At last year’s “Economic Times Asian Business Leader Conclave” in Kuala Lumpur, executives from corporations and startups discussed “taking Asia to the globe.” This week the world’s largest retailer, Walmart, announced the acquisition of one of India’s biggest startup success stories, the e-commerce company Flipkart.
This is the time of “digital disruption.” We are in the middle of the greatest technological transformation in our lives, with the transition to the cloud. Companies are building multi-cloud environments as part of their digitalization, IoT, or industry 4.0 initiatives while optimizing their local infrastructure costs. But what is the role of Asia’s startups in the era of digital disruption?
Emerging startup hubs
Research from PwC predicts that Vietnam, India, and Bangladesh could be three of the fastest-growing larger economies in the world by 2050. These countries are also rising as startup hubs, along with China and Singapore. A new crop of companies in the Asia-Pacific region is focusing on digital disruption.
Digital disruption is a function of technology and speed. The rapid pace of innovation is putting emphasis on the word “now.” In the past, companies have delivered products. Today’s customers want solutions. Here is where the change begins. Mobile connectivity continues to grow, and the average speed of mobile connection is going faster as well. The young Asian economies with a high number of mobile devices are willing to try out newer ways of doing business. So we can’t call it disruption; it is an evolution. I recommend that business leaders start reimagining their B2B markets for the world now, and to try a different business model beyond their countries. Companies will continue to have multiple disruptions at an increased frequency from now on. Don’t wait for someone who disrupts your business. Your time is now for change!
Certainly, digital technology has changed the pace of business, and in the startup era, companies are more conscious than ever of their speed to market. Automation and “thinking machines” with artificial intelligence (AI) are replacing human tasks. But as it says, it is artificial, even when machines are becoming more intelligent. It can’t be compared to human brains. Human creativity will never get disrupted. It will remain, because it is how we human beings are shaping everything!
A dynamic future, reimagined
Take, for example, the 500-year-old wristwatch industry. Hundreds of years went by without any major changes, and then it was reimagined almost overnight by a wave of new wearable technologies. Similar changes have impacted industries ranging from retail and hospitality to transportation and education. AI solutions can enable new types of preventive and remote healthcare. They may also improve diagnoses and accelerate drug development. The examples are numerous, but there is a clear pattern: we must plan for a dynamic, rather than static future and make “no regrets” moves that work with most scenarios. But we’ll need to make some bets, too. Many tech startups in Asia are already on that path.
While we cannot know the exact path towards the future, every one of us can shape it and imagine the possibilities. We should welcome the digital disruption and embrace the upcoming new technologies as part of an open innovation approach. In the next decades, we will see how innovation out of Asia is changing the world. Asian startups are accelerating the move of global corporations to the digital world – and creating new business opportunities, models, and markets.
This story also appears on SAP Innovation Spotlight.