Leadership4 min read

Business in Asia-Pacific: A Year of Learning and Adapting

Photo for Sylvain CazardSylvain Cazard

This February, I celebrated one year in my role as senior vice president and general manager for VMware’s business in Asia-Pacific & Japan (APJ). A 13-year VMware veteran, this new role saw me move from Europe where I was leading the business in Central EMEA, to our APJ headquarters in Singapore to lead our VMware business for a diverse group of nations over a huge geographic region. It’s been a year full of learning and new experiences, and I wanted to take this time to reflect and share some insights. 

Doing Business in Asia-Pacific

Asia-Pacific is of course very diverse, with a huge mix of cultures and languages. While I experienced differences to what I was used to in Europe, there was also similarity which I found easy to adapt to.

A lot of this I credit to VMware’s own incredible culture. VMware is a unique organisation, with the same, energetic, positive way of working that extends wherever it operates around the world. The challenges our customers are facing, and the ways VMware solutions can create opportunities for them, are also shared across different parts of the world.

Of course, everywhere is different, and there have been some surprises along the way. One thing I was not quite expecting was India’s robust and forthright business culture. There is amazing energy in business in India, and negotiations can be tough, but very rewarding.

I was also surprised to see how much Australia has changed, both in business and as a society, in the 30 or so years since I Iived there. I liked the old Australia too, but the transformation has been amazing.

And in Japan I have been fascinated to see how close the relationships between our clients and partners are. It’s to a level that I haven’t seen anywhere else. 

One Region, Many Laws

For a European, one of the biggest differences of doing business in Asia is that there is no EU-equivalent common market, with laws harmonised across borders. Each nation in Asia-Pacific has its own rules and regulations. That can add significant complexity and management overhead for customers in the era of global multi-cloud, data and apps.

Asia-Pacific governments are also enacting more legislation to keep data inside their own borders. As a result, at VMware we see growing demand for sovereign cloud solutions tailored to nations as different as India (population 1.4 billion) and New Zealand (population 5.1 million).

It’s a similar situation when it comes to sustainability. Across Asia-Pacific, organisations and governments are running their own programmes to cut emissions, but there are no region-wide rules in areas like emissions reporting and carbon trading.

Asia-Pacific has so far avoided the huge increases in energy costs that have hit Europe as a result of the war in Ukraine. But at the same time, Asia is home to many countries with warm climates that put extra demands on the cooling that cloud data centres require.

Asia-Pacific at the Leading Edge of Digital

Working at a company like VMware, you get to see a lot of impressive business technology. But as an end-user, Asia-Pacific has surprised me in how digitally advanced it is compared to other parts of the world. Many things are done with apps in Asia that are still done manually in other places. It’s something that I’ve noticed most when travelling - from verifying a COVID test with an online doctor, through to Singapore’s passenger-friendly, digital-first approach to travel.

Asia-Pacific is also home to many developing economies whose IT infrastructure has often developed later than Europe or North America. In these rapidly-growing emerging markets, growth, rather than consolidation or efficiency, is the big digital transformation priority. As businesses in these markets ramp up, they’re leapfrogging generations of infrastructure and going straight to the cloud to take advantage of the capability, innovation and scale offered.

That’s helped put Asia-Pacific at the global forefront of cloud, and most commonly multi-cloud as the results of a survey recently conducted by Vanson Bourne for VMware show. Seventy percent of Asia-Pacific businesses said they are using multiple public clouds, compared to 62% in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region, and 59% in North America. In New Zealand, it’s an impressive 80% of organisations.

Asia-Pacific’s leap into cloud is paying off. For example, the proportion of Asia-Pacific companies that say multi-cloud has “a very positive impact on ability to achieve mission” is 61%, compared to 41% in North America and 51% in EMEA. Part of the reason for that has to be that Asia-Pacific companies are getting to the cloud smart stage faster. In our region, 21% of organisations are now cloud smart, compared to 19% in EMEA and 14% in North America.

Delivering Real Business Advantages

Yet numbers only tell part of the story of how dynamic this region is. We have innovators like Union Bank of The Philippines, which has put its entire IT infrastructure, including core banking, into the cloud, enabling the bank to do everything faster. And it’s also helped deliver services to consumers that have been underserved by banks in the past, which is helping to drive greater financial inclusion in the nation.

As well as Australian-listed mining major Rio Tinto uses VMware to analyse electricity usage during the production and processing of aluminium as it pushes to halve carbon emissions by 2030. And Japanese car manufacturing giant Toyota Motor Corporation, which is using VMware cloud solutions to help reskill factory workers into digital talent.

While there are many success stories enabled by this leapfrog into cloud, many Asia-Pacific organisations are still working to get the maximum value out of their multi-cloud investments and reach the point where the advantages outweigh challenges. Our Multi-Cloud Maturity Index Research Report shows that only 38% of APAC organisations believe they have a clearly defined multi-cloud strategy in place, but that is still ahead of North America and EMEA, which each had 28%. 

Thriving on Challenge and Change

The diversity and dynamism of Asia-Pacific has truly amazed me. At a personal level, I have been learning non-stop. Professionally, it’s been a joy discovering and working with the VMware team alongside energetic and innovative companies that have embraced the advantages of multi-cloud.

Each day I witness the enthusiasm of the VMware ecosystem in Asia-Pacific, with individuals openly showing how excited and enthusiastic the capabilities of VMware’s solutions.

Together, we are learning, and we are growing. We are thriving on the challenge and the change. And as we work together, we are finding it is a very exciting place to be.

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