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5 Tips for Companies Expanding into Southeast Asia Markets

Elite AsiaBusiness Localisation5 Tips for Companies Expanding into Southeast Asia Markets
3 December 2018 Posted by eliteasia Business Localisation No Comments

By any standard, SouthEast Asia is an economic juggernaut. Even with the current economic slowdown in China, the region, as a whole, is predicted to grow at a rate of 6.1% every year. It’s not just China that’s open for business. Countries like Indonesia and India offer significant opportunities.

So, if you’re looking to expand into the SouthEast Asian market, here are a few tips to help you out.

Realise That it is Not a Single Market

Southeast Asia isn’t a monolith. In fact, it is home to very distinct markets. This means you have over 10 different legal systems, multiple currencies, and a ton of languages to deal with. Jakarta is not the same as Singapore and Singapore is very different from Mumbai or New Delhi.

Each market offers its own set of opportunities and challenges. For instance, the middle class in China and India is a burgeoning population with increasing purchasing power. However, segmentation is far more diverse in these markets. You cannot group people under broad categories due to intrinsic cultural differences.

For example, India is home to 27 states, each with its own heritage and identity. So, if India is your target market, you’ll need to get extremely specific with your localisation.

Know the Opportunities

Southeast Asia is home to almost half the world’s population. Of course, not all of them can be marketed to. Even so, you still have a marketable population of over 600 million. Other than that, it’s home to a growing middle class.

Southeast Asia is home to a highly connected, mobile population. There are over a hundred million people here that are connected to the internet via their smartphones, which makes them a perfect target for e-commerce businesses and online marketing.

Know the Challenges

Of course, it’s not a bed of roses. With the rapid urbanisation and growth, there is also plenty of economic disparity. That means higher taxes on profits. Plus, locations like Myanmar and Cambodia have just started experimenting with foreign investment.

Some of the common pain points of marketing to this region include immigration policies, brand protection, regional/local regulations, and intellectual property registration.

Corruption and bribery are very common in most SE Asian countries, which is also a major risk.

Read More:

Culture Awareness: Things to Note Before Expanding Your Business into a New Country

Form Partnerships

Forming partnerships is a very good strategy for expanding into Southeast Asia. In fact, it might be necessary, considering restrictions on Foreign Direct Investment and other requirements. For instance, some Southeast Asian countries have rules demanding the formation of partnerships with local firms or having local shareholders.

These rules are more common in some industries than others, such as fisheries, transport, banking and telecom.

Find the Right People

Finally, search and identify the right people to work for you. You need people who understand the market and the culture. It is preferable to hire locally, which can be challenging, but it’s the best option if you want to tap into local business opportunities.

Partnering with a localisation service provider that specialises in the Southeast Asian market is also a good idea.


So, there you have 5 basic tips to help you expand into the Southeast Asian market. The process can be quite challenging. However, with the right kind of preparation and patience, penetration can be achieved gradually.

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