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Three trends driving businesses forward in Asia Pacific

16 Mar 2021
Dan Beevers

Daniel Beevers

Director, Vodafone Business APAC

The digital economy in Asia Pacific (APAC) is a hotbed of vast opportunity.

Imagine this: in the time it took you to read these two sentences:

  • 10 people in Southeast Asia (SEA) have just come online for the first time, becoming part of an internet sector that was projected to hit US$100 billion in gross merchandise value in 2020
  • 22 new internet users have just been added to an already massive digital economy, in China alone
  • 32 people in India connected to the internet for the first time, joining more than 700 million others in the country

This potential is also helping APAC stay resilient in the face of an uncertain global outlook.

The region is expected to bounce back from the pandemic quicker than its peers globally, according to the International Monetary Fund, with large economies like China driving recovery, while emerging economies like India and SEA continue to show potential.

In the recently published Vodafone Business Future Ready Report – Asia Pacific, we found that more than 1 in 4 (27%) APAC companies are ‘future ready’ businesses (FRBs), best prepared for future success.

Among this group, more than half (53%) also reported that their profits were higher in 2020 than the previous year, even despite gloomy global conditions.

More so today, it’s imperative for businesses to think about how they can be future ready, pivot, and/or plan for long-term success.

How FRBs in Asia Pacific are maximising opportunities

Even amidst a backdrop of virtually unlimited potential, businesses in the region face similar challenges as their global peers. However, FRBs here are showing us that they can unlock opportunities by addressing these challenges differently and have turned the following challenges into platforms for growth.

Fast-changing social attitudes and customer behaviour

Asia is expected to account for half of all the consumption growth expected worldwide between now and 2030, according to McKinsey. To capitalise on this growth, businesses must become truly customer obsessed.

Our Future Ready Report – Asia Pacific also found that 75% of businesses in the region see customers and social media users as growing in influence. More than two-thirds of them (67%) also cite that customers increasingly expect businesses to be ethical and purpose-driven, in addition to delivering good products and services.

‘Future ready’ Businesses are staying a step ahead of their competition by ‘plugging-in’ directly to their customer base. 44% of FRBs plan to address increasing customer demands by seeking data-driven insights.

They are also proving social responsibility with their actions – 49% of them are ‘partnering with, raising money for, or donating directly to charities’.

Sustainability becomes a standard

In many ways, climate change is an even more pressing problem in APAC than anywhere else in the world.

McKinsey forecasts that by 2050, between US $2.8 trillion and US $4.7 trillion of GDP in Asia annually will be at risk because of increased heat and humidity – accounting for more than two-thirds of the total annual global GDP impact. The region’s many low-lying coastal cities are also vulnerable to flood and typhoon risk as climates become more extreme.

The good news is that this challenge is recognised by businesses, governments, and individuals alike.

Sustainability is already an important goal for more than half (57%) of APAC businesses today, especially for those in the utilities, telecoms, and finance sectors.

Top motivating factors for committing to sustainability include tapping into new markets and opportunities, driving innovation in terms of efficiency and cost savings, and catering to customer preferences.

Recognising the importance of sustainability, APAC FRBs have made even more decisive actions to commit to it. They have a clear strategy for investment in sustainability with a clearly defined budget (63%) and are doing at least one action to improve sustainability (74%).

Recruiting and nurturing employees differently

A business is only as good as its people. However, there is a current shortage of talents with the necessary technological skills globally. Additionally, employees today are more selective – they are more likely to join and work long-term for a company that fits their values.

To combat skills shortage, APAC FRBs are turning to automation or artificial intelligence (AI) for staff augmentation, with this trend most noticeable in China and India.

Other ways they are approaching this challenge include:

  • Building their appeal to a wider talent pool, such as investing in a more connected working environment to target the younger demographic (66%), and increasing their consideration of neurodiverse candidates such as those with ADHD, dyslexia, and autism (42%)
  • Helping older employees by supporting more remote working (75%) and offering more part-time roles (58%)

Looking to the future

Since you started reading this article, thousands more new users – each representing potential economic opportunity – have come online in Asia Pacific.

Business and social trends will continue to accelerate this year and beyond. These emerging trends present opportunities for growth if companies can quickly address concerns of the now, while also focusing on preparing for an uncertain future.

Companies in APAC and around the world are already taking steps to get ahead. For instance, some of them are re-evaluating and enhancing their network architecture to better support their digital transformation ambitions and be prepared to address future challenges. While manufacturers like Ford are using 5G to accelerate and refine the production of electric vehicles.

Join the league of APAC ‘future ready’ businesses, who are staying ahead by being open to change, keeping up with emerging trends to identify opportunities and have detailed business strategies.

They also understand that technology can help solve business challenges and have roadmaps for how technology can support the new way of work and enhance their business agility.

Any business can become a ‘future ready’ business with the right mindset and behaviour.

Download the Vodafone Business Future Ready Report – Asia Pacific to find out more.

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