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Turbocharging Trumps Supercharging in the Battle for Engine Downsizing

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Naturally aspirated engines have dominated the automotive landscape for decades. However, growing emphasis on the need to improve air quality in recent years has placed significant pressure on global vehicle manufacturers to improve fuel efficiency and ultimately reduce CO2 emissions. Not only have OEMs been subject to growing pressure from consumer groups and environmental activists, but there has also been a stronger push by…

The article was published as part of Automotive World’s Special report: Turbocharging and supercharging.

Click to read the full article

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Five Technology Trends to Reshape Retail in 2017

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Today, retail and technology have become inseparable, driven by the need to digitalize services to offer convenience to shoppers and elevate their shopping experience. Retailers are slowly shifting focus towards being phygital, and to digitalization of in-store experience, supported by disruptive technologies (social, mobile, cloud, and analytics) continuously transforming the face of retail sector.

Besides enticing customers and creating a unique shopping experience, digital retail integration is increasingly simplifying supply chain management, payment systems, and tracking of inventory and sales data, among others. Some retailers are using technology to get insights into hard-to-capture customer behavior data, which is then used to take effective measures to improve sales.

Clearly, technology has become an indispensable means to empower the retail sector and will continue to do it in 2017 with innovations such as Internet of Things (IoT), smart mirrors, big data analytics, chatbots, robotics, etc., sweeping every possible domain of retail.

By the end of 2017, insights captured using big data analytics will be increasingly used by retailers to devise business strategies, which is likely to help them to stay abreast of retail trends. Big data analytics are expected to play a key role in predicting sales and trends, conducting consumer sentiment/behavior analysis, forecasting demand, achieving price optimization, and devising customized promotions.

Interactive mirror, a smart mirror that helps to virtually try-on clothes, is an interesting digital retail innovation, which is likely to gain more popularity in 2017. Interactive mirrors’ application can be customized according to the needs of individual retailers. For example, companies such as Ralph Lauren (a US-based retailer) are using these mirrors to show consumers how a particular outfit will look during different times of the day by changing the lighting of the fitting room along with providing suggestions on accessories, which are displayed on the mirror, to encourage more purchase. Companies such as Lululemon (a Canadian athletic apparel retailer) are using interactive mirrors to suggest places to exercise and provide information on healthy living. These mirrors are not only a means to attract shoppers by offering unrivaled shopping experience, but can also be used to gather consumer behavior data. With the help of interactive mirrors, Rebecca Minkoff (a US-based luxury retailer of handbags, accessories, footwear, and apparel) store was able learn that a leather jacket was tried on 70 times in a week but never purchased. Most shoppers asked for different sizes using the interactive mirror, indicating that there was a fit issue.

Chatbots, another invention to continue gaining traction throughout 2017, act like a virtual concierge service, guiding customers through the shopping process, providing detailed information on product and stock level, and allowing shoppers to place an order and track it in real time. Chatbots are also a great tool for retailers to get insights on shoppers’ tastes and preferences – for instance, all first-time shoppers on Sephora’s (a French cosmetics manufacturer) chatbot are required to take a short quiz that helps the bot know about personal preferences of a user – this information is used to recommend products. The bot also provides reviews on certain products.

In 2017, IoT is likely to become an integral technology for the retail sector to build smart stores. IoT’s significance is expected to grow in retail with about 70% of retailers in the USA ready to adopt the technology in 2017, according to a survey conducted by Zebra Technologies. IoT will be the key to interconnect in-store smart devices and sensors with Internet, which will enable better data-driven business decisions and ease of operation.

For the past couple of years, big box retailers such as Staples, Walgreens, Amazon, and Gap have been using robots for warehousing and logistics operations, but 2017 is expected to witness an increasing implementation of robotics for customer facing in-store operations as well. While use of robotics for distribution center operations will still hold importance, the launch of Amazon Go stores, Amazon’s robot-powered supermarkets, Lowe’s customer-assistance robots, etc., will increase foothold of robotics in front-end tasks such as customer assistance (we wrote about Amazon’s latest efforts to digitalize the grocery market it in our publication Amazon: Prepared to Digitalize Grocery Business in the USA? in April 2017). In the coming 5-10 years, robots can be expected to become an integral part of the complete retail value chain including both front-end and back-end operations.

Five Technology Trends

EOS Perspective

In the medium term, in-store shopping is not going to fade away due to competition from online retail, but instead it is likely to witness an upgrade with retailers enthusiastically integrating technology into physical stores. The key focus of all retailers in 2017 will be to enhance personalized customer interaction, offer innovative in-store experience that rivals the convenience of online shopping, and use the gathered insights on customer shopping patterns to conduct effective predictive analysis. To achieve these objectives, retailers are likely to use technologies such as big data, IoT, and robotics, and employ interesting innovations such as chatbots and smart mirrors to offer seamless services to attract customers as well as use these innovations to capture valuable insights on consumer behavior.

Over the years, technology has tremendously contributed to the success of retail sector – starting from browsing, point-of-sale, shipping, checkout, supply chain, to payments, and so much more. This will not change in 2017, as technology will continue to digitalize retail, with top retailers prioritizing technology to improve sales.


*key sector of operation for each retailer included in the infographic

  • General merchandise: Amazon, Tesco, Macy’s, Kohl’s, and Kroger
  • Footwear: Nike
  • Fashion (apparel, fragrance, cosmetics, sunglasses, handbags, shoes, etc.): Burberry, Rebecca Minkoff, Nordstrom, Sephora, Van Heusen, H&M, and Ralph Lauren
  • Electronics: Anker
  • Online retailer: eBay, Ocado
  • Food: Godiva
  • Home Improvement/appliance: Lowe’s
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Bikes Are Back: China Gaining Pedal Power

Once a symbol of China’s culture, bikes use slumped with the country’s economic and urban development. The country’s streets have seen a mass influx of cars and China became the largest automobile market in the world. Commuting by bikes started to be perceived as a symbol of belonging to a lower class, while owning a car represented a higher economic and social status of an individual. However, this trend seems to be changing again, along with commuters’ view on using bike as a mode of urban transportation. With sharing economy on the rise, mobile app-based bike sharing starts to appeal especially to younger Chinese, who perceive biking across the country’s cities cool. Given the congested roads and poor air quality, the government is ready to embrace such greener bike renting services that offer eco-friendly alternative to cars and have the potential to reverse the way people commute thereby reshape the dynamics of the cities in China.

Previously known as the ‘kingdom of bicycles’, bikes were China’s major mode of transportation from 1980 to 2000. However, over time, the economic boom led to a high demand for cars making two wheelers go out of fashion. In 1980, around 63% of people in China used bicycles for their commute. By 2000, the rate dropped to 38% and as of 2016, it was below 12%. In 1995, there were estimated 670 million bikes in China, a figure which fell to 370 million in 2013. But now, the new bike sharing apps are likely to help promote the reversal of this trend in China, a country which has been making efforts to promote cars in the last two decades.

While the country already witnessed the emergence of innovative bike sharing apps over the last few years, bicycle sharing is still set to become a vital focus area for several China’s start-ups in 2017. This new bike-sharing service borrows from the known public bike concept present both in China and in several cities across the world, but unlike the government-run bike rental programs (also present in various cities in China), these bike sharing start-ups offer bikes equipped with GPS. GPS lets the user know which bike is in the user’s vicinity and allows to hold the bike for up to 15 minutes until the user arrives at the location where the bike is parked. The bike is unlocked by scanning a QR code and the GPS device is charged by pedaling the bike.

Popularity of such apps is fueled by the rising demand for means to commute on short distance, currently an underserved area of public transportation. For instance, in Beijing and Shanghai, white-collar workers depend primarily on public transportation for their daily commute, which leads to an increased demand for means to commute from their home or their workplace to the nearest subway or bus station. Bike rental caters to this demand without any complicated procedure or heavy deposit required (since these apps offer bikes with minimal and refundable deposit). In addition, the bike rental concept is becoming a hit with college and school students who cannot afford or try to avoid the responsibility of owning an asset, and also consider biking around the city cool.

Furthermore, the bike rental industry resonates with the growing awareness of an urgent need to address the issue of dramatically deteriorating air quality in most Chinese cities by offering eco-friendly substitute to cars, thereby fighting China’s increasing traffic and air pollution problem.

As of January 2017, there were around 17 companies operating in this new bike rental sector of sharing economy market, out of which MoBike and Ofo are the leading players attracting investment from foreign companies. In January 2017, MoBike raised US$ 215 million from a range of investors including Warburg Pincus, Tencent Holdings, and Ctrip.com International. In February 2017, the company raised additional funding from Singapore-based investment company Temasek Holdings and investment group Hillhouse Capital. The start-up also announced it raised an undisclosed amount from Taiwan-based electronics contract manufacturing company, Foxconn, in January 2017 with a view to increase its fleet size to reach 10 million new bikes every year. The association also aims to cut down the overall production cost and reduce the distribution cost of placing bikes internationally by setting up production houses in strategic locations.

MoBike’s competitor, Ofo, has also been in the limelight for attracting investments from tech players. China’s leading ride-hailing start-up, Didi Chuxing, investment group DST Global, and a private equity firm CITIC are some of the investors in Ofo, which has raised a total of US$ 450 million as of 2017.

App-based bike rental industry has become one of the hottest sectors in China, leading to various domestic and international investors eager to cash in, funding new start-ups operating in this market. The start-ups compete majorly on price and the range of services offered with regards to finding and unlocking bikes, and aim to increase their presence throughout China and abroad. Despite the increasing investment, these start-ups are facing challenges which might hinder the growth of the industry. At present, no industry-specific regulations have been laid out for the bike renting services, including framework of rules and criteria qualifying companies as bike-renting operators, monitoring their activities, or setting up bike maintenance requirements, which can in turn affect user safety. In addition, start-ups face the constant fear of theft and vandalism of their fleet, which can lead to considerable expenses. For instance, in March 2017, around 4,000 bikes were found to be illegally parked in public areas in Shanghai and were confiscated by local authorities. Most of the bikes were owned by MoBike which is now required to pay a management fee and hopes to get 3,500 bikes returned.

Further, the ‘park anywhere’ policy followed by most operators is a double-edged sword, mostly due to users’ negligence with regards parking the bikes. While the policy increases the chances of bikes being found in immediate vicinity, a fact appreciated by the users, it also agrees to bikes being parked in remote areas. As a result, cities in China witness bikes being piled up along freeways and private buildings, and also obstructing pedestrians on the sidewalk.

EOS Perspective

Internet-based bike renting business is booming at an unprecedented rate and adding new momentum to the push to build up the country’s green transportation system. Investors are ogling opportunities presented by the growing platform which leverages on millions of young and tech savvy users. The bike rental start-up battle has just started and the competition is helpful in boosting the size of the industry. Start-ups such as MoBike and Ofo are thriving in the short run by offering new services which let the commuter rent a bike with the help of a mobile phone. However, the increasing investment is not enough for long-term viability and external support in the form of regulations and parking rules is required.

In order to grow, bike rental operators have to resolve issues such as bike theft, vandalism, and disorderly parking. For instance, to avoid bike theft, MoBike has hired staff patrols to keep a check on the bikes. However, this generates additional costs and is only partially able to address the issue of bike theft, as these patrols are unable to monitor all bikes at any point of time. In addition, MoBike introduced a credit score system for users to avoid damage to the bikes, by increasing the user’s responsibility for equipment. Under this system, penalty points are taken in case of any vandalism. Once a user’s score falls below a certain level, the rental fee is increased.

Bike rental companies also need to work on their business model for long-term viability. Despite booming in the short run by offering new and innovative services, these companies will need to overcome a major challenge around the profitability model – tackling it either through in-app advertising, government subsidies, or expanding to other ancillary services. It seems that long-term growth based exclusively on rental fees might be limited as soon as streets in key cities become saturated with this kind of service. Further, the industry is yet to solve problems such as the limited number of bikes a city can handle, as the road space and bike-dedicated lanes might not expand fast enough in most Chinese cities. Unless these companies come up with a long-term plan for sustainability, the future of the industry is hard to predict.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

Amazon: Prepared to Digitalize Grocery Business in the USA?

For the past several years, Amazon has been battling to break into the grocery retail market. After several experiments, Amazon has now embraced technology to differentiate its offerings and improve customer experience – a bold tech-fueled strategy to establish itself in the grocery market in the USA. Its latest innovations have shaken the traditional retail store concept and brought in revolutionary ideas of checkout-aisle free convenience stores, robot-controlled outlets, and voice-enabled online shopping.

Amazon is set to soon open its technology-powered brick and mortar stores in the USA, an idea that it once shunned, due to the strong belief that it could win over customers only through online channel. These stores have the potential to offer seamless store experience.

Amazon Go – Grocery store of the future

The company unveiled check-out free, Amazon Go store that ensures hassle-free and smooth shopping experience by eliminating the need to wait in queues to bill items – which was one of the key grievances of time-pressed customers. Launched in December 2016 in Seattle, the store is still in private beta mode and accessed only by Amazon employees. The public launch date is scheduled for early 2017.

The store operates on ‘just walk out technology’ that allows shoppers with Amazon Prime accounts to tap their phones on a turnstile while entering the store, and from then onwards, the technology tracks the selected items and adds them to a virtual cart, which is billed and sent to customer’s Amazon account.

The ‘just walk out technology’ has been developed using recent innovations such as computer vision, sensor fusion, deep learning, and artificial intelligence, among others. Products have embedded tracking devices – functioning through high-tech object recognition and inventory management systems – which pair with customers’ phones to charge their Amazon accounts. The weight sensitive shelves alert Amazon regarding restocking requirements.

Amazon has not yet commented on the number of stores it intends to open.

Robot-powered supermarket – Soon to be reality

A robot-operated supermarket is no longer just a figment of imagination with Amazon working towards opening such outlets soon. The supermarket is likely to be an extended colossal version of Amazon Go stores – the idea is to build two story, about 10,000-40,000 square foot store, stocked with over 4,000 items.

Shopping experience will be facilitated with robots that will pick up items from shelves and bag them in the first floor to deliver it customers waiting downstairs. Items will be charged automatically to customer’s account, replicating the Amazon Go’s check-out and billing concept.

Customers will have option of in-store shopping or to order online and pick-up items from the store later – offering both facilities is Amazon’s strategy to attract more customers.

The stores will be able to function with as few as six staff members to a maximum of 10 workers per location during any shift, against the industry average of 90 employees required to run a supermarket. The stores will only require a manager to sign up people for the Amazon Fresh service, a worker to restock shelves, two employees stationed at drive-through windows for customers collecting their groceries, and another two employees to help robots bag groceries, which would be sent down through conveyors.

Eventually, Amazon aims to introduce robot-run stores globally.

Alexa – Powering the age of hands-free shopping

In March 2017, Amazon successfully launched yet another innovative solution, Alexa, which is an artificial intelligence-powered voice assistant that facilitates shopping on Prime Now for its members (currently, limited to the USA). It ensures seamless, hands-free, and convenient shopping experience, as the user only has to give a voice command as ‘Alexa, order from Prime Now’ and the job is done.

Alexa is extremely versatile and a multi-tasker, it can search for items, re-order or track orders, add items to cart, and give product recommendations. Besides being a powerful shopping tool, it can also read kindle books, control selected smart home products, play music from Amazon’s own services, etc.

Voice-enabled shopping service is available through Amazon devices such Echo, Fire tablet, and Fire TV, and it has been integrated with Amazon’s Shopping app for iOS platform.

EOS Perspective

Will Amazon’s innovations threaten other players in the market?

Other retailers feel the pressure to upgrade services to keep up with Amazon’s enhanced shopping experience. Kroger launched ClickList (an online grocery ordering service, where the customer needs to visit the store to pick up the items) across 500 stores and is using technology to analyze shopping habits of customers to generate relevant coupons for them.

In January 2017, Walmart launched Scan and Go app for Android users (already available for iPhone customers), to compete with Amazon. The app scans barcodes of items, customers can pay through the app, and show receipt at the gate before exiting the store. The prototype is still in testing phase and is likely to roll out by the end of 2017.

Amazon’s technology will not be easy to replicate nor will a lot of retailers have the capacity to implement technological innovation of such a massive scale, hence, Amazon is certainly likely to have an edge over its competitors when its stores open for public. Amazon’s competitors in the grocery business definitely feel threatened and have started to revamp strategies and use technology to reach more customers, however, the scale of their innovations still remains miniscule in comparison with Amazon.

Why is Amazon pushing for innovation?

After a decade of Amazon’s food retail experiments, with limited success through online channel, the company decided to launch physical stores. But cracking through the US$ 800 billion grocery market in the USA, already dominated with players such as Target, Walmart, Kroger, etc., is not so simple. Consequently, Amazon strategized to carve a niche for itself by differentiating its offerings, using technology to provide flawless, quick, and smooth shopping experience for customers. The move is expected to accelerate its penetration into the grocery business.

Amazon’s core business model is based on behavior modification, which revolves around attracting consumers to e-commerce website, and now also to physical stores, converting the customers into Prime members, and eventually driving them to spend more across categories.

All of Amazon’s new inventions, including Alexa, Amazon Go, and robot-powered outlets, will push consumers to eventually become Prime members, as holding a Prime membership is the basic requirement to be able to access these services. Prime members, besides paying an annual subscription fee, are likely to shop and spend four times more than the non-Prime members, which makes Amazon’s retail business profitable – in 2016, revenue from Amazon Prime and other subscription services such as e-books and videos stood at US$ 6.4 billion, growing by about 40% annually.

The other benefit of automation for Amazon includes minimizing labor cost, which accounts for lion’s share in a supermarket’s operating cost. Further, the robot-controlled supermarket’s design is likely to slash real-estate costs by reducing the need for aisles that typically occupy large areas of traditional supermarkets. Using robots on the first floor will also allow Amazon to stock more products in space smaller than in conventional stores. The store prototype is expected to yield profit margins above 20% against the industry average of 1.7%.

Further, Amazon envisions to open 2,000 stores in the USA over the next 10 years against the current 2,800 stores of Kroger, USA’s largest traditional supermarket chain. This indicates that, if these store openings are successful and if the profit margins are achieved as expected, Amazon could potentially be a real threat to conventional retailers over time.

Will these innovations be truly disruptive or have limited impact on grocery retail segment?

The path to building futuristic concepts and prototypes will definitely not be a cake walk for Amazon. It might face adversities such as increased chances of theft due to the store formats of Amazon Go and robot-driven supermarkets. Selling random weight items (fresh fruit and vegetables, sliced meats, etc.) can be difficult to incorporate in Amazon Go’s automatic checkout system.

Lastly, success of these stores will depend on their location and sales volume generated – opening stores in downtown areas might be difficult at the beginning because high rentals may not be covered by the sales achieved.

Certainly, the technology-driven stores are not a mass market option for Amazon today nor is the success of these prototypes guaranteed. Also, as grocery retail operates on wafer thin margins, lasting innovation is rare in this segment.

Amazon’s bold technological innovations might not be big enough to disrupt the industry yet. However, considering Amazon’s steady financials and relentless efforts towards automation, it is likely that the company could forge ways to make grocery retail more profitable and efficient in the future.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

MedTech in APAC – Harmonizing Hazards and Rewards for Rapid Expansion

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Being the third largest medtech market in the world, Asia-Pacific (APAC) is becoming an investment hub for medical technology companies globally. Owing to the economic growth of the region and increasing income of the local population, healthcare affordability and quality are on the rise. These are the ground reasons that drive medtech companies to focus on APAC for growth and business expansion. But having access to many local markets in this vast and diverse region seems a hard nut to crack for the medical device businesses. Singapore, with its favorable business environment, which vigorously defends intellectual property rights, currently seems to be the geography being eyed by major medtech companies. Though Singapore is well-positioned as a gateway to region’s medtech sector, entering other markets in the region is still challenging. With differences in the regulatory frameworks bundled with lack of clear reimbursement strategies, medtech companies find it strenuous to meet the requirements of the regional markets. In order to witness growth, it is imperative for medtech companies to focus on the growing opportunities for industry-wide collaboration, intending to create strong platforms for growth in APAC.

In 2015, APAC was the third largest medtech market in the world, after the USA and EU, accounting for over 22% of the global revenue which stood at US$398 billion. The region’s medtech industry is expected to be one of the fastest growing globally and is forecast to surpass EU by 2020 to become the second largest market behind the USA.

The high potential of APAC is fueled by the highly populated south-east Asian countries (China and India, the world’s two most populous countries, have a combined population of 2.8 billion), aging population (by 2050, Asia population will constitute 25% of the world’s elderly aged 60+), strong economic growth, increased spending power of the middle class, and reduced costs by manufacturing medical devices in the region rather than importing. The medtech revenue generated in the region was US$88 billion in 2015, expected to reach US$133 billion by 2020, achieving a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.6% over the period of five years.

Companies want to seize APAC’s potential for rapid development of medical devices by investing in the right geography that would support their expansion plans. One such location that offers the right environment for medical device players to grow is Singapore. In Asia, Singapore is the innovation center for medtech players due to its business-friendly regulations.

Companies want to seize APAC’s potential for rapid development of medical devices by investing in the right geography that would support their expansion plans.

The country brags of presence of leading medtech companies such as Medtronic, Baxter International, AB Sciex, Becton Dickinson, Biotronik, Hoya Surgical Optics, and Life Technologies that set up their manufacturing plants and R&D units here due to strong patent laws and easy policies to set up and manage a business. For instance, in 2011, Medtronic, one of the world’s largest medical devices manufacturers, opened its first pacemaker and leads manufacturing facility in Singapore, which was the company’s first Asian site manufacturing cardiac devices. As the number of heart patients in APAC rapidly increases, Singapore is a perfect base to offer modern medical facilities to patients across emerging Asian markets.

Medtech in APAC

The medtech sector in Singapore is growing mainly due to government schemes that focus on investing in the sector. With initiatives such as Sector Specific Accelerator (SSA) Program that identifies and invests in high-potential medical technology start-ups (an amount of US$70 million has been committed for the formation and growth of such businesses) and EDBI, the corporate investment arm of the Singapore Economic Development Board that invests in innovative healthcare IT, services, devices, and therapeutics companies, the Singapore government supports the growth of medtech innovation in the country.

The medtech sector in Singapore is growing mainly due to government schemes that focus on investing in the sector.

Apart from setting up committed bodies, the Singapore government in 2015 announced that it would invest US$4 billion in biomedical sciences research for the period between 2015 and 2020 to strengthen the county’s position as Asia’s innovation center.

While Singapore is a favorable location for medtech manufacturing and R&D, it is still a young market that is witnessing problems similar to the ones seen in other APAC countries. Many countries in the region are also capable of contributing to the technological health innovation but face challenges in broadening their reach and lack assertiveness to develop innovative ways to reach a broader range of patients.

Medical device regulations are the key challenge faced by device manufacturers in the Asian region. Med tech industry is regulated by strict guidelines through each phase of product or service development. In several Asian markets, there are no clear guidelines for device manufacturers that classify medical devices as simple or complex, or even mention how to handle them. Irregularities in clearly laid guidelines for introducing and using such products often create problems for companies to come up with advanced solutions in new geographies of the APAC region. Each country has different regulations for quality control, product registration, and pricing, and these are frequently unclear and inconsistent. This is a considerable concern for medtech players planning to set up a shop in the APAC region.

Medical device regulations are the key challenge faced by device manufacturers in the Asian region.

Another hiccup that the manufacturers face is the lack of definitive reimbursement structure. With new innovations in the healthcare domain, expenditure on medical technology is expected to grow but lack of transparent compensation schemes is a major hindrance. Medical device firms, across APAC region, face the challenge of limited clarity on payment structure of technological products and services. For instance, for medical products such as pacemakers and heart valves that are readily available, the reimbursement cost is generally available, but for progressing techniques or products like LVAD (left ventricular assist device), no coverage guidelines have been established. With this lack of clarity on the structure and level of reimbursement on such advanced products, medtech companies find it difficult to place their products in the market at a competitive price.

With unclear regulations and reimbursement policy structure, the medtech companies face a hard time in the APAC region. Competition from local players also add concerns for these players to survive in these markets. Partnerships of local medtech companies with funding firms and other players are on the rise. Domestic companies often partner with private equity firms that invest in and support the local players to innovate and expand. For instance, Huami Corporation, a manufacturer of wearable fitness monitoring devices, attracted investment from American venture capital firm Sequoia Capital and Xiaomi, a Chinese smartphone player, to develop a device that monitors health (tracking the number of steps walked, number of sleep hours, calories consumed, etc.) selling at a sober price of US$15 as compared to the average price of more than US$150 of its competitive brands including Apple and Samsung.

With unclear regulations and reimbursement policy structure, the medtech companies face a hard time in the APAC region. Competition from local players also add concerns for these players to survive in these markets.

Challenges for entering such a diverse market will take time to overcome, but companies are on the lookout for growth platforms and seem to be willing to leave no stone unturned to capture new opportunities. One such opportunity that multinationals can use to their advantage is partnering with regional stakeholders to access the APAC market. These collaborations are not limited to medtech companies or players in the healthcare domain, but are extended to a broader range of players including regional governments, regulatory bodies, educational institutions, insurance companies, and other technology companies.

Med tech companies are partnering with pharmaceutical players to access local market and widen their network. For instance, in India, Roche, a Swiss healthcare company dealing with diagnostic devices, got into a marketing partnership with Indian drug manufacturer Mankind Pharma, to extend the availability and market penetration of its blood glucose monitors, Accu-Check Go, in tier 2 and tier 3 towns making use of Mankind’s extensive local distribution network. Partnerships are critical for multinational players to rapidly and efficiently increase their geographic presence in the APAC region.

Another opportunity that medtech companies can seize to grow is the appointment of local staff in the regional management. Local people have a better market understanding and know how the system works. The decision making capabilities, if lie in the hand of local leaders, can work in favor of the companies as these leaders better understand the way the market functions. Balancing the availability of local talent and brand’s global assets, medtech players can be successful in developing products as per market needs. A mix of local resources and international talent in crucial to oversee operations in unstructured and fragmented markets such as APAC.

EOS Perspective

Correct assessment of the market needs is critical for any business to be successful. For medtech companies, APAC has been a challenging landscape due to fragmented market, as well as unstructured and complex regulatory environments. But with the focus being shifted to the dynamic and fast growing economies of APAC, the medtech market is positive to grow as the region offers scope of development and growth mainly due to aging population and growing income of middle class.

With challenges unique to each geography in APAC, medtech companies are focusing on partnering and collaborating with local medtech players and other stakeholders in the region. With strategic partnerships, global medtech players can reduce the intensity of competition faced from local companies. Collaborating with the right partner in different aspects of product development ensures growth, right product placement, and speedy market expansion. Association with regional entities are expected to increase, witnessing strong growth of the players in the medtech space.

The regulatory landscape in the region is highly fragmented and needs restructuring. Independent organization such as Asia Pacific Medical Technology Association (APACMed), formed in 2014, assigns itself to strike a balance between medtech companies wishing to enter the APAC market and other regional agencies aiming to improve the standard of healthcare offered to patients. Efforts such as these may bring coordination in the regulatory landscape, but it will take long to come to general consensus on similar laws of conducting business in this field.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

Blockchain Technology – Next Frontier in Healthcare?

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Blockchain, an innovation underlying the Bitcoin cryptocurrency, is a distributed ledger technology enabling transparent and secure data sharing in real time. The buzz around blockchain technology has spread far beyond finance sector, the technology’s original application area. In fact, think tanks globally are exploring and testing the potential use of blockchain technology to ease current pain points in healthcare and pharmaceutical industries.

Blockchain Technology – Next Frontier in Healthcare? by EOS Intelligence

EOS Perspective

Blockchain-managed information exchange ensures data security, transparency, integrity, and reliability. These attributes have the potential to address several healthcare industry challenges associated with interoperability, data security and privacy, insurance claims processing, clinical trials credibility, and drugs counterfeiting, among others. As a result, blockchain technology is quickly gaining ground among industry stakeholders.

An IBM study (released in 2016) based on survey of 200 healthcare executives – both providers and payers in 16 countries – indicated that 72% of the respondents were planning to deploy blockchain technology-based solutions by 2020. The survey emphasized that the industry pioneers have great confidence in application of blockchain technology with about 16% of the respondents planning to have commercial blockchain solution operational in 2017. Another survey commissioned by Deloitte in 2016 involving 308 executives at the US companies (from various industry segments) with US$500 million or more in annual revenue indicated that 35% of the respondents from healthcare and life sciences industry plan to deploy blockchain solutions in 2017. These surveys suggest that healthcare industry have set high expectations from and is ready to embrace blockchain technology.

 

Blockchain Technology – Next Frontier in Healthcare? by EOS Intelligence

Though blockchain promises to offer several unique solutions, industry players need to be cautious about some obstacles associated with adoption of this technology.

Blockchain technology is a relatively new concept for healthcare domain. There are high risks of dealing with immature and untested technology. A report released by Tierion (a US-based blockchain start-up) in 2016 indicated that healthcare data is prime target of cybercriminals as patient health records sell at US$20 compared with US$1 per credit card number.

Moreover, healthcare organizations need to comply with stringent rules and regulations pertaining to patient data privacy and security to avoid steep penalties. Even though the blockchain technology is expected to provide better security against data breach, the adopters need to be cautious until the capabilities of blockchain technology are proven in real-time environment.

Even though the blockchain technology is expected to provide better security against data breach, the adopters need to be cautious until the capabilities of blockchain technology are proven in real-time environment.

Since blockchain technology is still in the stage of development, the costs and risks associated with its implementation in practicality are largely unknown. Moreover, in absence of real-world business cases, it is difficult to forecast the operating costs as well as potential technology post-implementation roadblocks. This might create some hesitation among the industry players to adopt this new technology as there is little clarity on return on investments.

Full digitization of healthcare data is imperative for successful deployment of blockchain technology. However, it is observed that even some of the developed nations have not been able to achieve 100% digitization till date. For instance, 2015 Commonwealth Fund’s International Survey of Primary Care Physicians indicated that about 84% of physicians in the USA use some form of electronic health record system, while in other countries, such as Germany, France, Canada, and Switzerland, these figures are even lower – 84%, 75%, 73%, and 54%, respectively. These shares can surely be expected to be incomparably lower in less developed and developing countries.


Explore our other Perspectives on blockchain


Furthermore, the implementation of blockchain solutions would require significant changes to, or complete transformation of, existing systems. In order to integrate blockchain software in legacy systems, all forms of data would need to be standardized to ensure compatibility. Considering large volumes of healthcare data, which is now being produced in the range of petabytes, the transition would be a major challenge.

Implementation of blockchain solutions would require significant changes to, or complete transformation of, existing systems. In order to integrate blockchain software in legacy systems, all forms of data would need to be standardized to ensure compatibility

In view of these risks and challenges, we believe that the time is not ripe for the healthcare industry to readily adopt blockchain solutions at a large scale. Rather than rushing to adopt blockchain solutions, the technology should be thoroughly tested before deployment. There is no doubt that the application of blockchain technology has the potential to impact healthcare industry in several positive ways, however, in absence of real-world business cases, it seems too early to estimate the scale of impact and risk.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

Fintech Paving the Way for Financial Inclusion in Indonesia

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Over the past two decades, financial sector in Indonesia has witnessed a massive transformation with the introduction of fintech solutions, fuelled by growing digital market and increasing investments in the fintech market. The sector’s growth offers tremendous opportunities and has led to the emergence of various start-ups offering online financial services. Fintech promises technological solutions to various challenges within the financial sector and offers value-added services such as transaction analysis and customer engagement initiatives. However, challenges such as poor financial literacy among Indonesians and cumbersome regulatory processes continue to pose a threat to the market growth.

Fintech is increasingly gaining traction in Indonesia and changing the way financial companies do business. Gone are the days when banks were the only source of financial transactions in the country. Fintech has revolutionized the financial sector with the emergence of various technological start-ups in areas of mobile payment, loans, money transfers, asset management, etc.

Fintech sector’s growth in Indonesia is largely driven by the rapidly increasing internet penetration and rising smartphone usage, as well as solid and continuous investments – over 2013-2018, investments in the fintech industry are forecast to reach US$ 8 billion, growing at a CAGR of 21.7%. Despite these growth drivers, the sector faces several hurdles such as inexperienced financial personnel, lengthy regulatory processes, and poor financial knowledge among the Indonesian population.

Fintech Paving Way for Financial Inclusion in Indonesia

Nevertheless, the country has been taking measures to tackle the challenges to create banks of the future. In November 2016, Bank Indonesia, central bank of the country, set up a fintech office in Jakarta to boost development of the industry. The office is aimed to optimize technological advancements across the fintech sector, assist players in understanding the regulations, and increase industry’s competitiveness by sharing its developments with international institutions. In addition, Indonesia’s Financial Services Authority is in the process of developing regulations to govern the industry, a significant step to enable both the fintech players as well as the regulators to function cohesively. Further, the industry is also receiving support from conventional financial institutions, which have started adopting digital innovations by initiating collaborations with fintech companies.

Indonesia’s high dependency on cash-based transactions along with low financial penetration rate serve as untapped opportunity areas for fintech players to explore. As of 2014, only 36% of the adult Indonesian population had bank accounts. Additionally, 89.7% of all transactions are still conducted in cash. Fintech players have gradually started leveraging these opportunity areas by expanding services with introduction of various start-ups offering a range of online financial products. As of 2016, the country hosted around 140 independent start-ups, an improvement from just a handful a few years ago, representing a steady growth of the industry. Some of the prominent players of the industry include HaloMoney, Cekaja, and Kartuku, among others.

EOS Perspective

Fintech is the answer to the need for a more secure, fast, and practical financial processing system. It has the potential to transform Indonesia’s financial industry by creating a paradigm shift in the way financial services sector operates. However, certain measures need to be taken to realize its full potential. In order to cultivate skilled personnel, the government should collaborate with universities across the country and promote fintech courses to develop the required skill set among people. Additionally, the government should encourage the association between conventional financial institutions and fintech companies to promote collaborative training and communication, which could help to improve financial education among players in the market. The association would also help both parties to improve their own areas of expertise.

Fintech industry has slowly started changing the way financial services are being accessed in Indonesia. Gradual yet steady on-going efforts to overcome hurdles are likely to result in a larger population enjoying benefits of digital financial services.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

Refurbished Smartphones – the Future of High-end Devices in Emerging Markets

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An anticipated slowdown in the global smartphone sales forecast for 2016 due to lack of new first-time buyers in large markets such as the USA, China, and Europe, has been alarming for large players who have turned their focus to other emerging markets. To fit the expectations and financial capabilities of price-sensitive consumers in these markets, companies are lining up to sell refurbished smartphones as a strategic move to increase sales volume. However, competition – primarily from new smartphones – in these markets is still fierce, due to some smartphone makers (such as Chinese mobile phone manufacturer Tecno Mobile) reaching consumers with more economic devices. Are second-hand smartphones capable of outshining new devices in emerging markets?

The global smartphone market has been witnessing a slowdown in sales during 2016 in comparison to previous years, partially because some markets, such as the USA, China, and Europe have become saturated (in large part with mid-range and high-end models, such as Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy). Therefore, to avoid a decrease in sales and a subsequent loss in profits, smartphone makers are readjusting their strategies to focus on marketing economic second-hand sets in developing countries.

Refurbished Smartphones - Market Growth

 

 

According to a 2016 Deloitte report, refurbished smartphones global sales volume is expected to increase from 56 million units sold in 2014 to 120 million in 2017, growing at a CAGR of 29%. Large part of this growth is likely to occur in emerging markets, such as India, South Africa, or Nigeria, which is a sound reason for large players to venture into these geographies.

Most smartphone buyers in these markets are highly price-sensitive and frequently precede their phone purchasing decisions with intensive online research to get a good understanding of options that are available to them based on their financial capabilities. These consumers are likely to prioritize price over features and appearance of a smartphone. Therefore, refurbished devices from well-known brands, such as Samsung or Apple, need to offer satisfying functionalities yet be available at affordable price in order to be attractive for buyers in these emerging economies.

Refurbished Smartphones - India, South Africa, Nigeria

Refurbished smartphones hit obstacles across the markets

Emerging markets, despite their favorable dynamics that should at least in theory offer a great environment for refurbished phones sales to skyrocket, are not easy to navigate through, especially for high-end devices makers.

Some markets are becoming protective of their local manufacturing sectors, and introduce regulations that make it difficult to import smartphones, especially refurbished ones. India is one such case. In 2014, the Indian government rolled out the Make in India program, with the idea to promote local manufacturing in 25 sectors of various industries, one of them being electronic devices (including smartphones).

Coincidentally, two years later, when Apple initiated efforts to start importing and selling its refurbished smartphones as a way to increase the iPhone’s market share in the country, these efforts were unsuccessful. The Indian government rejected Apple’s plan, justifying its decision with a concern about the electronic waste increase caused by a deluge of refurbished smartphones entering the country. As a result, the refurbished version of Apple’s iPhone is currently sold only by online commercial platforms (e.g. Amazon, Snapdeal) from vendors that are not always official company retail stores. This could fuel sales in a parallel market, not necessarily benefiting either India’s local manufacturing or Apple.

In case of South Africa and Nigeria, both markets share similarities in terms of advantages as well as potential barriers for refurbished smartphone sales volume to grow. Nigeria’s GDP contracted by 2.06% in the second quarter of 2016, causing wary consumers to maintain their old phones or purchase very economic options due to decreasing disposable income. In South Africa, consumers are also highly price-sensitive with a very limited brand consciousness.

The rapid level of smartphone adoption registered in both markets is seen mainly in handsets with retail price of US$150 or less in South Africa and US$100 or less in Nigeria. Therefore, refurbished high-end models may dazzle local consumers, but low-cost devices can be expected to represent an obstacle for brands such as Samsung or Apple, as these smartphone makers are likely to sell their refurbished devices for half the original price which is still above the consumer-accepted purchase price in these two markets.

EOS Perspective

In case of India, the recent rejection of Apple’s plan to import and sell refurbished smartphones is an indicator that similar issues might be faced by other large players willing to do the same in the future. However, as one of the world’s largest smartphone markets, India is likely to continue building a strong sense of brand loyalty among consumers, especially towards Samsung’s and Apple’s brands in general (smartphones and beyond), and consumers will demand access to these brands (Samsung and Apple already held a 44% and a 27.3% market shares, respectively, in 2016).

The risk of India’s market being flooded with refurbished smartphones sold in a parallel market or online commercial platforms without proper regulation by authorities could result in lost control over excessive e-waste in the country, without necessarily driving local production of competitive products. Consequently, India’s government might have to consider the possibility of allowing large manufacturers to import factory-certified second-hand smartphones into the country, perhaps under the condition of refurbishing the devices in India.

In Nigeria and South Africa, the consumer price sensitivity and limited brand loyalty seem to be the most pressing issues for large players such as Apple or Samsung intending to sell their refurbished phones. In both markets, the rivalry is rather fierce, mainly due to a relatively strong presence of smaller regional manufacturers and large Chinese companies (e.g. Xiaomi) that offer affordable smart devices. While consumers in these markets are willing to spend up to US$100-150 for a device, in most cases they lack brand loyalty.

Apple or Samsung are likely to be negatively affected by this when launching their refurbished high-end handsets at half of the device’s original retail price, which in most likelihood would still be above the price consumers in these markets can and are willing to spend. As a result, large players may have to set their eyes on a long-term horizon, and slowly build the brand loyalty sense in local consumers and temporarily relinquish on large profits in order to enter these markets and settle among their potential customers.

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