Doing Business in Asia: Strategy for Success

With many years of experience in business and in trade promotions for his native Finland, Asian Insider’s Managing Partner Jari Hietala shares a few points on how international companies need to consider doing business in Asia in order to avoid some common mistakes while preparing for long-term, sustainable success.

The population of Asia is approximately 4.6 billion, about half all humanity and now, in 2023 with rapidly expanding economies. Yet Asia is as varied as Europe, with markedly different political systems, languages, cultures etc. Each territory needs to be approached with this in mind and with a suitable degree of insight. Companies entering Asia will need solid starting points along with the right connections.

In most Asian countries, the market is so wide and varied that good, local insight is critical. A complete market search is the smart first step. As the old Chinese saying goes, “One good spy is worth 10,000 soldiers.” Selecting then validating the primary market should be done using clear data along with filters specific to sector, size etc. We have found that removing guesswork is critical, while there is always some room for informed intuition.

Companies need to be ‘export-ready’ at home first, of course requiring internal systems readiness along with commitment at board level. The commitment needs to be realistic, and resolute. The decision to work in Asia is not only about expanding markets and adding revenues, but also about diversifying the customer base to protect the core business.

For clients already established in Asia there are often two main concerns… firstly how to ensure that sales and revenue is maximised and secondly, does an existing business in Asia provide a useful platform for expanding into other Asian markets? While both these concerns are about volume sales, they are different questions with different processes required to reach useful conclusions.

We often find that a business relationship begins with assisting client companies to improve upon unsatisfactory sales. Either the channel partner isn’t performing or perhaps they’re the wrong one. We offer specific methodologies to determine our client’s total addressable market (Click here) as well as to understand how well their sales agent is performing relative to potential. A deep insight to the market, as well as of the economic and political drivers allows a more comprehensive understanding of how to select and/or position the sales partner accordingly.

Having said this, often the processes by which best sales results are unlocked come about through working closely with the sales partners themselves. Through trusted management, systems integration, ongoing training customising marketing content and supporting them in their channel dealings builds a quality of relationship that leads to stronger mindshare within their organisation. We offer very particular tools and methodologies for this and that will lead to stronger and sustainable revenues.

Where our client has an established operation in one Asian territory it makes sense to extend to others, but we generally caution that this expansion needs to be approached from a fresh perspective. It’s a completely different territory.  But by successful extending to other Asian markets, additional corporate benefits are unlocked in logistics, HR, finance and so on.

Doing business in Asia successfully requires a degree of commitment to relationships perhaps a little beyond the norm in other parts of the world. The question is how to go about this in a constructive, insightful and long term fashion, especially given all the other moving parts in a modern international company. We believe that this is usually beyond the scope of in-house department or even management teams. The tools, techniques and methods that comes from years of experience in each specific Asian territory allows a higher degree of excellence in doing business in Asia.

We are available always to assist our clients in doing business in Asia. For a no-obligation call, please contact Jari Hietala, Managing Partner: jari.hietala(at)

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