Thursday, 07 February 2019 10:07

Australian small businesses fail to tap Asia growth opportunities: report Featured

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Most Australian businesses are yet to seize the opportunities in some of the world’s fastest growing markets, and often lack the capabilities needed to succeed in these competitive economies, according to a new study released by Asialink Business and Australia’s Commonwealth Bank.

The study, sponsored by CBA, was designed to provide a critical snapshot of the readiness of Australian businesses to achieve growth with Asia, and highlights practical pathways to bridge skills gaps and build Asia capabilities.

Asialink Business chief executive Mukund Narayanamurti says: “Australia’s small and medium businesses are diverse, resourceful and innovative, but they often still overlook opportunities offshore, especially in emerging Asia, where the scale of growth significantly exceeds domestic prospects.

“If our economy is to prosper, we can’t only be focused on keeping the lights on at home. By 2030, emerging Asian economies, like Indonesia, India and Vietnam, will have middle-class markets that are more than $20 trillion bigger than they are today – this forecast growth is more than 11 times the size of Australia’s current GDP.

“Previous research has focussed public attention on how our largest companies engage with Asia, but it is now time to take the microscope to small and medium businesses. We need to spark and prioritise a national conversation on how to overcome the unique challenges they face."

“Australia’s small and medium businesses are truly the engine room of the Australian economy. Representing 99.8% of the total number of Australian businesses, small and medium businesses employ more than seven million Australians and contribute more than 56% of Australia’s GDP. However, while many of these businesses are growing or looking to expand, just 13% are exporting to markets outside of Australia,” said CBA head of Asian Business Banking, Jonathan Yeung.

“We know most businesses are aware of the opportunities that Asia presents but many are unsure as to how to enter and thrive in these highly competitive environments.

“Through our partnership with Asialink Business, we are excited to be launching Growing with Asia and providing Australia’s small and medium businesses with the knowledge and support they need to develop the capabilities required to capitalise on these opportunities.”

The discussion paper highlights six specific capabilities that small and medium businesses need to develop to succeed in the region, ranging from deep insights into individual Asian markets, practical experience "on the ground" in the region, the ability to adapt behaviour to different cultural contexts, and the ability to form long-term trusted relationships.

They also include leadership commitment to an Asia-focused strategy and an ability to customise product or service offerings, which are especially important for medium-sized companies.

Yeung says the second phase of the research, expected to be released mid-year, will provide fresh thought leadership and a detailed scorecard on Australian business performance, and recommendations on how small and medium businesses can better compete and achieve growth in Asia.

To access the self-assessment tool and the Growing with Asia discussion paper click here.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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