Asia is home to tech and innovation hubs, and this development is vital to the continent’s progress. These hubs are centres of collaboration where ideas are encouraged, shared and nurtured, ultimately resulting in tangible results such as an increase in tech-focused startups, an expansion of the economy, and growth in the job market. It is an encouraging sign that the region has several of these development hotspots, including Singapore, of course.
Aside from being a global financial centre, Singapore is also set to become the Silicon Valley of Asia, with tech titans Google, Amazon, Salesforce, Facebook, and Grab already setting up research centres in the country. Expected to join them soon are Alibaba, Tencent and ByteDance, all of whom would be able to tap into massive nearby markets and leverage Singapore’s advantageous business climate full of tax incentives and government support.
Singapore is a pioneer, though a few countries are fast catching up and are becoming tech hubs in their own right. Here are six of them:
Malaysia is most known for being a melting pot of cultures, largely due to it being bordered by different countries. But as Expatbets points out in a detailed guide on Malaysia, this Southeast Asian nation is also one of the region’s most affluent countries, with an economy spurred on by a thriving manufacturing sector, a booming tourism industry, and an emerging tech sector that gives it the kind of environment tech founders and entrepreneurs are likely to thrive in. It’s no surprise then that Malaysia is increasingly becoming a tech hub for international founders, so much so that it ranks as the world’s 11th best startup destination.
A big reason for this lofty ranking is Malaysia’s National Technology and Innovation Sandbox, a program that helps tech entrepreneurs and innovators try their business in a live setting and prime it for a successful commercial launch. Additionally, the Ministry of Science Technology and Innovation and Ministry of Finance of Malaysia are working together for the Technology Start-ups Funding Relief Facility, whose RM100 million ($24.5 million USD) budget aims to help startups affected by the pandemic.
Like Malaysia, South Korea is a prosperous nation. According to a Global Finance ranking of the world’s richest countries, in fact, South Korea is the 32nd wealthiest nation in the world and 11th overall in Asia. This wealth translates to a high standard of living and allows the South Korean government to launch programmes aimed at making the country a major hub for tech startups.
In particular, the South Korean capital of Seoul is a most enticing destination for tech founders and entrepreneurs, as it has the highest government backing per capita for startups. In 2017, in fact, the government allotted $9 billion USD in venture funding for both public and private startups in tech. That said, it is not just Seoul that is getting that kind of government backing, as financial assistance is also given to businesses located all across the country. Unsurprisingly, tech titans like Google and SparkLabs Global Ventures have headquarters in South Korea, so expect a few more to follow suit.
China is an emerging economic monolith, and it also has an already glowing and still growing reputation as a hotbed for tech and innovation. That reputation is on full display in Beijing, China’s sprawling capital, where Zhongguancun is located. Zhongguancun is the Mainland’s most prominent tech hub, established three decades ago with the main purpose of learning from Silicon Valley and replicating it in China.
Zhongguancun today is home to around 9,000 tech companies that include online search giant Baidu, e-commerce provider JD.com, and tech company Lenovo. More are likely to follow given the government’s continued support for this hub, as well as its proximity to prestigious universities and research institutions, which will ensure easy access to top talent. Don’t be surprised either if Chinese authorities establish other tech hubs apart from Zhongguancun to bolster the country’s sterling reputation as a tech and innovation destination.
Just 30 years ago, Vietnam was one of the poorest countries in the world, but thanks to a series of economic and political reforms called Đổi Mới, this Southeast Asian nation gradually recovered, with its 6−7% economic growth on par with China. This “miracle” was spurred mainly by Vietnam’s shift to an open economy that allows entrepreneurs to do business in the country and significant investments in infrastructure.
Lately, the Vietnamese government has pushed to improve its tech industry, prioritising massive investments in information technology and incentivising those who invest in it. Most notable among these incentives are the significant tax breaks the government gives: Corporate Income Tax (CIT) exemption for 4 years, 10% CIT for 15 years, and 50% tax reduction for 9 years. In addition, the government has built numerous tech parks, where tech founders and entrepreneurs can expect land rent exemptions.
Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelago, and it is in the midst of considerable economic growth. Proof of this is Indonesia’s emergence as a hub for tech and innovation — with President Joko Widodo pushing Indonesia into becoming Southeast Asia’s biggest digital economy. The Widodo Administration, in fact, recently launched the Nexticorn program in which promising local startups are partnered with international investors for late-stage funding.
These efforts are paying off handsomely, as Indonesia is now the second-largest recipient of venture capital in the region, trailing only Singapore. The archipelago also has four unicorns already, or startups valued at least $1 billion USD. More startups are likely to try their luck in Indonesia thanks to all-out support from the Widodo government and the country’s massive market potential: 260 million people, of whom 60% are under the age of 40.
The world’s second-most populous country, India is also one of the best destinations for tech founders, entrepreneurs, and innovators. “India is home to an increasing number of tech unicorns and Asia Pacific is increasingly defined as the region leading in the rapid adoption of disruptive technology,” says Anshuman Magazine, the Chairman and CEO of CBRE India. He notes that improved access to incubator and accelerator programmes as well as a skilled talent base in information technology has led to the country’s growing reputation as a tech and innovation hotspot.
This standing is reflected most in the Indian city of Bengaluru, which like Shanghai in China and Singapore, is among the top 5 Asia-Pacific locations for tech firms. It is a preferred destination because it ranks high in terms of business conditions, innovation environment, cost-efficiency, and business growth support from the government. It isn’t surprising then that city is enticing both traditional and modern tech companies, in turn adding to India’s reputation as a hotbed of innovation.
About the author
Daniel Ray Tiu is a tech writer publish in multiple online magazines and websites. He is passionate about startups and tech. He enjoys jogging and boxing in his free time.