JAKARTA: Major companies like General Electric and Honeywell are tailoring their approaches in individual Asian markets, as indigenous competitors begin to enhance their own capabilities.
General Electric has been providing locomotives for Indonesia's public railway operator for some six decades, and recently received a contract to deliver 100 more.
"We had a very close call," Stuart Dean, GE's chief executive, Southeast Asia, told the Wall Street Journal. "When a railroad buys five or six locomotives, no one cares, but when it wants 100 engines, everyone comes to play."
More specifically, rivals from Canada, China and Europe proved highly competitive on technology or price, a trend placing new demands on firms seeking to flourish across Asia.
"Historically, we've taken global solutions and sold them all over the world," Dean said. "But we're competing with local companies, and we need to fine-tune our strategy."
Offering services, training and guidance in financial and technical matters is also increasingly important.
"If you take the business for granted, you're going to get kicked in the buns," said Dean.
Honeywell, another conglomerate, has also announced plans to give its Asian management team greater power in making decisions, and is tailoring more products to suit the needs of local clients.
Indeed, the company has also set out a model it terms "Becoming the Chinese Competitor", which requires carefully studying of the best practices being implemented by its domestic rivals.
"The rise of Chinese competitors is real and in our face," Shane Tedjarati, Honeywell's global head, high-growth regions, said. "They are ambitious, fast and sometimes fearless."
Caterpillar, which makes mining and construction equipment, has seen its Chinese market share rise from 6.2% to 6.9% in the two years to 2012, but local rival Sany posted a lift from 8.5% to 13.6%.
"We continue to build out our entire business model in China," Jim Dugan, Caterpillar's chief corporate spokesperson, told BloombergBusinessWeek. "This includes the broadest product line in our industry and unmatched support from our dealers."
Shaun Rein, founder of the China Market Research Group, argued many Asian operators are now able to "expand faster and hire better talent", as well as "undercut" overseas rivals on price.
Data sourced from Wall Street Journal, BloombergBusinessWeek; additional content by Warc staff