hub.brussels Blog Doing business in Asia: modernity and tradition
Doing business in Asia: between modernity and tradition

Doing business in Asia: between modernity and tradition

Although they have been in permanent contact with other countries for several decades, the major Asian markets like China or Japan are still very traditional, which conditions their relationship with the world…and exporting. Victor Dulait, Area Manager for East Asia at hub.brussels presents some of the subtleties.

Interview with Victor Dulait, Area Manager for East Asia at hub.brussels

What do you need to know before exporting to Asia?

V.D.: By their sheer size alone, Asian markets provide many opportunities which also naturally involve a number of obstacles. Japan and China, which are considered to be major markets, are, nevertheless, distant, both geographically and culturally.

Exporting to Asia therefore requires a significant amount of preparation, from a cultural standpoint. Even if your product or service is very likely to find takers in the market, your company will have to earn its trust first. Although the countries of the Far East have been exporting and importing for decades, they follow a number of unwritten rules which are specific to them.

What are one or two cultural differences to be aware of to avoid missteps?

You can never overemphasise the importance of relationships. They must be anticipated and prepared well before your arrival in the country. One saying is very appropriate for the Asian market: One shot, too short. 

You have to go there, meet your prospects, discuss, share a meal, a drink, an evening…and pay attention to every facet of the relationship.

One specificity is common to all of Asia-Pacific: exchanging business cards. This may appear innocuous, but it’s of crucial importance for Asians. It’s customary to present your business card with both hands, which is a mark of respect in Asian culture. Your business card must also be turned so that your partner can read it. It must also be lower than theirs, if you are giving your cards at the same time. These actions may seem inconsequential, but they will be the difference between the failure and success of your export project.

What is an Area Manager?

As an Area Manager for East Asia, I cover very large territories including China, Japan, Korea and Mongolia. hub.brussels Area Managers work on two intrinsically related topics:

  • The help desk: we provide Brussels-based companies with answers to their export-related questions.
  • Collective support: we organise a range of international events to provide Brussels companies with visibility and to introduce them to specific markets: this includes missions, trade shows, seminars and more.

How do you work with the Economic and Commercial Attachés based locally?

Economic and Commercial Attachés and Area Managers work as a team every day. The main difference is that Area Managers are based in Brussels and are in direct contact with Brussels companies that want to export. We are the interface between them and the ECAs. We also direct Brussels companies to different markets based on their goals and, especially, their export potential.

The ECAs then take over and inform the companies about the specificities of the markets in which they want to sell their products or services. They live in the country or in the capital, have in-depth knowledge of the market and of its environment and have a large network of potential partners with which they can connect Brussels exporters.

What type of support do you provide to Brussels companies that want to export to East Asia?

We work with the companies before, during and after their export mission.  

At the individual level, we challenge their export plans: are they really ready to export? Is the market they are targeting suited to their products?

Exporters sometimes come to us with a set idea about where they want to export to, but which isn’t at all suited to their offering.

Likewise, we encourage companies that want to export to test themselves in neighbouring countries like France or Germany. That way, they can already work on gaining a reputation in smaller markets. Asia is a major export market.

At the collective level, we offer the companies we work with the opportunity to join us for trade shows and missions in other countries. They are often organised with other partners and highly advertised. They are an excellent prospecting tool because they inform people about our services. We provide companies with significant visibility at a lower cost.

The seminars given during the missions are great opportunities to build partnerships and often lead to B2B meetings.  

What type of support do you provide during times of crisis, for example, in the case of the coronavirus?

We make sure that we align our communication with that of the competent authorities such as FPS Foreign Affairs and the World Health Organisation, which provide us with real-time information about the situation. We also have a page devoted to the topic on our website, which we update on a regular basis.

The economic impact of this virus is cause for concern. However, in Brussels people aren’t overly worried at this point. Exporting isn’t done in a day: companies that have already taken steps to approach China have simply delayed their prospecting trip or are looking to other markets.

Our networking and prospecting activities continue virtually while waiting to set up face-to-face meetings which will not entail potential health risks.

 

 

Victor Dulait has a degree in political science and international relations and a bachelor’s of law. After completing his studies, he worked in China, which enabled him to become familiar with the country. He has been Area Manager for East Asia at hub.brussels since 2017.

 

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Victor Dulait has a degree in political science and international relations and a bachelor’s of law. After completing his studies, he worked in China, which enabled him to become familiar with the country. He has been Area Manager for East Asia at hub.brussels since 2017.

Do you want to export to East Asia? Contact Victor!

Victor Dulait

Area Manager Extrême-Orient

T. +32 2 800 40 11

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