Building a tech-enabled ecosystem: The Chinese conversation

28/09/2021 20mins
Shaibana S


It is the Chinese culture of 'innovation and failing fast', that drives the Chinese financial conglomerate Ping An's expansion beyond traditional sector boundaries and its early adoption of emerging technologies.

Companies in their drive to stay ahead of digital competition have made ambitious strides and strategic moves beyond their traditional sector boundaries. This is particularly noticeable in China, where we have seen the rapid rise and expansion of players like Alibaba and Tencent that has made way for the creation of massive “ecosystems,” that spans e-commerce, finance, and logistics.

Recently, it is China's own financial conglomerate Ping An, that hit the news. It has expanded beyond insurance to a broader set of ecosystems, such as banking, healthcare, smart cities, and housing, in a major move perhaps the first mover, at a scale that most companies can only dream of.

In the past five years, Ping An could accumulate over 500 million online users. It is credited with creating 11 new digital platforms across industries, and increased its number of insurance agents to 1.4 million with the help of the company's digital tools and apps.

Ping An's commitment to investing in emerging technologies has been the most important driver of this expansion. It now directs 1 percent of its annual revenue that is around $1 billion towards tech investment.

In an interview, conducted by a global management consulting firm, McKinsey's Joe Ngai, the deputy CEO of Ping An, Jessica Tan is seen discussing on the recent developments and about the power of freeing employees from the fear of failure.

Jessica Tan's answer to Ping An's ecosystem strategy:

Ping An's idea has been to create platforms to draw in customers who would be potential buyers to our financial-services products. The company started with five ecosystems by offering services for free. Quoting an example of the app 'Our Good Doctor app', which provided users with free medical consultations and other services. Gradually, over time, users began to buy the products. In the first three years, she frankly admits that it was difficult to just build everything and like any other start-up, the new platforms needed time to get to scale.


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