BANGKOK -- Asian executives that have led their companies across borders agree: Investing in local talent and technology is essential.
Speakers at the Nikkei Asia300 Global Business Forum, held in Bangkok on Friday, made this clear as they discussed global opportunities and the obstacles that stand in the way. Natarajan Chandrasekaran, CEO and managing director of Tata Consultancy Services, said the world is going through an "interesting time," with disruptive technologies shaking up one industry after another.
Citing the rise of smartphone apps for hailing rides and reserving hotel rooms, the head of the leading Indian IT services provider said: "The fundamental point is, every time there is a technology advancement, it does not replace [what came before] but gives a new possibility."
TCS, a unit of Tata Group, ventured out of India in 1971 and has built a presence in 46 countries. Its revenue for the year ended March exceeded $16.5 billion -- about two-thirds of it earned abroad. Its market capitalization has surpassed $70 billion, putting TCS ahead of all Indian companies.
Chandrasekaran said his company strives to stay ahead of the curve, in order to help clients deal with the changes triggered by disruptive technologies. "Digital disruption is about transforming a corporation into a real-time corporation," he said, explaining that real-time data gives companies the insights they need to provide "superior" services.
Chinese construction machinery maker Sany Heavy Industry took a different approach to becoming a global player. It prioritized its home market first, before branching out internationally.
"If we cannot do well in China, we cannot do well in Asia or the world," Xiang Wenbo, Sany's president, told the forum.
The strategy paid off four years ago when it was given the chance to purchase Putzmeister, a German producer of high-tech concrete pumps. Xiang said the acquisition turned Sany into the world's biggest purveyor of concrete mixing equipment. And while consolidation often follows acquisitions, Sany has maintained the German workforce and is benefiting from its research and development expertise.
"Being cross-border [requires] mutual understanding and tolerance," Xiang said, adding these qualities are crucial for solving whatever local issues arise.
Tony Lo, CEO of Taiwan's Giant Global Group, shares that focus on local talent. Its flagship company, Giant Manufacturing, is the world's largest bicycle maker by revenue and has a presence in 80 countries, with over 12,000 dealers.
"Our philosophy is to only hire local people," Lo stressed. The group believes this is the key to executing its business strategy. Giant, Lo added, does not simply sell bicycles but strives to offer customers a complete cycling experience.
The first stage, he said, is to concentrate on producing the "best bikes as possible." The second and third stages involve efforts to "promote cycling" and create a "cycling culture." Lo practices what he preaches: He cycled 23km in Bangkok on Thursday.
Nikkei staff writers Rosemary Marandi and Cheng Ting-Fang contributed to this article.