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Noorings: At Singapore, wondering why this is the hub for the ‘Asia’ region

20-September-2010
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Noorings: At Singapore, wondering why this is the hub for the ‘Asia’ region

India is the big focus point – it is nice to hear it every time someone says it, but there is nothing new or big about it anymore. India has been important for many international players in the last few years. And for those who saw India’s potential before that are reaping the benefits now. So, it doesn’t excite anyone anymore about just how important India is. That said, one cannot help but wonder sometimes that when India is so important, why aren’t we seeing more regional positions like APAC heads or Asia heads being based out of India. Why is Singapore or Hong Kong still the hot favourite for that?

Courtesy the organisers of Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival, I am amongst those journalists who are going to spend the next two days at the Suntec City Convention Centre in Singapore hearing about creativity and more on the advertising business at Spikes Asia 2010. And the more I speak to people here, the more I can begin to understand why Singapore makes sense as a regional hub.

The central location of the market and the infrastructure don’t really sound very convincing as the key reasons, though that is the answer that many global heads have given to me in the past, every time I have asked them why not India. Some have been candid enough in saying that things like family relocation to Singapore, education and even travel, in terms of flight timings to different markets and the number of direct flights play a substantial role in favour of Singapore as a regional hub. So that is fine, let’s take that out of the picture for a bit.

Many clients also have Singapore as a regional hub, and that probably dictated the agency movement towards Singapore in the first place – agency officials would like to be where the clients are. Understandable, but clients always are the ones that make new rules, Singapore base is changing slowly and steadily for clients. Though that doesn’t mean India is the next choice. Much competition is coming from the likes of Shanghai for regional positions as well.

But I think the real reason why India is not going to be regional hub for many companies yet is the very fact that India, like China and Australia, is a very important market. And it competes with China and Australia for global attention. To pick one of these, is unpicking the other such markets. Singapore or Hong Kong, in that sense, is safe. The subject also came up in a conversation with some senior agency executives, all of us waiting for the Spikes sessions to begin. And one of the creative guys remarked that a dedicated head for India and China are very important for companies these days, and once the ‘regional head’ is India or China, the market cannot have its own head. It is better to keep the boss away. So I asked, how do the US and the UK have market heads and global heads in the same office, and the answer was – no comparison, the US and the UK are very large markets.

The conversation went on for a bit, and at some point I began think if it really mattered – where did a global position base out from? Was it not enough that India is getting all the attention that it is? And the more I was thinking, may be it did not matter what the regional headquarter is, but surely India getting the attention it is getting is not enough. There have to be more areas to develop for India to become a super power of some kind. I am a complete believer of power shifting to the east, and I do believe India can gain from it, but now is the time to look for more – no matter how small it may seem at the time. India is important from a consumer standpoint and that is what advertisers and agencies are chasing, but they need to be given more to chase now. So, I do see myself taking refuge in what a dear says about no stupid questions, and asking some more of why not India?

Hopefully, in years to come we could see more regional events held in India, and my bit of travel would include a local flight, or if things are really right, just the car.

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