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Elephants, Dragons and pandas – oh my!

Suzy Bibko is editor of Families in Business.

Asia is the latest buzzword in business. Whether it's outsourcing in India or opening a branch office in China,  things seem to booming in these two countries. Even the pandas are getting into the spirit of things, producing an unprecedented population boom among these normally near-celibate creatures.

But is this really news? Haven't we been hearing about how Asia is 'the next big thing' for the past 10 years? Why the 'new' interest?

Perhaps it's because in the past ten years in-roads have finally been made in countries like India and China. Doing business in, or with, these countries was at one time extremely difficult –  not only due to barriers such as language and culture, but also because of infinite legal and bureaucratic hurdles. But things have changed. The world is definitely a smaller place than it used to be, and China and India no longer seem so foreign. And for established Chinese and Indian businesses, governmental structures are finally being leveraged to allow them to attract foreign companies to fuel their growth and help local businesses to thrive in their home countries.
 
In this issue of Families in Business, we take an in-depth look at the economies of India and China. While we often hear of the endless opportunities both countries offer, it's important to remember that both economies are just emerging and still face many pressures threatening their growth and success.
 
However, two family businesses seem to have figured out the formula for success. In India, GMR Group has laid the groundwork for both a successful business and a strong India. An infrastructure business, it has built roads, power stations, airports and factories for a stronger, more competitive India. At the same time, it has laid the foundation for a strong, long-lasting family business through a sound governance system and charitable foundation. It's a very forward-thinking company, as evidenced not only by the founder's dream for India (to build an entire city in India), but also by it's management plans (they hope to move from being a management company to a strategic company).
 
In China, food and sauce giant Lee Kum Kee is trying to navigate a new Hong Kong while not losing sight of its Chinese roots. This 118-year old company is also learning how to connect a fifth generation with diverse interests to the family business. A new focus on family hopefully means that the company will be around for the next 118 years, no matter what political and
economic turns China takes.

The race is definitely on between the elephant and the dragon – whether it'll be a stampede or a fireball at the finish has yet to be seen.

Asia, gmr group, lee kum kee, Comment
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