December 30, 2016

'Despite an Improved Global Economic Backdrop, Mounting Uncertainties Will Weigh on Companies in 2017'

Image: EIU
"In 2017, companies can look forward to an improved global economic backdrop but must prepare for uncertainty following Donald Trump's victory in the US presidential elections and the UK's decision to leave the EU," explains the Economist Intelligence Unit in announcing the publication of its whitepaper, Industries in 2017. "This exclusive whitepaper provides a global overview for the year ahead for six industries - Automotive, Consumer goods, Energy, Financial services, Healthcare, and Telecommunications. It brings together analysis and forecasts for each industry, identifying the key strategic business issues that we expect to arise."

Regarding the general overlook for the global economy in 2017, "Threats to global economic growth are mounting. Populist, anti-globalization sentiment has triggered Donald Trump's election in the US and Britain's planned exit from the EU. Yet, despite the raised risks, the world economy is in fact set for a slightly better year in 2017."

Many emerging markets will benefit from "a firmer outlook for commodities." The EIU predicts "that average prices of Brent crude oil will climb by a quarter on 2016, to US$56.5/barrel; non-oil commodity prices will tick up for the first time in years. Beneficiaries will include Russia and Brazil, both recovering from recessions. This will speed economic expansion in the non-OECD world to 4.3% at market exchange rates. The OECD will see a smaller acceleration to 1.8%, while global growth will rise to 2.5%."

As for the U.S. economy, the EIU's forecast "is a sunny one, with GDP rising by 2.3%. Although we expect faster monetary tightening by the Federal Reserve, the central bank, this may be offset by Mr Trump’s promised tax-cuts and infrastructure spending. However, if Mr Trump pushes ahead with protectionist trade policies, he could undermine US and world growth."

While the Federal Reserve will tighten monetary policy, other countries in the advanced world will see their monetary policy "remain overwhelmingly loose." The EIU notes that "governments will also turn to fiscal policy to stimulate demand. In Japan, for example, the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, is throwing yet more stimulus at the economy and the fiscal deficit is set to widen. Meanwhile, debt-laden China will avoid a sharp slowdown in 2017 (not so in 2018), as Asia grows by a healthy 3.9%."

It its overview of the global economy in 2017, the whitepaper correctly explains: "Europe will once again let the side down, thanks partly to Brexit. The consequences of the UK's decision to leave the EU will be long-lasting, profound and clouded in uncertainty. As consumer and business sentiment in the world's fifth-biggest economy sag, recession will ensue in 2017. Europe will manage only 1.4% growth. With important elections in France and Germany to come in 2017, the fear is that the forces ranging against globalization will gain further ground."

Listed below is the central thesis for each of the six industries addressed in whitepaper:
  • Automotive. With the auto industry facing widespread challenges, the focus on research and development has intensified. But will traditional vehicle-makers lose out as mobility becomes more high-tech?
  • Consumer goods/retail. Political events may dampen consumer confidence in 2017 but new technologies will continue to drive global retail sales upwards;
  • Energy. Climate policies will keep chipping away at fossil fuels' role as the mainstay of global energy use, despite Donald Trump's appointment as US president in 2017;
  • Financial services. Finance will enjoy boosts in 2017 from fintech, mobile money, an emerging market rebound and expanding customer ranks. However, the three villains of the post-crisis era—weak growth, low rates and tough regulations—will keep a damper on the sector;
  • Healthcare. Plenty of countries will be trying to expand access to healthcare, but the US may step back from Obamacare; and
  • Telecoms. Telecoms companies will seek new sources of revenue as traditional streams dwindle and pressure from growing mobile broadband usage mounts.
Do you agree with the EIU's forecasts for 2017? What key issues and trends are valuable to your business?

While contemplating the questions above, you may find entertainment in watching a video produced by The Economist's cartoonist KAL, which presents the most interesting events taking place in 2017.

Wishing you a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2017. Thank you for reading.

Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

December 27, 2016

How and When to Invest in Product Marketing

The following is a guest post by Yan Tang

Photo:
http://ow.ly/SJJz307uE2D
When fitness startup ClassPass is doing everything to devise new product offering that would satisfy and affect users, its marketing team gets a better understanding of what users wanted and figures out the one process: getting in the mind of your customers. What the biggest public marketing comes from making better products, having a more focused team and making users happier. In an exclusive interview, Joanna Lord, Chief Marketing Officer at ClassPass, clarifies "what product marketing really is and why founders should consider investing in it sooner rather than later." She also shares her professional advice on establishing a top-notch product marketing team. And Ms. Lord correctly emphasizes the importance of putting the customers first in all things.

What is Product Marketing Is – and Isn't

"Product marketing, at its heart, is about understanding what you're building, why you invested in it, and how it will benefit the user—and then messaging that understanding to your customer," according to Ms. Lord. There are four key tasks that can help a company determine the product marketing:
  1. What to build (which typically overlaps with product);
  2. Who to build for (which typically overlaps with UX, or business development/sales);
  3. How to price it (which typically overlap with pricing, marketing, product, or sales);
  4. And how to sell it (which overlaps with marketing and sales).
Primarily, product marketing is "an exercise in communicating with your customers, and helping them understand the full value of everything you build for them." It is more about assisting existing customers to understand the products and features and engage with them.

Photo:
http://ow.ly/O7lx307uE85
When to Kick-start Product Marketing

If you are wondering when and how to integrate product marketing, consider these two key questions: How big is your company? And how complex is your product portfolio?

It is easier for smaller companies to navigate resources in marketing and sales." If you have one product, and it's super early for the company, you could even have someone on your product team, or your marketing team, playing this role 50% of the time," Ms. Lord explains. Even CEOs from really small early-stage start-ups can play a role of product marketers.

If your products are complicated, however, you might want to invest in product marketing early, no matter what the size of the company.

How to Hire for the Right Skill Set

It is very important to build an effective team of people who can create great products and message them into the public. When it is time to invest it companies should have a marketing team with a particular combination of hard and soft skills, such as ideation, agile development, launching releases, go-to-market and demand generation.

Except subject-matter expertise, some key traits should be considered when a company looks for a stellar product marketer.
  • Drawn to details
  • Researches by default
  • Fetches feedback
  • Identifies as cross functional
There is always a lot to look for, and companies can design some interview questions or create a process for digging deeper into a candidate's qualifications.

The Fine Art of Launching Product Marketing

Once you have recruit a right person for the job, proceed thoughtfully to integrate the new individual with the rest of your team- there is actually more of an art to it than you might think.

The addition of even one new member requires that the entire team regroup and rebond, finding new ways of working and ultimately recreating their dynamics and working style. Also, new product markers themselves need to take the responsibility of proving their worth and establishing a team that the rest of team members respects and values. Ms. Lords says: "that boils down to open, humble communication. The product marketer has to be an expert at asking questions and understanding both the customer and their internal stakeholder." Being objective and a team player are the keys to great product marketing.

How to Measure Success for Product Marketing

How do you know, however, if you are actually reaching the target customer? The four key elements mentioned above have their own set of metrics:
  1. What to build (engagement metrics: log-ins, usage stats, sales figures);
  2. Who to build for (customer feedback loop, cancellation surveys, funnel conversion rates);
  3. How to price it (surveying and customer research);
  4. And how to sell it (traditional acquisition metrics:click through and conversion rates etc.).
"Every dimension of product marketing is measured a different way, but it's absolutely a measurable science." That being said, at every stage of your growth, all of those metrics should be given different attention. The importance of certain part of product marketing varies at any given time.

So when you are thinking about investing in product marketing, what else you will take into consideration?

Yan Tang is enrolled in the Professional Master of Business Administration (Marketing) program at Seattle University. She also serves as a Business Relationship Management and Small Business Coach at Seattle University's Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center. Previously, Ms. Tang worked for Manpower in the company's Shanghai, China office where she served in several roles including Service Consultant, On-Site Project Manager for IBM Shanghai, and Recruitment Consultant. Ms. Tang may be contacted at yantang1126@gmail.com.

December 12, 2016

Report Surveys Corporate Executives on Mergers and Acquisitions and the Use of Analytics and Big Data During the Process

Sponsored by EY, The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) published the 15th edition of its Global Capital Confidence Barometer claiming that 57 percent of executives plan to make acquisitions in the next 12 months. "The need to respond to challenges while navigating a complex and fast-changing environment makes dealmaking an imperative, not an option. Executives are looking at more targets, and deals will tend to be smaller. However, as boards look to make innovative acquisitions, they are using analytics to make better decisions."

The Global Capital Confidence Barometer gauges corporate confidence in the economic outlook and identifies boardroom trends and practices in the way companies manage their Capital Agendas — EY's framework for strategically managing capital. It is a regular survey, conducted by the EIU, of over 1,700 senior executives from large companies around the world.

In addition to over half of executives expect to actively pursue acquisitions in the next 12 months, 49 percent of companies have more than five deals in their pipeline and 91 percent are using big data and analytics as part of their deal process.

With respect to the macroeconomic environment, "Most executives see the global economy as stable and say corporate earnings are back on track. But there are uncertainties ahead, both in the near and long term, including political stability in their home markets and tightening credit markets. As low growth and disruption continue, boards are focusing on mergers, acquisitions and alliances to create value."

The report addresses the topic of corporate strategy by saying: "Innovation, new technology and changing customer demands are challenging businesses to reinvent their products and operations. At the same time, greater regulation is adding complexity to corporate strategy. Most companies, with an imperative to reorganize their portfolios, are responding with a mix of buying and partnering to underpin future success."

From where do you see growth
within your company coming
over the next 12 months?
In fact, 45 percent of growth is expected to be inorganic, the report explains. Moreover, 57 percent of companies are actively reorganizing their portfolios and 71 percent are shifting skills and talent to take advantage of new working models.

The percentages below reflect those who intend to actively pursue acquisitions in the next 12 months:
  • Consumer products and retail — 71%
  • Diversified industrial products — 60%
  • Life sciences — 56%
  • Technology — 54%
  • Automotive — 54%
  • Oil and gas — 52%
How do you use analytics and
big data for executing your
M&A process and strategy?
In answering the question, "How do you use analytics and big data for executing your M&A process and strategy?" 55 percent of corporate executives use data analytics to better identify synergies and determine valuation of the targeted asset, 54 percent use big data to identify growth options and potential targets, just 4 percent say they are not using data analytics but are considering it.

Lastly, as someone who takes a strategic approach in global business, I appreciate the top five questions every executive needs to ask as they invest for growth:
  1. Are you capitalizing on the breadth of deal structures to realize your strategic objectives?
  2. Will geopolitical challenges derail your growth strategies?
  3. Are you using analytics and big data to bring greater clarity to complex deals?
  4. Is an off-the-shelf approach to integration the best recipe for success?
  5. Are you enhancing or destroying the value of acquired innovation?
Do you find this report useful for your business? Is your company considering making an acquisition in 2017 and if so, how are you using data analytics during the M&A process?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

November 26, 2016

India to Have More Than 670 Million Mobile Broadband Connections by 2020

According to a new report published by the GSMA, India is the second largest mobile market in the world with 616 million unique users, almost half of the country's population, subscribed to mobile services at the end of June 2016. The report, The Mobile Economy India 2016, further says: "Improving affordability, falling device prices and better network coverage aided by operator investment will help deliver over 330 million new unique subscribers by 2020, taking the penetration rate to 68%."

The report is segmented into four chapters: India mobile market overview; Economic contribution of the mobile industry; Digital India: delivered through mobile broadband; and Reforming to accelerate mobile broadband adoption.

Infographic: GSMA
In addition to the information above regarding India's mobile market, the report explains that India is "seeing an ongoing technology shift to mobile broadband services." Moreover, "With a gradual reduction in data tariffs and growing availability of affordable smartphones for consumers, the mobile broadband connection base is forecast to reach more than 670 million by 2020. By this date, almost half of the total connections will run over mobile broadband networks. There is also an accelerating move to 4G, with the 4G connection base forecast to grow rapidly, from just 3 million at the end of 2015 to 280 million by 2020."

Infographic: GSMA
Regarding the mobile industry's contribution to India's economy, "the mobile industry was responsible for 6.5% of India’s GDP" in 2015, "a contribution that amounts to more than INR9 lakh crore ($140 billion) of economic value added." In addition, "Mobile operators and the ecosystem provided direct employment to approximately 2.2 million people in India across both the organized and unorganized sectors, while approximately 1.8 million jobs were indirectly supported. The mobile ecosystem also makes a highly significant contribution to the funding of the Indian public sector, with approximately INR1.4 lakh crore ($21 billion) in 2015."

The chapter titled "Building Digital India through mobile broadband" begins by noting: "The Indian government’s Digital India initiative was launched in 2015 and aims to utilize the potential of digital technologies to address some of the significant socioeconomic challenges in the country." The report continues to explain that "the initiative looks to empower 1 billion subscribers by providing internet access to all."

Furthermore, "Digital India has three key focus areas and nine pillars. Digital India will be delivered over mobile broadband, given the lack of alternative (fixed line) infrastructure, high levels of mobile ownership in the country and ongoing significant investment by operators to further build out networks and bring affordable services to the country's population."

Regarding the report's final chapter on how policy and regulatory reform can help boost mobile broadband, "Review and reform in three key areas would accelerate mobile broadband access and adoption across the country:
  • India will benefit by adapting regulation to the realities of the new digital ecosystem. Obligations tied to a specific technology, rather than the service provided, distort the market, preventing operators from competing equally with other digital market players.
  • Mobile operators in India carry significant debt as a result of the high prices for spectrum, administrative fees and levies. Reductions of these costs would free resources and foster an atmosphere conducive to investment, which is needed to keep pace with network expansion and improvements to achieve the goals of Digital India.
  • To cater for rising mobile broadband adoption, India should commit to the spectrum bands supported at WRC-15. More importantly, India needs to allocate the 470–698 MHz band for IMT in order to boost mobile broadband and the broader digital economy."
Similar to China over the past few years, Indians will quickly gain access to information and value-added services via smartphones and tablets as a result of an expanding mobile broadband infrastructure. With a growing mobile industry, coupled with policy and regulatory reform, India could become an important market for mobile network operators, cloud storage providers, manufacturers of mobile devices and related network components, and developers of localized software optimized for mobile devices. While my colleagues and I are not actively engaged in the Indian market as of the date of this post, it is a matter of when, not if, we begin doing business in the world's second largest mobile market.

What are your thoughts about the GSMA report? Do you have any recommendations about doing business in India?

Aaron Rose serves as President and CEO of ROI3, Inc., a Seattle, Wash.-based company that empowers people in emerging economies through innovative, technology-based solutions. He is also the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

November 18, 2016

The Coming of Age of the Chinese Consumer

"The Chinese consumer has finally come of age. The traditional drivers of China's economy, investment and exports, are struggling, but the country's consumers keep spending." The preceding sentences are the beginning of a whitepaper, The Chinese Consumer in 2030, published by The Economist Intelligence Unit (The EIU) in English and 简体中文. The introductory paragraph continues to explain that "private consumption is now the main driver of economic growth in China, and The EIU expects it will grow in real terms by 5.5% a year on average in 2016-30 – boosting its share of the overall economy to nearly 50%. The incremental growth we expect in private consumption in China over the next 15 years is more than current level of consumer expenditure in the EU."

The report's Executive Summary presents the following key takeaways:
  • Nearly 35% of the population, or around 480m consumers, will meet EIU's "definitions of upper middle-income and high-income by 2030. That represents a sharp increase on the 10% (132m) at present. The emergence of this large population, with a personal disposable income of at least US$10,000, will alter the consumer landscape in China;
  • Income will become more dispersed, rather than concentrated in first-tier cities on the eastern coast. Major interior cities, such as Changsha, Chengdu, Chongqing and Wuhan are set to see sizable leaps, with each having at least 2m high-income consumers by 2030. Nevertheless, smaller cities and those undergoing industrial restructuring risk being left behind, suggesting that high levels of income inequality will persist; and
  • Rising discretionary income will drive changes in consumer tastes and preferences. Around 30% of the spending by the average Chinese consumer is still allocated to food, compared with only 15% in South Korea. As income levels rise, consumers will look to upgrade consumption habits and switch to more expensive and premium brands. We pinpoint how this will play out in the automotive, tourism and financial services sectors."
The authors of the report are correct to note that "understanding these trends and the scope for regional divergence in China will be critical for consumer goods firms. Access to robust data and local knowledge will be essential. There are also challenges to navigate. China's economic trajectory has become more uncertain, and firms will need to monitor risks accordingly in order to stay ahead of the curve."

Regarding the segmentation of the middle class, the report says: "Individuals moving into the lower middle-income bracket will have greater room for discretionary spending on goods and services. Those entering the upper middle-income segment will be looking to upgrade their spending towards branded and premium products."

Doing business in China over the past few years, I have witnessed the tremendous rise, both in population and purchasing power, of the Chinese middle class. And I can attest to The EIU's report that the middle class are purchasing more vehicles (low, booking more vacations abroad (i.e., destinations outside of mainland China), and financial services including insurance and wealth management.

While the topic of information and communication technology is not covered in The EIU report, I am confident that a growing middle class in China will continue the drive to purchase technology products and services. Despite the deceleration to China's economy during the past few years, spending on mobile technology hardware and services remain strong. Lower middle-income consumers are replacing their feature phones with basic smartphones and upgrading their service plans with mobile network operators to access high speed mobile broadband. Those individuals in upper middle-income bracket are upgrading to high-end smartphones. The growing adoption of smartphones in China presents an opportunity to develop value-added services and content optimized for mobile devices.

The report's final sentence says: "In the future ... meeting the needs of a booming and more demanding middle-class group of consumers will be fundamental to [China's] economic sustainability." Do you agree? What are your thoughts about The EIU report?

UPDATE: The EIU held a webinar on Nov. 30, 2016 discussing its whitepaper in greater detail. You can watch a recording of the webinar through this link and download the slides here.

Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

November 15, 2016

Insights into GSMA's Inaugural 'Global Mobile Trends' Report

On Oct. 6, 2016, the GSMA launched its inaugural Global Mobile Trends report, which offers "a vast wealth of data and insight on the state of the mobile ecosystem today and mapping out its future development," according to the London, England-based organization's press release. "This flagship report, produced by GSMA Intelligence, the research arm of the GSMA, compiles data on mobile subscriber growth trends, mobile internet adoption, devices, and industry financials from both a global and regional perspective."

The 2016 edition of the Global Mobile Trends report is organized into five sections: Megatrends; Consumer Insights; Industry Performance and Mobile Ecosystem Dynamics; Future View and Regional View.

Asia becoming the growth engine of the mobile ecosystem is one key point found within the "Megatrends" section. In its press release, the organization explains that "more than one billion additional people worldwide will be connected to mobile networks by 2020. Approximately a third of these new users will come from India (337 million), underlining the country's increasing position as the world's most significant mobile growth market, overtaking China."

Furthermore, "China is forecast to add more than 200 million subscribers and there will also be major net subscriber contributions from Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar. In total, these six Asian markets will account for approximately 60 percent of the 1.1 billion new subscribers added globally by the end of the decade." Whether a company is focused on developing hardware or software for the mobile ecosystem, it must consider how to penetrate the rapidly growing Asian market.

The report provides a clear illustration how "the internet is mobile, and mobile is the internet." Over the past 10-15 years, I have witnessed how the increasing adoption of mobile phones (and smartphones specifically) over the past few years has empowered people in developed and emerging markets alike to access the internet. During my travels to emerging markets in recent years, I have come to appreciate how the mobile phone serves as the only access point for millions of people to reach the internet. Therefore, I am not surprised by the report's claim that "mobile internet penetration reached 44% by the end of 2015" and "by 2020 we expect it to be 60%, with smartphones the only access point for many in emerging markets. For an entire generation, the internet is now inextricably linked with mobile and vice versa."

Encouragingly, "Income will become less of a barrier to smartphone ownership." The report further elaborates that "the main sources of future growth in smartphone adoption will be India and a number of other emerging markets (such as Nigeria and Indonesia). This will be driven by continued falls in device costs and rising incomes. Several low-income countries (e.g. GDP/capita below $10,000) will have smartphone adoption rates of 60–70% by 2020, similar to most advanced regions."

Lastly, as a shareholder and executive of ROI3, Inc., a company creating localized content, services, and applications for smartphone and tablet users in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, I am quite pleased to see an important question posed on page 42: "What is local content and why does it matter?" The report correctly says:
In trying to connect the unconnected to the internet, content has for many years been the forgotten ingredient, with efforts prioritized in expanding coverage and lowering the cost of ownership.
These are, of course, fundamental, but so too is the question: is the internet relevant for me? 
The surprising truth is that for many non-users, the answer so far has been no, even if they can access and afford it. 
As such, efforts have shifted among mobile operators and internet companies into designing content and services that appeal on a local level, both in language and in the value proposition.
If you work in the mobile technology industry, I highly recommend reading this comprehensive 121 page report. What information do you find valuable?

Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

November 4, 2016

Exploring the Recent Progress and Challenges of Tackling Tuberculosis

In the previous post in this blog, I discussed a report published in 2014 by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) that investigates the health challenge posed by tuberculosis (TB) and ways to improve the effectiveness of the global response to it. On Oct. 26, 2016, The EIU announced the publication of an updated report, which evaluates "the progress made in the global response to TB since The EIU’s 2014 study." The 2016 report, Tackling tuberculosis: Recent progress and challenges, first considers "the socioeconomic and political context of tackling TB and then look at policy and progress in the areas of prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Moreover, four country case studies shed light on recent progress and challenges in tackling TB in Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa."

On the chapter titled "The Political and Socioeconomic Context," the report explains that "the prospects for improving TB prevention, diagnosis and treatment efforts are intrinsically linked to socioeconomic and political factors. For a start, a country's level of development has a strong influence on its response to the disease."

According to Michael Kimerling, director of the technical services division at the Netherlands-based KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation, which works to strengthen health systems in the fight against TB, "As you build up primary health infrastructures, the stronger these become, the better TB can be managed. It's such a classic disease of public health. Development is important for overcoming TB."

A stronger political will to tackle TB is necessary as "the disease continues to receive relatively less attention than other higher-profile diseases, the experts interviewed for this report say." Mario Raviglione, director of the Global TB Program at the WHO, is quoted as saying, "Fundamentally, what needs to be recognized is a lack of political commitment. As we mentioned in [the UK medical journal] The Lancet a few years ago, TB is not a main priority among any of the main UN agencies; it does not have a special UN program, is not in UNICEF's portfolio and is not a special presidential initiative in the US. It does not have strong support from the pharmaceutical industry."

On the topic of policy and progress on prevention, diagnosis and treatment, the report notes the World Health Organization's goal of reducing TB by 90 percent by 2030 "will require new tools that are currently lacking . . . including better prophylaxis, the development of vaccines and new treatment regimens, especially for MDR TB."

With respect to improving diagnostics and prevention, the report asserts that "reliably identifying vulnerable populations that are most likely to go on to develop TB would allow for a more rapid management of the disease and avoid exposing those at lower risk to treatment regimes that involve significant side effects, Dr Raviglione says. He adds that current tests only show whether a person has been exposed, but not whether they are likely to develop full-blown TB. Around one-third of the world's population has latent TB—where they have been infected with mycobacterium tuberculosis but have not developed the active disease —according to the WHO."

The report's conclusion notes: "Two years on from our original report there is evidence of some progress on the global response to TB, including, for example, efforts to shorten treatment regimens. At the same time, however, public-health experts observe that TB retains a relatively low disease profile in terms of R&D, both compared with diseases such as HIV/AIDS and in proportion to the impact of the disease. Major political and socioeconomic challenges remain, notably the lack of universal access to health coverage in many endemic countries, insufficient political will and deficient national TB control plans."

And I agree with the report's final paragraph: "Ultimately, progress will depend on the political will to underpin greater investment in research and the willingness of more countries to commit to both national policy frameworks and cross border partnerships."

Lastly, given the interest of colleagues and I have regarding the development of mobile software solutions to prevent infectious diseases such as TB, I would be reminiscent not to mention how the EIU's 2014 report or 2016 update addresses this topic. Below is an excerpt from the 2014 report:
The Kenyan Ministry of Health, along with Safaricom, one of the country's major mobile-phone companies, and a number of other partners have developed a data management system called TIBU, which means 'cure' in Swahili. Since November 2012, this has allowed the direct entry of details on new TB infections, using tablet computers at the point of diagnosis, into a national database that currently holds details on around 90,000 patients. The information can then be used in a wide variety of ways. At the national level, it enables the monitoring of trends, as well as indicating if any districts are performing poorly and need support. Local clinicians can use it to determine in real time if drug stocks are able to meet local need and to order new medication where required. It allows the treatment of individual patients to be followed even if they migrate to a different part of the country, and sends SMS messages to anyone who does not attend a clinic, reminding them to take prescribed their pills. Finally, TIBU is linked with Kenya’s mobile payments system, M-Pesa, to allow faster dispersal of support payments to those with MDR TB who continue to adhere to treatment.
Do you agree with the findings of the report? What is your recommendation on achieving WHO's goal of reducing the incidence of TB by 90 percent by 2030? What role should mobile technology play in achieving this goal?

Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

October 26, 2016

A Time for Greater Action Against Tuberculosis

On Oct. 26, 2016, The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) announced the publication of a report that notes: Although tuberculosis (TB) "was responsible for around 1.5m deaths in 2014, down from nearly 1.8m in 1990, it is now the leading infectious disease killer worldwide, surpassing HIV/AIDS," according to the World Health Organization. The EIU report is intended to serve as an update to a 2014 report, Ancient enemy, modern imperative: A time for greater action against tuberculosis. This post, however, will focus on the 2014 report, which investigates the health challenge posed by TB and ways to improve the effectiveness of the global response to it. I will address the findings from the 2016 report in a subsequent post on this blog.

Supported by Janssen, the EIU's 2014 report "draws on interviews with 17 public health officials, funders, academic and medical experts, researchers, and activists as well as on extensive desk research to consider the state of the TB challenge, barriers to further progress, and how efforts need to evolve." The report's key findings include the following:
  1. Despite important successes, progress against TB is still slow and significant weaknesses remain;
  2. Drug-resistant TB has become a public health crisis that is receiving too little attention and shows up failings in current efforts;
  3. To date, TB efforts at various levels have often suffered from a lack of compelling ambition and interest;
  4. A high level of stigma still affects those with the disease and hampers efforts against it;
  5. Efforts against TB remain overly provider-centered and set apart from health systems; and
  6. Improved success against TB will require changes on a number of levels.
On the topic of improving success against TB will required changes on a number of levels, the report says that "further progress against TB is essential, but will mean new strategies that address current weaknesses while not throwing away gains to date." These new strategies include: 
  • Finding and treating people where they live. To find the nearly-3m new cases of TB every year, health systems in countries with a high incidence of TB need to look across the entire population, and even those with a lower prevalence have to find better ways of going into, and working with, sometimes marginalized populations;
  • Taking TB control out of existing silos. TB needs to treat the whole person, including addressing common co-morbidities such as HIV/AIDS, and co-ordinating public and private health provision;
  • Harnessing cost-effective technology. Although progress in the field of TB remains frustratingly slow, new tools available today—both medical and non-medical—have the potential to transform treatment;
  • Raising the profile of TB. Perhaps most important, activists and other stakeholders must find better ways to elevate national and global ambitions to deploy the tools at hand with sufficient intensity to make more rapid progress against this disease.
The 2014 report concludes by stating "TB strategies need to move in practice beyond medical silos to work in and with communities on finding cases and improving treatment outcomes. This involves a range of changes, including those listed below:
  • Seeking and treating the ill in new ways, where they live. Clinic-based efforts alone will not reach the nearly 3m undiagnosed TB cases. In high-burden countries, the search will need actively to look for TB across the population as a whole. Even in lower burden ones it will involve finding effective ways to target and treat the disease in sometimes challenging marginal populations;
  • Integrating care to take account of the whole human being. Those with TB frequently have co-morbidities and lack the social or economic resources to be able to complete their treatment—especially of MDR TB—over the long term. Effective TB care means finding ways to overcome these barriers;
  • Taking advantage of the resources of health systems as a whole. National TB programs are an effective way to focus attention on the disease, but they should not become a TB care silo. The whole health system needs to be involved in finding TB, and medical facilities— including HIV clinics and private care providers— are proven ways to help address the disease; and
  • Harnessing new technology (both medical and non-medical). Medical advances in TB are still frustratingly slow, so those that come along need to be applied in the most useful way. The WHO has encouraged the use of GeneXpert and such a test will be essential in rapidly diagnosing and defeating MDR TB. Health systems need not rely solely on medical technology, however. Mobile information technology and integrated databases show great promise in being able to understand the challenge that TB poses at both national and local levels, as well as in tracking patients and helping to avoid issues with drug stocks.
A video produced in conjunction with the 2014 report, which may be viewed below or through this link, correctly explains that "combating tuberculosis globally required finding and treating people where they live, involving the health system as a whole, and harnessing cost-effective technology."



Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

October 18, 2016

Mobile Industry Delivering Economic Growth, Employment and Public Funding in the MENA Region

The previous post on this blog made reference to a 2015 report produced by GSMA Intelligence that provided an analysis of the mobile industry in the Arab States. On Oct. 17, 2016, the London, England-based organization announced the publication of The Mobile Economy: Middle East and North Africa 2016 at the GSMA Mobile 360 Series – Middle East conference in Dubai. In its press release, the GSMA says "that there are 339 million unique mobile subscribers (Q2 2016) across the region's twenty five markets, a figure expected to rise to 385 million by 2020."

The report further explains: "The number of smartphone connections has also more than doubled over the last three years to reach 263 million in Q2 2016, accounting for 42 per cent of total connections, and is forecast to reach 467 million by 2020. The availability of mobile broadband networks has increased smartphone adoption and is helping to bridge the digital divide and usher in innovative new mobile services." The availability of mobile broadband networks in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region provides an opportunity for companies like ROI3 to develop localized content for smartphone users.

On the topic of mobile delivering economic growth, the GSMA 2016 report notes that "mobile technologies and services generated 4% of GDP in the MENA region, a contribution that amounted to more than $150 billion of economic value. In the period to 2020 this will increase to almost $200 billion (4.2% of GDP) as countries benefit from the improvements in productivity and efficiency brought about by increased take-up of mobile services."

Infographic:
GSMA Intelligence
Moreover, "The mobile ecosystem also supported more than 1 million jobs in 2015. This includes workers directly employed in the ecosystem and jobs indirectly supported by the economic activity generated by the sector. In addition to the mobile sector's impact on the economy and labor market, it also makes a substantial contribution to the funding of the public sector, with $15 billion raised in 2015 in the form of general taxation."

Over the past several years, I have witnessed the power mobile connectivity has played in Asia's emerging economies. Therefore, it is with great interest to read that "mobile has emerged as the platform of choice for creating, distributing and consuming innovative digital solutions and services in MENA. Many local and global innovators and tech entrepreneurs are now using the expansion of the mobile ecosystem and the growing adoption of smart devices in the region to deliver mobile-based solutions that directly appeal to local interests and cultures."

My colleagues and I recognize that the successful creation and deployment of localized mobile software solutions in the MENA region will be based on establishing strong collaborative relationships with local developers, marketers, and channel partners.

What advice do you have about doing business in the MENA region?

Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

October 3, 2016

Doing Business in the UAE: An Opportunity to Develop Localized Mobile Content for Arabic Speakers?

Produced by GSMA Intelligence, The Mobile Economy Arab States 2015 report says: "A factor preventing smartphone users [in the Middle East] buying apps is the lack of apps in Arabic language. Arabic is the fifth language in the world by number of native speakers and is the first language for more than 240 million people. Nevertheless, less than 1% of websites in the world are in Arabic. Creating local Arabic content requires local talent, so there is clearly an opportunity for local developers, local service providers and local entrepreneurs to develop apps that meet the needs of these customers." My professional interest in producing localized content for Arabic speakers was the primary reason I attended the "Business and Trade Opportunities with Jebel Ali Free Zone (Jafza), Dubai" seminar on Sept. 27, 2016 in Seattle, Wash.

Jafza, a DP World-owned company, is based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and promoted as one of the world's leading free trade zones. Created in 1985, a"the free zone's purpose is to promote trade and support container throughput at the Jebel Ali Port," according to a promotional materials produced by the based organization. "Jafza accounts for almost 32% of total FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) flow into the country. The free zone contributes 21% of Dubai's GDP on a yearly basis and it sustains the employment of more than 144,000 people in the United Arab Emirates. In 2015, Jafza generated trade worth USD 87.6 billion."

Speakers at the seminar noted that the United States has enjoyed warm relations with the UAE since 1972 and the U.S. was the third country to establish formal diplomatic relations with the UAE. With respect to international trade, the UAE is the United States' single largest export market in the the Middle East. Over 1,000 American firms have an on-the-ground and expanding presence in the UAE. FedEx, Ford, GM, and General Electric are among the Fortune 500 companies operating in Jafza.

The seminar explained some of the value-added services and incentives for companies to locate in Jafza including: 100 percent foreign ownership, no corporate or income taxes, no import import or re-export duties, no restriction on capital repatriation and no currency restrictions. Covering 22 square miles, Jafza can provide businesses with plots of land, warehouses, a business park, and on-site residences.

Photo: Trade Development
Alliance of Greater Seattle
I enjoyed attending the seminar, which was hosted by the Trade Development Alliance of Greater Seattle, and learning about the opportunities that exist for American firms. However, the focus of the presentations was on products rather than services such as cloud computing or information technology such as software-as-a-service, the latter of which is the primary focus of ROI3, Inc. During the Q&A session, there was some discussion about UAE's planned effort to support local entrepreneurship and the creation of small businesses.

The GSMA report referenced in the first paragraph above explains that "the mobile industry in the Arab States has grown rapidly over the last few years, with 54% of the population subscribed to a mobile service as of mid-2015. At this point, the unique subscriber base in the Arab States stood at just over 200 million." Given that just 1% of websites in the world are in Arabic, entrepreneurs and small businesses in the UAE are presented with a great opportunity to develop localized mobile web content. My colleagues and I look forward to having the opportunity to develop mobile software solutions for Arabic speakers, particularly in the education and health sectors.

What has been your experience of doing business in the UAE?

Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

September 23, 2016

Measuring the Impact of the Mobile Industry on Sustainable Development Goals

The GSMA released a study, 2016 Mobile Industry Impact Report: Sustainable Development Goals, that "offers critical insights into the transformative impact of the mobile industry on individuals, societies and economies around the world, in developed and developing markets. Importantly, it establishes a benchmark through which the industry will assess its success in contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and serves as a blueprint for other industries as they commit to achieving the SDGs."

As explained in a press release dated Sept. 19, 2016, the report, which was developed by Deloitte for the GSMA, "is designed to facilitate progress reporting by creating a common, measureable system that links the industry's activities to their impact on the SDGs and will serve as an input into industry decisions on strategy, planning and investment." Furthermore, "The report will enable the mobile industry to engage more effectively with partners based on impact on the SDGs, and it creates a framework that can be shared with others in the mobile communications ecosystem, as well as with other industries. The Mobile Industry Impact Report forms a baseline to measure the industry's progress against the SDGs; updates will be published on a yearly basis."

The development of the report and its associated assets has four main objectives:
  1. Facilitate progress reporting through the creation of a common, measureable system that links the industry's activities to their impact on the SDGs and their associated targets;
  2. Provide an input into industry decisions on strategy, planning and investment;
  3. Allow the mobile industry to engage more effectively with existing or new partners on the basis of the impact on the SDGs; and
  4. Create a framework that can be shared with others in the mobile communications ecosystem, as well as with other industries.
While the report is primarily focused on the assessment of impact across the SDGs, and the forward-looking implications of that analysis, there are three additional topics covered:
  1. Sustainable business policies and practices: Acknowledgement that the mobile industry has a primary responsibility to respect and uphold universal principles of responsible business in areas such as human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption in the conduct of their business;
  2. The industry's commercial model: Reflections on the strength and sustainability of the commercial model in light of the current and expected impact on the SDGs; and
  3. Commitments: A series of commitments by the industry to further promote the SDGs, enhance the industry impact on the SDGs, and advance the capability of other sectors to also contribute.
The report also notes that all 17 SDGs are impacted by the mobile industry to varying degrees, with the greatest impact being felt on: SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure; SDG 1: No Poverty; SDG 4: Quality Education; and SDG 13: Climate Action. The way the industry contributes across these four SDGs differs significantly:
  • SDG 9 calls for resilient infrastructure, sustainable and inclusive industrialization, and innovation. The industry makes a powerful contribution through: extending and upgrading its infrastructure; connecting remote, less-included communities; stimulating economic participation; and supporting IoT-related innovation;
  • SDG 1 focuses on eradicating poverty, providing equal access to economic resources, and building the resilience of the poor. The industry plays its part by stimulating economic participation and activity through voice and data services; providing affordable connectivity; and acting as a provider of financial services to developing economies, including the powerful platform of mobile remittances that is particularly valuable to underserved communities;
  • SDG 4 targets significant improvements in the quality of, and access to, good education across formal and more skills-based categories. The industry primarily impacts this SDG by providing connectivity to schools and learners, giving access to digital resources. The industry also provides educational platforms directly, including content, and facilitates the purchase of school-related services in poorer economies through mobile money; and
  • SDG 13 seeks improvements in community resilience to the effects of climate change and improved planning and management. The industry contributes by providing emergency communications systems, connectivity and tailored services, e.g. broadcasts at times of disaster and early warning systems based on data analytics, sensors, and crowd sourcing.
Having spent my a good amount of my professional career supporting technology entrepreneurs, as well as advising the United Nations and sovereign governments on economic development matters, I understand the beneficial role mobile technology plays in improving the livelihood of billions of individuals worldwide. (This experience, coupled with my passion of creating technological tools for personal empowerment, is the catalyst that led to the formation of ROI3, Inc.) Therefore, I am pleased to see the publication of the 2016 Mobile Industry Impact Report, which comes at a point in human history when global mobile phone use is becoming ubiquitous. Measuring the impact of the mobile industry on the impact of SDGs is essential to achieving sustainable development goals in developed and developing markets.

What are your impressions of the report?

Aaron Rose serves as President and CEO of ROI3, Inc., a Seattle, Wash.-based company that empowers people in emerging economies through innovative, technology-based solutions. He is also the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

September 5, 2016

7 Billion People Live in an Area Covered by a Mobile-Cellular Network

Mobile network coverage
and evolving technologies: ITU
"Seven billion people (95% of the global population) live in an area that is covered by a mobile-cellular network," according to a report titled ICT Facts and Figures 2016. Published annually since 2009 by the ITU, a United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies based in Geneva, Switzerland, this year's report provides statistical evidence of a digital divide that exists regarding access to affordable mobile broadband, as well as the widening gender gap of Internet penetration.

There is a common perception that people worldwide have access to the Internet, which is supported by the fact that 84 percent of the global population has access to mobile-broadband networks (3G or above). However, mobile-broadband networks reach just 67 percent of the global rural population. 

With respect to Long-Term Evolution, commonly marketed as 4G LTE, a standard for wireless communication of high-speed data for mobile phones and data terminals, "LTE networks have spread quickly over the last three years and reach almost 4 billion people today (53% of the global population), enhancing the quality of Internet use."

World's Offline
Population, 2016: ITU
The digital divide remains a significant problem in 2016. The ITU claims that "close to one out of two people (47%) in the world are using the Internet but only one out of seven people in the LDCs. Developed regions are home to one billion Internet users, compared to 2.5 billion users in the developing world."

It is encouraging, however, to read that "in developing countries, the number of mobile-broadband subscriptions continues to grow at double digit rates, reaching a penetration rate of close to 41%. The total number of mobile-broadband subscriptions is expected to reach 3.6 billion by end 2016."

Not surprisingly, lower costs to access ICT services via mobile devices is a key driver to smartphone and LTE adoption, particularly in developing countries. "The average price of a basic fixed-broadband plan is more than twice as high as the average price of a comparable mobile-broadband plan," says the ITU. The report further explains that 83 developing countries had achieved the Broadband Commission's affordability target by end 2015. While five LDCs achieved the Broadband Commission target, broadband, fixed or mobile, remains unaffordable in a majority of the world's poorest countries.

Internet Penetration Rate for
Men and Women, 2016: ITU
For the first time, the ITU report provides statistical data regarding the Internet penetration rate for men and women. Disappointingly, "Internet penetration rates are higher for men than for women in all regions of the world." The report continues: "The global Internet user gender gap grew from 11% in 2013 to 12% in 2016. The gap remains large in the world's Least Developed Countries (LDCs) - at 31%. In 2016, the regional gender gap is largest in Africa (23%) and smallest in the Americas (2%)."

Also for the first time, the report provides statistical data on machine-to-machine (M2M) subscriptions as the Internet of Things (IoT) economy is beginning to accelerate. The report notes that "the countries with the highest M2M penetration rates are highly industrialized, advanced economies, including the Northern European countries of Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark."

What are your impressions of the ITU report?

Aaron Rose serves as President and CEO of ROI3, Inc., a Seattle, Wash.-based company that empowers people in emerging economies through innovative, technology-based solutions. He is also the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

August 16, 2016

Your Invitation to Experience ROI3's Initial Mobile Demo Apps

It is my pleasure to announce that my colleagues and I at ROI3, Inc. have completed the development of our English Language Learning demo apps. When fully developed, our apps will provide people from China with the opportunity to learn English language skills with an emphasis on the use of the language in aviation or medical settings. Our apps address technical terminology in these professions, in English, for Chinese language-speaking or -capable users. You are hereby invited to download and experience the apps on your Android or iOS device. After you have experienced the apps, we would appreciate your completing a brief online survey. Upon the completion of the survey, you will have the opportunity to enter to win one of two $25 gift cards.*

For Android users, please click on the links below to initiate the process of downloading the app file onto your smartphone or tablet:


Since our apps are considered non-market, third-party apps (i.e., not available through any app store), Android users may need to change their Settings our install the APK file. To install the APK file on your Android device, tap "Settings," select "Application Settings" and then enable "Unknown Sources."

Please email techsupport@roi3.com for assistance with downloading or navigating through the Android apps.

For iOS users, please click on the links below to initiate the process of downloading the app file onto your smartphone or tablet:

Download ROI3's ELL Aviation app for iOS (and click on the orange icon that says "直接下载")
Download ROI3's ELL Medical app for iOS (and click on the orange icon that says "直接下载") 

Since our apps are considered non-market, third-party apps (i.e., not available through any app store), iOS users may need to change their Settings our install the PLIST file. To install the PLIST file on your iOS device, tap Settings > General > Profiles & Device Management > iSoftStone Information Technology(Group)Co.,Ltd.

Please email techsupport@roi3.com for assistance with downloading or navigating through the iOS apps.


My colleagues and I have now are now entering a new exciting chapter as we begin to implement our sales and marketing strategy. I want to express my sincerest appreciation to my friends and family for their continuing support. I also want to thank my business partners, advisors, mentors, and talented colleagues, past and current, for their efforts in helping build ROI3 into a successful venture.

*No purchase necessary. Gift cards are for Amazon.com or Starbucks, depending on the residency of the survey respondent. Sweepstakes ends on Sept. 30, 2016 at 11:59:59 pm Pacific Daylight Time. Winners will be notified on Oct. 7, 2016. Void where prohibited.

Aaron Rose serves as President and CEO of ROI3, Inc., a Seattle, Wash.-based company that empowers people in emerging economies through innovative, technology-based solutions. He is also the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

July 16, 2016

Resources for Globally-Minded Small Businesses

Image: http://ow.ly/XPGH302jHgz
On May 25, 2016, I attended "Startup Global Seattle" in Seattle, Wash. Sponsored by Microsoft Accelerator Seattle, the Global Innovation Forum, the U.S. Department of Commerce and Silicon Valley Bank, the forum's focus was on exploring "the opportunities and challenges for startups and small businesses in the global marketplace and to discover resources to help your globally-minded business succeed." This event featured several panelists discussing key topics such as navigating international compliance and protecting intellectual property, succeeding in the global digital economy and global e-commerce, and understanding how to access the resources to reach new markets.

I agree with the remarks made by Jeremy Snodgrass, an attorney specializing on IP licensing at Microsoft, that startups and small businesses should understand the full range of their IP assets. In my experience of advising business owners and entrepreneurs, many are aware of patents as an IP asset but they overlook (or underestimate) the valuable role trademarks and copyright provide to their company's IP asset portfolio. While it is necessary to retain legal counsel in navigating the IP filing process to protect a company's invention or brand, I recommend that every entrepreneur take advantage of the excellent resources that the United States Patent and Trademark Office provide with respect to patents and trademarks.

Diana Mooney, Director of the U.S. Commercial Service Seattle, noted that many small business owners can find useful information through Export.gov, which "provides trusted market intelligence, practical advice and business tools to help U.S. companies expand in global markets." Throughout my professional career, I have routinely used Export.gov as a primary resource in learning about the opportunities and challenges of doing business globally. Small business owners and corporate executives alike will find value in many of the export guides available through www.export.gov/Export-Guides.

For example, Country Commercial Guides, which are prepared by trade and industry experts at U.S. embassies worldwide, provide important information such as market conditions, opportunities, regulations, and business customs for over 125 countries. These guides are an excellent starting point to find everything you need to know about doing business overseas, detailing eight important factors to help you decide if a market is right for your product or service: 
  1. Doing Business in ...: Provides a broad overview of the market and the top reasons why U.S. companies should consider exporting here. Recommends strategies for entering the market and summarizes challenges or barriers for U.S. companies;
  2. Political and Economic Environment: Links to the State Department's website for background information on the country's political environment, its bilateral relationship with the U.S. and the country's membership in international organizations;
  3. Selling U.S. Products and Services: Provides guidance and best practices for selling U.S. products and services in the market, includes typical use of agents and selling to the government. Provides steps for establishing an office or joint-venture/licensing partner, and conducting due diligence. Discusses the state of e-commerce, franchising, and direct marketing;
  4. Leading Sectors for U.S. Exports and Investment: Identifies the top industry sectors that have potential in the market. Provides a general overview of each sector, including trade data, challenges, sub-sector best prospects, and a list of relevant websites and trade shows;
  5. Trade Regulations, Customs and Standards: Describes trade regulations, customs and standards in the market. Provides information on import tariffs and documentation U.S firms should be aware of when exporting, including any prohibited items or temporary entry procedures;
  6. Investment Climate Statement: Describes the country's openness to foreign investments and provides information on the country's investment policies, the labor market, political violence and levels of corruption. Describes foreign trade zones and laws for protecting property rights;
  7. Trade and Project Financing: Describes the country's financial system and how U.S. firms typically get paid. Describes the banking system and provides information on foreign exchange controls in the market. Describes important sources of funding for project financing; and 
  8. Business Travel: Describes relevant business travel information and business customs, includes any special visa or entry requirements, potential health risks, travel advisories and information on travelling around the country.
My colleagues and I at ROI3, Inc. regularly refer to the China Country Commercial Guide as we develop mobile applications for smartphone and tablet users in the world's largest mobile phone market. We are also utilizing the Country Commercial Guide for other countries as we explore new business opportunities in Southeast Asia, South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa.

As a startup entrepreneur or small business owner, what resources do you utilize as you prepare to expand into foreign markets?

Aaron Rose serves as President and CEO of ROI3, Inc., a Seattle, Wash.-based company that empowers people in emerging economies through innovative, technology-based solutions. He is also the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

May 15, 2016

Business Success in China Resides in Learning How to Communicate with its People

"Understanding China is not about learning the law and regulations, it's about understanding the people," Randall Lewis, Vice President, International Counsel at ConAgra Foods, correctly noted during a webinar produced by LexisNexis on Apr. 27, 2016. He continued to say: "It's about learning how to communicate with the [Chinese] people and embracing a new way to view the world." The webinar, "Is Your IP China-Ready?" focused on intellectual property (IP) risk prevention in the Chinese marketplace.

Mr. Lewis, together with Dan Harris, a founding member of Harris & Moure, addressed a multitude of topics including choosing a good Chinese partner, identifying the IP assets that need protection, structuring your deal to protect your IP, conducting post-deal due diligence, drafting China contracts to protect your IP, and choosing language for arbitration, forum and the ability to seek local injunctions carved out from any arbitration clause.

Mr. Lewis expressed that "one of the most important things about China is its politics." If you do not understand Chinese politics, Mr. Lewis asserts, then it is difficult to structure a business transaction or resolve a legal dispute. Furthermore, China is a political economy where the entire country is ruled by its politics. In fact, Mr. Lewis explained, Chinese politics are embedded in all institutions including the judiciary, education, and most large companies. With respect to the Chinese government's role in business, Mr. Lewis said the government often lacks sophistication and institutional framework, and foreigners may encounter a less professional demeanor from Chinese government officials compared to what they may be accustomed to in their home market.

On the topic of choosing a business partner in China, Mr. Lewis encourages foreign businesses to identify the decision-maker of the potential Chinese partner, as well as the most powerful person within the company. He also explained that the Chinese business partner places a higher emphasis on personal relationships than a contract and "how you say something is more important than what you say."

Foreign companies should expect contract negotiations to occur over a long period of time, which foreign companies are unaccustomed to and may find frustrating. To facilitate the process, Mr. Lewis recommends establishing some targets, but not a deadline to make a decision or finalize a deal.

Interestingly, Mr. Lewis remarked that "there are two type of people you will meet in China: an older generation (loosely defined by Mr. Lewis as older than 55 or 60 years of age whom were beneficiaries of Deng Xiaoping's economic reforms) and a younger generation." More experienced Chinese business people may not read contracts before signing them, rely more on Gunaxi (addressed more thoroughly below), and be more aggressive during the negotiating process. Conversely, the younger generation is better educated, may prefer the legal process of contract negotiations, and negotiate more fairly.

Guanxi (关系), which may be described as the basic dynamic in personalized networks of influence (which can be best described as the relationships individuals cultivate with other individuals) and is a central idea in Chinese society, is integral for foreigners to achieve business success in China. While Mr. Lewis explained the importance of relationship-building with Chinese business people through face-to-face meetings, social activities such as drinking together or long dinners in order to get to know them on a personal level, Guanxi is different than corruption. The positive outcomes of Guanxi may include references of honorability or credibility; whereas, a negative outcome is when your connections may help you in an illegal way.

While many of the points Dan Harris presented in this webinar may also be found in a presentation he gave in a webinar on Mar. 30, 2016, which I wrote about in a post on this blog, there are a couple of items that are worth mentioning. First, according to Mr. Harris, many documents produced during the due diligence process in China may be fake. "We have seen fake insurance policies, fake IP registrations, fake contracts, and it just goes on and on and on," Mr. Harris said.

More concisely, according to Mr. Harris, distrust all company information. He also suggests asking people about the Chinese company you are seeking to do business with including visiting the company's office or facility. Scrutinizing the paper may also help identify whether or not the document presented by a Chinese company is fake.

And how often does the production of fake documents happen in China? Mr. Harris says it happens all the time and his firm is often required to review "at least two sets of books with one of them being fake" when performing due diligence on behalf of his clients. The production of fake documents "is very common in China."

I also appreciate Mr. Harris' point: "Structure your deal and write your contract so that the Chinese partner believes it will make more money with you than without you." This is important because of the challenge foreign companies may encounter in enforcing a contract in the Chinese court system. Moreover, Chinese companies operate differently compared to American companies. If the former believes the latter is no longer useful, the odds of the Chinese company abiding by the contract decreases, Mr. Harris explained. "It is very important for you to understand Chinese business, China's economy, and write your contract accordingly," he added.

While this post addresses just a few of the many interesting and relevant points from the webinar about doing business in China, you can view the webinar in its entirety through this website and download the presentation slides through SlideShare.

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.