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Lee Eun-Seok woke up in the middle of the debris and looked for survivors but it was no use. Seoul had already turned into a huge hive, infested by giant hornets.

So goes the story in Hive, one of the “webtoons” that have become hugely popular in South Korea and which are poised to become the country’s next booming export, according to some bullish forecasts. Continue reading »

By Ben Simpfendorfer of Silk Road Associates

The Yuecheng in Beijing’s southern suburbs is a pleasant looking senior living home. Its main living room is full of books, potted plants, and mahjong tables. Its bedrooms are bright and well equipped and little different from the rooms that many might be used to seeing in Europe or the US.

Indeed, to the casual observer, the Yuecheng appears to be a pin-up for the commercial opportunities of selling to China’s growing ranks of elderly people. But that’s why it’s also misleading. Continue reading »

As Narendra Modi, India’s new prime minister, gets his feet under his desk in New Delhi, it seems everyone is optimistic about the country’s prospects. That includes Ravneet Gill, chief executive of Deutsche Bank in India.

Modi won this year’s election with a powerful majority, having promised to restart India’s manufacturing sector, to get investment going by cutting red tape, and to improve the country’s crumbling infrastructure. Gill says all this will help India’s struggling banking sector – but running a bank in the country still isn’t an easy job. Continue reading »

Jimmy Choos under your sari and an African safari for the Diwali long weekend?

A new report by Kotak Wealth Management and Ernst & Young – Top of the Pyramid 2014 – finds that India’s super rich are “ready for change” as a strong new government comes to power in New Delhi – and they’re spending to prove it.

 Continue reading »

It is like the return of a prodigal son. Infosys, the Indian IT group, hived off its “products, platforms and solutions” business this year into a wholly-owned but independent subsidiary known as EdgeVerve.

The unit was first formed two and a half years ago as part of the group’s efforts to move into higher value businesses. But that strategy – dubbed “Infosys 3.0″ – has taken a back seat in the past year as the focus shifted back to the traditional IT services that are bread and butter for Infosys. Now, as the parent group’s financial results improve and a new group chief executive arrives next month, this young but fast-growing subsidiary is poised to come back into the spotlight. Continue reading »

By Stuart Larkin of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies

Following his “flipping the switch” on political reform, Thein Sein, Myanmar’s president, has embraced the international donor community – of bilateral and multilateral agencies led by the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank and the IMF – in an agenda of good governance and economic liberalisation. Early reforms have spurred economic growth to around 8 per cent and both government and donors have extrapolated this trend out to 2030 and the attainment of middle income status almost as if it is already in the bag. Not wanting to be seen as a spoiler, neither side has an interest in deviating from this new economic narrative. Continue reading »

Antonio Soto, Asia Manager of AJE Group posed for a photoshoot at AJE factory in Cikarang, West Java, Indonesia. June 5, 2014. Rony Zakaria for The Financial Times©Rony Zakaria

Sebastianus Hendro Kistanto, an IT technician in the Indonesian city of Semarang, always drank Coca-Cola, even after he stop­ped working for the US soft-drinks company’s operation in the country.

That was until he picked up his first bottle of Big Cola last year, attracted by the low price – just Rp3,000 (25 cents) for a 535ml serving. “Coke has the best taste but Big Cola costs much less,” he says, adding that he drinks about four bottles a week.

 Continue reading »

Now that the football is finished, there is time to ponder the cultural legacy of the World Cup. For Chinese, some of it may be written in characters.

The Chinese characters inked as tattoos onto footballers’ bodies – no matter how bizarre or bewildering their message – are being seen in some quarters as indicative of a great power’s cultural projection.

“Cultural differences lead to funny misunderstandings, but they still help spread the culture,” Wang Qingyuan, head of the China Association of Tattoo Artists was quoted by the state-run China Daily European Weekly as saying. Continue reading »

In the aftermath and shock of the Rana Plaza disaster, in which more than 1,100 people died, many promises were made. Yet the Bangladesh government has been lethargic and its promises of action on factory safety and labour relations have hit familiar walls. Foreign powers, meanwhile, have produced contrasting responses. Continue reading »

As the monsoon rains lash down on the streets of Mumbai, traffic has slowed to a crawl. Just last week, India’s trademark black and yellow taxis would speed down Marine Drive, the city’s seaside boulevard, but now the road is clogged as a jumble of jalopies and private cars trundle past potholes brimming with water.

Just the opposite is true of India’s car market: sales have started to accelerate. In the month of June, total car sales jumped 14.76 per cent year-on-year to 160,232 units, according to data from the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) published earlier this month.

While the evidence is too fragmented to make a compelling case for a sustainable upturn in car sales, some analysts are optimistic. The thumping triumph of Narendra Modi, prime minister, in May’s national election – which has also sparked an impressive stock market rally – may be helping to infuse consumers with a sense of wellbeing, analysts said. Continue reading »

By Dan Gallucci, Asean Confidential

General Prayuth Chan-ocha, leader of the May 22 coup d’état that returned Thailand yet again to a state of military rule, has repeatedly emphasised the country’s need for a “return to happiness” following months of political chaos. He has even released a song about it.

The coup-makers appear to have so far accomplished this task according to some yardsticks: consumer confidence is up nationwide (see chart), and in Bangkok the streets are safer and traffic is no longer disrupted by protests. Many Thais approve both of the coup itself and the job the generals have done managing the country since. Continue reading »

By Andy Rothman, Matthews International Capital Management

Statistics announced on Wednesday do much to challenge the view that sub-par Chinese consumer spending is to blame for the sluggish rebalancing of the world’s second largest economy away from an over-reliance on investment. For too long this opinion has obscured the crucial truth that China is actually host to the world’s best consumer story.

Real retail sales rose 10.7 per cent in June and 10.8 per cent in the first half of this year, compared to the year earlier period. The strong momentum of this spending springs from solid foundations, with real urban household disposable income rising 7.1 per cent, up from 6.5 per cent a year ago. Continue reading »

By Paul Hodges of International eChem

Strange things are happening in China’s polyethylene (PE) market. Despite a slowdown in the economy, demand is surging.

Our research suggests that PE, like copper and iron before it, is the latest instrument of China’s ‘collateral trade’, in which spurious imports are helping to drive one of the world’s great credit bubbles.

It can only end badly. Continue reading »

South Korean carmakers are up in arms over Chile’s proposed bill to impose an environment tax on diesel vehicles, which is likely to hit Korea’s car exports to the Latin American country and cause diplomatic friction.

Chile is one of the key export markets for Korean automakers such as Hyundai Motor and its affilate Kia Motors, both making rapid inroads into emerging markets. Korean cars are the best-selling imported vehicles in Chile, with 30 per cent of the country’s fast-growing auto market. Continue reading »