Asian small businesses lead the way on innovation

Businesses in East Asian markets are bullish about economic growth in their countries in 2016

A CPA Australia survey highlights Asia’s shift from catch-up growth to innovation and the use of digital-economy tools.

This article is from the February 2016 issue of INTHEBLACK.

Small businesses in China and other fast-growing Asian nations have their sights clearly set on introducing innovations to their markets or the world over the next year, according to a new survey from CPA Australia

The seventh annual Asia-Pacific Small Business Survey shows that more than a quarter of small businesses in Indonesia, China, Malaysia and Vietnam are making plans for innovative products or services.

In Indonesia, 46 per cent of small businesses plan to introduce a product, service or process in the next 12 months that is new to their market or the world – the highest such proportion among the surveyed countries.

The Asian small businesses surveyed were also typically making use of both social media (92.6 per cent) and e-commerce (82.3 per cent). Research firm GlobalWebIndex estimates that Indonesians are typically spending about 3.5 hours each day on the mobile web.

“Innovation must become the rule rather than the exception and must be applied across the community.” Alex Malley FCPA

Small businesses in key East Asian markets are way ahead of their Australian counterparts in their use of these technologies, the survey results show.

“We’ve found that when it comes to innovation, applied at the coalface of small business, Australia is being outperformed by a significant margin by our competitors in Asia and New Zealand,” says former CPA Australia chief executive Alex Malley.

“Yes, there are some very innovative Australian small businesses; however, they are unfortunately the exception to the rule.

“Innovation must become the rule rather than the exception and must be applied across the community – from universities and research institutes through to small businesses. That’s the definition of a ‘culture’ of innovation.”

Indonesian small businesses also emerged as the most optimistic about their prospects, with 93 per cent expecting to grow in the year to September 2016.

The survey numbers also show that businesses in the East Asian markets surveyed are bullish about economic growth in their countries in 2016. In Indonesia, 84 per cent of small businesses expected their local economy to grow over the next 12 months.

In Vietnam, expectations reached 90 per cent. In Australia, just 44 per cent of survey respondents expected growth.

About the survey

This survey has been conducted every year since 2009, with the latest one spread across eight countries and involving 2932 businesses with fewer than 20 employees. The businesses were surveyed online, starting on 24 September 2015.

Innovation

The percentage of businesses that will definitely introduce a product, service or process in the next 12 months that is new to their market or the world:

  1.  Indonesia 45.8%
  2. China 31.6%
  3. Malaysia 29%
  4. Vietnam 26.1%
  5. Hong Kong 17.7%
  6. Singapore 15.2%
  7. New Zealand 6.8%
  8. Australia 5.1%

Social media

Proportion of businesses that make use of social media:

  • Australia 50.2%
  • New Zealand 56.5%
  • Average for Asia 92.6%

E-commerce

Percentage of small businesses generating revenue from online sales:
  • Australia 33%
  • New Zealand 37%
  • Average for Asia 82.3%

Economic growth

Proportion of businesses that believe their local economy will grow in the next 12 months (with last year’s results in brackets):

  • Vietnam 90% (80%)
  • Indonesia 84% (89%)
  • China 71% (71%)
  • New Zealand 53% (62%)
  • Hong Kong 52% (39%)
  • Singapore 48% (61%)
  • Malaysia 47% (68%)
  • Australia 44% (44%)

Business conditions

Proportion of businesses that expect their business to grow slightly or strongly in the next 12 months (with last year’s results in brackets):

  • Vietnam 94% (89%)
  • Indonesia 93% (91%)
  • China 78% (77%)
  • Malaysia 70% (69%)
  • New Zealand 66% (56%)
  • Australia 57% (46%)
  • Singapore 57% (59%)
  • Hong Kong 55% (64%)

This article is from the February issue of INTHEBLACK.

Read next: Why China now leads the way in innovation


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