THE rapidly accelerating global reach of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Asia Pacific (APAC) is being driven by the thriving digital economy, according to research from FedEx Express.
Overall, the number of SMEs exporting to other regions is up 254 per cent over four years with 71 per cent now exporting beyond APAC. The research also found a significant increase in imports and exports within the Asia Pacific region over the past three years.
Entitled 'Global is the New Local: The Changing International Trade Patterns of Small Businesses in Asia Pacific,' the research reveals that trade within the region no longer dominates as it did in the past as the level of exports to other regions (71 per cent) is reaching a similar level to that of exports within the Asia Pacific region (70 per cent).
In addition, among the APAC SMEs who source materials from other markets, 62 per cent are sourcing from other regions, up from 26 per cent in 2015.
'The global footprint of APAC SMEs is bigger than ever,' said FedEx Express Asia Pacific president Karen Reddington. 'This growth momentum is expected to stay as majority of APAC SMEs believe that they will continue to or increase their exports and imports beyond the region in the next 12 months.'
According to the study, the booming digital economy is one of the key factors spurring business growth among SMEs in APAC. Companies are more optimistic about how the digital economy will benefit their business (61 per cent) than about the overall economic outlook (41 per cent).
New technologies are another key business driver. SMEs in APAC are harnessing new Industry 4.0 technologies to expand their business with a number of them widely adopted by businesses. There is optimism among APAC SMEs about increased adoption of these technologies - including mobile payments, big data or advanced analytics and software automation - in the next 12 months.
Sixty-six per cent of APAC SMEs indicated that their main motivation to adopt these new technologies is to drive efficiencies in supply chain and distribution channels, thereby driving business growth.
Across the region, the consensus among SMEs is that logistics providers can do more to support SMEs as many feel that exporting and importing is becoming increasingly difficult. Specifically, SMEs have reported that they are looking for different shipping options including slower, deferred shipments traveling over ocean (70 per cent) in addition to express shipments travelling by air (62 per cent).
The study results are based on interviews with 4,543 senior executives of SMEs held online and by telephone in nine markets in Asia Pacific between March and April 2018.