All eyes on China - Foreign companies move focus away from East and South East Asia to China
Rod Davies, Orient Pacific Century
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Market research RFPs confirm an increasing focus on Asia
As almost all know, since the opening up of the new China foreign companies seem to be trampling over each other in the rush to establish a market in the world's fastest growing consumer market. By any measure the growth of interest has been startling, both in companies delivering product to local consumers, but also in those wishing to establish manufacturing bases in China to take advantage of very competitive labour rates, lower rents in provincial centres, and positive signs on the increasing abilities and professionalism of mainland labour.
Such a trend is causing concern for other Asian economies who rode the first wave of investment in manufacturing investment in the past two decades. Countries such as Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand who have been able to compete strongly based on lower business and labour costs, are the most exposed despite soothing words from China itself. Higher cost traditional manufacturing centres such as Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore are also exposed, though to a lesser extent, as Japanese, US and European manufacturers look to China.
But are those contemplating market entry doing their homework? Asian companies traditionally are less likely to realise the value of market and feasibility research when compared to Western companies where market research is highly valued for business and marketing planning. In comparison, Asian companies (with many exceptions of course) tend to prefer to jump in straight away and sort out problems as they occur.
Our own analysis of our historic data at Orient Pacific Century tends to suggest that companies, both Asian and Western, ARE realising the worth of market research, and the move of focus to China and away from other traditional Asia Pacific markets seems even more marked. We are happy to share with you one of the graphs that resulted from this analysis.
Figures relating to historic trends of the number of RFPs (Requests for Proposals) for the past few years, shows a marked substantive increase in companies requesting market research proposals for China, while interest in other countries, as a proportion of total requests has declined.
Since the first quarter of 2000 to Quarter 2 2002, requests for RFPs for market research in China increased dramatically from 22% to 42%. At the same time RFP's for market research in other East Asian countries reduced from 38% to 34%. However the major decrease was for South East Asia, from the low 40s to the mid 20s at mid year. The focus seemed to change around midyear 2001, though there has been no substantial change on our services or own market targeting during that time. (Some finer detail on methodology is available from the original report - Market Research RFPs by Country: The rise of China) Given that, this data only represents new enquiries for our own company only, and of course, this may differ from the experience of other market research agencies.
Market research activity is recognised as one early indicator of business growth, and the indications here are very positive for China.
Rod Davies is principal of Orient Pacific Century Market Research, which specialises in market research in Asian markets.