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Rise of Southeast Asia, the next tech hub

Southeast Asia's sizeable and growing population, steadily expanding economy as well as increasing technological adoption present many unique business opportunities.

The sheer size of the region's population is one of its main draws. Its population totals 655 million, more than North America's or the European Union's. Coupled with its steadily increasing GDP per capita, more businesses are finding it appealing to build a stronger foothold in Southeast Asia.

"The rapid growth of the internet economy in Southeast Asia has also been an encouraging indicator of the region's tech adoption rate. Based on a 2019 report by Google, Temasek and Bain & Co, the internet economy in the region increased nearly 40% to exceed US$100 billion (RM427.8 billion) gross merchandise value for 2019.

"It is projected that the amount will triple in the next five years. The trade tensions between the US and China have also propelled Southeast Asia as an attractive option for more global companies as they reduce their dependence on China and move some of their operations into the region," says Arthur Chan, managing director of entrepreneur support organisation Endeavor Malaysia.

Malaysia stands out among its regional peers, he adds. Firstly, it has good infrastructure, with a robust network of highways and railways that not only connect all the major cities in the country but also provide easy access to international sea ports and airports. This allows businesses to support their operations regionally and internationally with greater ease and efficiency.

Tech Collective, an online resource for technology and start-up news, points out that half of the region's population are young and tech-savvy, ever-ready for new products and innovations. "Tech start-ups in Southeast Asia are all too willing to satisfy this youthful enthusiasm and they are springing up all over the place," it says.

It adds that with this eager audience in place, governments in the region are offering support and providing an ecosystem that is conducive to growth and entrepreneurship with programmes such as Thailand 4.0, Malaysia's active wooing of tech entrepreneurs and Indonesia's government-supported unicorn search.

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