• Many countries in South East Asia have made a successful return to business
• Travel restrictions had posed problems for businesses selling into the region, but goods are moving again.
• Critical supply chain companies are ramping up production and capacity to meet increasing demand
• Opportunities are continuing to arise, particularly in Digital technologies, Life Sciences, Telehealth, and Industrial sectors
• Life is beginning to return to normal.
Every industry across the world has been impacted by the effects of Covid-19. But while there is undoubtedly still a long way to go, business is beginning to return to some sort of normality and Kevin Ryan, Director of ASEAN, says much of South East Asia has made a cautious, but successful return.
“Business is definitely getting back to some semblance of normality, but things are a little different,” says Ryan. “In Singapore, we are now in Phase 2 of the ‘Circuit-Breaker’ measures and most businesses are now allowed to return to office environments. But the message remains consistent and to work from home where possible.
“Politically there is a history of stability and longevity here with governments making long-term plans which are carried on by successive ruling parties and this is very beneficial to the economy of the region.”
With experience of the SARS epidemic in 2002-2004, the governments of SE Asia have been methodical in their management of the Covid outbreak and this has proved crucial in the successful reopening of business.
“During the phased approach, the return to work was carefully managed,” says Ryan. “And around the region, key markets are opening up and demonstrating strong ownership in managing business and movement of goods.”
So with the effects of Covid shaping how people work and interact, the ASEAN director says strong sectoral opportunities have emerged.
“The Future of Work and the Digital Workplace is a very interesting development and client companies see big potential across the Asia market,” he says. “Here you have huge centres of populations, with Banks, Insurers and Tech companies all requiring teams to work remotely and embrace innovative solutions.
“From the Life Sciences sector, there is significant interest and demand for services which offer innovative solutions to help eliminate the effects of Covid. And the crisis has shown how reliable technology can be and has forced governments to take a fresh look at implementing digital health solutions in their regions.
“Consumer Retail is also playing out strongly with the likes of Water Wipes and Pestle & Mortar being two good examples of clients gaining traction in Asia.”
But most businesses, regardless of sector, are focused on saving cost, generating additional ancillary revenue streams and using technology to help prevent Covid in the workplace.
“Businesses are very keen to understand how technology can help them combat the pandemic and keep staff safe,” says Ryan. “We’ve had strong engagement with companies who see the value proposition, most notably with the likes of Novaerus who have a proven air and surface disinfection device. While companies such as Combilift have proven capabilities in an industrial space, helping to eliminate waste and enabling companies think more efficiently.
“Our clients are constantly looking at new ways to offer unique solutions to companies, which are now struggling with their traditional business model. And we are seeing success and increased interest in companies such as Good Travel Software (GTS), which allows OEM car manufacturers and car companies opportunities to tap into additional ancillary revenue streams they wouldn’t have considered before.”
But one of the real strengths of Enterprise Ireland is its network overseas.
“We are the gatekeepers making sure clients are ready to make the leap,” says Ryan. “We also work with them to break down any barriers – geographically and culturally.
“So on a positive note, we’re definitely seeing greater availability and access. Prospective buyers in the region are realising that unless they open their minds and are willing to think innovatively, they will face the prospect of losing opportunities to their competitors, and in this climate that could prove fatal. Irish companies have a long history of being innovative and entrepreneurial and business in Asia is very responsive to this.”
The SE Asia region encompasses 10 countries with a population of circa. 650m people and Ryan says the market is very much open with he and his team engaging regularly with client companies to support a successful entry into the region.
“Ireland, in comparison to some parts of Asia, is small, and our team works extremely hard on selling a consistent Irish message,” he says. “We have strong success in opening doors and creating opportunities and our reputation across the globe is superb with Ireland’s expertise in Asia shining through from the perspective of innovation and quality.
“So there is light at the end of the tunnel, and we’re encouraging clients who have a product ready to go, to engage in Asia as we are laying the groundwork for opportunities to be realised in 2021 and beyond.”