The Asian Century

SINGAPORE – I’ve been living in Asia for close to ten years now and have seen first hand how fast the World is changing. You don’t realize how fast moving and energetic Asia is, until you go somewhere else. In my case this somewhere else is often when I go back to the US visiting my parents, or when I go to Europe for vacation and the occasional work related trips. This is usually when I think to myself, wait, these places haven’t changed in the last ten years! In Asia, things are moving so fast that often you are seeing a new trend before you even got comfortable with the last one. Singapore is a fighter with heart, and it punches way above its weight class. I was in Nanning, China, a few months ago, and noticed that the biggest taxi company is now operated by Comfort Delgro. Similar things are happening everywhere. I see CP animal feed granaries in Manila port, large international companies setting up Asia headquarters in Singapore, and the relentless investment of mainland Chinese businesses in Hong Kong. This truly feels like the Asian century. The media hype we see in the news, I must say, doesn’t even capture half of what’s really happening on the ground. The energy is manic!

With an emerging (ascending) region with its 3 Billion+ people, there will be incredible opportunities. We all have limited time and energy, and the best way to invest those limited resources, is where the greatest macro opportunities manifest themselves. It’s only maybe 5 years ago when I was hiring some people in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and thinking to myself, there is such a skill gap here, it’d be great to get some real professional expats to do the jobs. Lo and behold, 5 years later Standard Chartered bank set up one of their largest back office centers in KL. This is in addition to all the large centers set up by HP, IBM, DHL, etc.

I have friends who are living elsewhere and really want to ride the Asian wave. I always tell them, the hardest person to convince is yourself – we all have such deep rooted fears and insecurities. But once you make that leap, Asia offers tremendous opportunities. You have to be driven and adaptable. I personally think these are the most valuable attributes that can help you make it in Asia. Asia is not a country, but a huge array of different countries, peoples, languages, customs, and political sensitivities. But for the wanderers and the dreamers, the entrepreneurs and the doers, there is rarely such widespread opportunity laid out in front of you. I can see the growth lasting for decades to come. When I get old, I hope I’ll be able to say with pride, “something happened here in the last 30 years, something wonderful and profound, something that changed the World, and I was a part of it.”

Readers, are you an expat or thinking about becoming an expat? Leave your thoughts and comments below please.

(Night view of Singapore downtown from a rooftop bar)