6 Things You Must Know for Doing Business in Asia
In most parts of the world, etiquette and culture might shape or influence the way businesses are done. However, they are the ways of doing business in Asia. From how to greet to how to eat and set the table, each and everything defines their business culture.
Knowing about the way businesses thrive in a certain region gives you an idea of knowing the local people. It can affect your understanding of the local people, their ways of conducting business and saying a yes or a no. It might also increase your chances to be clear enough for the local business colleagues to understand you.
One might think that it is 2019 and we are living in a globalized world. Yes, indeed! Nevertheless, culture is something much older than globalization and, therefore, much deeply rooted than the digital media. It will still take decades or even a century to suck out the cultural part away from the businesses, especially in Asia.
The key to establishing prolific business relationships in Asia is to be aware of the cultural richness and differences of the continent. There are as many different cultures present in the continent as there are countries. Still, the ultimate essence is almost the same.
Important Things to Keep in Mind While Doing Business in Asia
1. Collectivist Nature
Almost all Asian countries are collectivist in nature. This means that the needs and aspirations of the whole group, family, society or community is kept above the individual needs and wishes. Family values, hierarchy and importance to kinship, even in businesses, are the key factors kept in mind while doing business in Asia.
One can benefit from this particular culture by advertising their product as beneficial for the whole family or community. If you market your product as useful for a whole organization, you might be able to succeed in your endeavor.
Similarly, when you go to any of the Asian countries, remember to keep in mind their collectivist nature. Asians emphasize socializing in groups. Therefore, it is of no use if you build a strong relationship with just the concerned decision-maker of an organization and do not consider the others.
2. Customer Relationships
Most cultures with collectivist nature give importance to relationship building while conducting trade and so does the Asian culture. They love to get together at festivals, birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, etc.
Even while doing business with Westerners, they expect them to build a cordial relationship before conducting any commercial activity. Hence, by having lunch/dinner together or by getting along with them during a festival, one can develop a good bond with an Asian. Asians also love it when someone welcomes them with a gift or brings a memoir of a different country to cherish their meeting.
3. Addressing Someone
The latest western corporate culture considers it alright to address someone, even senior or stranger, by their first name. However, if you belong to the group please leave this one habit at home before flying to any of the Asian countries.
People find it rather offensive to be called by their first name from a business associate, especially in the first meeting itself. In many of the Asian countries, people generally add their designation before addressing senior authority personnel. For example, ‘Director X’ or ‘Chairperson’ Y instead of just a ‘Mr.’ or ‘Ms.’ Unless otherwise asked, do not jump on calling him/her by their first name. Wait until you are asked to call them by their first name.
In many countries, a suffix follows the first name of the person being addressed to give respect to the person. For example, in Japan ‘San’ is used while in India ‘ji’ is used to signify honor. Both of these suffixes are common for both genders.
4. Basic Etiquettes
Now, this is one thing that might occupy the most space in the complete guide of doing business in Asia. Etiquette is a generalized term that covers a large portion of your presentation and behavior in a meeting or a social gathering. It is expected from a business person to follow some Asian Etiquettes while doing business in Asia.
a) Shaking hands is almost acceptable in all the Asian countries while greeting. Although, traditionally Asian culture doesn’t encourage any physical contact for the reason of maintaining hygiene. However, globalization made Asia leave some part of its culture behind.
b) Physical contact in any sense is considered unprofessional and might offend your Asian friend. Unlike in the West, they do not greet by hugging or kissing each other. Do not touch anyone in their face or head.
c) For an Asian, your body language speaks equally as your words do. Hence, understand their body language when gauging their interest (or disinterest) in your deal. In Asia, many things do go by their face value. Thus, it is better not to make any hand gestures because you might not know which gesture might go against you and your business.
d) Do not touch your feet or shoes in pubic as your shoes or feet are thought of as the most unhygienic part of your body.
e) Be extra polite while exchanging your business cards. Asians usually like it to exchange their business cards with both of their hands.
f) You do not need to specialize in eating with chopsticks. Rather, it is a myth that all Asians eat with chopsticks. However, basic table manners are expected everywhere, it is not possible to generalize the eating habits of all Asians.
g) Dressing presentably is a requirement in almost all of Asia. A formal persona impresses them the most and aids in developing a good professional environment.
5. Long Term Relationship
A complete guide of doing business in Asia is incomplete without the mention of the Asian’s belief in fore-sightedness. Remember to keep this in mind when you present your proposal to an Asian organization.
Your business proposal should not only benefit their society or community but it should also have a hint of long-term relationship building. Asians seldom invest their time and money in a one-time business. They would simply love your offer if it gives them a long-term benefit and partnership.
The main reason behind their love for a long-term relationship is that Asians resist change a lot. Hence, it would be great if you have a market differentiation in your product/service so that you are able to convince your Asian customer to change their vendor easily. For this, be ready with a lot of market analysis and a lot of material to back you up.
6. Have a Lot of Time in Hand
When you have a meeting with an Asian, reach the venue before time and expect your meeting to last more than you had anticipated. This is the only thumb rule related to time management while doing business in Asia.
Time is money for people in many parts of the world. However, for Asians, it means slightly different. They like to invest a lot of time to a potentially beneficial business deal. They might not open up in front of you in your first meeting.
Instead, they like to plan another one for doubts clarification, until you are able to satisfy them with your pitch. Expect another meeting for negotiation and probably another one for finally signing the contract.
Another thing to note is that while doing business in Asia, do not start with your company or offer right away. Business meetings in Asia are started with small general talks related to customs, culture, weather, tourist places, etc.
So when you plan to expand in any of the Asian countries, have a lot of time in your planner and a lot of patience in your mind.
A complete guide of doing business in Asia comes handy when you realize the benefits of expanding in the region. Besides being quite affordable due to the lower cost of living and taxes, most countries of Asia are stable legally, politically, and economically. Additionally, it is relatively easy to do business in Asia as per the World Bank report of 2018.
The different languages and cultures of the various Asian countries might pose a challenge while conquering the Asian market. However, with the support of a B2B sales consultant, it becomes quite easy to tap the potential of the Asian economy.