The Latham Seafoods Case


Attracted by the low labour costs and economic growth in the Southeast Asia, more and more developed Western businesses are shifting business to Southeast Asian countries in order to maintain a competitive position in international market. In this study, three countries, which are Vietnam, Philippines and Malaysia, have been selected as candidates for Latham Seafoods – a New Zealand based small fish product manufacturing company, to expand its business. Assuming that all the political and legal situations are equal in all three countries, we only focus on how the culture diversities in each country would impact and help the Latham’s business.


Cultural Backgrounds

Malaysia is the most multi-cultured comparing to the other two countries, its population structure is constituted by Malaysians (61.3%), Chinese (27.5%), Indian (7.8%) and other ethic groups (3.4%). Each ethic has its own religions and language. The largest community – Malays, are Muslims, speak Bahasa and are largely responsible for the political fortunes of the country. The second largest community is Chinese, they are most Buddhists and Taoists, speak Hokkein, Hakka and Cantonese, and are dominant in the business community. And Indians are mainly Hindu Tamils from southern India, speaking Tamil Malayalam, and some Hindi. (Lonely Planet, such a multi-cultured environment, it can be difficult for our management team to learn and cope, in that we are not only deal with one foreign culture but more than one at a time. On the other hand, a multi-cultured environment can be a good thing as Malaysians are living in a multi-ethics environment that they are capable of appreciating and adapting differences in cultures. This could provide us a more favourable environment.

The Language Advantages

Language is also a very important factor in doing business abroad, since distorted understanding in communication can make doing business extremely unpleasant and causing conflicts between two parties. In Malaysia, language conflicts between the Malaysian local and our management team may not be a problem, as English is generally spoken by all the three main ethic communities as the official language. This can add credits for doing business there.

The Labour Practice

Another important aspect to consider is the labour practice in the country that we do business. Be careful not to violating the local labour practice is essential in managing local labour relations. In this research, I found out that the labour practice of Malaysia in general is more matured than the other two countries, which is implying that the overall standards of labour working condition is higher and the labours’ self-awareness of job satisfaction is higher than the other two countries as well. In Malaysia, “an employee who is engaged in shift work can be required by his employer under the contract of service to work more than 8 hours in a day up to a maximum of 12 hours; and more than 48 hours in any one week, provided that the average number of hours worked over any period of 3 weeks does not exceed 48 hours per week.” (2004, Ministry of Human Resources Malaysia, Department of Labour) In addition, Malaysian workers are usually entitled to national holidays, and two to three weeks of annual leave. Therefore, we are allowed to operate 8 hours per shift and 24 hours a day with three shifts with a thoughtful arrangement in Malaysia. However, whether the Japanese production line’s design to isolating workers communication in order to pursue efficiency can work in Malaysia is in doubt for two reasons: 1) the Malaysians’ working style is distinctly differentiated from the Japanese workers, they are more relation oriented rather than only persuading the efficiencies; 2) the awareness of work-related healthy issues among workers in Malaysia is raising, isolating workers during work hours for 8 hours a day can bring healthy problems in the long run.

Culture and Management

The young generations are increasingly adapting the Western cultures in their thinking styles and life styles. And the problems of discriminating women in workplace has been improved in recent years, Malaysians are accepting female leaders taking higher positions in business. Therefore, we are expecting an interactive culturally exchange in the business managing styles.


Cultural Backgrounds

Vietnam is mainly occupied by Vietnamese, which taken up to 85-90% of the whole population. Other than Vietnamese, Chinese, Hmong,