To overcome Asia’s barriers, ‘first-mover’ mind-set needed: BCG

  • Challenges include talent, infrastructure, uncertain regulatory environments
  • Companies that thrive in Asia proactively shape the business ecosystem
To overcome Asia’s barriers, ‘first-mover’ mind-set needed: BCG

ENTREPRENEURIAL companies that move first and act to improve local talent pools, infrastructure, and regulatory environments are seizing Asia’s greatest growth opportunities, according to a recent report by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG).
While most companies are stymied by Asia’s talent gaps, inadequate infrastructure, and uncertain regulatory environments, a handful of highly entrepreneurial companies are finding innovative ways to overcome these obstacles, and as a result are building formidable competitive advantages, BCG said in a statement.
Its report, Overcoming Asia’s Obstacles to Growth: How Leading Companies Are Reshaping Their Environment, analyses how certain companies are winning the battle for growth in China, India, and six South-East Asian economies.
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The research found that these leading companies share what the authors call a ‘first-mover mind-set.’
Such a mind-set has three main characteristics: An entrepreneurial culture; a long-term view that enables companies to invest in areas beyond the normal scopes of their businesses; and a willingness to create local partnerships.
This mind-set allows companies to invest in and shape their environment, setting them apart from competitors, BCG said.
“The most entrepreneurial companies in Asia don’t simply wait for the region’s bottlenecks to be resolved or for local conditions to be able to accommodate their business models,” said Vincent Chin, a BCG senior partner who heads the firm’s South-East Asian operations and is a coauthor of the report.
“They find creative ways to overcome the barriers and proactively help shape the environments around them,” he added.
The five companies studied – SF Express of China; Astra International of Indonesia; AirAsia of Malaysia; Wipro of India; and Unilever, a London-based multinational corporation – have all exhibited the first-mover mind-set in tackling one or more of emerging Asia’s key barriers to growth, BCG said.
“If the local pool of talent is too thin, these organisations tend to develop their own,” said Christoph Nettesheim, a BCG senior partner and a coauthor of the report.
“If regulators are slow to understand why an innovative activity is good for their economies, these companies work relentlessly to educate them,” he added.
For example, Astra International manages to hire 3,000 university graduates each year in Indonesia despite the country’s acute skills shortage.
To win Indonesia’s talent war, Astra has partnered with high schools, polytechnic institutes, and universities; it has also established a comprehensive programme to identify, recruit, and nurture top job candidates at every skill level across the country.
According to the report, companies hoping to seize a lasting competitive advantage and to become leaders in Asia’s immense, swiftly evolving growth markets must take a proactive approach to shaping their environments by building an entrepreneurial company culture that encourages employees at all levels to seek to improve the business.
They must also have a long-term vision that allows them to invest in talent, infrastructure, and efforts to shape regulation.
This approach requires a spirit of partnership. Successful companies must, for example, work with schools to bolster the education system and develop the talent pool they need, as well as be open to joint ventures – if that means sometimes accepting minority ownership.
The risks of adopting a wait-and-see attitude toward emerging Asia and counting on governments to clear away structural constraints are immense, BCG said.
“Companies that retain a narrow vision of their operations in emerging Asia risk being frozen out of the world’s greatest growth markets,” said Ranu Dayal, a BCG senior partner and a coauthor of the report.
“They will cede the richest opportunities to first movers,” he added.
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