Guest post from David Croasdale, Managing Director for Newell
A few years ago, a major accounting firm sent out a message to all their employees saying that Fridays would now be considered dress down day. Staff would be allowed to come into work dressed smart casual. Everywhere in the world that is apart from Hong Kong as clients there still expect to see employees dressed in suits.
While it seems a bit unfair to penalize one location out of many, this does show that ‘one size fits all’ programmes even with the best of intentions have to adopt different rules in different countries.
With 54 countries and territories in the region, the Asia Pacific (APAC) has a combined population of 4.2 billion people. APAC’s population dwarfs that of Africa’s billion and Europe’s 752 million. Even NAFTA’s 441 million combined population doesn’t come close to getting a cigar when compared with APAC.
When doing business in Asia, the most common gripe raised is how U.S. or European-based multinational companies continually look to replicate successful campaigns lock, stock and barrel in APAC markets. These are mostly doomed to failure due to a variety of reasons such as timing, language, customs, cultural insensitivities, traditions, red tape and irrelevancy.
There are some aspects to doing business in Asia that are not commonly known or misunderstood to those outside the region.
For example, every year roughly 300 million people take part in the world’s largest migration in China over Chinese New Year. Put into perspective, that’s roughly the population of the U.S. on the move at the same time.
As you can imagine, the strain placed on transport infrastructure is immense. Trains, buses, cars, planes, boats are packed with people moving across the nation one way and then a week later doing the whole journey back again. From a business perspective, the impact is similarly significant with operations affected for around two weeks.
Here’s another fact: Public holidays in China also can sometimes be designated as a ‘Golden Week’ when, instead of one day off, the whole week is taken. Golden Weeks also take place in Japan at different times of the year.
A common (wrong) assumption is that China, Hong Kong and Taiwan are the same market. In fact, they are three distinctly different markets. The same goes for Australia and New Zealand – both are separate countries.
India, with a population size almost matching China’s, has more than 100 cities all with their own dialects, cultures, media, market requirements and way of doing things.
Something else to consider: time zones. Did you know China covers five standard time zones and since 1949, the entire country has been standardized to just one i.e. Beijing time?
The Asia Pacific region is an exciting market with plenty of opportunities and growth potential. Almost every country will have a different way of doing business, with difference rules and regulations and taxes to consider and it is important to understand these prior to program rollouts.