Asia Biweekly Business Update Blog – 4/27/2020

(This is an update of our March 9, 2020 China Blog which now will cover Asia)

Bill Edwards, CEO of Edwards Global Services, Inc. (EGS), has been doing business in China for 45 years, including living in China, Hong Kong and Indonesia. EGS is currently helping U.S. brands enter Cambodia, Mainland China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Korea, the Philippines and Thailand. Our U.S. Clients are all consumer-faced franchise brands.

The following are extracts from a variety of information sources and our Associates across Asia on consumer-focused issues during the COVID emergency.


Mainland China and South Korea are seeing businesses starting to reopen. Singapore and Malaysia remain shut down. Indonesia and the Philippines are allowing restaurants to do takeaway and delivery only. Japan is mixed. Vietnam has done a good job controlling the virus and will soon allow businesses to reopen. Thailand will start reopening the week of May 4th. Ramadan, which lasts until May 23rd, is a challenge for businesses in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Asia General

“From coffee in Hong Kong to burgers in Malaysia and Ramadan in Singapore – here’s how Asia’s small businesses cope with Covid-19. Asia’s SMEs are rising to the challenges posed by the coronavirus by adapting their business models and focusing on the positives. Here are five case studies, taken from across the region, of how SMEs are adapting to the challenges posed by Covid-19 – and proving that even the smallest of businesses can have the biggest of hearts.” South China Morning Post, 4/25/2020

“In Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, hundreds of millions are unable to congregate during the holy month of Ramadan. Muslims in neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia are also having a more solemn Ramadan as Covid-19 social distancing rules are enforced.” South China Morning Post, April 24, 2020

Mainland China

“Co-founder of Microsoft Bill Gates announced that stores of the company in China had resumed their operations that may be a concrete example of how society may return to ‘business as usual.’ Microsoft already sent thousands of its workers back to China, where they would resume their posts and comply with precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the pandemic.” Business Times, April 24th, 2020

AmCham China has released the results of a second Flash Survey that evaluates the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on its member companies. Almost 120 companies responded to the survey. Roughly half of the surveyed members say they are experiencing significant revenue declines, compared with 28% last month. 39% of companies report a drop in demand for their products, up 6 percentage points from last month. 60% (up 10 percentage points month-on-month) said 2020 revenues will decline anywhere between 10% and 50% or more if business cannot return to normal before August 30. Read the full AmCham China Quarterly report at this link:


“Indonesia to ban air, sea travel to end-May: officials. Indonesia will temporarily ban domestic and international air and sea travel, with some exceptions, starting this week to prevent a further spread of the coronavirus, the transport ministry said in a statement on Friday. The announcement came as the holy month of Ramadan began in the world’s largest Muslim majority country, and the government has already banned citizens’ traditional annual exodus from the cities to the provinces during the holiday period.” Reuters, April 23, 2020

“With most schools and universities in Jakarta (Indonesia) shut down even before official rules on social distancing went into effect, the transition has been sudden and uncertain for many. With Large Scale Physical Distancing extended in Jakarta until at least May 22, schools will continue to function online. AmCham (Indonesia) held a special forum on the situation on Thursday, April 23, to look at the challenges for schools, students and parents.” Learn more about the conference findings at this link:


“In recent weeks, the number of covid-19 cases has increased, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called for an 80 percent reduction in person-to-person contact. Yet, some pachinko parlors refuse to close. Earlier this month, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike included pachinko parlors, along with bars and clubs, in the establishments she was requesting shut down to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus. Many pachinko parlors followed the request, but some did not.” Kotaru, April 23, 2020. See pictures the lack of social distancing at this link:

“Japan’s new economic stimulus package in response to the coronavirus pandemic is estimated to boost real gross domestic product by about 4.4%, Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said on Friday. Japan has boosted its new economic stimulus package to a record $1.1 trillion to expand cash payouts to its citizens, as the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic threatens to push the world’s third-largest economy deeper into recession.: Reuters, April 23, 2020


Malaysia has one of the highest COVID cases and death counts in Asia. Essentially all business is closed. A major challenge for the Ramadan period.

“The (Malaysian) Prime Minister announced that the MCO (movement control order) which was first imposed on March 18 to 31 and later continued with a second phase from April 1 to 14, and a third phase from April 15 to 28 – would be on for a further two weeks. The government, said the Prime Minister, was considering allowing more specified sectors and sub-sectors to resume operations but subject to strict conditions to ensure the people’s health and safety.” The Star, April 23, 2020


In the Philippines, the almost total business lock down is slightly easing. Some Chili’s® and Denny’s® restaurants have reopened for takeaway and delivery. But local sources say the Manila government has issued passes, only one selected member of each household is permitted to go out for food, groceries and to pharmacies.

“The coronavirus outbreak will likely send the Philippine economy into its first annual contraction in more than two decades this year, before it pulls back up for a U-shaped recovery in 2021, the central bank governor said on Saturday. Key cities in the Philippines, among the fastest growing economies in Asia during the pre-pandemic period, are under strict quarantine measures since mid-March. Philippine gross domestic product would likely shrink by 0.2% in 2020 before bouncing back to about 7.7% as policy support measures gain traction, central bank Governor Benjamin Diokno said in a statement.” Reuters, April 25, 2020


Singapore has been under a partial lockdown since April 7 that may be extended past May 4 due to the recent jump in coronavirus cases in migrant workers.  Many businesses, especially F&B, are suffering and may have to close for business due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  The Singapore government has come out with a S$60 billion (US$40+ billion) budget to help businesses, employers, employees, & citizens.

South Korea

Churches, bars, gyms, restaurants are starting to reopen. Travel is not doing well. 400 McDonald’s are open for drive through. From 900 new COVID cases on February 29th, there were 8 new cases on April 23rd.  “Amid the rapid changes caused by COVID-19, there is optimistic recovery progress of American businesses in Korea. Many companies are adapting quickly and finding success in unexpected ways amid these times of uncertainty.”  James Kim, Chairman and CEO of AmCham Korea.  This link is to a CNBC interview with Mr. Kim:

Early in the coronavirus timeline, Korea created an app that kept track of infected people. It prohibited large gatherings and required virtual church services. Key was wide spread testing. They even had an election.


AMCHAM Thailand had a Video Conference on April 22. Here are some of takeaways: The ban on sale of alcohol beverages has been extended until the end of the month (April 30) to discourage further social gatherings. All foreigners have been granted automatic visa extension for another 3 months until July 31. It is estimated that Thailand will end the year with just over 16 million international tourists, far below the 40 million goal. However, they have stated that tourism activities in Thailand could resume as early as May. AmCham Thailand members remain vastly positive toward the measures taken by the Thai government to curb the spread of Covid-19. See the full results are the link below:

Although the number of new COVID-19 cases in Thailand had a sharp drop to 15 cases on 26 April 2020, the state of emergency is extended another month to end on May 31, 2020. The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) issued the guideline of the preparation to reopen the businesses under the Covid-19 situation. High-risk business such as bars, pubs, entertainment venues will remain closed. Medium-risk business such as barber shops, spa, restaurants, department stores and shopping malls would be allowed to reopen gradually.  All airports in Thailand are expected to resume their services on the 1st of May after they have closed temporary for a month.

The Thai Cabinet approved a stimulus package for soft loans to help businesses. For example, a 6-month debt moratorium on principal and interest for SMEs. “Seth” Sethaphong Phadungpisuth, CFE, Managing Director of Gnosis Company Limited, Thailand.


Sean Ngo, CEO of VF Franchise Consulting based in Ho Chi Minh City, reports on LinkedIn that Vietnam will be one of the first, if not the first country, in Southeast Asia to cautiously lift the lockdown. Social distancing, temperature checks at businesses, and better hygiene practices will not change. See the full US News report at the following link:

In Summary

We keep our thumb on pulse of the Asia business market, monitoring daily changes and trends, and have insight on how you can protect and grow your brand in this critical market. We will update this Asia business climate blog about every other week.

Feel free to reach out to Bill Edwards, CEO of Edwards Global Services, Inc., (EGS) to ask questions or share best practices at +1 949 375 1896 or

“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change”. Darwin