A session at Telstra Vantage 2018 provided insights into the technology and solutions you can leverage in expanding your business, confidently and successfully, into Asia and the globe.

Despite the many opportunities beyond our shores, a 2017 Australian International Business Survey found that just 7.1 percent of Australian businesses are selling goods and services overseas. Partly this may be that it seems daunting, speculated Nigel Stitt, Telstra’s Australia/New Zealand head of sales for global enterprise services.

Asia is not a singular entity, after all. The region has a complex web of cultures, technology infrastructures, governments, regulations and employment and data sovereignty laws that all need to be respected and considered.

But if you pick the right partners, he said, there’s no reason to feel daunted. On the contrary, opportunities abound in Asia — a region that combines crisp and clean modernity with infrastructure and traffic chaos and lots and lots of energy. All the same, it’s best not to just jump blindly into operating in the region. Here are the key insights you need to know.

Preparation is key

Andy Tybell, Telstra’s head of solution consulting for Asia and Australia/New Zealand, advised that any businesses considering expanding into Asia will get the best results if they plan and prepare early. Feasibility studies and resources like Austrade and the Australia China Business Council can highlight the latest business trends and market conditions as well as help to determine how products and services should be localised.

A company’s product line might not be the only thing that needs some localisation in Asia, either. Unlike in Australia, business decisions are rarely made in meeting rooms, Tybell said, but rather tend to occur in informal environments like restaurants and karaoke halls.

Stitt added that you’ll need to leave impatience behind. Executing on a successful business arrangement first requires growing and investing in relationships, which means respecting Asian business etiquette.

That said, even just learning the local greetings in the local language can go a long way when you’re about to engage in a business conversation.

Investing in local talent

It used to be that many Australian businesses would open operations in China to improve their manufacturing capabilities for servicing the market here, but Stitt said there’s been a strong shift towards expanding for in-China opportunities.

Similarly, in other parts of Asia there are ample opportunities to build and grow a new branch of your business that’s been designed from the outset to meet the local market’s needs, as Telstra did with the Telkomtelstra joint venture in Indonesia.

Investing in local talent — at all levels — can be a huge advantage here, especially in the long-term, rather than taking the easy short-term route of flying expats in to fill all of the important roles. And for this, once again, there are partners that can help — both in terms of professional employment organisations and well-connected locals as well as Australian companies like Telstra that can lend their experience and tap into the networks they built during their own expansions.

Technology is on your side

The sheer breadth of technology options available today means there’s never been a better time to expand your business into Asia. Even in remote locations like Papua New Guinea, where terrestrial services are not readily available, it’s now easier than ever before to handle the needs of a technology business.

Satellite connectivity has been bolstered in the past decade by the introduction of mid-Earth satellites, which offer lower latency and higher bandwidth than older geostationary satellites (150ms and up to 100mbps, versus 600ms and 1-2mbps), while high-speed cable and 4G/5G networks have now opened the door for businesses expanding into more built-up areas of Asia to launch light.

“In the past you had to have a heavy capital expenditure — put in equipment, send out staff,” said Tybell. “Nowadays what you can do is you can actually virtualise the environment in the cloud and just go directly to that environment.”

But it’s important from a technical standpoint, he added, to establish a baseline so that you can replicate the user experience — or at least get as close as you can compared to the country you originated in.

To do that, he advised, start at the top-level. Look at your staff. First ask what functions and processes they’ll use to fulfill their role, then map those to the applications that they’ll use — because their user experience is key to a successful expansion.

Once you’ve determined which applications are critical, you can use your current site as an archetype to figure out your approximate CPU, bandwidth and storage needs and get a profile of what the new site will look like. Then leverage your partnerships to make it happen.