It is predicted that the Asian economic dragon will rise to become the dominant engine of global growth. Multinationals came in for a piece of the action before the 1997 financial crash. After that the dragon sort of dozed off, leaving local business tending their wounds and some multinationals with burnt fingers, while the world continued about its business. But even while restructuring, Asia has continued to prosper and the Asian economy remains buoyant compared to its European and American neighbours.
The dragon economies have now swung back into action but the environment has changed, particularly with China in a strong position. So must the Asian business model change to succeed. In his book, Winning in Asia, INSEAD's Professor of Asian Business and International Management, Peter Williamson, takes a realistic look at the Asian corporate landscape - as it was before 1997 and what it must become if it is to achieve profitable future growth.
Williamson brings 25 years of Asian business know-how to the table, and with equal respect for Asian specifics and for western management theory, builds and explains strategies, models and mind-sets with the best from all worlds. Under 'Benefits and Baggage', Williamson explores existing models and strategies and tells us what will work and what will not on the Asian business horizon in the years to come. What is best discarded, what can be further optimised and where serious reinvention is required.
Point by point, five major challenges thrown up by the new environment are examined, with practical advice on how to meet and conquer them. First is Asia's need to increase productivity, particularly in non-manufacturing areas such as distribution, sales and financial services. Then Asia's historical and hereditary neglect towards innovation is studied. Earlier it was enough for Asia to pick up existing products and copy or improve on them and this was successful due to lower production costs and faster development pipelines. Today it is not enough for a product to be 'better'; the savvy consumer - more common now in Asia - wants 'different' and this means invention and innovation.
Attention then turns to the build of Asian brands. Again Asia traditionally opted out of investment in brand building, with a few notable exceptions such as Singapore Airlines or Banyan Tree. Williamson offers innovative and specifically adapted ways for Asian companies to build brand value minus the usual years of lead-time or millions in investment, and also for multinationals to successfully pitch and market their brands in the Asian context.
A fourth challenge for Asian companies is to extend or integrate their international networks, driven by moves to dismantle barriers to cross-border trade and investment and pressure for Asian companies to match international economies achieved by their multinational competitors. Competencies to build international capabilities, in asset acquisition and alliance negotiation, to harness knowledge and to restructure over-centralised organisations will need further development if Asian companies are to compete on the world stage. And lastly, Williamson looks into Asian industry's fragmentation compared with other major economic regions and the ensuing need to reshape the Asian playing field through strategically planned industry consolidations.
Winning in Asia is packed with actual Asian business scenarios, supporting empirical data and is above all, written by a hands-on expert in the field of Asian business. As well as being a renowned academic, Professor Williamson has been actively involved in a number of Chinese joint ventures and is an advisor to governments on trade and investment.
You may also browse through the list below to access some of his other publications or case studies on a number of the Asian companies and issues featured in Winning in Asia.
Harvard Business School Press, 2004