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APAC firms’ ‘future readiness’ a mixed bag

Led by firms in China, Singapore and Australia, just over a quarter of businesses in APAC fit the bill as a future-ready business, study finds

When employees at Singapore’s DBS Bank tested positive for Covid-19 in early 2020, the bank was able to use data from office access cards to conduct contact tracing within days. Within weeks, it also rolled out an application that lets customers submit forms digitally.

By contrast, a Japanese firm found that it did not have sufficient virtual private network (VPN) capacity and access licences to support a remote workforce.

Such differences in the speed and agility at which companies responded to the pandemic bore out across the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, with some more ready than others to tackle the challenges that lie ahead in the post-pandemic world.

A study by Vodafone Business found that just over a quarter of businesses in the region fit the bill as a “future-ready” business, one that has a positive attitude to change, actively plans for its technological future, and is adaptable, among other qualities.

According to the study, businesses in China were the most ready (39%), followed by Singapore (30%) and Australia (29%). The least ready were in Japan, where just 16% were deemed future-ready, primarily due to smaller businesses that scored low on future readiness.

Also, nearly half of businesses in APAC expected to make substantial or radical changes to their business models in the next 12 months, of which 43% noted that those changes would be difficult to implement.

Notwithstanding, APAC businesses have seen some positive outcomes from 2020. About half saw positive impact on their business, while the negative impact was minimal, mostly in terms of communication and collaboration as well as employee productivity.

Amid the undercurrent of optimism in the region, over half of APAC businesses were excited about the future despite the setbacks of 2020. Those in India were most optimistic (71%), followed by China (63%) and Singapore (59%).

Digital transformation was at the top of the agenda of many APAC businesses as they look forward. According to the study, 58% of businesses had accelerated their transformation plans because of Covid-19, thanks to increased support from senior management, along with initiatives to unlock new efficiencies and revenue streams.

During the pandemic, more businesses were focused on financial stability, protecting jobs and the health and mental well-being of employees, but more future-facing priorities were not far behind. Nearly half wanted to support employee development, realign their business to be more digital and meet sustainability targets.

Dan Beevers, president at Vodafone Business Asia-Pacific, said future-ready businesses are already reaping the benefits of their efforts, with some even bucking the global downturn to increase profits during this time.

“This report provides a clear roadmap for how other businesses in the region can – and should – set themselves up for success in the post-pandemic economy by focusing on the imperatives such as setting a detailed strategy, taking clear steps towards business transformation, and increasing adaptability,” he said.

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