India has 1.2 billion people and 907 million mobile subscribers. "Think about an app you can sell for a dollar in this marketplace," urges Murthy "MK" Kalkura, a consultant who helps small and medium businesses tap into emerging Asian markets.
Kalkura was one of seven speakers that addressed the first meeting of Seattle's fledgling Asia Business Forum last month, a gathering of about 150 people. The second meeting will at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday (March 28) at Bellevue City Hall.
Founded by Seattle tax and corporate lawyer Max Yoshimura of the International iLaw Group, the forum is intended as a way for Puget Sound businesses to meet and learn how to improve their presence in Asia. "We're trying to create a community of people doing Asia-related work," Yoshimura explained. "We want to share our experience, our knowledge, and our expertise among ourselves."
Business leaders plan to meet every other month to share their experiences doing business in Asia.
Other projects in the works include workshops on how to do business in Asia, developing a Web directory of Northwest firms interested in conducting business in Asia, and the creation of a bilingual English-Chinese blog about companies' success stories in China. That site would include links to social media in China.
Last month's meeting in Seattle was the first of what Yoshimura hopes will be an annual big-picture briefing of the business climate in several Asian nations. It included briefings on:
Japan: Professor Marie Anchordoguy, Japan Studies Program chair at the University of Washington, described a nation in crisis. Japan recently recorded its first trade deficit since the 1980s and its debt is 200 percent of its GDP. Many Japanese companies, she explained, are moving out of Japan, with the greatest number going to China, India, and Vietnam.
What of its booming energy business? Last year's earthquake and accompanying nuclear reactor disaster have soured the majority of Japanese on an industry that has 54 reactors in the nation, producing 30 percent of its electricity, she said. With most reactors offline for maintenance, Japan is dealing with power shortages that have nudged a significant amount of Japan's manufacturing to move elsewhere.
China: Speaker Fraser Mendel, a partner in the law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine described a nation in debt. Local-level governments, he said, are about $1.5 trillion in debt and have questions about whether they can repay those obligations. The nation's economic growth is expected to slow as they start importing less from other countries, and inflation might increase more than previously expected.
China's thirst for oil is leading to drilling in the South China Sea, which worries other nations neighboring that body of water. Meanwhile, its electrical needs are growing.
China is pushing the home-grown inventors, leading to a significant rise in patent applications. "The government wants China to become an innovation economy," Mendel said.
India: Kalkura describing India as the next China with both nations' GDPs expected to overtake the United States in the next few decades. Meanwhile, India's homegrown power production is falling short of providing for the nation's electrical needs.
South Korea: Ben Kim, chair of Seattle University's Department of Management, described a very poor nation in 1960 evolving into the world's seventh largest exporter today. It is tops in the world in Internet access for its residents, third highest in patents, and fifth highest in auto production. On the downside is a growing inequality between the nation's big corporations and its medium and small companies.
Indonesia: Anita Sulaiman, a management expert on that area, said two of Indonesia's bond ratings recently increased from junk to investment status. Loaded with natural resources, Indonesia is currently pushing to reduce poverty. But corruption, inflation, bureaucratic inefficiencies, and a lack of good infrastructure handicap that nation.
Vietnam: Son Michael Pham, principal at U.S.-Asia Gateway, described a nation where the GDP zoomed from $6.5 billion in 1990 to $112.5 billion in 2011. Poverty is shrinking there. The United States invested $14.7 billion in Vietnam in 2011. However, high inflation, corruption, and problems with protecting intellectual properties are hurting Vietnam.
Malaysia and Singapore: by Jonathan Bensky, a retired U.S. Foreign Service official and director of South Asia-U.S. business services for Pacific Northwest Advisors, said Malaysia's economic growth is slowing. The United States is that nation's largest foreign investor. Malaysia's recent development of palm oil biodiesel fuel ran into trouble over an Environmental Protection Agency ruling that could hurt exports to the United States.
Meanwhile, Singapore's economic growth of 4.8 percent in 2011 is expected to drop to 1 to 3 percent in 2012. That might make the city-state become more receptive to American business propositions, he said.