COVID 19 is Transforming Business in Asia ─ Here’s How and Why

For anyone in China, India, Singapore, or elsewhere in Asia, it’s beyond anybody’s worst nightmares! 

For more than 6 months, the coronavirus pandemic has been wreaking havoc across the economies of Asia-Pacific. We’ve got scenes that look like what happens in science fiction movies, with only one difference. We’re watching them without eating our usual finger-licking movie theatre popcorn!

So, what happened on our planet’s largest and most populous continent? How is the pandemic currently reshaping Asia’s borders and business?

In reply, most observers believe that the current crisis is different in nature and scope from the financial crisis of 2008-2009. The impact of COVID 19 on Asia’s economy is something that actually everyone is in some way affected. The virus outbreak is taking its toll on governments, businesses, and households alike.

What Happened to Business in Asia?

Before the crisis, Asian economies used to rely on their openness to thrive. For example, Singapore and Hong Kong were regarded as financial and business hubs. Taiwan, Bangladesh, and Vietnam were considered cornerstones of global supply chains. Thailand was always described as an international tourist center. And, I don’t know. Things have dramatically changed.

After the attack of COVID 19, Asian stars are now finding themselves in a situation whereby they have to isolate themselves fast and comprehensively. With the pandemic still rampant, most of Asia’s population is in lockdown. Many businesses and all schools are closed. Sports events, and even the Tokyo Olympic Games, have been postponed.

Singapore, which was declared in March 2020 as the “freest economy” in the world, had to close its borders a week afterward. The Southeast Asian country then had to shut the rail and roadways that link it to Malaysia and ban nonresidents from transiting through Changi Airport. Finally, Singapore Airlines reduced its routes by 96%. 

Hong Kong followed suit, shut its land border with mainland China and also barred nonresidents from entering. Japan, and many other countries, have suspended visa waivers and imposed quarantines on most arrivals.

Consequently, these turbulent changes have had a terrible impact on the supply chains across Asia. Companies had to cope with shipments being held indefinitely at ports due to the delay of documentation, or because customs agents were on lockdown. So, instead of relying on the “just-in-time” supply chains, which have become the norm over the past ten years, these firms had to concentrate their supply chains to as few locations and vendors as possible, and build up much bigger inventories.

And also, on the level of jobs!  It goes without saying that the temporary downfall in supply chains should have a direct negative impact on jobs. Twenty-five million people are in danger of losing their jobs due to the spread of the pandemic, according to The International Labor Organization.

The crunch will also fiercely hit an estimated number of over 33 million migrant workers across Asia and the Pacific. It looks like a new unholy exodus, with tens of thousands of immigrant workers from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos fleeing from Thailand. Further, many economies across Asia will be affected by the slowdown in the huge financial remittances which these workers used to send to their countries. Take the Philippines as a single example. The country used to receive about USD 34 billion each year from remittances.

When all is said and done, we need to see the effect of this nightmare on some of the important economic sectors in Asia and the Pacific. It’s important to understand the full picture. Let’s dive in. 

E-commerce

There’s no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic has reduced consumer confidence, decreased the numbers of physical shoppers, and disrupted retail supply chains. Yet, on the other end of the spectrum, another sector didn’t miss the opportunity ─ E-commerce.

It’s clear that the majority of consumers across Asia now prefer online shopping and social media shopping over physical shops. According to Statista, revenue in the Asian eCommerce market amounts to USD 1,316,622m in 2020, with the average revenue per user currently amounting to USD 617.24.

So, what is the most important takeaway in this sector? Definitely, it’s becoming mandatory for brands and retailers to establish a good online presence and continuously use social media to offer their promotions in the current challenging climate.

Manufacturing

As COVID 19 reduced the pace of economic activity all over the world, the factory production activity has dramatically shrunk across most of the APAC region.

Japan and South Korea witnessed sharp falls in exports, while manufacturing gauges also plummeted in the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia.   

Analysts believe that the situation in South Korea is likely to get worse as the country’s production engine will be relying on parts from the USA and Europe.

In China, the slowing global demand due to COVID 19 pandemic hit the country’s manufacturing sector in April, according to recent data released by official and private sources.

IT and Software

In the IT and software arena, the pandemic has caused serious damage to tech companies’ factories, delivery operations and new product launches. Given the technology sector’s heavy concentration of manufacturing bases and customers in China and neighboring countries, the COVID 19 has disrupted operations and upended 2020 plans for many companies.

As for growth prospects, the coronavirus situation is expected to cut the growth rate of the region’s IT industry to only 1.2% in 2020. 

On the other hand, the virus outbreak has intensified the need for businesses to bolster remote working capabilities and digital collaboration infrastructure.  As a result, technology suppliers are witnessing a surge in demand for conferencing products as well as personal and group collaboration solutions – such as video-conferencing, audio-conferencing solutions, enterprise-grade headsets and portable speakers.

The Translation Industry

When it comes to the translation industry, there are great expectations for both the present and the near future. In the medical sector, for example, demand is rising for medical translators in hospitals and medical institutions due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Moreover, since people are staying more and more at home watching movies, this is definitely giving a remarkable boost to the subtitling and the game translation industries.

Even though translation services for the travel and hospitality sectors have been obviously hit due to the quarantine, yet healthcare, pharma and medical translation services are still witnessing reasonable demand as they are meeting the requirements of translating healthcare and medical content.

Why SEAtongue?

As a leading language service provider in Asia, SEAtongue has smartly responded to the coronavirus outbreak with a work-from-home business model, which has contributed to the regional and global effort aiming to curb the spread of the infection.

Moreover, the fast and smart response has made it possible for SEAtongue to guarantee the company’s business continuity and keep delivering a high-quality business translation service that helps enterprises to expand their products and services into more and more Asian and global markets.  

For your translation requirements, contact us today to discuss how we can give a hand or request a free quote