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Future

Masahiro Hara Takes Aim: The QR Code Inventor Builds Post-Pandemic Applications

Conceived in the early 1990s, the QR Code has spread exponentially during the pandemic. Its creator, Masahiro Hara, is one of the many continuing to innovate his most famous invention, which has changed everything from medicine to how we dine.

There's a small red sign at the foot of the steps leading to the Haiden pavilion of Futarasan-jinja, a Shinto shrine founded in 782 by a Buddhist monk. We are in the heart of a cedar forest in the sacred mountains of Nikko. Before going up to pray to the kami, the spirits of the temple, pilgrims and tourists crowd in front of the sign installed just two years ago.

Smartphones in hand, they scan a QR Code, under a few lines explaining — in Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean — that it is good manners to make a "small donation" when visiting a shrine.

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How China Flipped From Tech Copycat To Tech Leader

Long perceived as a country chasing Western tech, China's business and technological innovations are now influencing the rest of the world. Still lagging on some fronts, the future is now up for grabs.

BEIJING — China's tech tycoons have fallen out of favor: Jack Ma (Alibaba), Colin Huang (Pinduoduo), Richard Liu (Tencent) and Zhang Yiming (ByteDance) have all been pressured by Beijing to leave their jobs or step back from a public role. Their time may be coming to an end, but the legacy remains exceptional. Under their reign, China has become a veritable window to the global future of technology.

TikTok is the perfect example. Launched in 2016, the video messaging app has been downloaded over two billion times worldwide. It has passed the 100-million active user mark in the United States. Thanks to TikTok's success, ByteDance, its parent company, has reached an exceptional level of influence on the internet.

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Billionaire Surveillance: China Tracks Its Tech Moguls

For a number of weeks now, Beijing has been trying to regain control of its internet heroes, who are considered too dominant. E-commerce giants and their standard-bearer, Alibaba and its founder Jack Ma, are directly in the line of fire.

BEIJING — The tides are turning for Chinese tech giants. Previously cherished by a regime whose achievements they embody, Alibaba, Tencent, Meituan and JD.com have become victims of their success. To everyone's surprise, their spiritual father, the Chinese Communist Party, is currently dishing out a series of reprimands to try to intimidate them to fall in line.

Logically, the best victim to make an example of is the biggest: Jack Ma, president of Alibaba, the Chinese equivalent of Amazon. On Nov. 3, less than 48 hours before the historic IPO of its financial subsidiary, Ant, supervisory authorities humiliated Ma by blocking the operation. This move deprived the Chinese billionaire of an additional 37 billion dollars. This decision was made by President Xi Jinping himself, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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What Europe Gets All Wrong About Amazon

As the European Commission targets U.S. retail giant Amazon for alleged antitrust violations, David Barroux in French business daily Les Echos offers his own take.

Wouldn't it be better if Amazon didn't exist? At a time when Brussels is targeting the e-commerce giant for abusing its dominant market position, and when small retailers are demanding that the activity of this frightful American player be drastically restricted as long as their own shops remain shut by the second lockdown, Jeff Bezos' company offers an easy target.

However, we should not accuse Amazon of all evils. Like everyone else, the Seattle giant deserves to be prosecuted and convicted if it breaks the law. On the fiscal, social or commercial front, there is no reason to tolerate a company that evades taxes, plays around with the Labor Code, and practices a particular kind of unfair competition. There is a need for faster and tougher enforcement of existing laws. And, when we are faced with the emergence of a new player in the market, we should not be afraid to change the rules of the game.

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Economy
*Roberto del Río

Retailers And The Pandemic: Adapt Or Die

Consumer habits shifted dramatically as people sheltered in place. In-person shopping is picking up again, but everything's still in flux for sellers, who will have to adapt or say 'adios.'

-OpEd-

SANTIAGO — The era of COVID-19 could also be called the sink-or-swim era, at least when it comes to retailers, both large and small. The pandemic has caused consumer habits to change quickly and in ways nobody expected. Companies, as a result, must either move quickly and adapt, or sink.

Today, the what and the how in mass-scale consumption has become an uncertain realm, especially in Latin America, which has yet to see any light at the end of the tunnel in this prolonged crisis.

In retail, the most obvious adaptation has been to transition online. The speed at which businesses have done this exceeded any prediction that might have been made, and in Chile this was because some 229,000 households suddenly began buying online. Driving the digital transition were quarantines that blocked or limited movements, including supermarket shopping, but also people just wanting to stay home because of health concerns.

Sooner or later we shall go back out and face the "new normal," which means shops will reopen and there will be a new, mass consumption scenario. How will consumers return to shops? What will they buy, how and why? These are some of the questions the industry, if it hopes to capture this new consumer, must grasp fast and answer.

The what and the how in mass-scale consumption has become an uncertain realm.

In the past six months, mass consumption has seen some more specific changes. In Chile it began in March with panic buying ahead of an imminent lockdown, with families wanting to assure supplies for some time ahead. As months passed and restrictions increased, buyers calmed down. Their purchases have now become highly rational (no more window shopping) and broadly based on replacing basic home supplies. The consumption of meat and dairy products and packaged foods has increased. Perfumes, alcohol and drinks are down, and buyers are looking for what they need, at the best price. A consumer study by the consultancy Kantar has shown that the incomes of 67% of shoppers has dropped in the pandemic.

This can be an opportunity for the big chains in the post-pandemic world. Spending on household and cleaning products will recover its ordinary levels and a new budget space will appear for other consumer goods that saw a recent fall in demand. The return to the "new normal" will feel like freedom, which will be evident in renewed visits to shops and supermarkets. This means the point of sale will once more become the frontline, and strategies on marketing and brand visibility will be crucial to cashing in on post-pandemic consumer habits.

In present conditions it is difficult to see consumption rising again in the short term, and there's little doubt that big consumer sectors will inevitably see a drop in sales. But with the right tools like Big Data and data analyses, retailers can respond fast to these big changes. With information reading systems, retail businesses can spot changing conducts, maintain their supply chains and ensure they're not left out of the market.

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China 2.0
Lao Yingying

Costco Ambitions In China, Lessons For Foreign Retailers

E-commerce, local partnerships and logistics are among the keys to success for foreign retailers trying to tap into the massive Chinese consumer market.

BEIJING — U.S. warehouse retailer Costco continues to push its way into China, most recently by inking partnership deals with online Chinese retailers JD.com and Ymatou.com.

The agreements, which went into effect last month, are the latest in a series of ambitious moves by Costco, which made its successful debut in China last October by stationing itself on Alibaba's Tmall International, China's No. 1 e-commerce platform.

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Germany
Bob Geisler

Building A Better Company, One Lunchtime Dance Party At A Time

HAMBURG — When Kathrin Fiesel talks about lunch breaks at her company, people can't believe it: "You do what? You go dancing!?"

Her employer, the e-commerce giant Otto, in Hamburg's Bramfeld district, has for several months now been trying out alternatives to the classic visit to the canteen. One of the things they’ve come up with is "Lunch Beat," an activity that is held at regular intervals and involves as many as 200 workers dancing away to songs like "Happy" by Pharrell Williams or "Monsta" by Culcha Candela.

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CAIXINMEDIA
Yang Qiubo

How China's Internet Commerce Boom Sways The Real Estate Market

Online business is booming in China. According to data from iResearch, an Internet market research firm, the current scale of China’s e-commerce is similar to that of the United States, at $206 billion. A recent study by the Boston Consulting Group estimated that by 2020 China’s e-commerce market will exceed $1 trillion.

What tangible effects can we expect from this expansion? Stuart Ross, director of the China department at Jones Lang LaSalle — an American real estate investment management company — said that the e-commerce boom will bring with it massive development opportunities.

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China 2.0

Macy's And Costco Come To China, But Only Online

ECONOMIC OBSERVER (China), ECONOMIC DAILY (Taiwan), MCKINSEY GLOBAL INSTITUTE

Worldcrunch

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Economy

Walmart And Other Foreign Retail Closing Shop In China

CAIXIN MEDIA (China), REUTERS

Worldcrunch

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