Smaller Asian markets offer chance for growth

28 June 2010

LAHORE: While the attention of most marketers is inevitably focused on India and China, many smaller Asian nations also offer substantial opportunities for growth.

In Pakistan, the FMCG sector has more than doubled in size over the past three years, in one indication that the country could represent an attractive prospect for global brands.

But according to Raghavan Srinivasan, managing director for TNS in Indonesia, it is possible for McDonald's to become as famous in Lahore as Los Angeles - but the realities of infrastructure, income, culture and language require new approaches.

More specifically, Srinivasan suggested that while companies often see Asia as one homogenous mass, its member states have few shared characteristics beyond their rapid economic growth.

"There are vast differences across these markets and each of them is large enough to be treated as unique," he said.

"The one common factor in consumer behaviour is the fact that price and value for money are important."

Sarwar Khan, managing director for Maxus in Pakistan, confirmed price is a primary concern, and added the country's demographic profile means advertisers must connect with the youth audience.

"We have a young population; 43% are younger than 15 and one third of people live below the poverty line, so it makes it very complicated to talk to them," he said.

"For a long time, most marketeers, especially those from telcos, have been very functional in almost all of their communications and have ignored emotive advertising."

"But lately the need to build a dialogue with the consumer and engage him in a meaningful discussion has taken the front seat."

Khan further reported that brand owners are now trying to reach out in multiple ways, using consumer activation and digital media to support more traditional platforms.

Hasan Azim, managing director of TMedia, a division of JWT based in Pakistan, said multinational firms have done well domestically because customers appreciate the quality of goods and services they offer.

Financial companies such as Citi, HSBC, Standard Chartered and Barclays have a solid reputation in this market, as do Telenor, Etisalat and Mobilink in the telecoms sector.

"New wholesale outlets like Macro, Hyperstar (Carrefour), and Metro have opened, which have given new meaning to consumers' demands," Azim continued.

"High fuel prices and logistical problems have hindered traders, but this has not discouraged foreign investments."

Across Indochina, brands are also likely to be welcomed by a young, optimistic population, according to Ralf Matthaes, managing director of TNS Global for Cambodia and Laos.

"They are much more impressionable, in to technology and hence more eager to catch up and proudly wear their brands on their sleeves," he said.

"In contrast, young people in developed countries tend to openly revile big brands and the World Trade Organisation as evils of commercialism."

Data sourced from Campaign Asia-Pacific; additional content by Warc staff