Talk Priority caught up with CEO Kunalan Chakravarthy and asked him what the firm and its clients can expect in 2023.
Priority’s mantra says “the World Looks to Asia.” What is the world seeing, as Asia comes into its own?
Well, we’re now in the Year of the Rabbit, which tradition insists will be a kinder year to follow the ferocious Year of the Tiger.
The rabbit is said to be the luckiest of all the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac, symbolising mercy, elegance, and beauty. We can hope, although it’s no secret that the world is facing some serious economic and geo-political issues. There’s a lot of talk of recession. However, we believe Asia and India are well placed to hop over the challenges and enjoy the crunchy carrots of success. Leaving aside the awful rabbit puns, it is a fact that the ASEAN region has consistently turned in impressive growth rates and is predicted to remain one of the fastest-growing regions of the world in 2023.
Country by country, we are recovering from the restrictions of the Covid pandemic, and tourism is making a big comeback. Trade, too is improving, thanks to the opening up of supply chains as well as initiatives like ASEAN Trade Agreements and the broader Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which is the largest Free Trade Agreement in the world.
When it comes to technology, which of course is our rice bowl, major Western vendors looking for growth opportunities see a region with the world’s highest rates of smartphones adoption and internet access, as well as consistent rapid growth in cloud computing and 5G networks. In the finance sector, for example, new digital-only banks are springing up everywhere and legacy banks are responding with their own digitalisation programmes. More and more people are using smart mobile solutions, for banking and e-commerce, entertainment and education, governance and healthcare. The region’s governments support these developments and encourage new market entrants. Put briefly, Asia and India continue to provide opportunities for growth that are still lacking in the West, especially in the context of Ukraine and the focus on regional security. It is not surprising that companies are looking towards Asia and we are excited about the prospects for our home region.
What are some of the specific opportunities in Asian and Indian markets for 2023?
Governments across the region have been encouraging businesses to embrace digital transformation for some time now, and this process was accelerated by the pandemic as on-line transactions and remote working became the new normal. The message to businesses here finally hit home: transform or get left behind. The digital economy offers huge opportunities for vendors of every type of data-driven application, from logistics to healthcare. And since every advance in technology carries with it the risk of compromise there is a massive demand for cybersecurity solutions and in line with that, the field for data analytics providers opened significantly. The World Economic Forum has recognized the significance of this transformation of the region’s economies.
The Smart Nation/Smart City concept is another great opportunity for our clients, because they bring all these advanced data-driven solutions together under one umbrella, and our regional governments are supporting the idea in various ways. In practice, of course, progress varies country by country. The Philippines for example across its widespread archipelago of more than seven thousand islands has the goal of bringing the internet to every citizen via a new low-orbit satellite network. Singapore on the other hand is prioritising a comprehensive smart urban transportation network alongside reducing demand for power. There are national and supra-national level organisations driving the smart city concept; the ASEAN Smart Cities Network (ASCN) is a collaborative platform that brings together 26 regional cities to work with the private sector.
There is another positive factor in play here – smart Cities technologies typically support sustainability and help organisations combat climate change. We already work with clients whose solutions for renewable energy, green buildings, clean environment and sustainable urban mobility are playing an increasingly important role in national economies in the region. The opportunities in these areas are huge.
Priority Consultants enjoyed a positive year in 2022, in terms of growth in revenues and headcount, despite the challenging economic environment. What are your early views on the firm’s prospects for 2023?
Our strengths lie in the three pillars – domain expertise in the area of deep technology, local knowledge brought by our team located in 11 cities across 7 countries and a proven methodology. These have always been key to our successful performance and not only in the past year. Our client roster includes many of the world’s most innovative technology leaders and we are confident that Asia will continue to be a focus region for them, and our growing headcount includes media relations experts, skilled content creators, and experienced communicators with a business background. We have plans to expand our service offering and will also focus on our company culture, ensuring that Priority is a safe and welcoming place to work for everyone. Will 2023 be tough? Undoubtedly, but we are quietly confident that we will meet our goals and continue to provide for the security and professional development of our people.
The Chinese economy is undergoing some readjustment, due to its changing Covid policy as well as geo-political factors. How are other Asian economies reacting? Are they able to pick up some of the slack, in manufacturing for example?
China’s size and power mean ASEAN must tread a careful diplomatic path between its giant neighbour and the US. China’s restrictive Covid-19 policies have seriously disrupted global supply chains – that, plus the threats to Taiwan, has made foreign investors look at alternative locations for manufacturing plants. It’s understandable, for example, that Foxconn is planning to make Apple products in Vietnam.
Foreign companies have realised that siting all their production facilities in China is no longer such a smart idea. Even after the country’s reopening, they will continue to seek diversification of sources for manufactured products and ASEAN is well-placed to take advantage, given its skilled, low-cost workforces. It should be mentioned, by the way, that the reopening is resulting in the release of massive pent-up demand among the Chinese for foreign travel. Millions of Chinese visitors are expected in Singapore, Malaysia and other destinations. Their spending will be welcome, but we must hope they don’t bring a new wave of Covid with them.
India’s relationship with China is a different matter. These two huge countries are currently at odds, with border skirmishes between their armies, and India moving politically closer to the US and Europe. India will soon overtake China as the world’s most populous nation, with long-term implications for both societies. We continue to invest in India and keep a positive view of China.
Asia’s demographics are interesting – the region has some of the youngest populations but also some of the oldest. What are the implications?
Aging populations mean governments have to worry about the provision of healthcare, whereas youthful populations mean a focus on quality and authenticity of education. In both cases there are opportunities for solutions that embrace Artificial Intelligence and robotics. Singapore is one of the nations with an aging population; the country is investing to ensure the older generation is fully engaged with the digital economy. This includes improving the ability of workforces to be productive through using their digital assets efficiently.
Besides demographics, the talent crunch is still a major challenge in the region even as many tech companies are shedding headcount. There is a continuing demand for data analysts, software engineers, network security engineers and so on. We work with who offer solutions that help their customers address this shortfall by making the most effective use of their existing technology assets. Our reputation as a B2B technology communications specialist combined with our local expertise really puts us in the sweet spot, for 2023 and beyond.
As regional economies re-open for business post-pandemic, many enterprises are re-thinking their strategies, including their allocation of resources. How does this affect Priority?
As far as we ourselves are concerned, we took firm action right at the start of the pandemic in 2021 and managed not only to survive but flourish during the difficult years. The business model we already had in place proved to be ideal for efficient operations both during the lockdowns and the subsequent hybrid working environment. We are a fully cloud-based company, and we rely on technology to collaborate, share ideas, and drive client engagements. We are committed to not only training our people but measuring the value it brings. When it comes to our clients, we are able to provide counsel on changing regional market opportunities. Our single point of contact methodology means clients get the same level of service when they expand to additional markets, saving costs and letting them focus on their core business.