Asia Pacific is flying high – time for Irish companies to get on board

Tom Cusack, regional director for Asia Pacific at Enterprise Ireland, explains what Irish exporters can gain by exploring opportunities in the region.

“Always listen,” advised Dicky Yip, non-executive director of Chinese insurance giant PingAn and former chief executive of HSBC China, during his keynote speech at Enterprise Ireland’s Routes to Growth Asia Pacific, a major conference which brought together more than 400 Irish and international business people to explore export opportunities in the region.

“It takes time to understand each area’s cultural differences”, explained Yip.

The inaugural Routes to Growth Asia Pacific event offered a unique opportunity for networking and peer-learning to current and first-time exporters, with more than 100 potential buyers travelling to attend. Enterprise Ireland’s entire Asia Pacific team assisted companies with export plans and on-the-ground experience. Enterprise Ireland also launched a series of business guides to help companies better prepare for market entry.

Asia Pacific is home to two of the world’s three biggest economies

Stretching from Australia to India and China, Asia Pacific is home to half of the world’s population and two of its three biggest economies. By 2025, it will account for more than half of the world’s economic output. Similar trends are evident with growth rates, which range from 5% to 9%, compared to the 2-3% global average. Australia, in particular, has enjoyed over 25 years of continuous growth.

More than 600 Irish companies are currently doing business in the region, worth €2 billion annually.

Irish exports more than doubled in the last five years since breaking the €1 billion mark in 2012, delivering double-digit growth for Enterprise Ireland-supported companies in 2016, with an impressive 16% year-on year-gain. As the second-fastest growing region for Enterprise Ireland-backed companies, a 50% increase in exports is targeted by 2020. Opportunities for Irish businesses in sectors including aviation, fintech, international education, and construction and engineering are particularly promising.

“Ireland has emerged as one of the greatest global aviation hubs in recent times,” commented Dermot Mannion, former deputy chairman of Royal Brunei Airlines and former Aer Lingus CEO. “That is happening at a time when Asia Pacific is by far and away the fastest growing region for aviation. Over the next twenty years, the number of aircraft going into Asia Pacific will be equal to North America and Europe combined. We are very well positioned to take advantage of that.”

One example of Irish success in the sector is CAE Parc Aviation, who first began doing business there almost three decades ago, explained chief executive, Frank Collins. Today 45% of its worldwide business comes from Asian companies. CAE Parc has seven offices spread across five AsiaPac countries. In all, “it’s a massive market for us,” Collins said.

Speakers recommended reaching out to Enterprise Ireland for assistance and tapping into the Irish diaspora.

Work with Enterprise Ireland to expand in Asia Pacific

“You need to get out there on the ground, so use Enterprise Ireland and the Department of Foreign Affairs. There is always someone who can give you introductions,” said Paul Costigan, chief sales and marketing officer at Decawave.

Barry Napier, CEO of Cubic Telecom, first discussed the possibility of entering the region with Enterprise Ireland in 2010 and benefited from Irish embassies in the region. “Regulation is very different in every market. A key thing we leveraged from Enterprise Ireland was about laws and regulations, and how to work within the market,” said Napier.

Ireland’s connectivity to the Asia Pacific region will see a big boost in June 2018 with the launch of a direct flight between Dublin and Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific, the first ever direct flight from Ireland to the Asian mainland.

“Don’t underestimate the impact of having ‘Dublin’ on departure boards in Hong Kong will have,” said Mannion. “It will create a dynamic where companies in that part of the world will be interested, because it will be easier to do business here.”

That the Routes to Growth event was organised in partnership with Cathay Pacific is fitting. There is no doubt that the AsiaPac region is flying high. For Irish companies, it is time to get on board.

Visit our markets section for insights on Singapore and China and the opportunities for Irish companies.

This article was originally published in the Sunday Independent.

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