For many, ‘Made in China’ or ‘Made in India’ imply derivative products manufactured at low cost in sweatshops.
Some cast this as a mark of shame.
However, if Forbes’ latest list of World’s Most Innovative Companies is anything to go by, perceptions of Asian companies are changing rapidly.
Of Forbes’ 25 most innovative companies, 9 are from Asia: 4 from China, 3 from India and 2 from Japan.
And while you might expect to see consumer electronics, automotive and perhaps also BPO firms represented, firms in the beverages, construction and internet sectors are also baking innovation into their veins.
The most innovative Asian firms are:
5. Baidu (China)
7. Ratuken (Japan)
9. Larsen & Toubro (India)
11. Tencent (China)
12. Hindustan Lever (India)
18. Kweichow Moutai (China)
19. Infosys (India)
20. Wuliangye Yibin (China)
22. Nidec (Japan)
A key challenge for many of these firms will be not just to increase awareness and interest in their products beyond their domestic markets, but also to strengthen their reputation for innovation amongst customers and other stakeholders.
The experiences of Huawei – and other Asian firms – show that despite a focus on developing higher quality products and services, investing significantly in R&D and boasting an increasingly strong armoury of patents (Asian firms dominate patent lists), building a credible and strong corporate reputation can take considerable time and effort, not least in terms of governance and a proactive approach to good citizenship.
With product considered the primary driver of corporate reputation, ‘Made in China’ is already taking on a different and more positive meaning.
However, there remains plenty of work to do.