At the beginning of the century, there wasn't a single Asian player in the global top 10 most valuable tech companies. But now, a multi-tiered technology market is taking shape in Asia.
According to McKinsey Global Institute's new research, China hosts 26 percent of the world's unicorns or startups valued at a billion U.S. dollars or more. Still, the country relies heavily on imported core technologies. Japan and South Korea do have large tech firms and an immense knowledge base but relatively few unicorns. Meanwhile, other emerging Asian economies invest relatively little in innovation but have huge market potential.
"We believe that industrial automation and industrial AI are entering a fast development period in Asia," said Huang Weiqiang, leader of Clients Industries & Markets at Deloitte Consulting China. Pandemic made work from home and virtual meetings an organic part of the employment.
For corporate strategies, Huang predicted that the companies will use big data and AI to generate fast, adaptive and long-term strategies, instead of just planning for the next three to five years.
In the case of China, Huang said the country has an advantage in the business-to-consumer retail business, which has resulted in the country's robust supply chain management capabilities by using big data and AI. This advantage allows China to stand out in the global supply chain system, he said.
Over the past decade, investment is increasingly moving to Southeast Asia. And now investors need to take a good look at a new type of investment structure – special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs. They are exchange-listed shell companies that raise money through initial public offerings (IPOs).
They then use the money to find technology companies to merge with and take them public. For tech startups, it is much quicker than an IPO. CNBC reported that such investment structures raised a record $70 billion in the U.S this year, targeting Southeast Asia's tech, healthcare and fintech startups.
Meanwhile, Singapore wants to become the "Silicon Valley of Asia" in addition to being a global financial center.
But what are the trends that regional players can capture to provide more economic growth for the region? CGTN spoke to tech consulting firm Gartner's Senior Research Director Arnold Gao.
CGTN: What are the key tech trends emerging in Asia?
Gao: Technologies and trends don't exist in isolation, but "anywhere operations" is one key technology trend we cannot ignore due to the impact of COVID-19. In Asia, social distancing and self-quarantine practices are widely implemented. So, for enterprises, they need to reach customers anywhere, enable employees anywhere and use digital technologies to deliver business services anywhere. This has created huge demands for technologies that can make the "anywhere operations" possible.
CGTN: Asia tech companies did well in 2020. So, based on the market demand for technology, who will stand out in 2021?
Gao: For Asian tech companies, those who provide technology products and services to support the "anywhere operations" trend will likely gain bigger successes in the new year. For example, the demands for remote collaboration will continue to be high. Also, the acceleration of digitalization will create great opportunities for growth in 2021.
CGTN: What are Chinese tech firms doing to capture these trends?
Gao: Chinese tech firms are trying to capture not only the trends but also taking a leading role in exploiting the possibilities of emerging technologies. For example, Chinese public cloud providers are offering "distributed cloud" products, which is one of Gartner's most important strategic technology trends for 2021, while other technology firms are leading the innovation races in areas such as 5G, federated learning, blockchain, quantum computing and communication, etc.