Emerging economies in Southeast Asia are providing robust growth opportunities even as global growth slows down. The economic centre of gravity is shifting towards these emerging economies, spurred by favourable demographics, increasing urbanisation, growing market and rich supply of resources. These same drivers are stimulating the growth of many new Southeast Asian companies and redefining the corporate landscape in the region.



Growing Consumer Market

Home to more than 600 million people, Southeast Asia has a population size larger than that of the European Union or North America. Estimated at US$1.5 trillion in 2015, its consumer market is larger than that of India and close to that of coastal China, with consumer spending estimated to reach US$2 trillion by 2020. The growing population, coupled with the emerging middle class consumers, will drive demand for more sophisticated products for both consumer and industrial business providers.


ACI started as an initiative of the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) in 2011 and is hosted by the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore. ACI aids organisations in developing customer-focused strategies based on insights about Asian consumers. The institute creates value in the areas of innovation, branding, new-markets development and new media initiatives.

The McKinsey Asia Consumer Insights Centre in Singapore was established to develop new market insights for companies working to satisfy Asia’s rapidly evolving consumer needs. To do so, the centre developed a broad portfolio of tools and techniques, such as needs-based segmentation, ethnography, and customer engagement tools, to assist clients in identifying gaps and uncovering opportunities for growth. The Centre also specialises in creating organisation-specific repositories of consumer insights and analyses. It is able to strengthen the analytical skills of clients’ staff through capability-building programmes, and implement structured analytical processes to boost the accuracy and efficiency of the company’s consumer insights.

Rising Infrastructure Demand

McKinsey Global Institute has estimated a necessary expenditure of US$7 trillion on increases in infrastructure investment by Southeast Asian governments. Consequently this will generate demand for commodities and services for the heavy manufacturing and construction industry.

The growth of Southeast Asia, with its set of unique unmet needs, offers opportunities for companies to create new market categories and businesses. There is potential for the deployment of disruptive technologies across the region, in areas such as mobile internet, cloud technology, and the Internet of Things (IOT).


The Accenture Internet of Things Centre of Excellence for Resources was established in 2016 to help companies transform their businesses through a combination of deep industry experience and innovative technologies. Supported by the Singapore Economic Development Board, the centre helps agriculture, forestry, metals, mining, oil and gas, chemicals and utilities companies to capitalise on innovation and new digital services and business models. It also focuses on intelligent connected devices and machines for the Industrial Internet of Things.



Abundance of Resources

ASEAN as a region holds a rich supply of resources. Southeast Asia is the 4th largest exporting region in the world, accounting for 7% of global exports. Its exports have also diversified as its members develop more sophisticated manufacturing capabilities. For instance, Vietnam typically specialises in textiles and apparel, Thailand in vehicle and automotive-parts, and Singapore and Malaysia in electronics.


Cargill is an international producer and marketer of food, agricultural, financial and industrial products and services. The company offers a unique combination of expertise to develop physical and financial solutions as well as in-depth analysis of global commodity markets along with practical experience to create insights that benefit customers. Cargill Asia Pacific Holdings was set up in Singapore over 30 years ago to enable the company to capture emerging opportunities in intra-Asia trade flows. Currently based in SEA, Cargill Asia Pacific conducts regional and global trading in metals, energy, palm oil, food ingredients, grain and oilseeds as well as animal nutrition.

Growing Labour Force

While Southeast Asia has a young and growing labour force, there is a need to raise labour productivity levels and develop a pipeline of talent equipped with a comprehensive understanding of the regions market dynamics and competitive landscape.


The Human Capital Leadership Institute was established in 2010 with Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower, the Singapore Economic Development Board and the Singapore Management University as strategic partners. The Institute offers the unique ability to bring together best-in-class faculty, thought leadership and insights on doing business in Asia and its implications on leadership and human capital strategies for Asia.



Increasing Cross-border Trade and Investments

Investments into Southeast Asia are currently at an all-time high, with Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflows into ASEAN’s five largest trading countries – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand – totalling US$128.4 billion in 2013. Manufacturing investment has spiked from US$18 billion in 2012 to US$41 billion in 2013. Southeast Asia is fast emerging as a region with the potential to become a thriving manufacturing hub.

Rapid Economic Growth

ASEAN is forecasted to become the 4th largest economy by 2050, with a combined GDP to increase fivefold to US$10 trillion by 2030. It also has the second fastest growing GDP in Asia after China, and has expanded by more than 300% since 2001. Despite current headwinds, ‘The Economist’ expects the region to continue its growth trajectory in the foreseeable future. Companies looking to enter such markets would require insights and professional services, many of which are readily available in Singapore.


PwC’s Growth Markets Centre helps companies address the key issues they face in developing the appropriate market entry strategies and business models to achieve profitable growth in new emerging markets such as Southeast Asia. This includes helping companies to navigate the local regulatory and institutional landscape, defining market potential and market segmentation strategies, as well as advising on appropriate organizational structures to optimise supply chain management and channel distribution.

The INSEAD Emerging Markets Institute (EMI) is a leading think tank on issues related to economic development and business management in the emerging economies, including Southeast Asia. It creates knowledge through research and disseminates it for practical application by organisations that seek to leverage the opportunities offered by these growth markets.

Launched by three advisory firms (UOB, RSM International and Rajah & Tann Asia) in May 2015, this portal provides users with information pertaining to setting up businesses in and navigating ASEAN. The areas covered include Banking & Finance, Audit, Tax & Advisory and Legal services.

Growing Pool of Forbes Global 2000 Companies

The number of ASEAN companies on Forbes’ list of Global 2000 companies has more than doubled in the past seven years, with more ASEAN companies on the list than India, Brazil, or Russia. ASEAN is currently home to 227 companies with more than US$1 billion in revenues.


The SMU Business Family Institute is Southeast Asia’s pioneer regional business family-centric institute focused on addressing the needs of business families in the region.


For sources of data, please contact EDB here.


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