6 Oct 17

Understanding Asian sub-regions

Asia is the world’s largest continent. It contains 54 countries and 4.5 billion people. Nevertheless, from a Fleet Manager perspective it’s usually reduced to a handful of countries, considering that Middle East is usually classified under the MEA region and Russia conveniently added to the European territory. And this makes sense.

But even if Americans and Europeans think of Asia as those countries where they’d like to spend their annual holidays to enjoy sun and great service in hotels, there’s a need for approaching the region in a structural and intelligent manner. Understanding the sub-regions is a good first step.

We distinguish the following regions (the countries mentioned behind each sub-region represent the “fleet countries”, not all of the countries included in the sub-region)

  • South East Asia or SEA (Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Cambodia and Philippines)
  • South Asia or SA (Pakistan, India, Bangladesh)
  • North East Asia or NEA (Japan, Taiwan, South Korea)
  • China
  • ANZ (Australia, New Zealand)

Some might argue that this division is subjective and to some extent, this is correct. There’s no unified language, religion or culture in each region and, except for ASEAN, there’s little consolidation perspective from a trade or tax perspective.

So what is the justification of the split? It’s grouping by exclusion. China is separate, because of the size and the volume, Australia & New Zealand are “Western” and fairly similar from a car fleet point of view, South-East Asia is harmonized due to the Association of South East Asian Nations. Remains India and its surroundings and Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong. This has resulted in respectively South Asia and North East Asia.

Consequently, and this is the first reason to approach Asia in a sub-regional way, many major corporates have subdivided their operations in a similar way. This has resulted in the fact that the supply chain has followed its customers and used the same sub-regional approach. Many companies (fleet owners and suppliers) have at least a head office in China (Beijing or Shanghai), SEA (Singapore) and ANZ (Sydney or Melbourne) & show more or less creativity for SA and NEA, depending on the size of the operations in these sub-regions. Therefore, from a fleet management point of view, it makes sense to follow the corporates and create a similar division.

Additionally, there are similarities within each sub-region. Most of these similarities can be explained by having a closer look at culture, history, origins of language or religions. For instance, Korea, Taiwan, Japan and China have used Chinese characters to express themselves until an individual character system (such as Hiragana and Katakana in Japan) replaced or completed the Chinese way or writing.

Therefore, it is recommended to respect this cultural differentiation, also in business context. Collaboration between the countries inside of the sub-region will become much easier and the implementation of regional initiatives more successful.

Authored by: Yves Helven