Happy Chinese New Year and My Newsletter

Today is the Chinese Lunar New Year – the year of sheep, ram, or goat. Why? Because in Chinese, there is no distinction between sheep, ram, and goat – they are the same word: Yang (?). I wish everyone a very happy and prosperous year of the Yang!

The New Year begets a new beginning. I have just started a new newsletter. Here is the first issue. Hope you enjoy reading it! Your comments are most welcome!

3 Trends of New Asian Consumers

Asian consumers will account for about 60 percent of global purchasing power. In my latest article on Forbes, I discuss three trends of new Asian consumers: their youth, their proficiency with mobile technologies, and their innate sense of what constitutes good value for their money.

Here is a summery of the article:

Asian consumers are significantly younger than their Western counterparts. In China, those born after 1980 are becoming mainstream consumers. India’s demographics are more compelling. In 2014, India’s median age was 27, compared to 38 in the US and 46 in Germany.

Asians are more adept with mobile devices than with personal computers. Therefore, mobile commerce is more advanced and widespread in Asia Pacific than the West. For example, in 2013, 55 percent of consumers in China had used mobile payments, compared to only 19 percent in the US.

Lastly, Asian consumers are value seekers, much more so than their Western counterparts. They have an innate sense for the value of any product and service they consume. Whether they are shopping for luxury goods or penny-pinching for a bargain, they want to get the most for their money.

Read the full article on Forbes.

Helen Wang on CNN to Discuss the Chinese Middle Class

I was honored to appear on CNN to discuss the Chinese middle class and what it means to global business. Here is a clip of the show:

The show was filmed at the CNN studio in Hong Kong on September 1st. Other panelists were Jeff Waters, partner of Boston Consulting Group, and Professor Xiao Geng of Fung Global Institute.

I am glad that mainstream media have started to pay attention to this subject. As I have said for the last five years, the rise of the China’s middle class is the biggest story of our time because of its profound impact!

My Op-Ed: The Legacy of Umbrella Man

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests have lasted for months with no solution in sight. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an opinion piece on Al Jazeera America, in which I argue that the best possible outcome could be that students negotiate a partial or symbolic victory.

Hong Kong could be a testing ground for Xi Jinping to pioneer the “one country, two systems” model of governance, a move toward a more open and democratic China — although it will not be in the form of Western style of democracy. If this happens, a symbolic victory for Hong Kong students could be a significant one for China in the long run, and Xi Jinping could be one of the greatest leaders in China’s recent history.

Whatever the end result of the protests, Hong Kong will no longer be the same. “Tank Man” has disappeared but is not forgotten. “Umbrella Man” may also disappear but will become an inspiration for future generations of brave young men and women who want to live in a better, more democratic world. Read full article on Al Jazeera.

Apple Pay Is Not Innovative Compared to What’s Happening in China

With Apple’s fanfare announcement of Apple Pay on new iPhone6 and Apple Watch, Gary Rieschel of Qiming Ventures seemed unimpressed and said it was a non-event in China as Alipay and Tenpay had been doing exact that for years.

Watch the Silicon Dragon show:

Are we seeing a reversing tide when it comes to innovation in consumer and mobile sectors? Your comments are welcome.

Will China Lead Innovation In Mobile Social Commerce?

Social commerce is a novel term in the US, and many people are not familiar with it. Some think it refers to those annoying ads on Facebook. According to Wikipedia, social commerce is the use of social networks in the context of e-commerce transactions.

In China, social commerce has taken up a life of its own and become the backbone of e-commerce.

While the “Ice Bucket Challenge” has gone viral on Facebook, Chinese consumers use social media in a much more thoughtful way. Instead of posting some silly videos and pictures, they turn to social media to solve real life problems, to seek advice from friends and opinion leaders, and to decide what products to buy or not to buy.

Read the full article on Forbes.

The Rise of the New Global Middle Class

The global middle class will explode in the next fifteen years, growing from 1.8 billion in 2009 to 4.9 billion in 2030. About 66 percent will be in Asia Pacific, compared to only 7 percent in North America and 14 percent in Europe. New Asian Pacific consumers will wield nearly 60 percent of total purchasing power, double that of North America and Europe combined. This is a significant shift in economic power from West to East that hasn’t been seen in the last 300 years. Its impacts could dwarf the Industrial Revolution.

China and India will make the biggest waves in this surge of the new global middle class. In 2009, these two Asian countries comprised just over 5 percent of global middle class consumption; in 15 years, their share of global middle class consumption will increase to 41 percent or more.

What do you make of this? Comments are welcome.

Book Excerpt: Seeds Of Alibaba’s IPO Planted In 2004 Battle With eBay

In light of Alibaba’s upcoming IPO, I thought it would be appropriate to run a series of excerpts from my book The Chinese Dream, which documents Alibaba’s humble beginning, its triumph over eBay, and Jack Ma’s legendary story.

The first episode is set in 2004. eBay just entered China and planned to dominate China’s nascent online market. An unknown Chinese company, Alibaba, started a sister site called Taobao to compete with eBay. Everyone thought this was a crazy idea. However, Jack Ma, Alibaba’s founder and CEO, was undeterred. He asked his team to stand upside down so that they could look at the world from a totally new perspective.

He said, “EBay may be famous in the United States, but in China, if you ask one hundred people whether they’ve heard about eBay, I believe that less than 10 percent have heard of it. But if you ask one hundred people whether they’ve heard about Alibaba, 90 percent know about us…. I believe we have a chance.”

Read the full story on Forbes.com.

McDonald and Coca Cola’s New Mobile App Lures Consumers

Recently, McDonald and Coca Cola launched a new app that encourages people stay engaged with each other rather then being distracted by constant phone calls and messages. As featured in Trendwatching’s July newsletter:

In May 2014, McDonald’s and Coca-Cola partnered in the Philippines to launch BFF Timeout, an app that rewards users for not using their phones. Once individuals in a group have all opened the app, the timeout begins and points are earned for every moment the phones are left alone. As soon as anyone uses their phone, the timeout ends. Users’ scores are ranked on a public leaderboard, and prizes include trips to Japan and Singapore.

I believe that the next wave of innovation in mobile-commerce and social-commerce will come from Asia. Companies need to pay close attention in this area in order to stay ahead of the curve.