• Madani Sahari

seizing the early advantage

The story of Amazon is a classic case study in the way a visionary entrepreneur implemented a business strategy while maneuvering the pitfalls of a new, infant market with very little initial demand.

As a member of the very short list of trillion-dollar companies, owned by the world’s first centibillionaire Jeff Bezos, it has become a global brand icon of sustainable ingenuity in the modern age of mass connectivity through the Internet boom at the turn of the 21st century.

Historically, the company was not the inventor of online shopping. The concept emerged in the 1980s, a decade before Amazon was incorporated in 1994. However, Bezos took advantage of the retail of music and videos through his platform, before establishing the brand as a major seller of books in Europe.

The major breakthrough for the company was the development of Amazon Web Services in 2002, in which the company moved from a platform for retail to a service provider of platforms for players to conduct their businesses online. Similar retail platforms started emerging, such as Lazada in 2012, taking the first-mover advantage as mass platforms have not gained traction at the time in Southeast Asia.

The key takeaway is this: first movers gain a strong advantage when there is a demand for a particular service or product. The main issue is identifying the opportunities, risks, and timing to make a calculated guess on developing such a venture. We know that the car is rapidly evolving from being a transport vessel to a connected lifestyle domain — a liveable space to perform daily activities beyond the traditional “waiting room” during our daily commute.

Trends indicate cars will be autonomous, requiring connection to infrastructure, environment, other vehicles and everything, including pedestrians and cyclists. Battery-based powertrains and autonomous navigation are expected to become the dominant technology in the next few decades, and more convergence will be seen in new areas such as nanotechnology, telecommunication, and big data management.

Even sectors such as human resource management, marketing, legal and urban planning, etc, will become more relevant to the transport (mobility) sector. This convergence is expected to create a new mega sector called connected mobility. As seen in motor shows around the world last year, the anticipation of this transformation is real. In this region, however, perhaps the over-dependence on fossil fuels as well as the governance along the lines of the “middle-income trap” dampen the urgency to take such opportunities seriously.

On top of this, new business models will emerge as the transport and connectivity sectors merge into “mobility as a service” and as aspects of our lives and business that require transport take on different ownerships and modes in the future.

The opportunities that arise from this shift have been discussed in this column for the last two years. First-mover opportunities are present in the region as more interest in electromobility, connected transportation and mobility services begin to gain public attention. It is high time we quickly moved to take early advantage of this through business strategies and skills that allow us to reach full momentum by the time such public attraction becomes full-fledged market demand.

To address the risks of the early movement, the new National Automotive Policy will continue its proven framework of customised incentives for investments into advanced mobility technology, be they in products, services or platforms.

The policy will be strengthened by shared research, engineering and testing platforms such as electric vehicle testbeds, autonomous testbeds and other centres of excellence to lower barriers for local participation, especially among small and medium enterprises.

The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii)

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