Overview of Business Prospects in Southeast Asia (SEA) 2021 thumbnail

Overview of Business Prospects in Southeast Asia (SEA) 2021

Fuelled by over 670 million people, Southeast Asia (SEA) is home to various emerging markets. This region also consists of a 10-member economic powerhouse, called the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which was set up in 1967, and is existing to help the region drive its economic growth. Moreover, ASEAN has its ultimate goals of maintaining close and cooperative relationships to promote peace, stability, and financial growth, to date.

The list of 10 countries in Southeast Asia:

1.      Brunei Darussalam

2.      Cambodia

3.      Indonesia

4.      Laos

5.      Malaysia

6.      Myanmar

7.      Philippines

8.      Singapore

9.      Thailand

10.  Vietnam

However, not all countries grow at equal rates, given the differences in population size, regulations, as well as availability of natural resources. As such, below is the list of the ASEAN 6 majors, which refers to the six biggest economies of ASEAN, in terms of Gross Domestic Product:

1.      Indonesia

Jakarta, Indonesia

The diversity in this archipelagic market is very much attractive to foreign entrepreneurs looking to expand their business in Southeast Asia, as the country is powered by over 17 thousand islands and 276 million people. Further, representing approximately 40% of the economy and the population of ASEAN, Indonesia is the region’s only member of the G20. Its size and remarkable economic growth also mesmerizes many foreign investors. Nowadays, the top 3 fast-growth industries in Indonesia are: E-commerce, Fintech, as well as Manufacturing and Infrastructure sector. Although the country is still struggling to lower the daily positive cases of COVID-19, the Indonesian economy recorded positive growth for the first time in the second quarter of 2021 since the outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020, amounting to 7.07% (yoy).

2.      Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

With a population of over 32 million people and a per capita gross national income of $11,230 (2019), the top 3 fast-growth industries in the country include: Service Sector, Manufacturing, as well as Construction. Currently, although the country is fighting against the skyrocketing positive cases of COVID-19, its economy successfully grew 16.1% on the year in the second quarter of 2021, as announced by the Central Bank on Friday (13/8). Further, as the second highest connectivity in Southeast Asia just behind Singapore, Malaysia has a much larger population which makes it one of the most interesting digital markets in the region.

3.      Philippines

Manila, Philippines

The Philippines is another country with an archipelagic market, and is the second largest population in Southeast Asia sitting just behind Indonesia. They have one of the most active population on social media, thus making it an attractive place for investors. Moreover, with approximately 110 million people inhibiting 7 thousand islands, there is no doubt that this market holds promising business opportunities, as well. Top 3 fast-growth industries in the Philippines are: Business Processing Outsourcing (BPO), Information Technology, as well as E-commerce.

4.      Singapore


This country has fiercely remained as the top country in SEA in their ease of doing business and innovation. Although the population is only close to 6 million people, its principal resource is impressive. With a land area of only 725.7 km², Singapore has a shocking per capita gross national income of $59,590 (2019). Top 3 fast-growth industries in Singapore are: Fintech, Cybersecurity , as well as Health and fitness industry.

5.      Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand

Fuelled by approximately 70 million people, Thailand is a land of promising success, as its government has, as well, introduced the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) in 2018; hoping to develop its eastern provinces for trade and investment in the ASEAN region. Top 3 fast-growth industries in Thailand are: E-commerce, Automotive and Manufacturing, as well as Infrastructure.

6.      Vietnam

Hanoi, Vietnam

Many investors are keen on entering Vietnam, especially if they are interested in Manufacturing, F&B, and the Retail industry, as there is a growing interest in these business sectors. Top 3 fast-growth industries in Vietnam are: E-commerce, Electronics, as well as Manufacturing.

Overall, despite a drastic global economic downturn amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the ASEAN regional economy still has hopes, as it steadily shows growth due to active trade and commerce dealings. In fact, the Southeast Asia region is expected to grow by about 5.2% from 2018 to 2022 at a yearly average (Economic Outlook for Southeast Asia, China and India 2018: Fostering Growth through Digitalisation, OECD, 2018). Further, the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) is projected to become the fourth largest single market in the world by the year 2030. This steady growth amidst the pandemic is supported by an increasingly well-educated workforce, a wealth of its national resources, rapid urbanization, as well as increasing infrastructure spending. Another advantageous point for the ASEAN region is its famously-known strategic location, which lies in major trade routes, with approximately US$5.3 trillion of global trade passing through each year (ASEAN Matters for America, East-West Center Publication, 2014).

Furthermore, one should also look inside the digital growth in some SEA countries, as the sector is currently booming, due to the rapid development of telecommunications infrastructure and the spread of mobile phones, particularly in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. As more people have been staying at home to prevent the spread of COVID-19 nowadays, there has been a skyrocketed shift towards online shopping and in particular online entertainment, therefore, digital media consumption in the region continues to grow.

All and all, we understand the complexity of our clients’ challenges in getting to know and penetrating the SEA market. Therefore, ESEAHub exist to ensure that foreign brands who wish to enter the SEA market can do it successfully. One of the reasons why we are your trustworthy partner is because we do thorough data analysis and market research with our advanced analytical tools, and match brands with reputable star-sellers in big e-commerce marketplaces in Southeast Asia that sell more than 5000 items in a day.

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