ANZ recently surveyed over 1,000 Australian businesses to draw insights from those companies who have successfully grown and established their business in Asia, aiming to provide a best-practice "how to" guide.
We found that of businesses already in Asia, 48 per cent say revenue from their Asian operations was higher than their domestic revenue. Seventy six per cent of businesses who have expanded in Asia say their profits have increased substantially.
And 38 per cent of small businesses achieved a return on investment within 12 months while 59 per cent of medium and 39 per cent of larger sized businesses accomplished this within three years. Significantly, of the Australian businesses not already in Asia, 88 per cent said they were considering expanding there within the next three years.
Our research also highlights many people, once they made the decision to do business in Asia, found the move less complex than they first thought.
Companies which plan and research their Asian expansion strategy are far better positioned to achieve long term sustainable growth and profitability than their counterparts whose operations remain domestically focused.
There is no doubt there are some challenges and risks facing businesses looking to expand into Asia.
But not considering the opportunities may be even riskier. I encourage any businessperson to come to Asia and experience the energy and opportunity – personally and for your business.
Since China launched the One Belt, One Road policy in 2013, we have seen new avenues of infrastructure and trade evolve. The project aims to link China to Asia, Europe and Africa following the Ancient Silk Road and Maritime routes. These routes will connect 65 countries and 4.4 billion people.
Outside China, countries through the region are pushing their own trade links to take advantage of these new routes. Asia is home to 60 per cent of the world's population and the cities throughout the region are transforming faster than ever, with their populations doubling within the last 10 years.
Australia is well placed to capitalise on these opportunities but it is not alone in the pursuit of commerce and trade in the region. Iron ore has long been fuelling the steel manufacturing to build infrastructure and our architectural construction and engineering expertise is highly valued.
Australia's financial services credentials are well established, trusted and respected. Now we are seeing consumers demand higher quality products and niche services – dairy, meat, wine, health and beauty services, technology, medical expertise and education. There are 350 million online buyers in China alone and that is growing at 40 per cent annually.
Australia has free-trade deals with nine countries in the region, most recently signed with South Korea and Japan, and all going well, we'll soon sign with China. The opportunity for small- and medium-sized Australian businesses is awesome.
WHERE SUCCESS COMES FROM
Success in Asia doesn't come from sitting in your office in Melbourne or Sydney. You have to immerse yourself in the region – meet people, build relationships and networks across your industries and markets.
The region is enormously diverse in culture, tastes, law, and markets. There are 34 regions in China alone - each with its own political system, culture and approach to business.
You have to know the politics, law, business structures, business etiquette, culture and consumer needs, how financial and commercial transactions actually work. This can seem daunting but there is great support available.
Trusted advisers like Austrade and specific trade organisations in each country can guide and provide introductions to businesses considering trade and make the entire process more efficient.
Access to local technology, language, insight into specific rules to market entry, and advisers who can provide guidance and support on visas, transportation, documentation, introductions and physical on the ground support are all part of the preparation that can make a difference in time and cost to market.
But move quickly. There's never been a better time to take advantage of the Asian opportunity than now.
Mark Hand is managing director of corporate and commercial banking Australia at ANZ.
This is an edited version of a speech delivered at an Opportunity Asia event in October 2015.