From Malaysia with Love
Fast-paced, vibrant, aspirational and upwardly mobile…always upwardly mobile. That is the Malaysian entrepreneur today. Malaysia has been on a mission to catch Singapore and the West and they’re using ambition and aspiration to power the drive behind their quest. I’m here in Kuala Lumpur this week and you can feel progress pushing the envelope. Is there frustration? Is there impatience? Is there challenge? Sure there is, but the constantly increasing skyline is testament to these obstacles being overcome. It’s easy to see and it tells a story of confidence.
The business opportunities that will suit New Zealand producers and manufacturers are not quite as obvious or overt. They’re discreetly covered in multiple layers of high context cultural nuance. Understanding what’s going on here takes an investment in time and patience, and it takes a commitment to getting to know the Malaysian people and their culture. Learning how to navigate this diverse cultural and business landscape is an essential pre-market entry discipline. Forget traditional marketing approaches, they won’t guarantee you success here. They may even guarantee you failure.
Why bother with Malaysia? That’s Simple As.
New Zealand firms only have access to a very small domestic market and to really prosper they need access to wealthier consumers in larger markets.
This means exporting.
Currently, many aspirational Kiwi exporters have chosen to put their eggs into one basket. As a result, they’re travelling down the super highway to China with all their competitors on a freeway jammed full of slow moving traffic. And of course, there is always plenty of justification. Talk to these punters and they will all tell you that 1% of 1% is a magic equation. Mmmmm, maybe…and maybe not. What happens if China’s magic runs out? Do some reading…many think it could.
Malaysia offers a central hub for an alternative growth strategy, one arguably more maverick, but perhaps more suitable to New Zealand producers. It is geographically and economically a perfect target market because it’s smack bang in the middle of 625 million ASEAN consumers with a combined GDP of US $2.8 Trillion. Today, 67 million Southeast Asian households have discretionary income enabling them to make premium and luxury purchase decisions. This number is set to double to 125 million households by 2025. Many of these ‘emergent’ consumers are now in the market for the type of products New Zealand growers and manufacturers produce or could produce if they had confidence in Southeast Asia. In this writer’s opinion, Southeast Asian consumers are currently almost off the radar for many New Zealand companies and this is a shame. Sometimes the road less travelled can offer and deliver more. Sliding under-the-radar has often proven to be a successful market entry strategy. Being first has its advantages and there are plenty of opportunities to be first across the ASEAN group of countries.
Insight from Southeast Asian markets is telling us loud and clear Asian consumers will be wanting and demanding more premium products. They also like doing business with real people they can trust. Relationships are a big thing. If New Zealand producers can capture the essence of their quirky independent character, beautiful landscapes and genuinely amazing produce, there could be a new kid in town. Small is beautiful, agile, flexible, emotional and deeply personal. You can see it, touch it, feel it and trust it. And it’s what Asian buyers love. Positioned right, branded right, packaged right and marketed right, the value of New Zealand products sold into Southeast Asia could head off the charts.
By Jim Wilkes