Some of the most intriguing stories in the Top 1000 involve Asia-based brands that are either new to the list or are building the momentum to ride to new heights.
Rank: 804 (new entrant)
Being the most popular smartphone brand in China hasn’t been enough to lift the company into the heady heights of the overall Top 1000 ranking. But just wait. Over the last year, the brand has steadily made inroads into other markets, particularly India, where it celebrated 1 million sales within its first five months of operations.
“They have this platform of geeks to suggest tweaks and changes, and it’s all about the democratisation of the brand. This brings the Chinese people into creating a national champion.”
—Tom Doctoroff, APAC CEO, J Walter Thompson
“In China, mobile phones are nearly all sold at retail—vast shops dominated by Samsung. Xiaomi, rather than trying to compete head on, tried to win before the store, with online communities, marketing and sales. Whether they can make that work elsewhere in Asia remains to be seen.”
— Mike Anthony, Engage Consultants
Rank: 904 (new entrant)
Another household brand in China, the company is competing fiercely with Xiaomi for a share of the Indian market. Huawei’s Honor smartphones, sold via ecommerce channels, surged to US$2.4 billion in sales last year from US$109 million in 2013.
Rank: 405 (new entrant)
Tencent’s WeChat, the social-networking giant that has taken China by storm, has been making noise about plans to expand internationally. It has 500 million monthly active users currently, with the majority based in mainland China. Expansion plans seem a little uncertain, with the president of Tencent Martin Lau Chi-ping saying the brand would proceed ‘cautiously’ at a press conference in Hong Kong in March.
Rank: 213 (+81)
Japan’s Line, also popular in Taiwan and Thailand, still trails WhatsApp and WeChat at 181 million users. But its fortunes rose when Apple announced it will make Line available on the Apple Watch.
“Japan has been a hardware Goliath forever, but it lost out to Apple because it could never create software that was inspiring. Line is the first software really that’s ever gone outside Japan, and the way it’s done it, and overcome the language barrier, is by being a purely visual platform. And that visual culture can go anywhere, providing it can be localised. I think Line’s opportunity for expansion globally is to tap into the visual culture of any market it goes to.”
—James Hollow, MD for Japan, Lowe Profero
Rank: 175 (+63)
On the fast fashion side, Uniqlo has been a clear gainer. The Japanese retailer posted 12.1 per cent growth in its domestic market, but 48 per cent growth internationally, led by its comprehensive portfolio in Asian markets. As of March, the company had 840 stores in Japan; 345 in China, 25 in Hong Kong, 63 in Taiwan, 138 in South Korea, 22 in both Singapore and Thailand, and 24 in Malaysia and the Philippines.
Rank: 53 (+25)
Having been held up as an example of a Chinese brand with the power to travel some years ago, Lenovo remains one to watch. According to IDC, the brand now ranks third in the global smartphone market. Lenovo acquired Motorola last year, and reported that sales at the Motorola arm were up 118 per cent year-on-year in the last quarter of 2014. Other ambitious moves last year included a US$10 million marketing push to target a 10 per cent slice of the global tablet market.
Rank: 452 (+73)
The Japanese telco known for its dog mascot, Otosan, is an early investor in Alibaba. It also led a US$210 million investment in taxi-hailing app Ola in India last October, part of a plan to invest US$10 billion in Indian startups. All that activity follows last year’s US$100 million investment in Indonesia’s Tokopedia.
“In general, Japanese [corporations] have tons of cash they’re sitting on, and they haven’t really had the incentive to risk that by betting on foreign acquisitions, because the domestic economy has been big enough for them. Now ... if you look at a 10-year plan, you need to look outside of Japan.”
—James Hollow, MD for Japan, Lowe Profero
Rank: 998 (+2)
At the bottom end of the ranking, Thai FMCG brand Ichitan has set a five-year plan to become a branded player in Asia and raise its income from overseas operations from zero to at least 30 per cent of the total. For now, the company will have to content itself that it is no longer the last brand in the Top 1000.