China: Innovations in a land full of contrasts

Digitalisation & innovation, 25.04.2017

After my trips to Poland and Turkey this is now the third of our overseas subsidiaries I've visited. At long last I land in Peking after a 12 hour flight. I can't get over suddenly becoming illiterate – I can't even read the signs. My first impressions were mind-blowing.

Everything seems to be twice life-size – the airport, the roads, the buildings. Peking is a mega-city of 24 million inhabitants and has a severe smog problem. Although traffic in Germany has to be considerably reduced when pollution reaches 50 μg⁄m3 , fine dust levels of over (150 μg)⁄m3  are an everyday occurrence in Peking.

The meeting with our Chinese colleagues was a great start to the visit: Xiao Ping explained the programme which had a single thread running through it ¬ data, data and yet more data. And all this revolves around the question of how can we tap into this data and data analytics faster and to our best advantage? ERGO China Life is placing its bet on cooperating with strong partners. 

Data analytics: strategic partnerships

The first one of these I meet is China Unicom, the country's third largest telecommunication-provider. A formal setting, translators, a huge table... China Unicom wants to develop its business with data and we want to be one of its first customers. We therefore conclude a strategic partnership with the objective of combining data analytics applications with our domain knowledge.

The next day I met Jason Yin, our local Managing Director. He's the driver of the digital transformation. His thing is apps for agents, B2B2C (business to business to customer) cooperating with major internet players such as and putting a large number of cooperation agreements in place. In other words, using data intelligently in the insurance environment.

The following day we visit Talking Data, a young start-up with over 400 staff and specialising in data analytics. Talking Data is the Google Analytics of China. They capture the data from over half a billion terminals and know the user figures of all apps in China. Here, too, we are working on a cooperation. The intention is that they help ERGO China Life to identify potential clients and improve sales agents management.

I'm fascinated by China. I met lots of young entrepreneurs who are enthusiastically sounding out the potentials of the internet. The energy and innovative capabilities of these cyber-entrepreneurs is palpable. But at the same time I'm left with the impression that this is a country of paradoxes. Here we have a huge country full of potential but also a country with enormous environmental and smog problems. Google and Facebook are banned.

I am convinced that becoming deeply involved with this country of contrasts, starting a dialogue and learning from each other will be rewarding. Anyone wanting to spot trends and tap into potentials will find that after discussions with its many companies and creative people they will leave having their heads spinning with ideas.

My impression is that China, with all its many forms and contradictions, fascinates so many people. I therefore look forward to your comments, questions or suggestions.
Regards, Mark Klein

Author: Mark Klein

Mark Klein is Chief Digital Officer ERGO Group and Chairman of the Board of Management of ERGO Digital Ventures AG. Here you find Mark Klein on LinkedIn.

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