If you’re considering entering the Asian market, choose the region with the smallest learning curve, starting with Singapore. This cosmopolitan country is the doorway to all of the growing Southeast Asian countries, including Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Although the e-commerce market isn’t exploding like in China, it’s experiencing steady growth and boasts a young, affluent market that makes the region ripe for western fashion designers.
A May report from Google and Temasek predicts that Southeast Asia will have an e-commerce market worth more than $5 billion by 2025, incorporating 52 percent of the market. Led by Singapore, shoppers in these countries are quickly gaining access to the internet, and with 70 percent of the population under age 40 and a growing middle class, the potential is there for a wide variety of fashion startups to make a name for themselves.
As a Singapore native, I admit I’m a bit partial toward my country. However, I’ve been all too aware of the sea change underway among fashion consumers. Fewer people are demanding the high-end, European mass labels that have dominated the fashion landscape for so long. The young professional in Singapore is searching for her own fashion identity and is eager to buy clothing and accessories that fit her lifestyle. She no longer settles for cookie-cutter design and wants pieces in her wardrobe that are unique.
Westerners often find that Singapore is a perfect place to launch their fashion brands because there are fewer obstacles than in other Asian countries. The biggest obstacle for Americans and many Europeans is language. English is Singapore’s official language, eliminating one of the biggest hurdles to doing business in Asia. Speaking the same language eliminates time and money caused by miscommunication.
In addition, many multinational corporations base their Asian operations in Singapore, creating a synergy between expats of western countries and the locals. Unlike in some other Asian countries, we incorporate other cultures into our own. The average professional Singaporean is well-traveled and enjoys new experiences.
Dealing in some Asian countries can be tricky because of less transparent business practices. Making a mistake with local authorities can stall a launch indefinitely in some countries. Singapore is well-known for its ease of doing business without having to offer kickbacks or participate in other unsavoury practices to import your products.
The pro-business climate and acceptance of western business customs in Singapore helps make designers feel more at ease. You don’t have to worry about making a potentially serious cultural faux pas. Finding an Asian partner who can help with logistics and expertise in the regional market is easier as well.
If you find entering the Asian market overwhelming, eliminate much of your worry by starting in a country that speaks English, appreciates western design, and offers a pro-business environment by starting in Singapore. It’s one of the best places in the world to launch a brand!
Alia Sahari is a Singapore native who specialises in helping companies rebrand themselves in worldwide markets, especially Asia. She is a graduate of Raffles LaSalle International College of Arts, majoring in Fashion Marketing & Management. She started a fashion line of her own designs at age 20, sourcing and merchandizing women’s accessories and casual footwear around Southeast Asia then selling them in Singapore. She established the Corporate Social Responsibility & Corporate Governance department at Affinitas Pte Ltd., providing corporate training programs in a holistic way that makes business sense to Asian corporations. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org