“People thought I was insane to set up the first artificial intelligence (AI) organisation in Hong Kong, 16 years ago. That time I heard about potential appearance of humans comparable intelligence in 2050, but AI itself was nothing. 16 years ago, I wanted people to know, to be alerted towards such development and think before any problems come. Not only to make better use of time in preparing, but also to legislate failed operations as feasible action in answering who`s responsibility it is. Is it the scientist to blame? Or the robot will keep an official ID thus eligible for imprisonment?”. Horris Tse – Co-Founder & Director of WeMine, coloured up the talk with idealism in AI. But 2018 is still far from 2050, making his version of AI today be more functional for business purposes.
Dimensional Differences: Getting Digital isn`t Rocket Science
Business leaders are assumed to have full stake recognition that digitalisation changes some practices in the environment, but lack of digital realisation in business development still prevails. Inside varied cases, practitioners choose to perform growth through digital way if it`s coherent with the field`s needs. To certain extent, it`s not a new toy to some industries – manufacturing and agriculture`s perception of digitalisation is about operating newly advanced machineries; so it`s not rocket science. But to other industries, today`s digital interpretation is something to touch online; making digital platform be the right medium for business growth. One mainstream way is the usage of social media, which Horris said to be more functional for retail companies to grab massive attention from their consumers. Yes, retail is consumers-facing type with tendency of vast development, but getting closer to consumers digital habit doesn`t always guarantee a success. It`s still crucial to know the consumers profile through their countries, so it`s easier to attract their peculiarities.
Take China and Hong Kong where they`re not apple to apple. Chinese consumers are highly digital in doing payment, iPay and WeChat Pay are nothing unfamiliar – thus, companies aiming to grow there would foresee digital technology as essential factor in the business. While in Hong Kong, mobile payment isn`t very popular yet as the people are still fond of holding octopus and credit cards. Nonetheless, it doesn`t mean that we can`t motivate business to adapt; possibilities to invest today altogether with market encouragement to adjust with digital platform could still have the way. As an idea, let`s run shops in Hong Kong where cash money isn`t accepted and customers are directed to use digital payment platforms; not impossible that later on they will switch to the other frame. Digital payment is seen as future trend, but there should be investment and effort done since today.
Getting digitalised takes account on mindset alteration, Horris added. Hong Kong was important manufacturing area in the 1960s and 1970s, but long years have gone with tighter competitions facing geographical neighbourhoods. Those who sustain – mostly the 2nd generations – are aware that by just running manufacture part won`t bring them very high profit, hence moving some business part to retail focus starts to look promising. But retail requires branding/marketing details and here switching perception to have it digitalised is a challenge. Significant digital branding budget is one shocking adaptation, such investment takes time to be understood. Accustomation on them is about meet people in expo and business networkings, shake hands, make deals and sign contract – thought to be the only patterns to thrive the business out. But moving to retail meaning that they can`t talk to consumers individually, especially if they own large manufacturers and want to have scalable analysis about consumers behaviour. Emphasised by Horris that achieving progress with digital branding/marketing needs solid commitment started from 1 or 2 years prior to ROI. We can`t always expect short-term return, it`s not rocket science.
“When they get into the arena, if it`s not something they want – they don`t want to take the risk. But I believe many have seen business using digital technology that gets lots of funding, runs in good operation, with high potentials and exposures. So they must be aware of the facts, and they must find opportunities there.”
PR & Marketing, an Altered Understanding
PR and marketing campaign using digital means is naturally different post in business operation, they`re the other side of business heart as important support for sustainability. They possess close cooperation needed to transform the whole business. Now is not only about re-structure of marketing department and hiring younger or more digital-savvy ones; but today`s new business is moving into thorough mindset transformation to accommodate digital technology as crucial internal decision-making.
PR and marketing are concepts to contain digital technology, with totally different pace with previous segregations of both. We know that placing Ads on printed media is marketing part using advertising spot; but when there`s negative feedback reported on media by consumer, then it becomes PR handling. In today`s majority practice, if social media agency is hired to run company`s Facebook and people share negative comments on posts; then the huge question arrives whether it`s PR or marketing responsibility. Here, the inevitable fast dynamic makes the alignment blurred.
As digital era blends the functions, now it all depends on the cases – whereby to undergo digital marketing is different shape of collision, the sense isn`t quite the same as it used to be. In running digital campaign, tracking is there all about, as the key benefit of digital marketing is to have possibilities in tracking results. Once needed to do it, an establishment of technology alongside the business process is duely required as well. Take sample in applying digital payment, in which companies could have access to track out who actually pays for the products and whether the customers have left comment somewhere previously. It`s provision to see the whole traceable customers journey. Hence digital involvement is said as inseparable sense of marketing inside business operation.
“To embody the mindset, business leaders must be well-equipped with knowledge on today`s technology or the way of new platforms in business planning. And it`s a real challenge, seeing that a gap remains between what they see and what they can do.”
Not the Matrix Movie: Half Digital and Half Traditional Work
Horris illustrated that we don`t live in the Matrix movie; so although digital marketing is essential part to run business, doesn`t mean that we have to lose physical humanity concept. It makes sense to have marketing for commodities to be digitalised, such as online store because buying and consuming are separated elements. However, to other cases, it`s still important for companies to consider experience brought for customers: would it involve a lot of humans interaction or list of personalised stuffs – then combined traditional and digital ways work in respective portion.
Reservation process in restaurant, as one simple case, fits to have the combination applied. It is logical to have table booking done with digital application, because it only takes up schedule. But if it consists of arrangement to personal occasion, there should be verbal follow up through phone calls or even meet-up to assure everything. In such case, details elaboration inside chat box is troublesome with misunderstanding possibilities; leading to mistaken realisation, not as wished.
Digital platform is seen to provide alternative way to experience products or services, it is trending but it won`t replace human life 24/7. Horris doesn`t reckon that traditional or manual way is in total devastation, even in certain cases using it within today`s digital era could add special value to business and industry.
“I can`t see the future with people sitting like in the Matrix movie, connected to virtual world having bodies moving in the space. I don`t want to see that, frankly, humans are humans because they have the body. Visco biological and psychological interaction are linked. As long as human biology doesn`t change, I don`t think that day will come very soon”.
Social Platform: Information Wise and First Hand-Shake
Values brought by social application seem to outweigh the drawbacks, but whether it fully becomes resort of social life replacement – it`s another analysis. In certain phases, explained by Horris, social app is better functioned as information canal and the first hand-shake point; so that people won`t lose real sense of interacting socially.
Information wise, it helps people on specific cause or area – which after a search done, they can just leave it. It`s not always to drag people inside digital world, and people still do human interactions in physical world. Say in using Uber; people just order, take up the trip and that`s it – nobody falls in love to dig it out. Other popular app in Hong Kong is MeetUp, where people post their organised events with many interest groups and easy steps to join. Of course, things occur outside Hong Kong`s routines and MeetUp is the instant information bridge that could match our purposes. It`s truly ideal as technology in function, as it doesn`t make people to be anti-social in reality.
Horris managed a view on social app to be pinpoint of first hand-shake and not as online prison of socialisation. Dating app is one to concern, as it hides tendency to lock people up on internet, making their real interactions fade away and manifest a belief that relationship could be totally online. In psychological sense, it`s detrimental as staying online makes it instant to grow a feeling of building connection easily – without realising a fact that everything happens is merely online conversation. What`s discussed left there – even the conversations are maintained for years, it`s possible that two significant others never make chance to meet. Especially if each is distracted with many other chat pairs, whether one finally could end up as real connection – is a huge question. It`s the same perception with travelphobia; years abroad and experiencing repetitive first talks with new people – until it comes to a point of getting really tired. Overwhelmed with identical topics is the problem, “my name, what I do, my country” – then it triggers dangerous part as talking to people becomes routine. At the end, losing natural interest in people is plausible; because seems like easy to connect online, but it doesn`t take the person anywhere.
However, if the social app isn`t about dating, Horris explained in further that the function could be in balanced portion. Take social media to be a digital room of people`s gathering in the first phase; it`s kind of being inside business networking, then look up to group of people and determine who to talk to. It also brings chance to know people that might not be possible to catch up offline. Then it`s two-side advantage; concept of first hand-shake and aim for face-to-face meeting. In this case, teaser on the surface is quite important before knowing someone for any purposes, and here internet is the place to speed up such step.
Trying not to get drowned inside social apps is key to avoid losing reality in physical world. It`s dangerous if we`ve started thinking that our society is the online one, because it makes definition of connection shakened and Horris believed the way people use social apps would affect their mindset to be naturally shaped by the apps. Also it`s important to opt which suitable apps to download, don`t simply follow everyone.
“If we spend too much time online, we could develop new feeling that we really connect to people – but we actually don`t. When we`re back to real world, are those who really like our photos – our friends? Dozens are on the list, but are they true connections? Do they really like us? Then those become real questions”.
Horris Tse Drives WeMine, Taking You to China Market
WeMine is a homegrown establishment by Free Bird, the parent company that an investment arm that runs like an incubator for innovative projects. As under Free Bird’s umbrella is RollAngle, a consultancy and marketing arm that supports Start-Ups and SMEs. As an incorporation on its own, WeMine has also been supported by an angel investor from Singapore.
WeMine does big data analytics on social messenger having China highlighted, as it has been on WeChat. Being expert in the area, many foreign companies obtaining WeChat to make them brought into China market. Its role touches part of data collection and analysis through the software, with assistance in marketing development and provision of technology planning. WeMine presents better analytic perusal on Chinese consumers behaviour, which the market research provides real insider understanding. It makes foreign companies to see the importance in the use of WeMine, as they could be more objective about market in China.
It is recognised that China prefers to apply its own technological platforms; many have known that Google or Facebook aren`t accessible in the country. That`s why it doesn`t work for international companies to apply their common way of collecting consumers data in China, as those means aren`t available; making them to rely on third-party software to measure data via WeChat. Once connected to the platform inside WeChat, WeMine provides sophisticated analysis on certain contexts such as conversations. Companies are able to track who answers customers` questions, hence the Customer Service team is equipped with individual account using the platform. It`s very functional for e-commerce, as people`s questions and their purchase are traceable. Companies could then derive aggregate as an insight, which is useful to increase products sales. WeMine assists to build digital touch point through the whole customers journey, assuring all areas are measured and well-recorded. This kind of measurement isn`t provided on WeChat`s native platform, making WeMine needed for the purpose. Horris added that by having data then analysis is possible and it takes companies to next step of business improvement.
“Of course getting into China is lucrative already because of the huge market. How do you measure that you`re doing a success? How would you improve if perhaps you`re failed getting into China? Is it the problem of the products or is it a problem of China? Without data you can`t figure them out. And with our platform, you have the data to do the analysis”.
As the figure behind WeMine, Horris also leads FreeBird and RollAngle. Graduated from the Chinese University of Hong Kong majoring Automation – Artificial Intelligence under Industrial Engineering, he was awardee of the 4th HSBC Young Entrepreneur Awards. With more than 13-year experience, Horris contributed past career in AXA Asia, Telstra International Group and Thomson Reuters Group with present aim to encourage the growth of Start-Ups in Asia region.
Horris Tse | Co-Founder & Director, WeMine | Hong Kong | firstname.lastname@example.org | wemine.hk
Anisa Kirana | Hong Kong | 2018