Expanding your business internationally can be an exciting – but daunting – process. But, these 5 top success tips on scaling businesses in Asia Pacific from Nordic Innovation House Community Manager Sami Jääskeläinen will help you on your way.

If you’re looking to expand your business into Asia Pacific, Nordic Innovation House (NIH) could offer a few tips on how to get started. Backed by the Nordic Council of Ministers and currently operating across Silicon Valley, Singapore, Hong Kong, New York, and Tokyo, NIH serves as a springboard to Nordic businesses looking to accelerate their business in the Asian market.

As the community manager at NIH, Sami Jääskeläinen is primarily responsible for building, developing, and managing global strategic partnerships, and is fluent in building bridges between and facilitating conversation between startups and corporations. A seasoned digital marketer with abundant experience in helping companies identify potential business opportunities both at home and abroad, here what he had to say about the 5 top success tips on scaling businesses in Asia Pacific.

1. It’s going to take time – be prepared to build relationships

In the Nordics, the sales cycle is much shorter. Deals can be closed in a rather rapid fashion, and this can be attributed to the high degree of confidence between people there. 

In Asia, on the other hand, it is all about building relationships. When you arrive here, make sure that you’re prepared in a way that you have the wherewithal to build these relationships because you’re basically starting from scratch. Of course, we can help by connecting you to the right stakeholders, finding the right partners; but you will still need to build that trust. 

In terms of how long this process takes, it’s hard to say. Ultimately, It comes down to resources and your preference regarding the pace of your journey. Some people might prefer to establish their presence immediately and open an office here. That’s a good strategy to accelerate the trust process because your investors can visibly see your commitment. Some might also prefer commuting back and forth and naturally, that takes longer. In that case, I would recommend hiring locals and people from the relevant verticals. With the right knowledge and connections, it is possible to speed things up.

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2. Don’t fly blind, do your research

Doing your research and having a clear idea of where you’re heading prior to taking the leap is paramount to success. Familiarise yourself with what the regulatory landscape is like. If you’re in health tech, ask yourself questions like ‘do you need certain regulatory approvals for your medical device?’ If so, do you have all the documents and certifications to secure said approvals? You need to be prepared. 

3. When in Rome, do as the Romans do – respect cultural differences

As the differences between countries in Southeast Asia are so vast, it would be unfavourable to use a one-size-fits-all approach and copy-paste strategies from one market to another. There is a tendency to generalise the markets, but upon further investigation, you will find that there are plenty of variations between cultures, religions, consumer behaviours, and purchasing power.

4. Learn to continuously repackage your narrative to fit your audience

Following the last point, to scale your business in Asia Pacific, it is always smart to adapt to the local audience. Take branding and PR, for example. How you’ve been packaging yourself in the Nordics might not necessarily work here, so the tricky part then becomes how you frame your story to better resonate with the consumers. Pitching too needs to be bespoke and tailor-made. For example, more storytelling is appreciated in the Nordics whereas Singaporeans are more business-driven, which is to say they want to see the numbers.

5. Lean into your cultural strengths 

Just as adaptability is prized, so too is the ability to capitalise on your cultural advantages. While you should be reconsidering your strategies according to specific markets and audiences, I would recommend pinpointing positive traits from your culture and parlaying them into your ventures. As Nordics, we pride ourselves on our honesty and integrity, as well as our strong sense of style and appreciation for aesthetics. We are not abandoning these attributes. Instead, depending on the brand, we will determine the communication angle that echoes with local audiences. All of this can affect the way you position and promote your brand, from the packaging of your products all the way down to the colour scheme behind your designs.

More about Nordic Innovation House

A unique collaboration with the Nordic countries, Nordic Innovation House gives Nordic companies, from startups to corporations, a headstart in the most relevant global innovation hubs. By offering a strong community, connections to the local ecosystem, and programmes for acceleration, NIH helps Nordic businesses tap into the Asian market, and visa versa.


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