In Conversation: Gemma Manning, Gemstar Technology
On 5 February 2019, Professor Gordon Flake, CEO of the Perth USAsia Centre, facilitated an event hosted by Gemstar which provided advice to WA businesses about entering the ASEAN Market.
The following is a transcript from the ‘in conversation’ component of the event.
Gordon: Why ASEAN/Asia for Australian companies?
Gemma: It makes perfect sense, especially for Western Australian businesses. When you look at somewhere like Singapore, where Gemstar is based, it is actually closer than travelling to the Eastern States of Australia. They are on the same time, and with English the first language, it makes it easier to make things happen.
Gordon: Describe the region in your experience and the opportunities?
Gemma: The ASEAN region is highly diverse. It is vibrant, dynamic and globally connected. It boasts a growing population that is approximately 660 million people, and is the 5th largest economy in the world with a combined GDP of 2.4 trillion. The region has a growing middle class as well as a growing young population. People are hungry for innovative products and services. We find that many Australians still have a very outdated view of the region and haven’t yet caught up with where the region is actually at.
Gordon: Where did your interest in Asia come from – how did it start?
Gemma: My interest in Asia first began as an 8 year old when I started learning Japanese. I loved learning about Japan’s culture and language, and that led me to going and living in Japan after graduating from high school. From there, I pursued my love of the Japanese language and always had Japanese speaking marketing roles in the corporate sector where I was always connected with Asia marketing strategies. When I started my own business, I promised myself that one day I would take my own business into Asia and here we are.
Gordon: Why did you choose Singapore and more broadly Asia as a market to grow you own business into in the first place?
Gemma: It’s about the power of proximity. Asia is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and it presents so many opportunities for Australian entrepreneurs. When it comes to the technology market, Singapore is ranked 7th in the world on the 2015 Global Innovation Index. At Gemstar we believe that in order to survive in the future, companies must embrace the opportunities which exist across the ASEAN region.
Gordon: What has the journey looked like for you and your businesses?
Gemma: It has been a very long road involving determination, commitment, dedication and a long term view of my own businesses Asia strategy. I have had to be patient, I have had to believe in the strategy and know what to tweak and change in order to get it right. I have been humble, worked hard and shown respect to the regions I work within. To get to where I am, I have been culturally sensitive, culturally aware and this is all part of the journey.
Gordon: Your successes in Asia have been well documented – launching an Innovation Centre in Singapore to launching a Diploma in Entrepreneurship and Innovation with Kaplan for young Singaporeans. Your business Gemstar has also been referenced and acknowledge by Singapore’s PM Lee for your efforts in bridging the gap between Australia and Singapore. Why do you think you have been successful with your businesses? What is the secret sauce?
Gemma: The secret is patience. While Australian businesses may hope that a deal is done after one or two meetings; that is not the way things happen in Asia. It’s a slow burn. They are about that in person contact, and it’s about relationship building. While our Asian Immersion Program puts Australian business in touch with key contacts across the region, patience is definitely required. Their business community wants to know you are in it for the long term.
Gordon: You work closely with many Australian companies on their journey into Asia. Where are Australian companies getting it wrong?
Gemma: In our experience, Australian businesses have tended to enter the market, and left again. This is definitely a mistake. Whether large corporations or small, medium enterprises, entering and then quickly departing the Asian market is risky business. I would say for many, they will never be let back in.
Gordon: What is your advice to Western Australian companies? How they can tap into ASEAN? How can they get it right?
Gemma: Obviously patience, but there needs to be some forethought to your entry into the market. You definitely need the level of cash flow required for that sort of business diversification. To ensure your entry is successful, as part of our Asian Immersion Program, we do a complete analysis of your business, to ensure you are ready for the growth. From my experience, it is not easy, it takes time and it definitely requires capital.
Gordon: What are your plans to see more WA businesses take the leap of faith and explore Asia, as you have done in your own business?
Gemma: Through the Asian Immersion Program, we have helped many businesses to enter the market, introducing them to key contacts, and providing advice based on our own experiences. This year, we will also host masterclasses to provide quick tips for businesses serious about making the plunge.