Norway’s Entrepreneurial Outlook on Asia: Kristin Skogen Lund
By Eric Baker, for Thai-Norwegian Chamber of Commerce
Kristin Skogen Lund is Director General of the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprises, the main representative organisation for Norwegian employers. She gave a talk at the 2015 Norway-Asia Business Summit in India, offering words of wisdom for entrepreneurs potentially looking abroad as well as expatriates keen for guidance on where Norway stands.
“The recent drop in oil prices has affected Norway, as it has many countries,” she said. “But we are not in a crisis, rather a rebalancing. We know we cannot develop as an isolated country. Norway has only just begun to diversify its economic portfolio, but we will continue to see success in the oil sector.
“Yet moving beyond doesn’t mean dropping everything you’ve been good at. You can gradually shift in some areas where you already have an advantage. Some of these can be country-driven, such as energy and maritime for Norway. Some are company-driven, such as the changes taking place at Telenor, Jotun and Yara.
“Norway’s climate is harsh, which has led Norwegians to be good at extracting resources from this environment and adding value to them. With the new global focus on climate change, Norwegians ability to extract the most from scarce resources will be in high demand.
“The spirit of Norwegian business is innovative because it has been forced to be. Norway has a high cost level, so we need to work that much harder to stay competitive.
“Norwegians are also good at adapting, being a small country and not very imperialistic. We are lean and mean, not very bureaucratic, and keen on street smarts, all of which should be an advantage going forward.
“Norwegian businesses in Asia receive too little recognition for representing Norwegian entrepreneurship abroad. Norway depends on these businesses, as the view back in our home country is too insular. Norwegians often only look at the Norway perspective on matters, which is too provincial.
“We are not sufficiently good enough at rewarding businesses that succeed in Asia because there is such a great deal of risk involved with doing business here. It is important for us to sell others on Norway, but also to try and bring the world to Norway. We sometimes forget there is so much talent outside of Norway that we could use.
“As for specific countries, the situation in China is worrisome. It doesn’t seem to be calming down with time, and to some extent it may be getting worse. Many Norwegian businesses are good at dealing with this tension in a difficult environment, but the dialogue at a high level is not functioning.
“Norwegians have a lot to learn from India as competitiveness is something you pick up in the market, not in a lab or an office. If you can compete in India, you can do it anywhere, I think.
“Elsewhere, Norway’s new relationship with Myanmar has proven to be an advantage in business dealings, while our development programmes in Vietnam have been received positively. For the most part, Norway is seen as neutral and easy to deal with.
“I would close by reminding you that business can solve more of society’s problems than we think and we should always be on the lookout for ways we can help.”