South Island Report - Key Findings Discussion

To mark the launch of the Foundation's latest research report, Te Waipounamu and Asia: Now and in the future, director business and South Island manager Alistair Crozier spoke with two South Island business leaders with substantial Asia experience to get their take on the findings.

Eleni Hogg is based in Nelson and has worked with New Zealand brands in Shanghai for many years. She is the marketing director for Golden Bay Fruit and marketing lead at seafood venture NewFish. She is also a member of the Foundation’s Leadership Network.  

Ben Chapman is based in Queenstown and has connected New Zealand tourism operators to markets in Asia and the Middle East through his company Tourism Partners Ltd. He is an Otago regional business growth advisor and also works with the crown's innovation agency, Callaghan Innovation.

The Foundation undertook the research to gain insights into the breadth and depth of the South Island's business links with Asia and help to inform its own work in strengthening New Zealanders’ Asia knowledge, networks and confidence. The report highlights the importance of New Zealand businesses engaging with Asia, and the benefits and challenges that are often encountered. 

Alistair Crozier says Te Waipounamu and Asia presents a narrative he hopes will inspire South Island companies to go deeper in exploring Asia. "It addresses some out-of-date stereotypes and perceptions, and provides examples of businesses leading the way in their approach to doing business in the region."

Watch the recording of our panel discussing the key findings of our Te Waipounamu and Asia research report.

Echoing the major finding from the report, both Ben and Eleni said that people-to-people connections are key.

Eleni: “That constant communication and support for your customer overseas and what they need will put you a step ahead the rest. Whether its offshore or in-country, someone in your team needs to be managing and fostering those relationships and be willing to answer the phone at anytime of the day to sort out shipments, marketing campaigns, or anything - just constantly be there to support.  

One of the most challenging factors businesses encountered when establishing business links was a lack of language skills. 

Ben and Eleni both noted this can be viewed as an opportunity as much as an obstacle.

Eleni: “In some ways, it’s more like a pleasant surprise, as I think that language is something you can do something about – it seems like the easiest to overcome.

Ben: “The language one is really interesting, because we actually had an ex-university professor teaching Mandarin here [in the office], and I think I failed the course five times over five years, but from there, I’ve had cue cards and have been using Duolingo.  

Language is important and you’ll get a lot of respect for the smallest tokens of gratitude. 

Alistair echoed this from his own experience, noting “the thing about language learning is that you learn as much about the culture as you do about the language itself, and just understanding the context that you’re going to be working in as well. 

 Read the full report and all the other key findings here. 

Note: Quotes have been sourced from the recording and have been edited for clarity.