years later, and a similar trend is emerging across many more ASEAN countries. The digital infrastructure is going into place, and businesses are looking to utilise it.
This trend doesn’t just apply to digital. The hospitality, finance and infrastructure sectors are seeing huge growth potential.
While the opportunities are vast, what will make or break new businesses is their positioning. It’s easy – and indeed true – to say mobile use in the region presents businesses with the ability to reach audiences on a mass scale, but it perhaps misses the finer points of unique markets.
In Thailand, for example, the coupling of increased mobile use and a booming tourist industry means that phone booking abilities are a must for successful hotels. The same principle can’t, however, be applied to other countries that are currently building the technology infrastructure to support such development.
Whichever country and sector your business operates in, the key to running a successful SME is investing enough time to understand the local market in which you choose to operate. Go to the countries you are interested in and spend time there. Yes that comes with a cost, but the cost of entry to a new market will be lowered by this research.
I contend that for a SME and particularly for smaller entrepreneurial businesses it must be the vision owner of the business that should go visit. Desk research is not going to cut it in this instance.
The ASEAN economic community is in its infancy but don’t be fooled, the trade agreements already in place are enabling growth across the region. This makes it the perfect time to consider a move to the East.
If you are interested in exporting there is a wealth of support for you. Adelphi Digital was helped enormously by the UKTI, by the British Chamber of Commerce in Singapore and also by the UK ASEAN Business Council.
The key message that I have for creative and digital businesses is that ASEAN presents a world of opportunity – go for it!