The Start of the Southeast Asian Rise – and Why It Matters to Communicators

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More global brands are setting their sights on Southeast Asia (SEA), which is expected to witness remarkable and sustained growth in the next decade—especially setting up shop in six ASEAN countries including Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. A region bustling with opportunities, Southeast Asia consists of 11 countries and 650 million people, with nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP) amounting to $2.557 trillion. Southeast Asian countries have an average GDP growth rate of more than 5%. Additionally, the region has witnessed a 30% growth in capital deployed by global investors annually.

What, then, are the implications of the Southeast Asian rise for global brands—and what does this mean for us communicators?

Why bet on Southeast Asia – a $3.1 trillion opportunity

With a GDP of over $3.1 trillion, it is predicted that Southeast Asia’s internet economy would be worth $240 billion by 2025, tripling in value from $72 billion in 2018. This would make Southeast Asia the world’s third-largest economy. Additionally, there are currently 350 million internet users across Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam—which is 90 million more than in 2015. 

From a mobile engagement standpoint, Southeast Asia internet users are the most engaged on a global scale. Users in Thailand spend four hours and 56 minutes daily using the internet on their mobile devices—which is longer than that of any other country in the world. Meanwhile, Indonesian, Filipino, and Malaysian users spend around four hours daily on mobile internet.

Southeast Asia’s internet penetration and increased mobile engagement are perhaps the reason behind the burgeoning mobile e-commerce scene in SEA. It is also an interesting point of inflection for innovative brands in the region: It is the home of Shopee, whose parent company, SEA Ltd, made its US884 million IPO debut on the New York Stock Exchange, and the region is likewise seeing the rise of unicorn and fast-emerging startups such as Traveloka and Gojek, among others.

With a lot of Southeast Asian startups getting on the IPO bandwagon, it is no surprise that Southeast Asia is attracting investors around the world— contributing significantly to the global integration of financial markets. 

Taking a regional approach in market penetration 

Organisations that intend to penetrate the SEA market should consider Singapore as their entry point and regional headquarters for many reasons. Aside from being the second-most competitive economy globally and the wide proliferation of English as a day-to-day language for commerce, Singapore is second in terms of the ease of doing business on a global scale. The city-state is also the number one in Asia for intellectual property protection.

From Singapore, organisations can then strengthen their presence across the region. Leveraging different countries simultaneously is the way to go. They can focus on building corporate partnerships and investments in Thailand; setting up programming and development teams in Vietnam; establishing sales and business development offices in Malaysia; and targeting Indonesia’s growth markets to scale their business.

Employing a regional approach in communications

A one-size-fits-all approach is not how to go if one intends to penetrate a fragmented market such as Southeast Asia. After all, each Southeast Asian market has its nuances, and PR practitioners need to consider the differences in the local media landscape for each market. PR practitioners should consider offering specialised local insights beyond mere discussions on the media list or influencer list. PR practitioners should also consider real guidance that goes beyond being media relations people. For instance, they advise why 1:1 interviews work better in Singapore as compared to, group briefings, whereas the inverse applies in markets such as Indonesia, and a mix of both group briefings and 1:1 interviews in could work in Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia. Good PR practitioners are consultants who work hand in hand with the marketing team: They share insights on what their clients can do, given existing budget constraints, to reach a wider audience and achieve their objectives faster in a fragmented market. 

Learn how PRecious Communications can work with you to develop a regional, Southeast Asia-focused winning communications and marketing strategy that will capture your key audiences.

PRecious Communications is a fast-growing independent communications and public relations agency. Headquartered in Singapore, PRecious is focused on helping brands go to market in Southeast Asia and APAC. Learn more about us here.

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