Earlier this week I had a chance to do my first podcast appearance… Great experience! As part of the prep for it, I asked myself – what were the key differences I observed as a Product Leader in Singapore/SEA compared to Europe?
(1) Drive to create and hunger to achieve is enormous in the region. I’ve only seen anything similar in the US so far. Europe is… complacent in many ways. Why create something new if what we have is good enough?
(2) Product Management is perceived very differently. Most of the product managers I interviewed early were really project managers – often getting things done that were thought through somewhere else by someone else. Product managers often have a business counterpart – in Europe, it is PM’s job in most cases. Situation changed and evolved over time though!
(3) Excellence in craft is really high, especially among the technical people. Data Scientists, Engineers and others are often really really good in SEA. I’d dare to say significantly better. The flip side of that is they often lack interest in the customer and the business. Which makes the teamwork hard, especially if you try the Spotify model.
(4) Importance of loyalty cannot be underestimated. At work, this often trumps ideas and work done. People you hire are often afraid to say something that falls out of line, even if they know better than you. Same applies to some of the VCs too in their relationships with the founders.
(5) Differences between markets in SEA and Asia in general are much bigger than in Europe or West in general. However, the very average basic customer behaviour is strangely similar, be it in Europe or SEA.
(6) Tech workforce is significantly more diverse in the aspects of nationality and gender. First 8 members of my product team at Carousell were all from 8 different countries! Yet somehow different nationalities form their own bubbles, which makes having a singular strong culture in the company much harder.
(7) People strive for structure: career ladders, processes, tooling standardisation. A need for this manifests much earlier in the startup’s journey. In Europe, freedom is sought after a lot more. Exception here that I observed is Taiwan – levels of creativity there surprised me!
Want to learn more about this dynamic region? Schedule a Zoom call with me!