Operating in Asia: Why it’s Different and What you Need to Know
Photo by Nick Kulyakhtin
Even with increased economic growth at home (be it USA, Australia or the UK, Canada etc), many Western companies are reaching out to security services companies in Asia in order to support their business. With limited experience in the region, it is useful to be aware of some of the general differences when operating within Asia. First, “Asia” is very heterogeneous. Oftentimes, the differences from country to country in any aspect (cultural, economic, political, security, etc.) are far bigger than differences between Western countries. It is wise to be aware of this and not assume that one’s experience, research, or information on any business or security variable will be relevant in another country within Asia. If seeking to operate in multiple countries in Asia, it is wise to choose a security partner that has broad experience in security services and risk management solutions across Asia and does know the differences between the countries in which you wish to operate. Those searching for Asia security companies must have a clear outline of the goals they wish to achieve and countries they wish to operate in.
Security Services Companies in Asia – Understanding the Business Culture
In Asia, business culture can often be very different from the West. All across Asia, relationships and an emotional connection between transacting parties are relatively more important. There is a greater emphasis on trust, character, and mutual respect. This is often why it seems that deals take a long time to complete or why there seems to be excessive emphasis on dining, drinking, golfing, karaoke, etc. before progress is made. In the West, by contrast, this kind of behavior may seem excessive or corrupt, with rationality the primary factor in business decisions.
Decision-making procedures within countries can also be very different. While Confucian societies (China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Singapore) emphasise hierarchy, they also emphasise harmony among stakeholders. For example, some describe business decision-making in Japan and Korea to be very slow because some companies require unanimity rather than a simple vote.
There are some basic patterns of cultural differences to be aware of. In East and Southeast Asia, communication is often much less direct than in the West. Western culture emphasises direct, clear communication with succinct delivery of information. This is not always considered to be polite in East Asia. This indirectness comes from the concept of “face”. It is most desirable to give face and help another person save face. If you are too direct, the other person may feel they have lost face. Although one must be careful not to lose the intent or fully explain the message trying to be delivered as this will be problematic in both the short and long term. There is no hard and fast rule here, and many people do value clear and direct communication. Nonetheless, keep this in mind if, for example, people do not communicate directly with you. This idea of “face” is also why you may often find people profusely offering compliments. This is usually not seen as flattery, but rather as being polite and giving face. The concept of face is culturally paramount throughout East and Southeast Asia. This can sometimes be confusing and feel counterproductive. The best way to deal with this is to acknowledge that this is occurring and ensure that your message is portrayed clearly but with a level of professional curtesy and politeness. The “EuropeanCEO” provides some good tips on business etiquette for conducting business in Asia.
Certainly, having an office in Asia has provided staff at Panoptic Solutions intimate knowledge of how to conduct business in the region. Panoptic Solutions has an office located in Jakarta Indonesia (PT Panoptic Solutions Asia). This office is a base which provides us the footprint to push security service operations throughout all of Asia as well as conduct business in the region. We speak from experience. Having that base in Asia allows Panoptic Solutions the ability to provide secure transportation, luxury vehicles, executive protection, close protection, bodyguards, bi-lingual agents and operatives, local fixers, armed and unarmed local personnel and risk advice not only within the various islands of Indonesia, but also other locations throughout Asia utilising the trusted partnerships we have formed across the region.
Very Brief Security Overview
China, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Singapore have relatively low crime rates and generally a high internal security presence. Taiwan, for example, has seemingly as many police stations as 7-11’s and although crime rates are low in China this is off set by the extreme level of surveillance. Furthermore, there are sensitivities surrounding journalism and media which should be factored in for organisations conducting business in this part of Asia. For High net-worth Individuals (HNWI) and persons of notoriety it is also recommended by security services companies that security planning (risk management) and some form of physical security is provided when traveling to these countries. Crime risk is generally higher in the Southeast Asia region. For executives and businesses either travelling to or operating in Southeast Asia, investing in Asia security services companies may be considered a more important investment than those in Japan or South Korea, for instance. Of course, non-violent and petty crime exists across all Asian countries as it does in the west and throughout Europe, however, additional challenges occur when dealing with extremism. For instance, Islamist insurgencies and radical Islamic groups have a greater presence in Southeast Asia, including Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Malaysia than that of Japan, China and Taiwan. For example, far Southern Thailand, particularly Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat, are considered a higher level of risk due to the protracted Islamist insurgency. Areas of North Sumatra in Indonesia specifically Aceh have had ongoing issues with radical Islamic groups for many years and although it’s not open season on westerners or even other locals, these issues have spilled over to other regions throughout Indonesia leading to injuries and fatalities. Sidney Jones of the New York Times writes in his article “How ISIS has changed in Indonesia” about the shift in tactics by Islamic extremists in Indonesia who are now utilising women and children as part of their attacks. This creates another level of complexity to security planning and developing risk mitigation strategies.
Within the Philippines there are many scenic locations, however, it too is affected by problems with Islamic extremism, specifically down in Southern Mindanao. Some business would be unhindered by the activities conducted in these regions, however, many companies and industries such as hotel chains, resorts, NGOs, media organisations, resource, primary industry and tourism may be impacted and should consider consulting with one of the reputable Asia security services and executive protection companies which have experience operating in the region. Companies seeking a security partner are advised to find one with knowledge of the intricacies of these security issues as well as team members who have operated within these locations across Asia.
Panoptic Solutions’ is an Asian based security services and risk management company who have deployed teams and ran operations all throughout Asia including China, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei, PNG and down into Oceania. With strong ties to local assets throughout Asia we have provided security services support to clients meeting with Presidents, Leaders of world economic forums and organisations, Heads of not-for-profits, influential scientific leaders, heads of large corporations and multinationals, as well as those who are just vacationing in the region. For more information on how Panoptic Solutions can support your journey with security, risk management, remote medical services or secure logistics leave your details and a short message here Panoptic Solutions Contact