The Chinese economy has seen a great evolution. Whilst still maintaining a position as the global manufacturing plant (80% of the world's air conditioners, 70% of mobile phones, and 60% of shoes), the big shift has come in manufacturing skills – from a copying culture (Shan Zhai) to an innovating culture. One sign of this is the Chinese government's Made in China 2025 plan, which is sure to accelerate more brands onto the global scene.
Exploding with ideas
$1 billion a minute. This is what the Chinese stock market was losing during the latest downturn in June 2015. Whether your glass is half-full or half-empty, opportunities do arise in downturns. Certain sectors like tech and clothing are blazing a trail, giving the Chinese economy a much-needed shot in the arm. Several brands are getting it right, are about to take the world by storm, and in the process, make the ‘Made in China’ label a badge of honour.
Certain sectors like tech and clothing are blazing a trail, giving the Chinese economy a much-needed shot in the arm… and making the ‘Made in China’ label a badge of honour.
Meipai: All the best bits of all the best social networks
Meipai is a video app that invites users to send short, edited videos to friends and followers. While Snapchat is creating bespoke content with partners, Meipai lets its users edit and send, hence incorporating the best of Snapchat, Vine and Instagram. Employing a strategy of blending the best features from competitors, while letting its users be the stars, has made Meipai a relevant competitor on the global video stage. Expect more Meipai stars to come out in the years to come.
While Western brands like Facebook, Skype, Twitter et al. play it safe with a bland colour palette and safe design, Meipai is an explosion of colour in the palm of your hand. It delivers on its translated name
Didi Kuaidi: Uber on steroids
The merger between Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache created Didi Kuaidi, the biggest taxi service in China. Similar to Uber, the on-demand transportation service has seen explosive growth. It handles three million taxi rides and three million private car rides per day, and recently raised a record-breaking $2 billion in funding.C
Strength does come in numbers, and with feedback from 6 million customers, and with capital to back up improvements, Didi Kuaidi can become the trusted source of transportation. In addition, the tech giant Tencent is a shareholder and has Didi Kuaidi incorporated in WeChat and QQ Instant Messenger, creating the most seamless experience of transportation. Surely something Uber would like to offer.
Face++: Monetising the selfie
Facial recognition used to belong in Sci-Fi novels. Tech start-up Face++ is working on building the best software to detect facial features. Face++ is working with both Facebook and Twitter, but to a larger degree also Chinese companies such as Lenovo, So.com, and Jiayuan (China’s largest dating site, with 140 million hopeful singles). Jack Ma, the man behind Alibaba, has expressed interest in acquiring the technology, and eventually offering to pay for products with a selfie. Celebrity endorsement from Kim Kardashian is a no brainer. Face ++ is one to watch. Literally.
MI: Technology for everyone
Mi has taken inspiration from Apple, with a minimalist me-too brand and minimalist products. However, the comparison ends there, as Mis ethos couldn’t be more different. With Apple becoming a luxury brand, Mis’ mission in the world is to give everyone access to the most sophisticated technology. This means they do everything differently, from the way they built their business model, with devices at cost point, way into sales of software and digital services, through to their price points.
You can pick up a Mi smartphone for just 499 RMB (or 50). All of which primes Mi for international expansion in price conscious markets (perhaps their neighbour India would be of interest). Mi is still experiencing YoY growth in smartphone sales, however long-term growth is harder to secure and will almost certainly require international expansion. Perhaps they will pursue a midmarket more premium offering, as the middle class in China expands. Inspiration could come from another neighbor, Japan. Or they might just continue their current innovation strategy of customer-powered design, with 50% of their products being designed by fans.
As these brands venture out of China, explosive growth will prove harder to maintain. It can only be done through the development of brand.
There is huge potential in the young brands featured (along with many more) to become major global brands. They have all rapidly scaled in the most populated country on the planet, and have already learned big lessons in how to adapt to different regional tastes. There’s no reason to believe they can’t show the same flexibility and determination to penetrate global markets. As these brands venture out of China, explosive growth will prove harder to maintain. It can only be done through the development of brand.