5 Considerations For Doing Business Development in APAC According to Oracle

Yogesh Sokhal
December 26, 2023

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We are all different, which is great because we are all unique. Without diversity, life would be very boring” - Catherine Pulsifer

After living in Europe for more than two decades and running successful leadership teams across the continent, I have a lot of respect for the need to develop deep local knowledge and understanding of regional trends, cultural dynamics, and local business customs.

SINGAPORE - Five years back, I moved to Asia, and I see the need here for the above, is even more prevalent. Most organisations and teams need to manage ‘APAC’ – Japan, ANZ, South-East Asia, China, and India – as a single region for business development. This is such a vast spectrum of customer needs, business regulations, cultural diversity, and different stages of economic maturity. So, understanding the market is essential to doing business in Asia. And even more so while we are all working in an increasingly hybrid world.

Here are some of the unique characteristics of Asia to keep in mind while planning to do business development here:

1. Leapfrog on Technology, Yet Traditional in Culture

Japan, China, India, Korea, South-East Asia. All have embraced technology more than their counterparts in Europe or North America. Businesses have comparatively less technology legacy, embrace newer technologies, and there is massive usage of the ‘super apps’ like WeChat and Facebook etc., for business. However, the way of doing business remains very traditional. A business meeting in North America and Europe can result in a much quicker and faster deal; expect a lot more hoops and jumps here in Asia.

2. Conglomerates, Sovereign Funds, and Group Companies

Asia is a hierarchical structure of decision-making. Most of the business is done top- down, but you will need to navigate between the complexities of dealing with the group and the portfolio company leadership. Barring ANZ, most of the Asian market is dominated by conglomerates or sovereign funds that cut across multiple industries and require a far more complex business development process than North America or Europe.

3. The Concept of ‘Face’:

Be aware that in Asia, particularly China, Japan, Korea, Thailand and Singapore, there is a culturally important concept of ‘face’, which equates to a combination of pride, honour, dignity, and reputation. This sensitivity is vital to be kept in mind while negotiating deals. Aggressive business development or negotiation techniques in large meetings can be counterproductive. People in Asia do not want to be put on the spot, stand out and risk public humiliation or “losing face”. They tend to be more introverted in business and group situations. Try not to put individuals on the spot. The ‘straight talking’ Western approach may be seen as rude and can ruin relationships.

4. First Relationships. Then Trust. Business Later

Relationships are essential in any business development, but they are an absolute must in Asia. Be prepared to invest time and effort in building relationships and trust with the clients. Most Asians prefer building trust and personal friendship through a series of face-to-face meetings before confirming any commitments. Asians are very hospitable, and socialising is a different level. Meals, golf, karaoke and even invitations to their homes (and expectation for an invite to your home!). Building that personal connection is critical to gain trust before business.

5. Economic Disparity:

Unlike the European and North American markets, there is a massive economic disparity in most Asian markets with its own complexities. So the one-size-fits-all business development approach doesn’t work across APAC.

This article was updated in October 2023. As of September 2023, Yogesh retired from his role as SVP of Oracle. Previous to that, his spend 10 years at Accenture as Managing Director out of The Netherlands and Singapore.

He's now describes himself as FIREd - Financially Independent. Retired Early and hosts a YouTube channel.

Yogesh Sokhal
Contributor