Just as it has affected every corner of the globe, Covid-19 has made its presence felt in the Asia Pacific region. But according to Enterprise Ireland’s regional director for Asia Pacific, Mary Kinnane, while there is no doubt that it has had a disruptive impact on economies, businesses and lives, the level and magnitude of the impact differs by country and even sector.
- While countries have been impacted in different ways, there is no doubt that Covid-19 has disrupted business and lives across the region.
- Providing solutions for clients and showing commitment is crucial for Irish exporters.
- Many sectors have been badly hit but there are still signs of growth in a variety of areas including life sciences, health care and education solutions.
- The region has shown resilience and is likely to be one of the first areas to emerge from Covid-19 restrictions.
“China and South Korea were amongst the first countries hit by Covid-19, and life there is slowly but cautiously getting back to normal,” Kinnane says. “More and more businesses are now operating as before with public facilities reopening, while other countries in the region are still undergoing lockdowns and strong containment measures.
“Adverse economic impact, at least for this year, is evident as seen from the revised GDP growth projections from the IMF earlier this month. And the world economy is now projected to contract by -3% from the previous year, with growth projections for China at 1.2%, Japan at -5.2%, Korea at -1.2%, ASEAN 5 at -0.6%, and Australia at -6.7%.”
Although Irish exporters will undoubtedly be affected, Kinnane say showing unwavering, commitment during these challenging times to customers and partners is particularly important.
“Saving face is an important aspect of business culture in Asia so carefully managing the knock-on effects for your customers and partners is advisable,” she says. “If your business is adversely impacted by Covid-19 and consequently if you cannot fulfil orders, contracts or deadlines, then be clear with your customers and suppliers, but also try to provide alternative options and support. This will be perceived as a measure of your seriousness and commitment for the long term.
Enterprise Ireland has made available new funding and capacity support programmes to help companies through Covid-19. says Kinnane.
“We are acutely aware that our support is ever more critical so our network of offices from Beijing to Sydney are providing virtual introductions to buyers and partners, market research on trends and emerging opportunities and challenges along with other in-market business continuity and development supports.” says Kinnane
“We also see that some Irish businesses are taking this time to develop market entry and expansion strategy for some Asian markets with a medium- to long-term view. We are aiding those businesses to achieve the objective, using our market knowledge, insight and networks in local markets. Customer targets in ANZ & the ASEAN region are proving quite receptive to remote new enquiries with this being somewhat more challenging in the north of the region where facetime and relationships really matter.”
While travel restrictions have been problematic for tourism and many businesses have been heavily hit by uncertainty, the regional director says there is increasing attention on the life sciences/healthcare sector with more favourable government policies likely to underpin increased investment in the sector. Cloud based SaaS systems, teleworking tools, and paperless processes are also seeing an increasingly rapid roll-out with opportunities well suited to the innovative and agile solutions provided by many Irish businesses.
In addition, various Asian companies have announced their intention to develop antibodies or vaccines to combat Covid-19, so Irish businesses with strong expertise in pharma servicing, regulatory consultation, clinical trials and supply chains are actively probing for new and enhanced opportunities in the region.
“Many companies tended to take a conservative approach relative to their western peers to remote work, “says Kinnane. “But Covid-19 has prompted companies, particularly in China, South Korea and Japan, to re-assess the value of remote-working. And there is now more leniency and openness in corporate culture to embrace the practice with a more strategic and long-term view. Hence, it’s timely that Irish companies now look to the east to capture untapped opportunities. But they may need to be prepared to conduct business for a prolonged period under current conditions and be more creative and resourceful than ever in developing and maintaining customer intimacy.”
The regional director says it’s projected to be one of the first regions to emerge from the Covid-19 challenge, with economies faring relatively well. So as economic and business activities begin returning to normal, it’s imperative for Irish businesses to provide best-in-class services and products to their existing and potential customers in order to exhibit commitment and capability to perform in times of crisis.
“Companies are currently reviewing their supply chains so if there are prospective customers and partners that Irish businesses have wanted to work with, this can provide a context to approach or re-approach them,” she advises.
“The overarching message from APAC is that of a region demonstrating real resilience with economic fundamentals remaining strong, and the opportunities for world class Irish companies being very compelling. Our teams, from Beijing to Sydney are fully operational, ensuring a continuity of service with clients and networks and have a range of business supports and funding options to support exporters.”
Learn more about supports available to businesses impacted by Covid-19 at Enterprise Ireland’s business response.