Most local, homegrown startups view overseas expansion as both an exciting and daunting prospect. While expansion into foreign markets is part of the agenda for most late stage startups, getting there may seem intimidating and challenging for most startup founders, even the more experienced ones. There are just so many things that one has to consider before venturing into uncharted waters for the first time, from laws and regulations to market needs and localization efforts. Yet, expansion into new, foreign markets can ultimately be a rich and rewarding enterprise for startups that dare to venture forth beyond their local shores.
Before expanding overseas, you should do the proper research and homework to ensure that you are well prepared to enter the new market. Proper market analysis is crucial for determining whether there is indeed a real actual need for your product or service, or to at least pinpoint any holes or gaps in the market that your startup can potentially fill. Rather than relying solely on second hand sources or online research, having your feet on the ground is the best way to size up the new market that you are entering; interacting with local authority figures and leaders will give you a clearer and more up-to-date picture of the market and its conditions. Besides, this is also a great opportunity for you to expand and build your business network so you can leverage on any opportunities that may present itself in the future. Other than market analysis, you should also do a thorough and detailed study of your competitors to better understand the products and services of your competition and how they fulfill market demand.
Other factors to consider before embarking on an overseas expansion include understanding the foreign market’s digital consumer behavior. This is particularly relevant for tech startups or those operating in the digital space. Southeast Asia is a region that is brimming with high internet penetration and social media penetration rates, as well as boasting high mobile connectivity. Still, certain countries and areas still lack the proper resources and network infrastructure necessary for maintaining solid, consistent mobile and Internet connectivity, so you have to keep that in mind when deciding how to allocate your budget and resources.
To help your startup get acclimatized to the new overseas market, you should consider appointing a local talent to act as the regional head. It is even better if you are able to hire an influential local leader or person of high standing as they can bring many great opportunities to your startup through their contacts and extensive network of connections. Your startup can also take advantage of the country’s area of expertise when expanding your base of operations; for example, India is well known for its field of information technology while Singapore is currently pushing for blockchain technology adoption.
When examining the overseas market that you wish to enter, you should also take into consideration whether that particular country can provide your startup with the right kind of talent that it requires. Certain countries may lack the skilled manpower that meets your startup’s standards, so you may have to consider hiring remotely if you still want to venture into the new market after all.
Your startup’s overseas expansion signals the beginning of a new, exciting chapter. With the proper preparation and focus, your startup may well grow and thrive in the new environment by turning challenges and obstacles into golden opportunities for learning and growth.