When I am working with a client investigating an opportunity in Asia I adopt the philosophy that we need to film a day in the life of their Asian customer. We need to understand the market, the customers, the competitors and most importantly the required quality well before we do anything.
You have to go the Asian country and investigate. You have got to understand the conditions of the market and involve local people in your research. This must be done before you spend any serious dollars on your Asian business.
One thing to note is that while there are Asian countries who view our “low quality” items in high regard, I have not seen this phenomenon work the other way. There is almost nothing that Asians consider low quality that westerners view as “high quality.”
Tourists will visit cities like Tokyo or Shanghai and marvel at how modern and diverse the cities are. I have heard people talk about the high standard of living in these cities, and while it is true, you never know what life is like in the village 100 kilometers outside of the city. It may be as different as night and day and is a reason why you need to be on the ground understanding the market. Are you selling to the upwardly mobile professional in Singapore or the third-generation family living in a village outside of Kuala Lumpur? I can guarantee their definitions of quality are very, very different.
Consider some of the biggest worldwide brands in different industries, whether it be fast food, electronics or apparel. If you have seen how they do business in different parts of the world, you will recognise the point I am driving at here. Menu offerings at a fast food restaurant in China will be different than Japan, which are different than the USA and different from Australia.
While the overall structure of the business is the same, these corporate giants look at their business locally and act that way. That is one of the biggest reasons they are successful in Asia.