Disruptive China

Innovation in China is constantly evolving to be at the forefront of technology that changes the way people live their lives. It has risen as a tech giant to be reckoned with and is looking beyond their borders for a global reach.

From displacer to disruptor

Brand names such as Taobao, Alibaba, Huawei and Xiaomi now have a global reach. Xiaomi went against Apple and Samsung in the market by selling a smartphone that cost a fraction of the existing products, at a high quality. They managed to do so by eliminating the middleman and just relying on the internet for sales, as well as a ‘Just-in-Time’ inventory technique. Xiaomi essentially saw the same opportunities for a smartphone revolution as Apple or Samsung did but they approached the industry differently: by a ground-up rethink and implementing a business model never tried before in this industry.

The Art of Connectivity

While countries such as Japan, Singapore and India have Smart Cities projects under way, China has been aggressively rolling similar projects out and with much success. For example, in Yinchuan, a city 552 miles west of Beijing, citizens who take the bus do not pay via cash or even card. They flash the driver a friendly smile, using facial recognition technology to pay via a camera.

China’s success with interconnectivity is in part due to a cultural value of community. The government has been able to bring together its citizens to cooperate in carrying out Smart Cities projects without pushbacks.

The art of social media in China

China takes its social media to a new level. WeChat may be the only social media app that matters in the country, and is possibly the most disruptive social media app thus far. WeChat dominates the local mobile scene with 846 million monthly users[i] and it is the response to China’s tech-savvy millennial generation. Chinese millennials are a growing influence on the local and international marketplace, disrupting models and driving innovation. As they embrace new mobile apps and websites, they have changed the way content is consumed, how communication, shopping, eating, travel and even business is done from a bottom-up manner. While many companies are disrupting one product or one industry at a time, WeChat smashes them all at once. You can read the news, catch up on the latest celebrity gossip, pay your bills, make reservations for dinner and even split your bill for dinner all on the same app.

The latest cultural phenomenon involving WeChat is the emergence of a century-old tradition: Hong Baos (or red packets). This is a feature WeChat has that allows money to be exchanged electronically, in predetermined amounts either individually or in groups, or in randomized amounts. It has given rise to a new game behavior, as people are curious to tap on a red packet when being gifted by a friend or colleague. Brands such as Coca-Cola and KFC are also getting involved by giving away cash and vouchers to users via Hong Baos. WeChat has shaken up an age-old tradition of how social media apps are being utilized. Other social media apps, especially in the region, are expected to follow suit. Perhaps not merely in the sense of red packets but we will see cultural traditions being taken and transformed for the digital era.

WeChat has been a powerful tool in disrupting industries in ways previously unthinkable. In a country where a credit rating system does not exist, the fintech industry has looked to social media to facilitate approvals. Loan applicants will submit their social media accounts, which the companies will feed into their data chomping machines in search of reckless behavior. Such use of social media is also being adopted by financial startups in India and across Southeast Asia and we can expect to encounter more of these around the region. Alibaba’s Sesame Credit within Alipay taps into Alibaba’s own ecommerce empire to get a picture of safe or risky lenders.

China’s technology and social media scene is offering us a glimpse into our mobile behaviors in the near future. Soon, we may be living our lives on a single app, among other things. As the world looks to China as a leader in technology, social media will continue to evolve and establish a presence in every industry you can think of.

[i]  PYMNTS, 10 January 2017, WeChat compliments Apple, as it readies to challenge its app dominance