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In America, the tech companies we focus on are commonly known as FAANG: Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google. We all know what these companies do because they impact our daily lives. In Asia, there are three giant tech companies that have similar scale: Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent, otherwise known as BAT.
Technology within a location is shaped by the pressures of that location. You might think we live in a global society, but tech in Asia is dramatically different than it is in America. Differences in culture lead to differences in product development.
In China, a different political system contributed to more rapid adoption of online payments. Because there is more payment data, people can be given loans more efficiently. Less of the population is “unbanked.” Online payments are mostly handled by WeChat, a social networking product from Tencent, and Alibaba, an ecommerce giant. If you live in the West, imagine that Facebook and Amazon handled most of your payments for everything. You would have a different relationship with those companies.
Bernard Leong is the host of Analyse Asia, a podcast about Asian developments in technology in business. After studying materials science in Singapore and theoretical physics at Cambridge, he made his way into business and journalism, and developed an interest in the Singularity–a subject that few people took seriously until recently (one topic we explored in this show is Masayoshi Son, the Japanese tycoon who wants to invest nearly a trillion dollars into technology companies; Masayoshi believes firmly that the Singularity is coming).
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