Welcome to Asia Unveiled


Welcome to Asia Unveiled
© Sergey Nivens

Asia Unveiled

Welcome to the inaugural edition of “Asia Unveiled,” a column dedicated to peeling back the layers of the Asian lubricants market. As we embark on this journey, it’s important to remember that Asia is not a monolith but a vibrant tapestry of cultures, economies and governments.

Let’s start with an anecdote. I once entertained “Bob,” an American colleague visiting Asia and Singapore for the first time. On arrival in the office, he sought my secretary’s help to acquire some prescription medicines that he needed desperately, as he had already missed a few doses. After a frantic day of looking for a doctor who could issue the appropriate prescriptions, she managed to resolve the issue. Later over dinner, I remarked that he wouldn’t forget his prescriptions the next time he traveled. To that, he replied that he hadn’t. But having read about the draconian laws in Singapore, which included penalties for chewing gum, he was spooked. When the steward announced on arrival that Singapore had one of the strictest drug trafficking laws in the world, he promptly flushed all his prescriptions down the airplane toilet. 

Asia is a multi-racial and multi-cultural melting pot, each country with its own unique blend of traditions and customs. From the lantern-lit streets of Hoi An in Vietnam to the bustling markets of Mumbai, the continent is a sensory feast that refuses to be pigeonholed. 

The political landscape is equally diverse. Asia is home to a wide range of governments, from democratic to authoritarian, and many shades in between. It’s like a political science textbook come to life, each chapter offering a different governance model. 

Economically, Asia is a study in contrasts. It boasts some of the world’s most advanced economies, like Singapore and Japan, alongside countries that are still developing. It’s a place where skyscrapers overlook rice fields, and luxury malls coexist with street markets. 

Demographically, Asia is a paradox. Countries like India and the Philippines have large, young populations, while others like Japan and South Korea are grappling with aging populations and low birth rates. 

Finally, Asia is a continent in different stages of Maslow’s hierarchy. While some countries are focused on basic needs, others are seeking purpose and meaning in life. It’s a place where ancient philosophies coexist with modern aspirations. Clearly, it is a region with rich pickings for headline-grabbing soundbites, much like the perspective built in Bob’s mind. 

South Asia and Southeast Asia are projected to be the highest growth regions over the next decade. As we prepare for a shift in demand as a rising middle class emerges in a region with a population greater than China, we’ll need to understand the opportunities. As we delve into the intricacies of Asia in this column, let’s see what it truly is—a diverse, dynamic and complex continent. At this time of multiple grey swan events—from global conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East, geo-political tension between authoritarian and democratic regimes, ESG impacts and energy transition, inflation, and potential recession—the need to understand Asia is more important than ever. One cannot view Asia through a single lens and especially not one from media focused on memorable soundbites rather than the full picture. 

Let’s try not to pull a “Bob” along the way. Welcome to “Asia Unveiled.”  

Eugene Tan is past-chief executive of the Asian Lubricaants Industry Association, director supply chain council of The Conference Board, and managing director of Emvolution.

Related Topics

Asia    Asia-Pacific    Finished Lubricants    Region    Southeast Asia