Christophe explores the diversity of Asia
Christophe Martin has lived and worked in Asia for more than 12 years and has extensive experience of doing business in this region as the Senior Vice President for Asia Oceania Sales within Volvo Group Trucks Sales & Marketing. Are there any key things you have learned that you could share with us?
“Asia Pacific (APAC) is a huge geographical area with immense diversity. There is a tendency to treat the APAC Region as one homogeneous market, just as Europe is sometimes viewed as one country. This is not the way to go about things if you want to be successful. There are far more differences between, let’s say, Thailand and Korea compared with the differences between Sweden and Greece, for example.”
How do you and your team deal with this diversity?
“Broadly speaking, within Asia Pacific, there are five different types of market; China and India, which are unique and where local players almost have a monopoly, mature markets like Korea or Australia, growth markets mostly in South-east Asia, like Indonesia or Thailand, and spot markets which are not yet mature, like Myanmar or Cambodia. The maturity of these markets, their regulations and the customers’ expectations are quite different from one market to another. So you can’t talk about one Asia. That’s both the complexity and charm of it.”
The Volvo Group has a strong focus on Asia and has made some major investments in that market in the past few years. How do we make sure that the investments pay off?
“It’s true that the Volvo Group has invested significantly in Asia over the past few years: through acquisitions and by developing a strong manufacturing footprint and investing in distribution. To be successful, you need to be Asian in Asia. As in any market, you have to be close to your customers if you want to succeed. The line between professional life and private life is very thin in Asia. You need to get to know your customers and partners really well to gain their trust and confidence. You also need to be available 24/7. It is fairly demanding but rewarding as well. I am very proud of the people I work with. They have a can-do mind-set and are hardworking and loyal. As a Frenchman, I have learned a lot from my Asian colleagues.”
Working with markets with such growth potential must be very motivating, but I assume there are challenges too?
“The main challenge, especially in South-east Asia, is the competition for skills and talent. Everybody is there. The education level in the different countries is not the same. Korea, for example, has extremely well-educated people, while Indonesia has a lower educational level. To continue the development of the Volvo Group in Asia Pacific, we must attract and retain the best talents. This is very difficult. In order to do this, I believe that we should keep building heavily on The Volvo Way culture. It encourages an open culture where employees are empowered and free to speak their minds. This type of culture really appeals to the new generation in Asia.”
You told me you have a “love affair with Asia”? Why is it so close to your heart?
“Let me begin by saying that I feel extremely French and extremely Asian. The speed of execution here never ceases to amaze me. The people have an amazing capacity to act quickly and they are very resilient. I have a fairly good understanding of the Asian culture by now and I feel very much at ease here. The trust and loyalty you build over time is something I really appreciate.”
You have a hectic job and work across several time zones on a daily basis. How do you keep up your energy levels?
“My wife and our three children are my number one battery charger. You can’t be happy if you don’t have support from your family. I also get a great deal of energy from my team mates, the customers and the dealers and think I have a pretty well-developed self-ignition function as well. Last year, I was inspired by the launch campaign for the Quester, ‘Go the extra mile’, and I took up running. Running in the Botanical Gardens in Singapore is wonderful and I try to go running at least a couple of times a week.”