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Why Southeast Asian Entrepreneurs Must Embrace the Sharing Economy

Experts at the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit discuss why Airbnb, Uber, and cloud systems are the way to go

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BY Melissa G. Bagamasbad - 26 Dec 2017

Why Southeast Asian Entrepreneurs Must Embrace the Sharing Economy

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

At last November’s ASEAN Business and Investment Summit held in Manila, panelists suggested it would bode well for the ASEAN region to embrace the shared economy.

“Airbnb’s are preferred nowadays by travelers because they want to live and eat like the locals and get a more authentic experience when they travel,” says Robin Kwok, Airbnb Country Manager for Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan. “They also want to see what the locals see.”

The shared economy doesn’t just include familiar apps like Airbnb or Uber but also extends to BPO, call center management and cloud computing, according to Dr. Robert Yap, Chair of ASEAN BAC Singapore and Executive Chairman of YCH Group (Singapore).

ASEAN is ready for the shared economy

“We are disparate from each other when it comes to economic progress,” says Yap. “But at the same time, it’s exactly because of that that we should leverage the shared economy. Each city has its own learning curve.”

He explains how in Laos, SMEs can do business due to the sharing economy; so it’s not just the big businesses that monopolize the industry.  

Mario Pezzini, Director of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Development Center (Italy) says ASEAN is ready for the sharing economy.

“We always had a component of the shared economy in our society,” he says. “Now, technology is making it more at hand for many things. Now in order to have a shared economy, you have to have privatization in the use of technology. If you don’t have these conditions, then you don’t have anything. Then you have privatization of groups and business as usual. If you want to guarantee privatization, then you need investment, policies, and education. Also access to web and Internet.”

He also adds the need for investment from government when it comes to infrastructure.

Kwok says trends like rapid urbanization in countries like the Philippines, a growing middle class, growing economies, and increased media consumption all point to embracing the sharing economy.

A win-win for everyone

To better harness the opportunities presented by the sharing economy, panelists have these pieces of advice.

“[By] selecting the right kind of solution, putting your money in the right place, and ensuring that we can all make use of the whole ecosystem for better efficiency so it’s win-win for everyone,” advises Yap.

Pezzini adds: “Facilitate regulation, provide the basic infrastructure required, and solve problems.”

For Kwok: “Providing opportunities for tourism innovation projects is incredibly important for this sector. It’s important so start-ups can solve the tourism gap. Partner with other SMEs.”

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