I started into a new community lately called G+ (there is a description of the site at the end of this post. One of the very first questions I came across was asking about ASEAN (Association of SouthEast Asian Nations) as a viable investment alternative to China and India. I have to admit this is an area of discussion that I don’t often put into my blog; however, I think that this is something worth noting. Mainly because I see ASEAN potentially as a market where relevant applications, advanced wireless networks, and smart grid / green technologies could thrive.
My response to the question was as follows: Based on my experience and observations, I can see the positive aspects within ASEAN that makes it a viable investment alternative. 1. Singapore is a financial, transportation, and communications hub for the Region. 2. The Philippines has a strong call center embedded base that continues to strengthen. 3. Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia have strong growth in manufacturing and new industries. Thailand continues to show growth despite seemingly continual political unrest. 4. Even Cambodia and Laos are making drastic internal improvements. On the surface, it appears that all the right pieces are in place. So what seems to hold everything back? The perception of the lack stability, transparency, and correctness in many of the ASEAN countries. There are too many instances of corruption, political gamesmanship, and seemingly bad business environments that creates a difficult hurdle for widespread investment. Ideally, I would like to see Singapore take a lead in directing the investment, policing the business practices, and driving positive change in ASEAN so that investment in the region would be more assured. Granted, there are positive areas, as noted above; however, the perception needs to be ASEAN wide to provide that background to investors that gives them the comfort of contributing their capital to the regional growth.
Focusing on infrastructure and improvement of the wireless technologies is an ideal first step for this new capital infusion. Relevant applications can follow and more importantly, these created applications could be a clean industry that has exportable products to bolster ASEAN. It is possible for ASEAN to be the choice of investment and the next great tech boom area if the perceptions are changed, and the business environments are improved.
(G+ is a community where the world’s most active and influential professionals, academics and entrepreneurs connect. G+ provides a place for people to engage with like-minded individuals in ways they haven’t considered, start new conversations, ask the important questions and propose ideas online and at in-person meetings.)