Asia is a tech innovation game changer: Microsoft regional head (NIKKEI Asia)

Asia is “changing the game” of global tech innovation with homegrown services that include super apps and short-form videos, Microsoft’s regional head said on Thursday.

Speaking at the Nikkei Forum Innovative Asia in Singapore on Jan. 20, Ahmed Mazhari, president of Microsoft Asia, said that “a new breed of mobile-first, digitally-first companies” in the region are innovating and “sometimes skipping generations of technology.”

“Asia is changing the game,” said Mazhari. “The super app is an Asian innovation; live retail is an Asian innovation; short-form video is an Asian innovation.”

He was referring to smartphone-based services offered by companies like Singapore’s Grab and China’s ByteDance, and said “Asian innovation is characterized by creativity, technology, and knowledge.”

“Their ambition to fuel the ecosystem generates more innovation, ultimately powering the Asian economy,” he said. “We are already seeing business models from Asia are being now rolled [out] in the developed world.”

Microsoft has itself invested in Singaporean super app Grab and Indonesian e-commerce platform Bukalapak, both of which went public last year.

Spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, Asia’s digital economy has grown fast, with many sectors enjoying rapid growth in the last few years. One such sector is fintech, which is a particular feature of emerging markets in which “financial inclusion” is key to economic growth.

Vietnam’s M-Service, known for its MoMo mobile payment service, recently raised $200 million through a group of investors led by Japan’s Mizuho Bank, making it the country’s latest unicorn.

MoMo’s Co-Chief Executive Nguyen Manh Tuong said at the Nikkei forum that the “mobile revolution” — or smartphone penetration — was the game changer for his company. “In Vietnam now, using smartphones has become the norm,” he said. “Even in rural areas, the smartphone penetration is very, very high.”

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20 January 2022