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eCommerce and interactive gaming exploding, shows digital report

featured Business and Enterprise

Posted on July 27, 2017

4 min read

The Internet is in better health than ever. There are about 3.4 billion Internet users globally – about half the world’s population – many of whom are living a digital life. They are going online to watch movies, listen to music, play video games and they’re buying more than ever – so says leading Silicon Valley venture capitalist Mary Meeker in her annual Internet Trends report.

Each year, Meeker gives a breathtakingly comprehensive overview of the state of the Internet covering topics from smartphone growth and media habits to online advertising and how digital is influencing industries such as healthcare.

One key highlight that emerged is interactive gaming – a US$100bn business with 2.6bn gamers. In the 80s, gaming was about a solo gamer playing Pacman or Mario. Today it is a shared experience, with more people playing online than ever. Gamers take part in competitions, held in arenas watched by 1000’s with millions more tuning in online. 161m fans watch eSports monthly, a 40% hike from 2015. Meeker highlights gaming in particular, as techniques learnt can impact people’s lives. Games can be used in simulations to train fighter pilots and hone athletic skills, teach pattern recognition or let people learn by repetition.

Other highlights of the report include:

  • Voice searches are on the rise, with 20% of all queries made this way with an accuracy rate of 95%.
  • Global growth of smartphones is slowing, up only 3% from last year, down from about 27% and 11% in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
  • E-commerce continues to skyrocket, as demonstrated by parcel volume. In the US it topped 10bn last year, up 9% year on year. In fact, the unboxing of parcels has become entertainment in itself with the top 5 unboxing channels on YouTube attracting 33m subscribers in May 2017.
  • Eating in is the new eating out. Many high-end restaurants are now providing home delivery service.

Developing countries embracing digital innovation

In China, huge leaps have been made in online transportation and mobile payment technology.

  • The number of on-demand trips booked online reached 250m for just one quarter, more than anywhere else in the world.
  • China also leads the way in mobile payment innovations, with the big players Alipay and WeChat allowing customers to make everyday transactions with their smartphones.

India has experienced huge growth in eCommerce and in the smartphone space.

  • New mobile players have been opening up competition, with carrier Reliance Jio giving away free data and stealing millions of customers in the process. This has helped overall smartphone adoption in the country.
  • It’s also competition that is making eCommerce a huge business in India, with local players like Flipkart and Snapdeal going up against global giants Amazon.
  • What distinguishes India from the rest of Asia is the government’s pro-digital policies. Among them is a rollout of high speed broadband. Digital authentication via a smartphone for the 1bn+ population has been introduced (ahead of developed countries like Singapore), with 16 million authentications being carried out each day for transactions such as the opening of bank accounts.

While the report is silent on the rest of Asia, the trends are similar. Every Asian country has seen growth in Internet usage and users. As a result bricks and mortar retailers are struggling, replaced by e-commerce, where Asian brands like Taobao and Lazada rival Amazon. On-demand video and music has replaced TV and CDs and all countries are moving to high speed broadband with governments leading the way in digitising services.

For Asian observers, there are three areas that could be interesting to global brands and entrepreneurs.

  • Ad blocking is high in Asia. Indonesians block more ads than any other country (58% of mobile users), followed by Pakistan (38%). ‘Lite’ web and app versions of ads should be developed to avoid hogging bandwidth. They must also be optimised to work on slower 2G and 3G networks, which are still operating in Asian emerging markets.
  • Traffic congestion in major Asian cities like Kolkata, Mumbai, Dhaka, Manila and Jakarta present opportunities for entrepreneurs. Consumers are likely to be discouraged from out-of-home shopping, opening up e–commerce opportunities from home delivery to health care.
  • As a spin-off from the popular on-demand transportation services, other areas like handyman services, personal shopping and fitness are areas with potential.

Carriers will play a crucial role for digital services to work smoothly and without interruption. Who wants a dropped wifi connection just before buying the new pair of shoes? For digital services to work smoothly, network bandwidth is key. Carriers must ensure good coverage, offering high reliability and scalability especially with the explosion in digital entertainment and on-demand services in transportation and home services.

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From Colonel to Corporate: Leadership lessons from the military

Telstra Business Women's Awards Business and Enterprise

Posted on June 9, 2017

5 min read

Gabrielle Costigan’s success story as a senior corporate executive could be linked to her military service.

A qualified aeronautical engineer, Costigan joined the Royal Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers corps and was posted to different locations in Australia and Asia including Afghanistan and she served for over 20 years.

“As a young person, I liked the structure in the military. It helped shape my leadership and professional skills.”

When she decided to join the private sector over five years ago, she had reached the rank of Colonel.

“The time I spent in Afghanistan and working on operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan was both challenging and exciting, a point of fulfillment in my career. Specifically, the last three years of my military career involved planning for and executing operations across a large and complex supply chain in the Middle East,” said Costigan who is stepping down as Chief Executive of Linfox International in June this year, a major transport and logistics company.

It was this stint working with the US Department of Defense that was one of the most difficult but satisfying roles in her career.

“I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to lead the Multi-National Logistics Division for United States Central Command providing logistics and engineering support to Coalition partners on combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq,” said Costigan who was based in the US at that time.

“It was a complex and challenging role that required coordination with multiple agencies and host nation governments. It was a rewarding and enormously challenging role and one of the highlights of my professional career.”

Then came a crucial decision: to separate from the Army or to return to Australia and continue her military service. Meanwhile, the private sector also knocked on her door.

She took the leap and joined VAS, an aviation logistics company, where she successfully led a global sales, marketing, logistics and services team and oversaw substantial global growth.

She left about three years ago to become the Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of logistics giant Linfox. Costigan leads the international business and is based in Thailand with her family. At Linfox, she has focused on transforming the Linfox International logistics business with an emphasis on strong customer service and the highest standards in safety and integrity.

Moving to the private sector, she brought with her the two key values the military had imbued in her, that of courage and loyalty. These values were equally relevant in the commercial world.

“I always remembered this advice from my grandmother, ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’. I have been fortunate in my career to be offered significant opportunities for development and success. However, they would be just opportunities if I had not seized them and displayed courage in stepping forward. It takes courage to put up your hand to ask for a new opportunity and it takes courage to believe in yourself and to take risks.”

For her achievements, Costigan was short-listed for the 2016 Telstra Business Woman in Asia Award. Deeply appreciative to have been considered for the Award, she stressed that it is imperative to have corporate gender diversity programmes especially in executive teams.

Women approach things differently, she said, adding that they bring different perspectives and approaches to business. She believes this results in a more inclusive workplace and often better performance for the company.

While attitudes to having women in senior corporate roles are changing, businesses, especially large organisations, must be more proactive in their search for senior women executives.

“Having female leaders in positions of influence to serve as role models is not only critical to the career advancement of women, but stands to generate broader societal impacts on changing workplace policies in ways that benefit everyone and create a more diverse workforce.”

Costigan admitted that throughout her career she has faced challenges working in male dominated industries and it can be difficult to change perceptions, traditions and workplace cultures.

“I accept that I’m not going to change thousands of years of culture. However, I do believe there is an appetite and a readiness for change. Continuing to raise awareness of the barriers facing women in business is critical as is providing the support and role models women need to continue to advance their careers.”

On the Telstra Business Woman in Asia Award (TBWA), Costigan said it highlighted the success of women in the corporate world. It is important to have such an award in Asia as women’s lack of representation in leadership positions needs further acknowledgement from the business world. She was shortlisted as a finalist for this award in 2016 and is now an alumnus of TBWA.

Telstra is calling for nominations for the second annual Telstra Business Woman in Asia Award. Entries for the 2017 Telstra Business Women’s Awards are open now until June 15.

For details of eligibility and to nominate, go to

Tags: leadership,

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Shenzhen: Starting up in the fastest place in the world


Posted on March 14, 2017

4 min read

Shenzhen startups use speed for competitive advantage; entrepreneurs in Australia and Asia should heed this trend, muru-D entrepreneur in residence, Ben Sand tells Grace Chng.

Technology startups have to run fast to bring their products to market or bite the dust. Entrepreneurs must understand this new reality in order to compete globally. This is the key insight Australian entrepreneur Ben Sand discovered during his visit to Shenzhen in southern China last year.

Shenzhen’s rich manufacturing ecosystem enables quick development cycles for high tech entrepreneurs. Want to prototype a gizmo? Just walk into an electronics supermarket and pick up the necessary components. Need programming? No problem, there are many software developers who can write code quickly. New product failed to work? Buy another set of components and begin again.

This rapid iteration of product development means that Chinese entrepreneurs move speedily to bring products to market. And it’s not all hardware either. Using mobile apps, they have also solved problems people outside of China have been trying to solve for a while. Like “gifting” money to loved ones during festive seasons or splitting a dinner bill among friends.

While developers and entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley are still discussing these challenges, “in China all these problems have been solved”, said Ben who is the entrepreneur-in-residence at muru-D, Telstra’s startup accelerator.

Shenzhen may have some obstacles but it’s very welcoming, he explained. While it is not as established as Silicon Valley, startups involved with something “more outlandish”, like the latest mobile application using augmented reality, will get a warmer reception among China investors and consumers.

His three-week Shenzhen experience has been instructive for him. Entrepreneurs in Australia and elsewhere, he explained, must understand that speed is essential to survival: develop and commercialise products quickly or die.

It also impressed on him that Shenzhen’s speed in innovation has made their startups very competitive with both within and outside China. Chinese startups can develop new ideas rapidly. They are also well-connected, and eager to learn.

“People in Shenzhen are so eager to meet new contacts. I found people extremely welcoming and receptive. I was invited to events, involved in meetings and attended celebrations.”

While visiting a startup co-working space, a developer he never met walked up to him to ask what he was doing there. Soon the developer dragged him in to meet his CEO so that Ben could advise him.

This experience highlighted that the Chinese are eager to seek out new contacts to improve themselves. “This is a level of interaction I haven’t experienced before not even in the US. Such connections can form a support base for startups.”

A common question asked of Ben since his visit to the Chinese city is whether startups from Australia and Asia will converge in Shenzhen as it is fast becoming China’s Silicon Valley.

Ben believes that startups must find the environment that they can thrive in. Silicon Valley in the US, he said, is a more obvious route and a better one for entrepreneurs involved in traditional tech business. But he warned that it is hard for outsiders to break into the US market.

“There’s an astonishing amount of money available in Shenzhen, and people are more accepting of something truly transformational. There’s also a drive to want to make things happen.”

The city government also has attractive programs including financial incentives to entice foreign skilled professionals to work in Shenzhen. For example, the Peacock Plan provides foreign professionals with financial incentives starting from US$500,000 to work in the city. Typically the incentive is US$2 million per person for a skilled professional or post-doctoral candidate, he added.

Ben visited Shenzhen over Christmas to find out more about the startup ecosystem there. Among the places he visited was the vast multi-level Huaqiangbei electronics mall. All sorts of electronic components from transistors, memory chips to cables and drones can be bought off the shelf.

“Shenzhen is a place I would visit regularly. There’re so many things happening here, it’s at the edge of technological innovation that as an entrepreneur I would want to plug into.”

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