Lessons from Asia’s Most Powerful Women

I was delighted to discover that our return trip from New York via Hong Kong coincided with the date of the Fortune Magazine Most Powerful Women Asia event.

I’m a huge fan of the positives that come from getting like minded business women together (Dell’s DWEN, CommBank Women in Focus, Business Chicks) & was really excited about the opportunity to learn more about what is going on in the region which is the current economic powerhouse of the globe.

As expected, lots of the discussion centred on China and both the opportunities & challenges of doing business there.

Jennifer Li, CFO of Baidu gave a fascinating insight into where the Chinese megacompany saw the future of search (via image & voice rather than text) & the rapid rise of search using mobile devices rather than PC’s. Mobile topped PC for the first time last quarter, & is only going to continue its climb.

The enormous growth in China’s middle-class population is going to heavily influence future markets. More than 50 000 new skyscrapers will be built in China in the next 2 decades to house the shift from rural to urban living.  Multinationals who initially went to China to manufacture for export markets have now switched their focus to meeting the growing needs of the domestic consumer market.

A tangible illustration of the changed market & the size of the prize was given by Starbucks China President Belinda Wong, who opened 1 new store every 24hrs last year & has a goal to increase that to 1 every 18hrs next year!

We also heard that while India is often overshadowed by China, similar opportunities abound there. Jyoti Deshpande, CEO of Eros International spoke about the phenomenal success her company has had in the Bollywood film market, not just in India but around the world. The growth they continue to experience is incredible, and it was fascinating to hear how their content distribution model via mobile phones overcame limitations of internet & electricity access in India. The imminent arrival of 4G services into India will no doubt see this business climb to even greater heights!

One of my favourite sessions was the interview with Yang Liu, Chairperson of Atlantis Investment Management Group and often referred to as China’s ‘Lady Buffett’. As well as being a highly entertaining speaker, I was delighted to hear the healthcare is her number one investment tip for the future!

While the calibre of the speakers was fantastic, as always at such events the conversations that flowed during the breaks and over dinner were just as enlightening, and I came away with a much greater insight into what is going on in this part of the world and the opportunities it can deliver to those prepared to get out there & seize them.

I’m also heading to the Fortune Most Powerful Women NextGen event in San Francisco next month, so it will be fascinating to see how the two compare. No doubt that will be the subject of an upcoming post, so watch this space!

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