Dim view of country's capacity for innovation is a thing of the past, high-tech writer says
Frequent claims that Chinese technology companies lack innovation may no longer be true, says
"Unfairly enough, people in the West once thought Chinese technology companies were not doing anything particularly innovative," he says. "I've been struck on this trip by how that is really not the case anymore."
Stone talked with Internet experts and students at
Stoned has written about technology for 15 years. He first worked for
Stone says he visits China every couple of years to learn about the latest Internet trends, and has done stories about
Xiaomi, which makes smart phones, has no physical retail outlets, and it had online sales worth
"Xiaomi to me is truly an innovative and unique Chinese Internet company," Stone says. "It basically rethought all the ways that you might manufacture a phone and then market a phone, so they don't sell in stores, they don't advertise on television. They kind of rethought the entire supply chain and the entire way that a phone is made. It is very well representative of the Chinese technology industry. At one point, maybe it was derivative of what is happening in the West, in some ways, when you look at
Stone says the career of
Lei would carry a bag of 20 cell phones around with him and try to learn everything he could about them, he says. After the first iPhone came out seven years ago he bought 20 of them and gave them to 20 friends and asked them what they thought of them.
Stone says that Lei is similar to Bezos, who is analytical and strategic about the market, and thinks about how he can improve it, and how to more than innovate, coming up with small features that may make a difference.
Stone has been in
Stone says that when he was in
"But in the US and
Amazon was founded in
"The important thing to understand with Amazon is not big innovations; it is focused on small things, small features. Bezos once said, 'We don't have many big advantages, but we have to weave all the smaller advantages.' To me this is very representative of how Amazon operates."
Though Amazon is a big company with enormous sales, its rate of return is small, Stone says, but Bezos' aim is not to make more money for shareholders, but to be very patient and ambitious about the market.
As more companies have gone into e-commerce, online shopping has been widely adopted, Bezos started to lead Amazon into new areas such as building its own supply chain, investing in the electronic reader Kindle and cloud computing Amazon Web Server, Stone says.
"Amazon is very profitable, but they reinvest profits in growth in new countries and new products."
Bezos can be very strict and even harsh with employees, Stone says. "He's angry if an employee doesn't pick up a phone in time. He has many unique ways of running operations. For example, there's no slideshow or PowerPoint in the company. They start every meeting by reading a document, and then discuss problems, because Bezos thinks PowerPoint presentations are a distraction."
But he goes out of his way to keep customers satisfied, Stone says. Amazon told one customer who bought a pair of trousers and found they were too big to keep them and get another pair.
Zhang Yazhe, partner of the seed fund ZhenFund, says many companies have learned from Amazon, for example in improving shipping.
"I've been to many e-commerce warehouses, such as Jingdong and Dangdang.com, but when you visit Amazon warehouses you realize it is years ahead of Chinese companies."
"Amazon is a very controversial company, very polarizing. Customers love it; they can be very passionate about it. But you talk to anyone in book publishing in
(China Daily European Weekly 06/20/2014 page28)
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