The smartphone, one of the newest technologies in the world today, is often called the “device that ate everything” since it has become a newspaper, cinema, television set and much more. But the COVID-19 pandemic has brought another surprise contender for the title – the home, one of the oldest technologies in existence.
As more and more employers worldwide offer the work-from-home option, the city office and many of its trimmings – from cafes and restaurants to downtown gyms and malls – is packing up and going home. This has brought a flood of demand for goods and services ranging from workstation equipment and upgrades to home gyms to high-end espresso machines, mostly supplied through e-commerce.
As the gateway to the high-end manufacturing and development hub of Guangdong, Hong Kong has a key role to play in adapting to and supplying this transformation.
Guiding business, political and social leaders through this process, the fourth HKTDC SmartBiz Expo and the sixth HKTDC Hong Kong International Franchising Show, both organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), were held online from 2 to 4 December.
The virtual events brought together more than 30 industry elites to share their insights at a series of webinars, examining the current business practices of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and looking at how to capture the business opportunities brought by innovative technologies, creative thinking, e-commerce and franchising amid the current challenges.
The joint online opening session of the shows was officiated by Paul Chan, Financial Secretary of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), as HKTDC Executive Director Margaret Fong delivered opening remarks.
“While the global pandemic has necessitated these events to be held virtually, this offers brand-new online platforms to SMEs to explore the latest business opportunities and corporate transformation trends, covering areas such as innovation, creative thinking, technology applications and design,” said Ms Fong.
“Both the SmartBiz Expo and Hong Kong International Franchising Show are very much focused on the new normal and the rise of the stay-at-home economy.
“Industry leaders will be sharing their points of view at a series of webinars covering topics like e-commerce, artificial intelligence [AI], big data and smart logistics solutions, rethinking how to fine-tune their business models amid the challenges.”
Under the theme "Reimagine·Reinvent", the SmartBiz Expo provided innovative business solutions to SMEs, helping them maintain their competitiveness and explore the stay-at-home-economy trend in the face of the pandemic.
The expo focused on three key areas – the brand-new customer experience offered by e-commerce and big data, redefining working patterns through digitalisation, and how SMEs can apply technologies such as 5G and blockchain in their business.
The event kicked off with “T-Chat: Riding the wave of the Stay-at- Home Economy and Managing a Remote Business”, exploring how enterprises can boost productivity under the flexitime or work-from-home arrangements widely adopted amid COVID-19. Robert Glazer, Founder and CEO of Acceleration Partners, shared insights on corporate culture under work-from-home arrangements, human resource (HR) transformation, and supporting corporations in adjusting to the new normal (main picture). As well as a renowned thought leader in corporate culture, Mr Glazer is also a bestselling author and renowned speaker. He ranked second on Glassdoor’s list of top CEOs for SMEs in 2018 and was on the Forbes list of 20 Speakers for 2017.
SMEs are embracing new business opportunities, especially e-commerce, which helps consumers efficiently access all basic necessities. An increasing number of companies are using AI and big data technology to provide brand-new customer experiences through electronic platforms and online shops, helping them capture new opportunities. This trend was in focus at a session titled “World SME Summit”, where Edward Yau, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development of the HKSAR, delivered welcome remarks while industry experts examined the global economic outlook and shared market strategies that could help local SMEs grasp new opportunities.
Gordon Lam, Board Executive Director, Bonjour Holdings, and Angel Cheng, Business Development Manager at SHOPLINE, examined the path to success for e-commerce, from platform development to influencer marketing, including new retail technology, online-to-offline (O2O) commerce, and live commerce.
In another webinar, Cristina Ng, Senior Manager at OpenRice, shared her experience running a one-stop catering mobile application and how to make use of the latest technologies to analyse big data for the local catering market. Bianca Ho, Co-Founder & COO, Clare.AI, talked about how SMEs can adopt AI-powered customer service chatbots to enhance their business.
Digitalisation boosts productivity
The expo also featured webinars on boosting corporate productivity, redefining traditional working patterns, enhancing productivity and competitiveness under work-from-home arrangements and strengthening cyber security. Peter Lee, Head of Corporate Business, Microsoft Hong Kong, and Ellis Ho, NetSuite Sales Director, ONE Pacific, discussed how companies can adopt new technologies to increase efficiency and effectiveness and make remote working more effective. In addition, representatives from the Hong Kong Productivity Council (HKPC), the HKTDC and Hong Kong’s Competition Commission introduced various funding and support schemes, as well as the competition ordinance, for SMEs. And, as innovative technologies become more widely used in companies of all sizes, IT experts were on hand to offer advice regarding cyber security.
5G and blockchain
Another series of webinars focused on how SMEs can apply technologies such as 5G and blockchain in their businesses. This topic is especially relevant these days when logistics and supply chain solutions, enhanced with smart technology, can be about much more than just transporting products from point to point. Stefanie Chow, Deputy General Manager, Boxful, introduced smart supply chain solutions that offer real-time information to help SMEs enhance their productivity and efficiency, such as a one-stop service for storage and delivery and a cloud-based inventory management system. Representatives from the Office of the Communications Authority, CSL Mobile, KARA Smart Fitness and Shan On Engineering Company discussed how they adopted the latest 5G technology in their business.
Meanwhile, with the Mainland China market anticipated to sustain its growth, experts from Zerotosix Technology Company and InSky Global eCommerce Ltd discussed seizing business opportunities under the new “internal circulation” model through various online sales and marketing avenues into the mainland market.
The HKTDC has long been committed to launching different solutions that can support SMEs in achieving their transformation goals. This year, in addition to the three-day SmartBiz Expo, the Council has launched a series of activities to help SMEs transform and be future-ready, including various seminars, programmes and workshops being held in November and December.
In addition, a one-year online promotion programme called "Connect with Smart Advisors" has been launched to enable innovation and technology experts to demonstrate their products and technological solutions virtually on the SmartBiz Expo, Hong Kong International Franchising Show and hktdc.com Sourcing websites, helping SMEs seize new business opportunities in the face of the pandemic.
International Franchising Show shares market information
Held concurrently with the SmartBiz Expo, the Hong Kong International Franchising Show also featured numerous webinars, with industry players such as Franco Lee, Chairman of the Franchising, Licensing & Franchising Association of Hong Kong, sharing the latest business information and offering tips for success in operating a cross-border franchising business.
Other industry-leading events held by the HKTDC this month include the Business of IP Asia Forum (3 to 4 December), DesignInspire (3 to 9 December) and the Asian E-tailing Summit (9 to 11 December), focusing on new technologies for research and development, design, production, sales, and business expansion, supporting SMEs in embracing the challenges presented by innovation and change.