I’ve been traveling in Southeast Asia for the last couple months, and it is clear that the social web is on the verge of transforming the way business is run and the way life is lived there. Although social networking, new media, and related technologies will certainly affect those countries in similar ways that it affected the developed world, it will also affect it in some very new and different ways as well. Specifically, social technologies will affect Southeast Asia by changing the way supply chains are built, how people will learn, and how businesses in the region compete in the global marketplace.
Supply Chains Go Transparent
It is easy to see how the interconnected web is affecting corporate supply chains by looking at the capital of Cambodia, Phenom Penh. There was a lake in the heart of the city that was purchased and filled with dirt to build factories on it. The lake was cheaper than any of the surrounding land which made the purchase good business sense for the factory owners. When they filled the lake with dirt the water overflowed into the surrounding area, destroying many homes and displacing thousands of very poor people.
Locals would boycott any products produced there in protest, but they aren’t the target consumer. The target consumers live an ocean away and up until recently hasn’t had a way to find out about any of this back story when they buy a pair of jeans at the store. That is changing though.
Consumers around the world are now demanding to know more about where and how the products they buy are being made. At the same time, computers and Internet connectivity has become much more common, even for villagers. As the number of Cambodians online and connected to social networks grows, the louder their voice will be heard by consumers around the world. Factory owners will no longer be able to hide bad practices like this.
This trend will help improve the standard of living, wages, and workplace conditions for locals in this region. It will also force businesses to look for profits in developing new efficiencies and/or pass along some of the cost to the end consumer which will be tough in a competitive marketplace.
New media is enabling people throughout this region to watch YouTube, access better software, and download free learning materials. Enabling teachers and students to access better resources for free will help train the next generation to fill and even create their own jobs.
The tourism industry, especially in Thailand and Vietnam has brought a new wave of foreign capital and only those who can speak English can earn a piece of it. As a result, learning English is often times the golden ticket to stepping into a good paying job. There is no better way to learn English than watching media on YouTube, using software and filling out learning packets, all produced by native English speakers. Learning from fluent speakers is invaluable and much more effective than learning from teachers who only know it halfway themselves. The vocabulary, slang, and other nuances are often greatly limited when taught by non-native speakers.
The countries in Southeast Asia can’t afford to pay the competitive rates required for people from the United States to come over and teach their populations English like China can so they get the next best thing; social media broadcasted from the United States over the web free of charge.
This along with many other factors will help put this region on a trajectory to become bigger players on the world stage in the years to come.
Competing in the Global Marketplace
New media, social networking, and new technologies have all allowed businesses to improve their efficiency and increase their speed; without which, they would not be able to compete in the global marketplace. Many businesses within and across industries run into the same problems and now are able to collaborate to come up with a solution. That is, if they are connected to this global network via the latest social platforms.
Connecting to these global networks means that businesses in Southeast Asia don’t have to spend the time and money developing their own technologies, best practices, and solutions. This allows even regional companies to buy generic but world-class software and business systems that are sold in mass across the globe at a much cheaper cost than building a customized version.
Social technology enables global communities to communicate quickly, cheaply, and efficiently. The developed world has been reaping these benefits for quite a while now, but the Southeast Asian emerging markets are just starting to capitalize on them.
The long-term effects of this will be that locals will be able to build companies to target this region that will be able to combine their local advantage with advanced tools to become significant competition for foreign-based firms.
Do you see examples of how these trends are playing out here? Do you agree that these trends are affecting Southeast Asia the way I’ve described? What other trends do you see out there?
Listen to me speak on 7 Social Media Trends on November 27th in San Diego.