Asian business seminar aims at the mainstream

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Asian businesses are moving beyond the cliche of corner shops and restaurants and into such fields as the arts and entertainment, according to research published this month.

But although they have enjoyed huge growth in recent years and are poised to break into the mainstream, they are not properly understood.

"Asian businesses boast international networks in terms of access to funds and business," said Joanna Howard, director of research at Roffey Park, the Sussex-based management centre. "Yet the `local network' of banks, financial services and small business development does not connect easily with them. Traditional indigenous managers don't meet the Asian entrepreneur on the golf course."

In an attempt to deal with these findings, the centre is collaborating with the Asian Business Initiative (ABI) in setting up a seminar designed to help advisers make the most of the huge untapped market.

The ABI was set up in 1992 to carry out a national survey of the needs and characteristics of Asian-owned growth businesses. Its main objectives are to help these firms realise their potential and to assist support groups in developing strategies.

Vijay Amin, founder of the ABI, said: "At present, the businesses have no formal strategy. Their business philosophy is conducted on an intuitive basis."

The "Reaching out to Asian Growth Businesses" seminar, to be sponsored by and held at the British Bankers Association on 21 March, aims to bring together policy makers, bankers and business development specialists and to increase their awareness about these issues.

Asian firms have many advantages - including a broad asset base, strong family ties and worldwide connections. But these create a need for support as well as opportunities for advisers.

"The 1980s was the period in which the ubiquitous Asian corner shop became the base for diversification into the building sector, catering and small-scale manufacture," Ms Howard said.

"Asian professionals began to enter the larger accountancy and law practices, and second-generation Asians showed greater confidence in defending their communities against various forms of discrimination."