Category Archives: Asia

Platform innovation or walled gardens. How I felt economically disconnected in China

So it has been several days since I returned from China. I visit cities in China once or twice a year as China is growing so rapidly in economic importance. Every year, I see huge change and this year was the same.

This year, I noticed for the first time the inroads that WeChat has made into everyday life in China. Much has been written about how the banning of Facebook and Twitter gave Chinese social media platforms such as wechat and weibo the space to grow to the point where even if Facebook and Twitter were allowed into CHina, no one would sign up with them because everyone in China is on Wechat. But this ignores the fact that wechat has not just copied its Western counterparts but created new innovations at a faster speed.

A good example is payments through wechat. Many restaurants that I visited asked me if I could pay my bill through wechat instead of using a credit card. And when I went to my favourite Chinese bookstore to buy some books for my daughter, they were so disappointed that I didn’t have the wechat wallet because they would have given me a 50% discount on my purchases.

Now I am a very happy user of Apple Pay which is also available in China. But wechat payments are so popular that the reaction of many in China to Apple Pay, or Samsung Pay was a collective shrug and a meh?

But my own observation is that the user experience of wechat payments isn’t actually better than mobile payments through Apple Pay etc. A customer has to use his or her mobile phone to scan a QR code at the counter, which would then bring you into a message box within wechat and you then type in the payment amount. The person behind the counter then has to verify that you had actually paid the correct amount and many times I have seen the customer having to hand over the mobile phone over the counter for verification. In the case of Apple Pay, it is just a simple tap while you put your finger on the home button.

But then again, perhaps it is not the quality of the user experience that is important at this stage, but the level of adoption. Given how pervasive wechat is in daily Chinese life (you can send money to your friends, pay for almost everything, order a ride share etc), that even a superior user experience would not lead to an adoption switch. Moreover, wechat is hardware agnostic whereas Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Android Pay are only available on selected handsets.

Maybe it is time for me to set up a wechat wallet before my next trip to China.

China’s service companies

Last week, the Cambridge Judge Business School took another step to deepen its engagement in China when the Director of the Business School, Christoph Loch, launched the China Advisory Council at the Sanya forum in Hainan. Its members include Dame Sandra Dawson, one of the former Directors of the School, and several luminaries of Chinese… Continue Reading

The China wave

Two CJBS faculty members recently wrote a paper on how Chinese companies were innovating faster than their Western competitors by focusing on the speed of R&D instead of quality. Their paper has gained considerable attention and was featured in a recent Economist article. I attended a recent alumni dinner in Hong Kong where Eden Yin,… Continue Reading

Beliefs and the Herd. Or my thoughts about the Cambridge MBA after an evening in Singapore

I’ve spent the last four weeks in Asia, partly on holiday (or more accurately giving my parents a chance to dote on their 9-month old grand-daughter) and partly for work. I met several companies who were interested to learn more about the Cambridge MBA students and hosted an information session for a roomful of prospective candidates.… Continue Reading


I spent two days in Beijing meeting a large number of prospective candidates, hosting a lunch for alumni and even participating in an interview in Mandarin with China Daily. The information session went well and I was impressed with quite a number of candidates. From some of them, I learnt about the changing nature of NGOs… Continue Reading