Top Tips for businesses looking to engage with Asia

In our most recent research report, Te Waipounamu and Asia, we talked to South Island businesses about their business links to Asia, and 71% said they intended to grow their connections to the region. Based on the responses from the survey, we came up with the following top tips for businesses in Aotearoa to develop their connections with Asia.

Some of the biggest challenges the survey found businesses encountered in establishing business links were: lack of language skills, lack of understanding about target markets and services in Asia, and difficulty identifying suitable local partners.

Find the right partner - take your time

Your first Asia contact may not to be the best business partner for you. Take time to establish the right relationships and ensure your due diligence is robust.

There is sometimes a temptation to move quickly – but as one New Zealander resident in Asia for 30 years has remarked to us, don’t leave your common sense on the plane.

Suggesting your prospective partner also visits you could be another way to test their seriousness about your new relationship.

Ask around

With the diversity of South Island business links with Asia, there's a high chance that someone in your city or region already has relevant experience. They needn’t be in the same sector as you to be able to provide some great insights into the local culture and doing business on the ground.

But how to find them?

Talk to regional chambers of commerce and economic development agencies, large banks and other professional service companies, NZTE, New Zealand-Asia business councils - local Asian business leaders often also have deep knowledge of their home markets. All can help you to connect with Asia experience.

Consult the experts

A high number of companies found partners and customers by participating in expos and trade shows. Could other methods be equally effective?

NZTE advises exporters on different ways to find their niche in Asia, and can identify potential investors and suppliers as well. (Extra tip: They have established a comprehensive online platform to provide market intel and insights – check it out!)

New Zealand chambers of commerce and ExportNZ offer a range of training and market readiness workshops with an Asia focus - the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade also produces a range of high-quality market reports with input from diplomatic staff on the ground.

Host an international intern

Many companies in our survey told us they would go to Asia to seek Asia knowledge. Let Asia come to you!

Many Asian students arrive in New Zealand with significant professional experience in their home countries, and want to find ways to gain local experience and put their academic and business knowledge to work.

It can be difficult to find intern placements for international students - so why not host them in your organisation? The University of Canterbury Global Virtual Micro-Internships Programme is one way to connect with interns from Asia. 

Go local

The South Island is awash with local talent. Asian language study at tertiary institutions is popular, often combined with specialist business papers.

Young South Islanders are as adventurous as always, and many may have already travelled or lived in Asia through OE travels or with established programmes.

COVID-19 has seen many young New Zealanders with solid Asia experience return home. Seek them out! Taking on a young engineer who also speaks an Asian language and has lived in one of your target markets can only bring upsides.

Keep in touch with us

The Asia New Zealand Foundation equips New Zealanders with the knowledge, networks and confidence to engage successfully with Asia - we do this through business internships, injecting inspiring Asia stories into New Zealand business sectors and conferences, two-way entrepreneur exchanges with Southeast Asia, and leadership development for emerging leaders - equipping New Zealanders with skills and connections they will use for a lifetime.

Talk to our business programme about your Asia business interests at any time!

For the extension of our top tips for business looking to engage with Asia, check out the full pages here.

Helpful links

As well as your local economic development agency (EDA) and chamber of commerce, the following organisations can provide you with additional Asia business information:

Asia New Zealand Foundation

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade


Centres of Asia Pacific Excellence

ASEAN-NZ Business Council

Japan New Zealand Business Council

India New Zealand Business Council

Korea New Zealand Business Council

New Zealand China Council

New Zealand China Trade Association

(Disclaimer: This is not an exhaustive list! There are plenty of ways to engage and establish your business links with Asia - this just gives you some stepping stones to start)