Catalyst Asia Intelligence Briefing - 6 July 2012

We’re halfway through 2012 and looking for answers

This week we’ve turned to recent works by authors, academics, and reporters seeking to answer some of those questions critical to businesses striving to excel in Asia and other emerging economies.  We can’t vouch that these sources always provide the right answers…but they do deliver thought-provoking and interesting work.

For instance, we’ve included a section of tiger vs. tiger—where experts argue for and against their candidates for the next Asian economic dynamo.  Next, we find two views on how to make social business strategies work.  We round out this edition with two analyses of the direction that Chinese political and economic culture is heading, and a handful of topical pieces on P&G putting the brakes on emerging markets, how the Internet may not profoundly change us, and some regional forecasting.

What are the burning questions that you would like to know the answer to? 

Where is the next Asian Tiger?

Tiger hunting appears to be a minor obsession with the economic and foreign policy press, and current candidates for the next great Asian success story include Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia.  Three concise views on the contenders:

Ten findings about Vietnam from Foreign Policy and McKinsey Global Institute, including this key difference between China and Vietnam: Vietnam has a much stronger consumer market (as well as a healthier services-manufacturing mix).  The New Asian Tiger also notes some near-term challenges for the country, such as the rapid expansion of bank lending, and the end of the “demographic dividend.

In Asia’s Next TigerForeign Policy weighs the odds of Philippines president Benigno Aquino being able to deliver on his promise that the country is “open for real business.”  His anti-corruption campaign should help, but can the country overcome restrictions on foreign ownership of property and businesses that hamper the development of a truly competitive economy?

Finally, the East Asia Forum provides an overview of the forces shaping the Indonesian economy, while comparing and contrasting these with India.  Comparing India’s and Indonesia’s economic performance is a brief case study that highlights how these two emerging economies—that may seem similar on the surface—differ in substantive ways. 

The answer is social business strategy…but the trick is finding the right question

There is growing recognition that social business is good business, and may be the key to new business models that propel new growth in emerging economies.  What is more elusive is how these social strategies should be incorporated in the next generation of business models.

Unilever has embraced a social business strategy, while courting long-term investors and scrapping quarterly earnings projections for good measure.  Will its brand of social business pay off?  In Unilever Wants Short Showers, Long-Term InvestorsBusinessweek examines some of the risks and potential rewards.

What’s better than a book about lessons learned in making CSR pay off?  A cut-to-the-chase interview with the authors.  Wharton provides us with just that in Leveraging Corporate Responsibility, the Stakeholder Approach to Maximizing Business and Social Value.  One highlight: “If there is one thing we learned…it is that it pays to be responsible only when your stakeholders perceive that there is some difference that you are making to the community and the environment.” 

How will China’s economic and political cultures evolve?

There are many views on the direction(s) that Chinese business and political institutions will move in the future.  We’ve included two of them this week:

Doh Chull Shin has written a book arguing that Asian culture does not create real barriers to inclusive, pluralistic governance in China and neighboring countries—and Foreign Affairs his kindly summarized it for us in Confucius and the Ballot Box.

Our friends at INSEAD have provided a pre-publication peek at a chapter from China’s Changing Workplace—written by two of the school’s professors—that examines the overarching concept of the “business system” in China.  Post-Transition China characterizes the three main systems in today’s China: state owned, private, and local corporate; and it concludes by asking how these systems will perform in three key areas: innovativeness, adaptiveness, and efficiency.

Food for thought

In P&G Rethinks Emerging Markets, we find coverage of P&G CEO Bob McDonald’s reluctant decision to put the breaks on the company’s efforts to grow in emerging markets (other than China) in the face of reverses in P&G’s traditional strongholds.  A brief lesson in the difficulties of juggling performance in mature markets with the growth of new ones—and a reminder of why the right business model is crucial. 

Can new technology change the world…or does the world ultimately work its own will?  In Call Of The Future, Tom Vanderbilt and the Wilson Quarterly compare the development of previous “disruptive” technologies—in particular, the telephone—with current evolution of the digital age.

And finally, the answers to the question: what does the Economist Intelligence Unit have to say about China, Asia, India, and Emerging Markets in general?  Often in two paragraphs or less?  You can find out in our collection of EIU Forecasts for late June and July. 


Thanks for your readership. All fo the above can be found here at

Catalyst Asia Intelligence Briefing -- 20 July 2012

Catalyst Asia Intelligence Briefing - June 2012