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January 2014 Asia Trend Bulletin:


Welcome to the very first edition of our Asia Trend Bulletin!

2014 looks to be another year of changing mindsets and priorities in Asia. Despite a much-reported growth 'slowdown' (just single digits ;) and political upheavals, the region’s development will continue apace, pushing Asian consumers to rethink the status quo and to demand that brands help them better manage – and even deliver balance – to their hyper-crammed lives. Simple ;)

For those who adapt to Asian consumers’ rapidly changing needs, there are countless opportunities ripe for the picking. Brands that champion change – giving voice to the concerns of the masses, then answering them – will also win priceless consumer favor.

But where brands fail to catch on fast enough, expect a new breed of Asian ‘civic-consumers’ to step in – showing off their resourcefulness with a dose of Made-in-Asia-for-Asia ingenuity.

For more on where to begin and how, here are 5 trends reflecting Asian change that you can run with in the next 12 months. Read and then GO DO!


Small innovations. Big opportunities.

One result of Asia’s unfettered growth and population explosion? In 2014 and beyond, the region’s sprawling megacities will witness increasingly scarce space to live, work and play in – making every square meter worth a higher and higher premium. The figures say it all:

Between 2010 and 2013, the city of Beijing will have absorbed an estimated 210 million migrants.
(UN, August 2013)
Leases on Beijing’s Finance Street cost an average of USD 137 per square foot a year, 30% more than the USD 104 per square foot buyers pay for on Fifth Avenue, Manhattan.
(Jones Lang LaSalle, October, 2013)
The number of shoebox units – apartments of 500 square feet or less – in Singapore will grow from 2,400 at the end of 2011 to 11,000 by 2015.
(Singapore Urban Redevelopment Authority, September 2012)
In Mumbai, each cramped citizen already accesses 1.1 square-metres of open, public city space – 26 times less than New Yorkers, and much less than the 9 square-metres that the UN FAO advises.
(Open Mumbai, May 2012)

In perpetual discomfort and dissatisfied with being SPACE STRAPPED, 2014 will see many Asian CITYSUMERS turn their attention to smaller, affordable and well-designed brand solutions*. 

Searching for big opportunities in the coming months? Then think small: compact, foldable, stackable, modular, vertical, cantilevered, portable, flexible, even hidden. Remember: the goal is to squeeze more from less, and make Asian micro-living as efficient, creative and comfortable as possible.

* Note: Of course those thinking expansively about SPACE STRAPPED can look at a number of other trends when addressing this consumer pain point. Subscribe to ensure you don’t miss our upcoming Asia Trend Bulletin on SHAREONOMICS: how cities and consumers are embracing collaborative consumption and sharing business models to reduce personal assets or storage.

IKEA: Make Space Better
Campaign highlights compact furniture solutions


Released in September 2013 in Singapore and Malaysia, IKEA’s Make Space Better print and video campaign accompanied the furniture company’s 2014 design catalogue. Acknowledging the space constraints that multi-generational families often experience, the advertisements highlighted the catalogue’s section on compact, foldable and affordable furniture solutions.

“Mini” wall-mountable washing machine and ultra-slim fridge


Catering to Korean city-dwellers with limited floor space, Daewoo Electronics introduced the Mini Washing Machine: the world’s first wall-mountable washing machine. Around one-sixth the size of a regular washing machine, the Mini runs a 60% shorter wash cycle and consumes 80% less water. Within six months, Daewoo then unveiled FR-C24LB, the smallest combi-refrigerator in South Korea. Designed for the growing number of single households, the ultra-thin compact fridge is 60% smaller than a regular refrigerator, while its freezer compartment is 30% larger, for storage of convenient frozen meals.

Art works featuring life-sized furniture images double as chairs


In April 2013, Tokyo-based design studio YOY debuted a series of two-dimensional chairs which can be hung like art works. Made from an aluminum and wooden frame covered by flexible fabric, each canvas features a life-sized image of furniture which can be ‘sat’ upon. Three versions of the 2D art works are available, including a sofa, an armchair and a stool.

KAIST: Armadillo-T
Electric car folds into half to save space on streets


August 2013 saw KAIST (the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology) announce the Armadillo-T: an electric car that can fold itself in half. Created to save parking space in traffic-congested cities, the compact two-seater can ‘tuck’ its rear structure away during parking, to occupy only one-third of a regular five-meter-wide parking lot. Drivers can operate and fold their cars remotely via a smartphone app.

Apostrophy's: Living in the City
Micro-home prototype


May 2013 saw Thai firm Apostrophy's debut Living in the City: a 97 meter2 micro-home prototype. To create the illusion of space, the design utilizes ‘floating’ mezzanine levels, mesh walls, open-plan communal areas and dual- purpose interiors (including a staircase that doubles as shelf space and vertical gardens-cum-kitchen walls that grow herbs and produce).

Peruri 88
Vertical ‘micro-city’ in Jakarta

peruri 88

Proposed for construction in downtown Jakarta, Peruri 88 is designed to accommodate Jakarta’s high population density. Resembling ten vertically stacked blocks, the 88-storey complex will house retail, office and residential space as well as a luxury hotel, wellness centers, parking structures, a mosque, wedding venue, IMAX theater, an outdoor amphitheater and sky gardens aplenty.


First time consumers trading up and trading in.

Asia’s breakneck development has created hundreds of millions of newly affluent middle class VIRGIN CONSUMERS: exposed to increasing numbers of new products on the global market and ever more curious and eager to try them.

But for many, these rising consumer aspirations are set against traditionally frugal, price-sensitive mindsets and still limited personal purchasing power. All of which makes buying the latest or brand new international and luxury products an enticing, yet often slightly uncomfortable (if not outright unaffordable), stretch.

So in 2014, as they move up the consumer pyramid, expect many of these first-timers to settle for the next best thing: SECONDHAND STATUS*.

Aided by the proliferation of brick-and-mortar retail outlets (such as Hong Kong’s Milan Station and India’s YNew below), and by a host of online and mobile portals, watch as Asian consumers more readily trade in and trade up via a variety of pre-used, pre-owned models and offerings in many sectors. Whether buying marked-down luxury items, secondhand (design) fashion pieces, or consumer electronics, these consumers will seek status and access, but at a more affordable – and less intimidating – price point.

60% of those living in Beijing and 39% of those living in Shanghai demonstrate a strong willingness to cash in luxury items.
In 2013, over 300 new secondhand luxury stores opened in China, including in second tier cities like Changsha, Hangzhou and Chengdu, with sales of approximately CNY 3 billion (USD 4.94 billion).
(Both: Fortune Character Institute, October 2013)

But remember, most secondhanders still lust after the truly new. So while SECONDHAND STATUS grants the user a certain amount of status today (that of owning or experiencing something that would otherwise be out of reach), tomorrow those customers may return with the cash and the confidence to indulge. Be ready ;)

* Again and again, we return to ‘status’ and the desire to appear attractive to one’s peers as a key driver of consumer behavior. Re-read our (now ancient yet still applicable!) Trend Briefing on the evolving STATUSPHERE for a deeper immersion.

India’s first consignment store re-sells used electrical devices


Opened in Hyderabad during July 2013, YNew is a consignment store which allows consumers to buy and sell pre-owned electrical devices like smartphones, tablets, and laptops. All products are tested and certified by YNew engineers and sold with a free 30-day service warranty, with sellers charged a 12-15% fee of the final sale price.

Mumbai nonprofit runs stores specializing in pre-used goods


Opened in Mumbai in March 2013, GreenBug is a nonprofit which launches and operates retail stores specializing in secondhand or gently used items, to encourage reused or upcycled retail. Regular promotions include pop-up shops at university campuses and reusable mug giveaways to reduce disposable cups.

Milan Station
Secondhand luxury booming in China

/second-hand luxury

Milan Station, a chain selling secondhand luxury branded handbags and apparel, opened its sixth store in Shanghai in 2013, with plans to expand further in 2014. With the government cracking down on corruption and Chinese netizens exposing lavish displays of wealth by officials, expect the (re)selling of luxury “gifts” to continue into 2014, further increasing the supply of affordable secondhand goods (and opportunities for those who (re)sell them).

In 2013, over 300 new secondhand luxury stores opened in China, with sales of approximately CNY 3 billion (USD 4.94 billion).
(Fortune Character Institute, October 2013)

Chic Stash
Concierge service makes secondhand fashion convenient

chic stash

Launched in February 2013, Chic Stash is a Singapore-based ecommerce platform for ‘pre-loved’ fashion. Users submit garments they wish to sell on the site, or arrange for Chic Stash’s concierges to pick up unwanted items free of charge. Shoppers can find secondhand goods from brands such as Gucci, Marni and Givenchy for up to 90% off retail.

Find, chat and buy with local sellers


Launched in Singapore in November 2013, Duriana is a location-based, P2P marketplace app enabling users to search for ‘pre-loved’ items within their immediate vicinity, such as vintage apparel, gadgets, furniture and baby clothes. Sellers can create listings by taking a picture of the product and posting it via the app, then communicate via Duriana’s inbuilt messaging platform to finalize bidding, payment, delivery or an exchange.


Keep the (modern, urban) faith.

In 2014, watch as age-old faith reinvents itself for its progressive Asian followers – with an entire selection of faith-based products, services and media tailored to modern lifestyles, technologies and expectations.

From Jakarta to Jaipur, many young and affluent Asian consumers are becoming increasingly liberal, try-out-prone and urbane – yet faith remains a cherished part of their socio-cultural identity. Some numbers:

Asia is home to 62% of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims, 99% of the world’s 1 billion Hindus and 99% of the world’s 500 million Buddhists.
90% of Muslims in Southeast and South Asia say that religion is ‘very important’, compared with only 30% of people in Europe and 56% in the US.
(Pew Research Centre, December 2012)
64% of young Millennial consumers surveyed in China & India want to ‘keep’ their traditional (or inherited) religious observations, despite globalization.
(JWT, September 2013)

Indeed, brands hoping to remain relevant, accessible and empathetic to these enthusiastically modern yet committed consumers in 2014 should focus on bringing religious consumers the relevance, choice, quality and mobile-led convenience they’ve come to expect from all other parts of the consumer landscape.

Crescentratings: Crescent Trips
App helps Muslim travelers keep prayer times

crescent trips

Launched in March 2013 by Singapore-based Muslim travel firm Crescentratings, Crescent Trips is a free mobile app created to help Muslim travelers adhere to their daily prayer requirements. Passengers who log their flight details into the app’s prayer time calculator will receive notifications of prayer times (which depend on the local time on the ground) and the direction of Mecca.

When traveling for leisure, 67% of Muslim travelers cited halal food and 49% a Muslim-friendly experience, as important criteria.
(Dinar Standard & Crescentrating, July 2012)

Peace Mobile
Islamic smartphone contains religious apps and curated content

peace mobile

Developed by the Mumbai-based Islamic Peace Research in August 2013, the Peace Mobile is an Android smartphone that contains curated Islamic content, including prayer-based ringtones, wallpaper, e-books and videos, as well as over 50 customized religious apps. Priced at INR 15,000 (USD 240), the device also features a 4.6 inch screen, a five megapixel camera and up to 32GB of memory.

Hijabella and Laiqa
Indonesian magazines celebrate ‘hijab’ fashion


2013 saw the launch of Indonesian magazines Hijabella in March and Laiqa in July. Targeted at modern and urban Muslim women, the magazines feature hijab (or Islamic headscarf) fashion from local designers, as well as conservative style lookbooks and lifestyle articles.

Ganpati Darshan
App ‘livestreams’ temple ceremony

ganpati darshan

Launched in India, Ganpati Darshan is an online portal enabling devotees to virtually attend temple ceremonies. During the ten day festival in September 2013 dedicated to the Indian elephant deity Ganesh, the site live-streamed daily rituals from participating temples, allowing followers who were unable to make the arduous journey to the temple ceremony, including the elderly or disabled, to nevertheless digitally receive temple blessings. Users could also share personal images of their celebrations via the in-app feature, ‘Ganestragram’.

Subway India
Sandwich chain creates offerings for Jain customers


In March 2013, Subway India opened its first dedicated, Jain-friendly counter. Available in a vegetarian-only outlet in Ahmedabad, the counter offers sandwiches that strictly adhere to Jain dietary requirements, for instance refraining from ingredients or condiments that contain root vegetables such as onions or garlics. There are over 4 million Jain practitioners in India.


How civic-consumers are tackling Asian metropolises.

In 2014, emboldened by the change they can individually effect, younger generations of Asian ‘civic-consumers’* will no longer blithely accept the status quo – they’ll instead turn to CROWDCRACKED solutions.

As with so many trends, CROWDCRACKED is the result of new, tech-fueled consumer expectations converging with long-established cultural mores.

First, witness the wave of increasingly ‘e-mpowered’ netizens as more Asian consumers, from the bottom to middle of the pyramid, gain access to proliferating digital devices and platforms – and the vast knowledge banks, real-time collaboration and wide reach they offer. Next, look to deep-rooted, prevailing ‘Asian values’. Whether in Kuala Lumpur or Kolkata, many young consumers feel a traditional sense of civic duty to family and community.

Mix these with pressing urban issues like fraying infrastructure and/or rising corruption, and stir. The result? In 2014, Asia’s civic-consumers will look for ways to participate like never before:

Between 2010 and 2012, China’s citizens exposed 156 corruption cases via new media (Weibo, net forums), twice that of traditional media reporting.
(Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, June 2013)
73% of Indian Millennials and 83% of Chinese Millennials feel that they and their peers are prioritizing “we” over “me”; as to how collective action can solve social issues.
(JWT, September 2013)

Looking to get started with CROWDCRACKED? Forward-thinking socially-minded entrepreneurs will already be working with communities to deliver crowd-powered solutions. Brands too should consider how to foster, support, incubate, include, and, yes, lead enthusiastic Asian consumers.

Also, be mindful of the wider implications around the CROWDCRACKED trend. As you head into 2014, think about how to behave and respond in a world where consumers have very different (read: higher) expectations around brand – and indeed consumer – participation and contribution.

* Of course, this trend isn't just confined to Asia. Across the globe, consumers' expectations continue to rise, as does their desire (and ability) to contribute to their communities. Check out the CIVICSUMERS trend in our South & Central America Trend Bulletin to learn how this trend is playing out in another region.

Crowdsourced portal tracks corruption in Thailand


Released in August 2013, Bribespot Thailand enables residents to anonymously log and track incidents of bribery. Via a free smartphone app and dedicated microsite, posters can indicate which type of authority was involved in the bribe as well as its reason, sum and location; these incidents are plotted onto interactive, GPS-enabled maps of corruption in local neighborhoods. Users can also comment on or verify each incident, and explore categorized posts.

72% of Thai respondents believe that ordinary people can contribute to the fight against corruption.
(Transparency International, July 2013)

Google: Crisis Map
Flood victims in the Philippines and India turn to Google platforms

crisis map

In August 2013, Google launched a Crisis Map tailored to the Philippines, in response to critical flooding in Manila. Behaving as a centralized resource database, the real-time portal helped users compile and share information via geo-tagged posts and its Missing Person Finder tool, where users could search for or list information about victims. The site also mapped out flood shelters, evacuation centers, emergency information and synced with the Filipino emergency site rescueph.com. Later that month, Google India offered a similarly real-time, crowdsourced Crisis Map to Uttarakhand residents during tropical flooding.

UP Singapore
Civic hackathons help source urban solutions

up civic hackathons

In August 2013, UP Singapore (an organization dedicated to improving urban environments through innovation) launched its series of monthly hackathons designed to tackle urban Singaporean challenges, with themes such as Smart Cities, Health and Energy & Environment. Participants are given access to government data and encouraged to create prototype solutions.

Code for India
Online platform empowers users to collaborate with local public service providers

code for india

Launched in August 2013 in India by Indian-American entrepreneur Karl Mehta, Code for India is a technical initiative similar to Code for America: an online open-sourced and crowdsourced platform that aims to place civic action projects, tools and public data in the hands of passionate citizens and activists. Code for India aims to empower a global community of software engineers as well as tech-savvy Indian residents alike, to better track urban problems in India, and cooperate with governments and their communities to create tech-based solutions.

82% of Indian Millennials agree that they and their peers are actively seeking outlets to air their opinions on social problems.
(JWT, September 2013)

Want even more examples? Check out the crowd-based health hacks in MADE LIVABLE IN CHINA below.


Why Chinese consumers are rushing to ‘health hacks’.

In 2014, personal health and safety will remain a key priority (and therefore a focus of attention and spending) for hundreds of millions of Chinese consumers.

Yes, our trend MADE GREENER IN CHINA flags some notable examples of promising eco-innovations being initiated by and in China, in its attempt to ensure a sustainable (as well as successful) future.

But this doesn’t change the fact that right now, the daily reality for the majority of Chinese citizens, from Beijing to Harbin, remains an often unbearable challenge: living amid strenuous, unpredictable smog (Beijing’s Airpocalypse being just the most notorious example); experiencing ever-more-regular stomach-turning food scandals; and, in the extreme, hearing of the rise of ‘cancer villages’. Some figures explaining the health safety panic streaking across China:

Over 400 towns across Anhui, Shandong and Jiangsu provinces, which encircle heavily polluted river basins, reported cancer rates higher than the national average.
(Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, June 2013)
Breathing Beijing air for just one day can be equivalent to smoking 21 cigarettes.
(Xinmin Weekly, February 2013)
Choosing from a list of 20 public safety concerns, 72% of Chinese respondents were least confident about domestic food safety.
(XiaoKang Chinese Peace Index, May 2013)
67%, 79% and 80% of Chinese Millennials surveyed agreed that climate change, food safety issues and urban pollution (respectively) contributed to their personal stress levels. 65% agree that living in urban cities is unhealthy.
(JWT, September 2013)

So, while they await the implementation of long-term sustainable eco-efforts that pledge to make China GREENER, Chinese consumers are now focusing on immediate, reactive solutions that make it LIVABLE. From urban-scale pollution-busting prototypes, to health-hacked devices for personal use, Chinese consumers will embrace the latest and greatest health safety innovations in 2014.

Brands who believe that health is wealth should think beyond obvious medical sectors, incorporating affordable urban design or reliable ways to track information provenance.

And don’t be afraid to use China as a launchpad: though Chinese consumers might be experiencing some of the most extreme environmental and health challenges, similar innovations will undoubtedly be welcomed by pollution-afflicted urban audiences throughout the rest of Asia too.


Panasonic: Jing-ling
Compact air purifiers for tabletops


In July 2013, Panasonic launched its range of compact tabletop air purifiers in response to Chinese interest in clean indoor air quality. Intended for office desktops and home surfaces, Jing-ling (meaning ‘spirit’) is an affordable device capable of removing ultra-fine air particulates, which contribute to urban pollution and health problems like asthma and bronchitis.

Smart Air Filters
Site offers DIY-assembled air filters

smart air filters

Beijing-based Smart Air Filters offers DIY assembly instructions for a fine-particulate indoor air purifier, using only a motorized fan and vacuum cleaner filter. Costing CNY 200 (USD 32), the devices have been proven to filter 91% of PM2.5 (fine particulate matter that comprise air pollutants), comparable to high-end filters costing CNY 11,000. The site also home-delivers DIY kits, and organized workshops in October 2013, teaching participants how to protect themselves from air pollution.

Frog Design: AirWaves
Connected face mask collects location-specific air pollution data


Developed by design agency frog Shanghai in March 2013, AirWaves is a prototype face mask that protects wearers from external air pollution. Embedded particle sensors measure surrounding air quality, which is collected by each user’s dedicated smartphone app via Bluetooth. This location-specific data is then visualized and auto-shared with the AirWaves community, creating a crowdsourced pollution map.

Danger Maps
Online mapping system tracks environmental hazards


Danger Maps is a Chinese nonprofit that tracks health and safety hazards via an online mapping system which overlays potential dangers from pollutants (toxic waste, oil refineries, or radiation hazards) on Baidu Maps. In April 2013, the site began accepting crowdsourced user input, to add to data aggregated from China’s environment protection agency. It also expanded its maps to include civic themes such as missing people and child abuse.

Chen Guangbiao
Cans of oxygen combat polluted city streets

chen guangbiao

January 2013 saw Chinese philanthropist and entrepreneur Chen Guangbiao unveil mobile stores in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou selling sealed, pull-top cans of oxygen for CNY 5 each. Containing approximately enough oxygen for three deep breaths, approximately ten million cans were sold over ten days, during a bout of record pollution.

Breathing Bicycle
Beijing resident creates ‘breathing bicycle'

breathing bicycle

In response to record-breaking pollution in March 2013, Beijing-based inventor Matt Hope created the ‘breathing bicycle’: a modified bike fitted with an air-filtration device that provides clean air. Made entirely from ‘hacked’ household items bought at IKEA, the device consists of a perforated bin containing a DIY-filtration system and pedal-powered generator. During periods of pedaling, the rider activates the air filter and receives purified air via a long rubber tube that connects to his fighter-pilot breathing mask.

pH Conditioner Skyscraper
Floating units clean and neutralize air

pH conditioner skyscraper

Proposed by Chinese designers Hao Tian, Huang Haiyang and Shi Jianwei during the 2013 eVolo Skyscraper competition, the Chongqing-based pH Conditioner Skyscraper is a stand-alone treatment center for urban acidic pollutants. Resembling robotic jellyfish, each pod is buoyed by hydrogen air bags, which enable them to float 300 meters above ground level, where acidic pollutants gather. Its porous membranes absorb the pollutants, neutralize them into safe liquids, then separates this into reclaimed water as well as green nutrients that feed plants embedded on the pod’s tentacles.

Studio Roosegarde: Smog
Electrostatic system sucks up Beijing smog

studio roosegarde

October 2013 saw Dutch design firm Studio Roosegarde announce a pilot test in Beijing of 'Smog': an electromagnetic-based system that clears urban air pollutants. Embedded copper coils buried underground generate an electrostatic charge, which ‘pulls’ soot and other particles from surrounding air; these pollutants can be collected and even repurposed. Smog’s indoor trials successfully cleared 1 cubic meter of air particulate pollution.


Trend watching is all about applying. If you don’t use consumer trends to inspire new, profitable innovations, they’re just ‘nice to know’.

So run with them, combine them, take them in new directions.

If you don’t know where to start, check out our CONSUMER TREND CANVAS section, which contains tips on how to unpack and apply trends step by step. Ideally, you'll end up driving the evolution of an Asian trend, too.



Last but not least, if you’re really serious about staying on top of all the latest consumer trends and related innovations, check out our globally relevant, instantly available, online Premium Service. At a ridiculously affordable all-inclusive price, it’s guaranteed to give you an unfair competitive advantage. Today ;)

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No budget to spend? Then do make sure you’re subscribed to receive the upcoming editions of this Asia Trend Bulletin, and/or our big Monthly Trend Briefing: many more to come in 2014 and beyond!

Happy tracking, evaluating, initiating and innovating! trendwatching.com logo


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