Australian businesses still lack skills to engage with Asia

SYDNEY (XINHUA) – Despite a steady expansion by Australian businesses into Asia, most corporations are still under-equipped to fully engage with the benefits of the region, according to a comprehensive report released yesterday.

Compiled by the Melbourne-based Asialink Business, the findings revealed that less than one in 10 board members and senior executives from Australia’s top 200 public companies were considered “Asia capable”.

This comes despite the immense potential of the region – demonstrated by the Asia Pacific making up 42 per cent of foreign revenues generated by companies on Australia’s ASX 200.
Australian exports to the Asia Pacific grew 8.5 per cent per year over the past five years, according to the study’s figures, largely on the back of increasing demand for Australian goods and services.

However, an analysis of 1,705 business leaders’ ability to engage with Asia, according to a specially tailored methodology, revealed an average score of 13.6 per cent, with scores over 50 per cent being considered “Asia capable”.

Respondents scored strongest in their knowledge of Asian markets and weakest in their ability to adapt to Asian cultural contexts. “In many ways, this report is a call to action to Australian business to better understand the essential factors of competing effectively in Asian markets,” said Co-project Coordinator and CEO of Chartered Accountants ANZ Ainslie van Onselen.

In relation to China, the report highlighted the rapidly changing nature of the market and importance of adaptability – pointing to the evolution and subsequent success of local multinationals over the past two decades as well as the rise of e-commerce.

“Local offices of Australian companies in China need to have an entrepreneurial culture to compete,” said contributing author, Qiao Ma, Portfolio Manager Asian Equities Fund at Cooper Investors at the report’s launch.

Crucially the paper also showed evidence that major companies which diversified overseas created more value for shareholders than companies that were domestically focussed.

Onselen recommended replacing a local mindset, with a global mindset and placing Asia in the middle – for as the report points out, that is where the world’s economic weight is firmly centred. “Australia’s future economic success depends on it,” she said.