I lived in Beijing for 10 years and I’ve experienced the fast-moving pace but now innovation is rapidly driving the city forward.
My last trip to Beijing was during Chinese New Year in 2016 and back then I’ve already felt how things were being innovated quickly.
In the Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2017 by Startup Genome that came out just a few weeks ago, Beijing and Shanghai are now ranked in the Top 10 of the Global Startup Ecosystem, number 4 and 8 respectively for the first time ever.
Beijing is in the number 2 spot in terms of performance, just behind Silicon Valley. It is also home to 4,800 to 7,000 startups and has the largest startup ecosystem in Asia in terms of number of startups according to the report.
So when my wife Grace who’s originally from Beijing showed me all the innovation and cool stuff that’s happening there, I’m not surprised how accurate the report was.
I asked her to take as many photos as possible so that I can write this blog post.
1. Cashless Payment Everywhere
When I left China in 2013, cashless payment was still at its infancy but it was already evident that the whole country was going towards it.
Now it’s everywhere.
You no longer have to bring cash when leaving your home.
It’s available at the market.
No cash needed when paying for parking.
2. Sharing Economy
A country which used to rely on bicycles is trying to encourage people to use them again to overcome extreme traffic congestions and pollution.
Mobike and Ofo are the two biggest bike sharing startups in China right now. They’re so big that even Apple’s CEO Tim Cook visited Ofo’s office in Beijing a few days ago.
Mobike uses GPS to allow its bikes to be left anywhere in a city. Its mobile app helps locate available bikes, which can be unlocked by scanning a QR code embedded on the bicycle.
The video below shows how easy it is to rent a bike from Mobike or Ofo.
Mobike has recently raised US$215m led by Tencent, after started its operations in Shanghai less than a year ago. It’s now expanded to Singapore.
You need to deposit CNY200 (approximately RM128.00) on your account and it costs CNY0.50 – CNY1.00 (RM0.32 to RM0.64) to use it per hour depending on the type of bicycle available.
The only manual work for these companies are to collect the bicycles from around the city for maintenance.
These companies also helped revived the bicycle repair industry and provided good wages to the older generations who used to repair them.
Food innovation is evolving fast and vendors are taking attention to details very seriously.
Quality has improved greatly and there are infinite numbers of selection for food available in China right now.
And of course no cash needed when paying at the restaurant.
Food delivery can also be paid using Wechat pay.
4. Electric Vehicles
Tesla cars can now be seen everywhere in Beijing. It was already there when I left three years ago.
Tesla’s showrooms can be seen inside shopping malls such as this one.
Locally produced electric cars are now a common sight and a company is set to make electric cars available for rent in Beijing.
Gofun is the startup company offering this electric rental service at a rate of only CNY1 per hour.
Purchase of electric cars are highly encouraged by the Chinese government especially in Beijing that you don’t have to use the lottery system to get a plate number for your car.
The lottery system was implemented in 2009 to control the amount of cars being registered.
5. Touchless Vending Machines
Vending machines placed at the airports and train stations are not only cashless, but has gone ‘touchless.’
Touchless in a sense that you can operate everything using your mobile phone.
My wife Grace didn’t get the chance to take a photo of it but she explained to me how it works when she wanted to buy a can of Coke Zero:
- Scan the QR code on the machine using Wechat
- The interface appears on your mobile phone to select the drink you want to order
- Complete payment using Wechat pay
- The machine dispenses the drink
Looks like IoT (internet of things) is the technology behind this machine.
6. Everything Else
Customisation of products such as phone cases are beginning to expand rapidly in China.
I was fortunate enough to have these phone cases to be custom made for me to try. It takes less than three days from ordering to delivery. She plans to do her own custom cases business in Malaysia.
AirShoppr is the startup which I’m currently working on and due to launch the app soon.
A vintage sign on an old train station in Sabah which was recently gazetted as heritage after I started the initiative last year under the society I founded.
There are also Karaoke Booths in shopping malls which you can use whenever you feel like it.
Last but not least, VR games and contents are also rapidly being developed by local developers.
The overlying fundamentals which drive the whole innovation in China seems to be related to the cashless payment system.
Our country is set to pilot cashless payment in Cyberjaya soon via a partnership between Cyberview, MaGIC and MasterCard. Besides that,
Malaysia has serious catching up to do. Going to start planning to go back to my second home!