CRM Asia: Red Light, Green Light

The Asian CRM market is hot -- or not -- depending on who you ask. San Mateo, Calif.-based Siebel Systems claims it's racking up customer wins across the Pacific. Last month, Siebel released a slew of Asia-Pacific announcements: Standard Chartered Bank, a large retail bank in Asia, just committed to its technology; wireless carrier NTT DoCoMo Kansai in Japan has 'gone live' with Siebel eBusiness Applications; and the Philippines' Prudentialife is reaping 90 percent improvements in customer satisfaction, thanks to Siebel technology. According to a Reuters report, Terence Chan, regional managing director for South Asia at Siebel, told reporters at a Frost and Sullivan briefing this week, "We continue to see real interest, very real evaluations by customers across the region, as companies focus on increasing efficiency in their operations." Frost and Sullivan is bullish on the region. The Asia-Pacific market for CRM software is expected to reach $561.8 million in 2003, more than doubling sales last year, predicts Frost and Sullivan. This year, the market is slated to grow to $377 million. Japan is the hot spot in the region, where Siebel holds the lion's share of the market. "Generally speaking, a sluggish environment causes a lot of companies from industrialized countries to move call center operations and CRM applications to developing countries, in order to take advantage of more favorable economic conditions, such as real estate and labor prices," says Katherine Shariq, industry analyst at Frost and Sullivan, adding, "The region is still in the early growth stages, which is why the growth rates are so large." In January, IDC released sunny predictions for the CRM solutions market in Asia-Pacific. The researcher estimated a compound average growth rate of 30 percent over the next five years. CRM-starved countries ready to invest in the technology include Australia, Korea and Singapore. Then again, the Asia-Pacific market is known for its volatility. Last month, IDC issued another, more bleak report. The key finding: The demand for CRM software in Singapore was weak during the first half of this year. Blame it on the economic downturn, of course, and a lack of understanding about CRM applications and ability to track returns on investment. Echoing these sentiments, Norbert J. Ore, chairman of The Institute of Supply Management's (ISM, formerly NAPM) manufacturing business survey committee, says after returning from a recent trip to Hong Kong, "There's a whole lot of discussion about e-business, but no huge investments." IDC though, maintains that the CRM market in Singapore will bounce back by end of year, fueled by the inclusion of CRM analytic tools. "The intensity of competition in some industries has led to the need for CRM as a means of obtaining a competitive edge," said Alan Tong, senior analyst of enterprise applications at IDC Asia-Pacific, in a statement. Tom Kaneshige also writes for
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