Why I'm looking for start-ups and entrepreneurs at WEF in Vietnam
Regional Director & GM, SMB & Distribution, ASEAN
Innovation, Thought Leadership, Digitization
The World Economic Forum (WEF) events are a great place to meet some of the world’s most influential people. From heads of state to global and regional business leaders, there are not many other platforms where you can meet and interact with so many of them under one roof.
Time is a scarce commodity for this group, and having them all accessible in one place at the same time is a one of the key reasons a lot of people go to these event. Of course, there is a lot of work that gets done and initiatives that get rolled out as a result.
I am heading to the WEF in Hanoi next week. A number of heads of state from the region and scores of business leaders from around the globe will be there. I am looking forward to meeting some of them.
However, I am looking to spend a large chunk of my time there meeting start-ups and young entrepreneurs. I feel it is this group that offers the most potential to make a tangible impact on the region’s growth going forward.
Businesses across Southeast Asia are in a race to adopt technology and go digital. It is the right thing to do as technology can help them overcome key challenges and unlock new avenues of growth.
This adoption is being in large part by small and medium sized business (SMBs) across the region. The SMB segment accounts for a large proportion of the region’s overall economy and employs the bulk of its workforce. So the impact that technology can deliver is immense.
However, the sector is also highly complex. Businesses in different sectors face different challenges, and these then vary from country to country as well. What is required to succeed is a thorough understanding of not just the challenges faced by specific businesses but also the kind of technologies and solutions that SMB’s can embrace to address those and add long-term value. There is no one-size-fits-all fix, and solution providers need to adapt a light-footed approach and be willing to change their tactics if the one proposed doesn’t work.
This is where I feel SMBs have an edge over the more established players. That is because of a variety of factors. Firstly, they tend to think a bit more creatively about how they can solve an issue – at the least the forward-looking ones do, because they do have to stand out to succeed. They also have a relative bigger appetite for taking risks. Finally, they are much more nimble than larger players as they have relatively smaller team and flatter management structures which helps the decision making process.
I am hoping to meet some SMBs in Hanoi that tick these boxes.
Having a risk appetite, being creative and nimble; while these are all great qualities, they are not enough to succeed on their own. What SMBs need is an ecosystem that enables them to turn their ideas, not just a reality but a successful long-term business.
We are looking to build a community of game-changers, create an ecosystem and to solve challenges that are unique to SMBs.
We want to invite these SMBs, start-ups and entrepreneurs to co-develop and co-create solutions to address these issues, with clearly defined business outcomes. We will offer them Cisco’s platforms to build these solutions, in partnership with SMBs, start-ups and entrepreneurs that are game-changers and industry disruptors. In addition, we are looking to provide support in the form of mentorship, development support and IT infrastructure. And we will add to it the learnings from our experiences with Cisco’s fast-growing SMB customer base to this.
Most importantly, we can use Cisco’s existing customer base to not only speed up the prototyping and refinement of the solution, but also scale it up quickly once it is ready for a proper roll out. Our partner and channel ecosystem can play a vital role in helping start-ups on acquiring customers, the most critical part of their long-term future.
Why am I excited about this?
Organisations, in general, have various approaches to be successful in what they do. Some adopt a “be first” approach (first to create a market or disrupt an existing). And some try to “be different” always, on what they do.
To me, either of these approaches is sustainable, only if, the organisation strives to “be the best” in what it does.
“Being best beats being first or being different”.
And, “being best” happens when different entities (companies, academics, entrepreneurs, solution providers etc.) come together to collaborate and harness the collective intelligence to succeed.
There are few better platforms to get this done than the WEF.