After a brief opening ceremony offering best wishes from government ministries and GWC executives, this year’s GMIC event kicked off with a discussion with two top mobile execs – Tencent’s CEO Pony Ma, and Xiaomi’s CEO Leo Jun – about the impact of technology on China’s society and the exciting prospects for the future of mobile Internet. Moderated by Wang Lifen, Founder of Umiwi and a celebrated former anchor of CCTV, the two provided the audience with a sense of how the industry is moving from their unique perspective as two significant players.
So how is mobile Internet changing society? According to Tencent’s Pony Ma, we are now witnessing a golden season for mobile Internet that is expanding the netscape through 3G and 4G networks. He is excited about mobile, as it now represents approximately 50% of Tencents user-base. Yet he explains that there are many differences and challenges compared with Tencent’s traditional services.
For him, the user experience will be key, and products need to be natural and simple now that people are always online or always connected to mobile phones. Especially as people move from PCs to mobile phones for text communication, there will need to be more social features to make the products attractive.
Security of course is another concern that he expressed, as Android and Windows gain more popularity in China. Believing that there may be a crisis in the future, he described his reservations about the vulnerability of these platforms to viruses and potential business manipulation.
Still, for Pony Ma and Lei Jun, popularity was the most important element to which they pay attention. Lei Jun believed that he and Pony Ma had a lot in common. Still, they exchanged some humorous and awkward moments when asked about the competition between their voice services Miliao and Weixin. Explaining that one needs to develop a niche market, and adding that it is important to make sure that one focuses on a few criteria at first, Lei Jun said that the profitability of the company did not concern him so much. Mentioning that Sina and Tencent began on very low margins, he contended that user maintanence and the management process is most important, as the fanbase and marketshare will determine profitability in the long-term.
Wang Lifen challenged Lei Jun on the questionability of his investments, as some had previously doubted the viability of such companies as Amazon China and Jingdong. Lei Jun was unphased, explaining that economies of scale are the most important elements of success, and Amazon has unparalleled logistics and support.
This seems to be taking place already with his mobile business. Considering Xiaomi’s low-key beginnings and its recent $158 million monthly revenue announcement. It appears that Lei Jun’s approach to business may be working.
All in all, the conversation was light and informative. The healthy competition between the two companies will likely continue to be interesting and innovative.