The poor infrastructure in China's rugged interior hasn't stopped S.F. Express from being able to deliver urgent contracts or parts orders to small businesses in 31 provinces within two days. Indonesia faces an acute shortage of skills at every level. Yet each year, Astra International manages to hire 3,000 university graduates. Asia's developing nations are supposed to be a bureaucratic nightmare for companies trying to build a regional business. Yet in little more than a decade, Malaysia's AirAsia has built a giant low-cost carrier that has affiliates in four neighboring countries and carries 50 million passengers a year within Southeast Asia alone.
Every company that has done business in Asia's rapidly growing economies knows that they present some of the world's greatest opportunities for growth. But these companies also know the deep structural challenges all too well. As a result, many industry incumbents?whether they are based in the region or abroad?still take a measured approach to investing in Asia's emerging markets.
Asia's most entrepreneurial companies don't hesitate. Instead, they find innovative ways to overcome the barriers. Rather than wait until local conditions can accommodate new business models, they proactively help shape the environments around them. By becoming shapers and first movers, the most dynamic companies in Asia's rapidly growing economies are capturing the richest opportunities in the world's greatest growth zone. Through their innovative business models and comprehensive networks, emerging Asia's first movers are not only disrupting industries but also building new barriers to entry for competitors.
The Boston Consulting Group has been tracking and helping companies master disruptive change in fast-growing developing economies for decades. To further understand how certain companies are winning the battle for growth, we analyzed five companies that have proved particularly successful at managing one or more of three structural challenges?talent, infrastructure, and the regulatory environment?in rapidly growing Asian economies.