Companies must move fast to take advantage of digitally skilled population in the mainland and Hong Kong

A high level of digital readiness displayed by both male and female undergraduates is the new weapon of choice to foster growth, according to several shining examples on mainland’s corporate horizon

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 June, 2017, 3:51pm
UPDATED : Friday, 23 June, 2017, 10:53pm

Hop on a mainland-bound train in Hung Hom station and you are likely to see the same thing you would see on any other MTR commuter train: people sat hunched over their mobile phones, engaged on WeChat or playing Honor of Kings, one of the mobile games by Tencent Holdings, listening to music or reading work emails.

Herein lies a weapon for corporate growth – digital readiness.

The mainland’s digital readiness, internet technology expertise, use and investment will serve as a powerful base to spur growth. For example, by harnessing the power of digital, China stands to grow its gross domestic product by 3.75 per cent by 2020, the equivalent of adding US$527 billion to the economy during that time frame.

Consider the fundamentals. Earlier this year, we commissioned research on women in the workforce with an eye to see what skills are needed to help women attain pay parity with men.

One of the ancillary insights the research yielded was that in many emerging markets, particularly the mainland, women tended to be as schooled in IT as men, creating a much larger potential pool of candidates for such work.

We found that the digital capabilities of male and female undergraduates in the mainland were fairly equal – 96 per cent of the undergraduate women surveyed said they had taken computing/coding module classes (against 100 per cent of the surveyed men), and 73 per cent of the women students said they thought they adopted new technologies fast, as compared with 79 per cent of the men. A graduate base of nearly universal tech savviness is an essential building block for future ready businesses and nations that can rotate to the new world order.

Managers need to harness this digital strength. Offering corporate training on mobile phones, to be finalised when an employee chooses, gives staff the option to use their commuting time for continuous learning. It makes retooling and refining skills more flexible.

And some companies are already on board. For example, Ping An Group has implemented a state-of-the-art digital learning platform, called Zhiniao, and provides ongoing digital content development services. The platform enables quality training to more than one million of Ping An employees and sales workforce, delivered on mobile devices. It has reduced 5,000 classroom training days and saved US$14 million training costs on completion of the first phase of the project. The management of Ping An sees it as an important achievement on its journey to transform into a world-class financial services provider.

We are already seeing mainland companies leverage digital to grow their businesses. Consider AA online studio, a digital business experience on WeChat platform for Amway business owners. The disruptive business innovation enlarged its customer base and created a new attraction for Amway business opportunity.

White goods manufacturer Haier implemented a future-forward data management and digital commerce platform that helped it improve its operational insight by providing a real-time digital view of key customers, products and sales levers. Within a year, the new scalable business-to-business platform ramped up to support an average of 17,000 dealers per day and nearly US$10 billion in annual sales.

The mainland and Hong Kong’s populace are digitally skilled up. Management teams need to take advantage of that and grow their businesses leveraging those skills. Those companies that demonstrate a willingness to rotate their core business to the new by using digital not just to cut costs, but across entire businesses – from planning and strategy to making new products, selling and managing – are poised for growth.

Gianfranco Casati is Accenture’s group chief executive for growth markets