Arab consumers associate Japan with high quality

Toyota's FJ Cruiser is one of the most popular off-road adventure vehicle among Arabs. (Supplied)
Updated 27 October 2019

Arab consumers associate Japan with high quality

  • Japan and its products are highly regarded in the Middle East, a YouGov study has found
  • After Sony, the second most recognizable brand among Arabs is the retail company Muji

LONDON: Japanese products are synonymous with quality among Arabs, a recent poll by Arab News and YouGov has found.
The poll asked residents across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to rank Japan, China, South Korea and the US in terms of the quality of products they produce.
Among Arabs 71 percent listed Japan first, with the US, South Korea and China ranked second, third and fourth, respectively.
In many ways, the result is unsurprising. Japan and its products are highly regarded in the region, with many Arabs having a positive view of the country and its people. When asked by the same poll to list the attributes they most associate with Japanese people, a large majority of respondents selected “hardworking,” “organized” and “punctual.”
The poll found that the most recognizable Japanese brand among residents of the MENA region is Sony, with 60 percent of respondents correctly identifying it as Japanese. The figure was notably high among those aged over 40, of whom 78 percent recognized Sony as a Japanese company.
According to the poll’s findings, the second most recognizable Japanese brand among Arabs is the retail company Muji, which 32 percent of respondents identified as Japanese. Muji was especially recognized among women and younger people, with 40 percent of women selecting it as Japanese compared with only 28 percent of men.

If Muji’s high level of recognition as a Japanese brand is notable, especially in comparison to Nintendo, which only 19 percent of respondents recognized as Japanese, it is not exactly surprising. In recent years, “fast fashion” companies such as Muji and Uniqlo, which was not listed in the poll, have become one of Japan’s most successful and fastest-growing exports. In February 2015, there were three Muji stores in the UAE. Today, there are seven.
The strong reputation of such brands and their clear identification as Japanese among Arab consumers no doubt contributes to Japanese products’ reputation for quality in the Middle East.
Uniqlo is one of the only clothes retailers in YouGov’s 2019 Global Brand Health Index
Top 20, which tracks brand perception across a range of metrics.


ALSO READ: Poll reveals a crowded list of Arabs' favorite Japanese car brands


The poll also found that Arab consumers have positive misconceptions about the quality of Japanese products. A substantial number of respondents — 22 percent and 24 percent, respectively — mistakenly identified the South Korean brands Samsung and LG as Japanese.
Such mistakes are interesting because they show the extent to which Japanese products have become synonymous with quality products in the eyes of Middle Eastern consumers.
Samsung and LG are both seen as high-quality brands in the region — Samsung is placed third on YouGov’s UAE 2019 Brand Index, and both brands are in the 2019 Global Brand Health Index Top 20, with Samsung ranked fourth, higher than any Japanese brand.
Given that Arabs rank Japan first in terms of the quality of its products, and South Korea third, it is tempting to conclude that many Arabs perceive Samsung and LG to be Japanese rather than South Korean simply because the associations with quality are so much higher for the former country.


Alibaba confirms huge Hong Kong public listing worth at least $13bn

Updated 15 November 2019

Alibaba confirms huge Hong Kong public listing worth at least $13bn

  • Over-allocation options could take the total value to more than $13 billion, making it one of the biggest IPOs in Hong Kong for a decade
  • Alibaba Chief Executive Officer said the group wanted to participate in Hong Kong’s future

HONG KONG: Chinese technology giant Alibaba on Friday confirmed plans to list in Hong Kong in what it called a $13 billion vote of confidence in the turbulent city’s markets and a step forward in its plans to go global.
The enormous IPO, which Hong Kong had lobbied for, will come as a boost for authorities wrestling with pro-democracy protests that have tarnished the financial hub’s image for order and security and hammered its stock market.
Alibaba will offer 500 million shares at a maximum of HK$188 apiece to retail investors, the company said. The number eight is considered auspicious in China.
Over-allocation options could take the total value to more than $13 billion, making it one of the biggest IPOs in Hong Kong for a decade after insurance giant AIA raised $20.5 billion in 2010.
Alibaba had planned to list in the summer but called it off owing to the city’s long-running pro-democracy protests and the China-US trade war. The US and China are now working on sealing a partial trade deal.
Daniel Zhang, Alibaba Chief Executive Officer, said the group wanted to “contribute, in our small way, and participate in the future of Hong Kong.”
“During this time of ongoing change, we continue to believe that the future of Hong Kong remains bright,” he said.
The firm’s shares are already traded in New York. A second listing in Hong Kong is expected to curry favor with Beijing, which has sought to encourage its current and future big tech firms to list nearer to home after the loss of companies such as Baidu to Wall Street.
In the statement, Zhang said that when Alibaba went public in 2014 it “missed out on Hong Kong with regret.”
Mainland authorities have also stepped up moves to attract such listings, including launching a new technology board in Shanghai in July.
The listing comes after the city’s exchange tweaked the rules to allow double listings, while Chief Executive Carrie Lam had also been pushing Alibaba’s billionaire founder Jack Ma to sell shares in the city.
“The listing in Hong Kong will allow more of the company’s users and stakeholders in the Alibaba digital economy across Asia to invest and participate in Alibaba’s growth,” the company said.
It has long been expected to launch a multibillion-dollar stock listing in Hong Kong but appeared to postpone the offering because of political and economic turmoil.
Hong Kong’s key Hang Seng Index rose 0.48 percent in morning trading following the announcement
Chinese shoppers set new records for spending on Monday’s annual 24-hour “Singles’ Day” buying spree, despite an economic slowdown in the country and the worries over the US trade war.
It said consumers spent $38.3 billion on its platforms over that stretch, up 26 percent from the previous all-time high mark set last year.
Alibaba also said it saw record amounts of cross-border sales, underlining its plans to expand globally.
“Globalization is the future of Alibaba Group. We firmly believe the marriage of digital technology and commerce will bring about unprecedented change that will not be limited by borders,” Zhang said.