Emerging market giants quick to grab Australian foothold
When Melbourne aerospace engineering outfit Aerostaff Australia hit financial hardship in 2009, its knight in shining armour was not Boeing or British Aerospace but Indian industrial giant Mahindra & Mahindra.
The company not only pulled Aerostaff from the verge of collapse, but the specialist maker of aircraft parts has since flourished as part of the sprawling Mahindra empire.
Meanwhile, two of the world's largest banks - Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and Construction Bank of China - have expanded their footprints in Australia, opening branches at the heart of Melbourne's financial district.
The Bank of China has already taken advantage of a vacuum created by struggling European and American banks, winning business from blue-chip clients such as Telstras and Woodside. The bank was the fifth-largest lead loan arranger in the country in 2011 behind the big four banks. Australian companies and established Western corporate giants are likely to face more intense competition from multinationals from emerging markets.
The Boston Consulting Group has identified the rise of multinationals from emerging markets as one of five trends that will revolutionise the future of business.
In the last five years, more than 1000 companies headquartered in emerging markets have reached annual sales of $US1 billion. Many of them are increasingly looking abroad to satisfy global ambitions.
BCG describes the top 100 companies from emerging markets as "global challengers".
"Global challengers are full-fledged competitors making game-changing moves ... In doing so, they are fundamentally altering industries ranging from aircraft manufacturing and medical devices to e-commerce and mobile telephony," says the strategy firm.
Not surprising, China and India are home to half of these emerging global corporate giants. Collectively, these companies generated $US2.6 trillion in sales in 2011.
These challengers have traditionally relied on their low labour costs and captive domestic consumers. But they are increasingly spending an ever larger portion of their revenue on research and development.
Research budgets of these 100 global challengers tripled between 2005 and 2011. Chinese companies generated more US patents than Australian companies.
Huawei Technologies, a Chinese manufacturer of telecommunication equipment, is a prime example of the innovation-driven strategy. The company started off peddling imported telephone switches in the 1980s and gradually emerged as a telecommunications producer.
Last year, Huawei spent $4.8 billion or 14 per cent of its total revenue on research and development, and will increase this figure by 28 per cent this year. Close to half of its 150,000 workers are in R&D.
Middle Eastern airways such as Emirates, Qatar and Etihad are exerting enormous pressure on Western airlines such as Qantas. Though operating low-cost structures, they are winning global recognition for their high standard of services and shining new fleet.
Qatar Airways was recognised as the world's best airline at the Skytrax World Airline Awards in 2011 and 2012.
Despite the success of emerging market giants, many, especially the state-owned giants, have proven less capable than others.
When BCG first published the top 100 global challengers in 2006, 44 were Chinese and mostly state-owned enterprises.
But only 30 Chinese companies retain their status as global challengers this year. Many state-owned giants have stumbled when they ventured out of their natural habitat.
China Mobile, the world's biggest mobile carrier, enjoys little success outside of its home market where it is part of the government-sanctioned oligopoly. The company was last a global challenger in 2009.
Though Beijing has encouraged its companies to go abroad, many retain their bureaucratic management and are reluctant to adopt best international practices. Private enterprises generally have had more success in meeting customer needs.
State ownership is also hindering their cross-border expansion. Foreign regulators, especially in the US, remain suspicious of state-owned enterprises' effort to acquire American companies and technology.
Increasingly, emerging market giants are expanding into Australia, snapping up companies and intensifying competition for consumers. Aspen Pharmacare, a South African generic drug maker bought the pharmaceutical division of Sigma in Australia in 2010.
Airlines such as AirAsia and China Southern are putting pressure on the Flying Kangaroo on its international routes. Indian IT giants, such as Infosystem, are also bringing competition home. Chinese wind turbine and solar panel makers, such as Goldwin, are making significant headway in Australia.
Global challengers have arrived at Australia's doorstep and while the Asian Century is a great opportunity for Australian business, it is also a threat companies must confront.