Breaking into a new market can seem daunting. Exploring new territories may present challenges but is worth it to maximise new business opportunities.
Researching market opportunities and how to capitalise on them; identifying potential customers and partners; understanding local regulations, legal and geopolitical issues, as well as the unique business culture of the country or countries you are targeting, are the main challenges businesses face. But with challenge comes opportunity of a scale that Irish businesses can’t afford to ignore.
Irish companies have often looked west when in search of markets beyond the Eurozone. Expanding to the United States can seem relatively easy. They speak the same language and our traditional ties to the Irish diaspora creates a ready-made network for business opportunities. Asian markets have been perceived as more difficult, with greater language and cultural barriers to overcome.
Irish companies increasingly secure business opportunities in Asia
That perception has been blown away in recent years, as increasing numbers of Irish companies discover the incredible opportunities that exist in the world’s most populous and diverse continent. Exports to Asia by companies backed by Enterprise Ireland were valued at €1.97 billion last year, a 9% increase on 2016 results. We are dedicated to helping Irish exporters across all sectors overcome challenges to maximise business opportunities in Asia.
Speaking at an event focused on the market last year, Julie Sinnamon, chief executive of Enterprise Ireland said: “Probably the biggest common issue or challenge that people face getting into any of the Asian markets is the time it takes. Typically it takes quite a while for people to go and build the trust, to develop a position, to commit to the market.
“Many companies think that they can go in maybe a couple of visits, get a massive order and come back out again. It doesn’t work like that. Being a big, established company doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to work in China or India or Japan, or elsewhere in Asia. It is vital that there is commitment from the senior team of a company to work things out when they don’t go to plan, which is not unusual in Asian markets that you haven’t been in before.”
Asian business partners value innovation
Robert Schoellhammer, chief Europe representative of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), says that an innovative approach to applying technology is a key quality Asian companies look for in business partners.
He says: “Applying innovation and technology might be second nature in Ireland, but it doesn’t mean it is elsewhere. Innovation can be country specific, so what might be innovative in Mongolia is very commonplace in Germany. Technology and innovation is really critical, and above all it is what our own clients across Asia Pacific are saying that they want to have.”
In South-East Asia, the 10 countries which form ASEAN have started to follow the EU model of multilateralism and breaking down economic barriers. David Daly, the European External Action Service’s head of division for South East Asia, says this will create long-term business opportunities for Irish companies.
“The EU has very close engagement with ASEAN at the very highest level,” he said. “We have experience – we have done things which have worked well and we’ve done things which have worked less well. We offer that experience freely to our ASEAN partners and I think they appreciate it.
“Working with ASEAN is a commitment to the long term – it’s not an issue of jumping in and out for a quick fix, we have established structures that enable us to have an engagement over the very long term.”
More immediately, many young and innovative companies are already building Ireland’s reputation in these fast-growing markets.
“You don’t necessarily need to be a big, long-established company,” Sinnamon said. “One of the most exciting company meetings I was at recently in China involved a young tech start-up called Coroflo, which has created a monitor that measures the amount of breast milk a baby is getting.
“We visited the largest maternity hospital in Shanghai, where 100 babies are born every day. They were absolutely bowled over with this technology to make sure that a baby is being fed enough – they couldn’t believe the medtech technology available in Ireland.
“Another time, we were in the most iconic new building in Singapore and the owner brought us into what he called the brain of the building, where all the control happens, and he said, ‘Of course, the brain of the building is Irish’. He was talking about Cylon Controls from Dublin.
“Taoglas, a telecommunications equipment supplier, recently opened an office in Shenzhen, and the Chinese distributor who has worked with them said they have only one supplier globally with zero defects and it was Taoglas.
“It’s fantastic when you have companies on the other side of the world providing this sort of endorsement.”
There is more support and advice available than ever before to help Irish companies overcome challenges and build partnerships in Asia. Contact Enterprise Ireland for more information.