On Dec 10, TechNode Global and TechNode co-hosted five sessions on Day 4 of Singapore’s SWITCH conference. 

Jointly organized by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, Enterprise Singapore, and IPI Singapore, the Singapore Fintech Festival (SFF) x Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology (SWITCH) took place from Dec. 7-11. 

In line with this year’s theme “People and Talent,” TechNode and TechNode Global spotlighted the faces of the Chinese tech innovation ecosystem, inspiring budding entrepreneurs and innovators.

The following are the highlights of each panel co-hosted by TechNode Global and TechNode:

The Southeast Asia dynamic with Chinese investments and partnerships

At SWITCH Connect, Elliott Zaagman, co-host of the China Tech Investor Podcast, moderated a panel discussion with Kay-Mok Ku, Managing Partner for Gobi Southeast Asia, and Yi Pin Ng, Co-Founder and Managing Director at Yunqui Partners.

On the topic of Chinese investments and partnerships in Southeast Asia, the panelists went over several dynamics in the region, including maturity of markets, fragmentation, barriers to innovation, localization, bifurcation, and the future of innovation in the region.

Notable is the difference in maturity of markets between China and Southeast Asia. China is considered to be mature in terms of infrastructure and innovation, while Southeast Asia is host to emerging markets, which are rapidly catching up. This leads to so-called “low-hanging fruits” or markets ripe for innovation, particularly with a fast-growing internet base.

“In Southeast Asia, I see a lot of these startups actually focus more on policy and execution side of technology. So, for example, the infrastructure side, a lot of logistics companies are being funded and more and more private equity will start to come into this market as well,” shared Kay-Mok. “The question is: What are some of those barriers and what are the ones that have been overcome and what are the ones that are still not yet overcome fully.”

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Mobility insights in China – Is China’s EV industry thriving or diving?

China has done all it can to encourage manufacturers and consumers to consider electric vehicles (EVs). EV manufacturers such as Xpeng Motors have been planning to take it a step further and bring their EVs to global markets. In this panel, moderator Simon Hui of Baker McKenzie discussed the current market positioning and different opportunities for EVs in China and unchartered waters with Brian Gu, the Vice Chairman & President of Xpeng Motors.

Hui said that EV sales in China have regained momentum in the past couple of months after suffering a drought earlier this year, and Gu credited this rebound to a couple of different factors that have been in play for a while now.

Over the past couple of years, the Chinese government has offered subsidies and favorable policies for manufacturers and consumers to bring more growth to the EV industry. Players who have entered the industry early on were able to foster the environment, and this has definitely played a big role over the past couple of years in building the infrastructure needed and convincing consumers to make the change.

Even with everything the government has done to push EVs and what the pioneering companies have done to foster a more appealing environment and product, people remain doubtful about making the change from Internal Combustion vehicles to EVs. The two biggest hindrances were range anxiety and the general cost of an EV.

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China’s shoppertainment craze: Is the social commerce livestream hitting its ceiling?

We have seen e-commerce grow and reach places and heights that we would never have imagined. One of the more recent strategies that have been integrated with e-commerce is adding a social aspect to your online shopping. In this panel, Chinaaccelerator Managing Partner Oscar Ramos moderates a conversation on Social Commerce Livestreaming with Pinduoduo Executive Director for Sustainability and Agriculture Impact, Xin Yi Lim.

Pinduoduo is the pioneering interactive e-commerce platform that brings a social aspect to your online shopping experience. They aim to give you a fun experience and with friends as all of you save money together. Founder Colin Huang Zheng said that they want Pinduoduo to be like CostCo and Disney combined: savings and fun put into one package.

Social commerce livestreams open up a channel for consumers to reach merchants. One of the more significant hindrances for people to buy online is not seeing the product in person. This allows the merchant to answer any questions or concerns these consumers may have. Lim brings up clothes as an example, wherein customers are always unsure about what size they should get. Having this livestream channel allows the customer to see how it actually looks and how big a small would look next to a medium.

In the bigger picture, consumers who were foreign to e-commerce were forced to adapt due to the lockdown. The pandemic has brought an entirely new wave of users who rely on e-commerce platforms to get products such as daily essentials from FMCGs and fresh produce, which consumers would usually purchase in physical stores. Lim does not see this as a trend and explains how the sales for fresh groceries in e-commerce have been steadily increasing. This sudden boom in sales for these necessities is most likely here to stay, and some physical stores may have to restructure in the future to include fulfillment of online sales as one of their new services.

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Up close with tech veteran Lei Ming: The Baidu and Kuwo Music Founder on the next breakthrough

Lei Ming was one of the first senior engineers for one of China’s biggest social media platforms, Baidu. He joined the team early on, right after graduating, to work with Baidu’s research and development team. He described his experience back then as very different from his classmates, who decided to join big corporations. With start-ups, you would be learning on your feet and based on experience rather than learning from elsewhere. Fresh from graduation, he was forced to step up and handle teams of engineers and develop products and features from prototypes to final release products. This is where he realized that he was truly an entrepreneur at heart.

With the experience and success under his belt, Lei Ming decided to take on completely new challenges in the tech world after letting go of Kuwo. His next focus was investing in the future and artificial intelligence. Lei Ming is one of the founding partners of AIBasis Ventures. He has invested heavily in artificial intelligence and has multiple incubation and innovation centers focused on developing AI products.

Lei Ming emphasized that the opportunities come with change. One of the biggest game-changers that we have seen is the continuous advancement of the internet. From slow and expensive, the internet has suddenly become fast, cheap, accessible, and reliable. These conditions made opportunities for new businesses ripe for the picking. We have seen how our means of communication have changed from text to voice, to picture, to video, and even live high definition video chats. This is all made possible due to faster internet connections.

When deciding what to do, Lei Ming advised that entrepreneurs consider finding the right thing to do at the right time. You need to make sure that you are addressing a problem, and you need to see whether or not you have missed your window to enter that opportunity. He mentioned that as early as 2005, there were thousands of video streaming and e-commerce sites competing with each other. Unless you can guarantee that your product can deliver the best quality compared to the rest, then you might end up experiencing more problems than you would like.

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HealthTech innovations post-COVID-19

Healthcare systems are changing really fast. Christopher Udemans, TechNode Senior Reporter, moderated a conversation on innovation in healthcare delivery and how COVID has changed the landscape with Chang Liu, ACCESS Health International Regional Director for Greater China & Southeast Asia.

One of the biggest tools that have been utilized to help ease the burden on the healthcare system is telemedicine. Through these platforms, users or patients can access healthcare by accessing an app and receiving consultations from a doctor remotely. However, it isn’t as simple as just putting up an app. Healthtech, as a whole, has to be applied to the entire system. This means access to essential medicine, proper training, sufficient financing, government support, and health data.

COVID-19 has definitely played a critical role in adding attention and value to integrating technology when it comes to healthcare delivery systems. Liu enumerated three magic ingredients to ensure that health tech will work: social acceptance, government support, and enterprise innovation. Cooperation between private companies and the government needed to come together to generate a holistic solution that would address the problems COVID had brought out.

Liu said that there is a lot that other countries can take note of when it comes to how China, as a whole, has handled the virus so far. Several low/middle-income countries have already studied and adapted systems and protocols that China has already put in place.

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