Hong Kong start-ups can help drive retail revolution

Hong Kong secretary for commerce and economic development Gregory So (pictured), who opened this week’s Retail’s Cutting Edge forum organised by Inside Retail Hong Kong and InvestHK, writes about Hong Kong’s place in fostering start-ups that drive disruption in the retail sector…

Winston Churchill once said: “To improve is to change; to perfect is to change often”.

For the Hong Kong retail industry, the business landscape has changed a great deal in recent years, thanks in part to the relentless advance of technology, particularly the rise of mobile devices and the internet’s worldwide availability. Together, they have thoroughly disrupted retail markets everywhere.

Online shopping, for example, has never been easier. Just look at Alibaba, Amazon, eBay and the like. They are disrupting the conventional ways of distributing and selling goods.

With big-data analytics coming into play, it is exciting to see the pace and scale of development of eCommerce. We are no longer surprised when Amazon and eBay make those perfect product recommendations by tracking our clicks and browsing. Also, SMEs trading on Alibaba are not surprised when their business-related data helps build up credit profiles that can offer them access to innovative financing options.

Indeed, through the deployment of new technologies in retail and logistics, the conventional business model has been revolutionised. Services are no longer bounded by brick-and-mortar outlets with fixed opening hours – transactions can be initiated and completed anytime, anywhere.

The Retail’s Cutting Edge forum is a very opportune occasion to share how disruptors use technology to shape the way people relate to brands, select products and use social media to help determine their purchases, and also how retailers are adopting new ways to measure, analyse and interact with their customers. In short, we get to understand how the retail industry survives in the fast-changing tech and business environment.

Hong Kong is certainly no stranger to change. Over the past few decades, it has changed dramatically from a fishing port to a traditional OEM manufacturing base, then on to becoming a global financial centre and services-oriented economy.

Today, Hong Kong is quickly developing into one of the world’s most popular start-up hubs. Young and energetic entrepreneurs from around the world come to Hong Kong to look for opportunities to fulfill their aspirations and put their audacious ideas to test. Today, we have more than 1900 start-ups, employing nearly 5300 people, a growth of 24 per cent and 41 per cent respectively.

Why is our start-up ecosystem experiencing such tremendous growth? Hong Kong has a large pool of passionate champions and stakeholders with a “can-do” attitude and spirit. We have investors and potential investors with capital, talent from all over the world, a world-class infrastructure, a low and simple tax regime, strong IP protection and rule of law. Moreover, we offer start-up companies convenient and efficient access to Chinese, Asian and global markets as well as production facilities next door in Shenzhen. We help our start-up entrepreneurs turn innovative ideas into commercialisation of new products and services for the local, mainland and global markets.

We are working hard to build on these strengths and to maintain a vibrant and favourable ecosystem for start-ups. A host of measures, from precious seed funding to affordable office space, and from sound business advice to valuable access to investors, are in place to help kick-start these new companies to grow and thrive.

Looking forward, we hope to attract retail technology innovators to our city and entrepreneurs across sectors from all over the world to capitalise on Hong Kong’s unique strengths.

Technological advancements have entirely transformed the way that we live, the way we work and communicate, and the way we do business. Together, let us adapt to this changing landscape and bring our success to the next level.

Remember, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”

  • This column is an edited version of a speech prepared by Hong Kong secretary for commerce and economic development Gregory So for the opening of the Retail’s Cutting Edge forum, organised by Inside Retail Hong Kong and InvestHK as part of the annual StartmeupHK festival.

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