Driven by the digital economy, the number of small and medium-sized enterprises in Asia Pacific that are exporting to other regions has grown by 254% over the past four years, with 71% now exporting beyond the region, according to a research study from FedEx Express.
This was the first year in which Asia-Pacific SMEs exporting beyond the region have exceeded those exporting within it. In addition, among the APAC SMEs who source materials from other markets, 62% are sourcing from regions out Asia Pacific, compared to just 26% in 2015.
“The global footprint of APAC SMEs is bigger than ever,” said Karen Reddington, president of FedEx Express Asia Pacific. “This growth momentum is expected to stay as the majority of APAC SMEs believe that they will continue or increase their exports and imports beyond the region in the next 12 months. We are pleased to see that more SMEs are growing their business beyond Asia Pacific with an increasing need for more sophisticated logistics solutions.”
According to the study, e-commerce continues to be a key driver of exporting and importing activities, with 82% of the SMEs using e-commerce compared with 79% in 2016. Mobile commerce is now used by 72% of SMEs, compared with 61% in 2016.
New technologies are also driving business growth and long-term optimism. Two-thirds of the SMEs agreed that using emerging technology is helping to drive efficiencies in the supply chain. This includes mobile payments, big data, advanced analytics, software automation and artificial intelligence.
Customs clearance, foreign currency exchange and logistics issues continue to be the top three challenges faced by the SME exporters. Across the region, the consensus is that logistics providers can do more to support SMEs. Of those who took part in the study, 70% said that they are also sending slower, deferred shipments over ocean, while 62% are also sending express shipments by air.
“As a company committed to helping SMEs go global, there are significant opportunities for us to help meet the demands and needs, as well as address the challenges SMEs face in this region,” said Reddington.
The research study is titled ‘Global is the New Local: The Changing International Trade Patterns of Small Businesses in Asia Pacific’ and was conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of FedEx Express. The results are based on interviews with 4,543 senior executives of SMEs held online and by telephone between March and April 2018 in mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.