Traveling to Asia

Immensely popular as a tourist destination, Asia provides a peek into a rich history and an even richer culture. In fact, some of the great wonders of the world can be found within the boundaries of this continent.

Travelers to Asia will probably have the Great Wall of China as their first stop. Extending to about 2,414 kilometers or 1,500 miles with a height of about 25 feet, the wall has been said to be visible even in outer space. Erected by the Qin dynasty’s first emperor Shihuangdi to defend the city from the nomadic people, the wall is made out of earth and stone.

Another worthy travel spot in Asia, particularly in China is the Terra-cotta Warriors and Soldiers Museum in Xi’an China, which is considered to be one of the world’s greatest archaeological find. Another tourist destination that should be in the list of any traveler to Asia is the Forbidden City, now known as the Palace Museum in Beijing. The enclosed location holds the former palaces of Chinese emperors. Tiananmen Square, which is also located in Beijing, set adjacent to the Forbidden City. A witness to a series of student-led demonstrations and rallies in 1989 calling for the removal of Deng Xiaoping, the square is now a memorial of those whose lives were sacrificed. Asian travelers will probably want to also go to Dunhang, where ancient Buddhist frescoes in caves can be found.

One of the wonders of the ancient world, the Angkor is a major archaeological site located in the northwest parts of Cambodia. A historical travel spot in Asia, the ruins have two Hindi temple complexes, the Angkor Wat and the Angkor Thom, which is less popular having been built later. And though the site has been damaged much by warfare, a traveler in Asia can still feel the ancient spirit of the place living on.

Taj Mahal is another ancient site that continues to lure travelers in Asia into its midst. Located in Agra, India, the temple was made by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his favorite wife Mumtaz Mahal (Jewel of the Palace) who died in childbirth after bearing him 14 children.

Bangkok, Thailand is another travel spot in Asia. One of its most popular tourist destination is the Wat Pho or the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. Other destinations that would surely fascinate any traveler in Asia are the Wat Phra Kaeo (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), which is known as a example of 19th-century architecture; Buddhist temples; the Sanam Luang, where royal ceremonies such as cremation and the annual Ploughing Ceremony are often held; the Dusit Park, Zoo and the Chitladda Palace where the royal family reside. Bangkok is also home to numerous art houses such as the National Museum, National Theater, National Gallery, Rajadamnoen Stadium (the preeminent venue of Thai kick-boxing), National Library, and National Archives.

The Philippines have also a lot to offer travelers in Asia. Its beaches and resorts can rival the world. Boracay, for instance, is known for its white sandy beaches and crystal clear water. Another island destination that any traveler to Asia should not dare miss is Palawan and Bohol, where the world famous Tarsier and Chocolate Hills can be found. Of course, one must also visit the Ifugao Rice Terraces, which is one of he Ten Wonders of the World as well as the Mines View Park and Strawberry fields in Baguio.

Rising Asia and Its Implications

I find the notion of “A Rising Asia” interesting, and I think it presents a major opportunity for the localization and translation industry in the years to come. I was first introduced to this concept many years ago by Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn in their excellent book, Thunder from the East. (They were also among the first to point out the promise of China/Rising Asia, several years before the “experts” did.) I really liked the book because it also quickly provided an economic history of the world and is a very easy read.

I thought it would be good to update and expand upon an article I wrote for GALA a little while ago. I have been surprised how little real awareness there is even in the localization industry where leaders often equate Asia with China & Japan (CJK). This was really brought home at the #LTBKK conference, when I saw what a revelation Biraj Rath’s excellent presentation on the Indian localization market opportunity was, to many industry experts. LISA, to their credit announced an India Forum shortly after the conference.

So I thought it might be useful to provide a basic primer on the broader Asian market opportunity. For some in the L10N industry this might all be obvious but here goes anyway. I am interested because:

– There are a lot of people living in Asia (maybe 95% of the next billion Internet users)
– The Internet has very low penetration thus far. Multilingual content will very likely play a key role in driving increasing penetration and commercial opportunity.
– They will need a lot of information quickly (huge opportunity for automated translation technology)
– Largest concentration of young people in the world (also the Middle East and Brazil)

Asia is extremely diverse, economically and culturally, but yet there are some strong common elements. It is also much less connected than Europe. Today, we are aware of the current economic momentum that India and China have, historically they both also had a deep and lasting cultural influence on much of Asia. An awareness of this history is very useful in developing effective business strategies for different countries. The internet is only just beginning to take root in much of Asia (18% vs. 73% for North America), however, it is expected that almost half of all Internet users will be Asian by 2013. Already, China has more people online than the US. Asia could be a major opportunity for companies that learn to tap into this new emerging online population. But this will require an understanding of the diversity and characteristics of the various segments and will also need new approaches in communication and marketing. Asian economies continue to rise in importance and growth, as both a supplier and consumer. Today China and India are the largest mobile phone markets in the world.

Some interesting and perhaps less known facts about Asia that provide a useful contrast to Europe are shown below. They also give one a sense for the different type of opportunities available and the differing reality of Asia.

-GDP per Capita in Asia (~$15,000) is less than half of the EU average and there is a much wider standard distribution and a large population living in poverty throughout the continent.
-While India and China are among the fastest growing economies in the world, the GDP per Capita is $2,800 for India and $6,000 for China and they should still be considered developing economies.
-The top GDP/Capita countries (2008) in Asia are: Singapore ($52K), HK, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea ($23K), Malaysia, Kazakhstan and Thailand ($8.5K).
-India has 22 official languages that are as distinct and different as the 23 EU languages, and also include at least 6 different scripts. English is only spoken by about 7% of the people in India. However, it is possible to get deep penetration into the Indian market with 5 key languages.
-There is very little local language content for Asian languages on the web in general. Based on a survey done by Asia Online in 2007, less than 15% of the total content on the web is in Asian languages. Almost 90% of the Asian language content is in Chinese and Japanese. There is huge need for more local language content all over SE Asia.
-Mandarin is beginning to edge out English as the preferred 2nd language in Asia
-China is now the fastest growing patent office in the world. The WIPO and others state that China is clearly an emerging scientific and technological power.
-The share of Asian country based patent filings is now in excess of 50% of all patents filed across the world.
-India has more gifted and talented students in high school than the total school student population in the US.
-China has more students in Science and Technology college degree programs than India and the US combined.
-McKinsey has identified a “Rising Asia” as a stable long term trend that will fundamentally change consumption patterns. Gartner suggests using IT to reach the market. They suggest that global companies use IT to ‘lighten’ their Asian business model to address the specific cultural, geographic reach, and supply chain considerations.
-The wealthy Asians are concentrated in major cities like Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Mumbai, Delhi, Seoul, Manila and Bangkok.
-China is now the fastest growing market for Bentley and BMW.
-More cars are now sold in China than in America.
-Even countries like Laos, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Cambodia which have very low GDP/Capita are interesting markets for cell phones and basic commodities.
-An understanding of Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism cultural perspectives can dramatically enhance your communications strategy into most parts of Asia.
-The fastest growing Facebook markets in 2H2009 are Taiwan, Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand.
-Google is not dominant in key Asian markets, in Korea they have less than 2% search market share and they are a distant second in China and Japan. Maybe even completely out of China soon. Local companies dominate because of better understanding of local content, language and customer preferences. This suggests that standard US approaches may not work as well in many Asian markets.
-Chinese social networking startups have produced many innovations that have led to them becoming profitable much faster than US equivalents like MySpace and Facebook. We are now seeing Asian innovation gradually making its way to the west.
-Most of Asia has been relatively unscathed by the global financial and real estate market collapse.
-India is increasingly considered a “soft power”. Influential culturally way beyond it’s direct sphere of influence.
-The venture capital markets in India and China are rapidly developing with help from “returning” entrepreneurs and hostile US immigration policies.

But simple strategies like simply making your web content available in the local language may not work. Asian cultures may look superficially similar and even western on the surface, but can have deep cultural differences. The localization market is estimated to be $1.5B in 2010 and could grow dramatically. My sense is that those numbers miss much of the impact of recent growth as the Facebook trends show, mobile computing and successful bottom of the pyramid marketing strategies.

All of these factors point to fundamental shifts in the global economy and indicate that many of these trends will accelerate further. Asia is a significant opportunity for informed globalization managers — and probably key for long-term leadership for many global enterprises. Global companies need to develop broad and unique country-specific strategies to be able to prosper and thrive in this rapidly changing world. Localization and translation will be key elements of any successful globalization plan and should present significant opportunities to vendors that prepare for this change.

It’s wise to remember that the Chinese ideogram for “change” can also mean “opportunity.”

Central Asia: Investing in the New Frontier

Investing in emerging markets has been a popular business choice for years now, with a different part of the world being dubbed a veritable ‘goldmine’ for foreign investors year on year.

But how do you ensure that your investment is well placed? Of course, there are never any guarantees, but doing your homework and making decisions based on facts and statistics, as opposed to a hunch, is a very good start.

This type of informed investment decision is why Central Asia is such an attractive opportunity for the frontier investor. Experts are convinced that the untapped markets of this region are ripe for investment, but it’s not just their opinions that are impressive – the statistics are too. Of all the emerging markets on the planet, Central Asia is a foreign investor’s dream and everything written about the area, and the studies already undertaken, reiterate this notion.

Take the region’s financial system, for example – this part of the world boasts some of this century’s fastest-growing economies and combined with staggering reserves of natural resources, it’s no wonder foreign investors are falling over themselves to get a piece of the action. There are three reasons why Central Asia’s capital markets are perfect for investment.

· They’re under developed

· They’re under researched

· They’re low cost

The area is underdeveloped when compared to other emerging markets, meaning investors can build a legacy in an area of relative infancy. Apart from the research quoted in this article, there has been very little digging done into the potential for investment in Central Asia. This means that in investment terms, it’s one of the globe’s best-kept secrets. Finally, the area still boasts inexpensive resources and therefore any investment project can be completed while being easy on your pocket.

When it comes to property, the mantra is ‘location, location, location’ and it could be said that investment is no different. The central part of Asia enjoys a strategic position between two phenomenally large economies in China and India. As these grow, so will the demand for Central Asia’s natural resources – and with that follows unique investment opportunities. 1.2 billion people live in India, while China has a population of 1.3 billion. India is the fifth largest oil importer in the world, while China is the third and they boast $4.1 and $10.1 trillion GDPs respectively, meaning the area has two significant markets next door.

Central Asia is packed with countries that are perfect for foreign investors and the area represents a significant opportunity for those with the funds. Turkmenistan, for example, has discovered gas fields with the ability to supply the UK for at least 20 years, Kazakhstan boasts 99 of the Periodic Table’s 110 elements in mined and mineable reserves, and Uzbekistan holds the fourth largest reserves of gold in the world.

Central Asia is an investment based on fact not fiction, statistics not sixth sense and potential not promises. With its significant natural resources, new markets and economic growth, now is the time to invest in this profitable region- can you really afford to miss this opportunity?