Enterprise

Trade war: How the US played its trump card wrong

The dragon is no longer sleeping

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The US and China are embroiled in a trade war and the last few months have witnessed unprecedented escalation from both sides. Tensions between the two countries are ongoing and virtually two power blocs have been created. The conflict has also changed everyone’s outlook on technology forever.

US President Donald Trump banned American companies from working with Huawei, one of China’s largest technology companies. This meant Huawei could no longer use American technology, including Android. Thankfully, an interim resolution lets Huawei transact with American counterparts right now.

However, this was a blaring reminder for China. It depends too much on the US for technology and this needs to end. For two power blocs, interdependence isn’t an option. And the US played its trump card at the wrong time, in a wrong way.

Trade war affecting free flow of tech

Technology has been freely flowing since the inception of the Internet. Everyone has been connected to a neutral medium of communication except for a few countries. The flow of information has been so fast, yet transparent. Adding to this, open-source has been a boon for everyone since technology is never restricted and everyone gets a chance to experience it.

Even if a service or product is proprietary, companies have been quick to monetize it via licensing. There are apps that are built in one country and used by citizens of another country that’s thousands of miles away. In a nutshell, we’ve always imagined modern or digital technology to be easily transferable.

But, the US proved it can stop this flow of sanctions or bans, only to reverse the decision. We can call this saber-rattling. They wanted to serve a warning and the message has been received. However, China also realized one thing, it needs to become truly independent.

China’s alternatives

The Chinese internet is different from the rest of the world’s internet. It’s guarded by a nation-wide firewall and heavily censored by the state. A few services like Google and Facebook aren’t available. This has already made way for homegrown alternatives like Baidu, Weibo, and WeChat.

Now, Huawei is gearing up for the worst. It accelerated work on its own operating system, HarmonyOS. It’s expected to roll-out slowly in the coming quarters. In a bid to challenge Google Maps, they’re also planning to unveil a mapping service known as Map Kit.

Every Chinese company would be scrambling to create a backup plan, preparing for the worst. In the short term, they’ll suffer due to sudden shortcomings. But in the longer run, the US loses its leverage.

The ban is bad for progress

The US government’s ban on Huawei is ill-timed. The company is a leader in 5G deployment due to its patents and manufacturing ability. The world needs Huawei to effectively deploy the next standard of wireless communication. If the US wants its allies to avoid Huawei, alternatives need to be available, and that’s not the case.

Even US companies aren’t very fond of getting dragged in the trade war. Trump agreed that tariffs on China will hamper Apple’s ability to compete with Samsung. Not to forget all the revenue US companies lose after sanctions are applied or the Chinese develop their own alternative.

Other countries also have only two options — get in line with the US or develop its own cushion. A territorial divide has also prompted countries like India to lobby for data localization. In case relations turn sour tomorrow, how much control do you want to give others?

These questions and hypothetical scenarios are often considered to be an exaggeration. And I don’t blame them. But the US could’ve used this trump card later, actually benefiting from it.

Apps

Grab kickstarts growth of digital economy in the Philippines

Here’s how Grab can help small businesses sell more

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For almost a decade, Grab affixed itself as a staple in Filipinos’ lives. The ride-hailing app’s advent revolutionized mobility in the Philippines, making living in the metro relatively convenient.

In 2020, Grab takes things a step further, launching Small Business Booster Program. Moreover, the company partnered with the Department of Agriculture, Department of Tourism, and the Department of Trade and Industry.

Grab is aiming to support local businesses in their transition to a growing digital economy. It seeks to bridge the gap between MSMEs and consumers relying on digital-based services. Furthermore, it kickstarted initiatives that are accessible to small business owners — particularly mom-and-pops or independent, family-owned businesses.

Transitioning to digital services

“Small, independent businesses are the backbone of our economy,” according to Grab Philippines Brian Cu.

Believing that supporting government initiatives will help these businesses rejuvenate the economy amid the pandemic, the Small Business Booster Program strives to provide digital support to businesses, such as GrabMerchant.

This all-in-one platform helps business owners augment their customer base efficiently. Some features include Insights — providing analytics to a merchant’s sales, marketing campaigns, and its customers’ profile and buying behavior.

There’s also an ads creation tool, which allows merchant-partners to create their own advertisements and track performance in Grab’s platform.

GrabMerchant is available to existing Grab merchant-partners as an app. A web portal is already in the works, which will roll out by the end of August 2020. Currently, there are over 78,000 merchant-partners onboarded in the Grab app across Southeast Asia.

In the Philippines, Grab recorded almost 12,000 merchants between March and June 2020, with small businesses seeing at least 57 percent growth in their online revenues. Interested merchants can sign up through this link.

Photo by Grab Philippines

Free, personalized ads

Aside from GrabMerchant’s Ads creation tool, Grab is committed to supporting Filipino merchants with advertising solutions. Most merchant-partners saw up to 300 percent return on ad spend, after placing an ad on GrabFood’s homepage.

Through its “Homegrown Heroes” initiative, Grab will create personalized ads for over 1,000 merchant-partners, featuring their businesses for five weeks on the most prominent spaces within the app. Costs and resources required to produce materials will be covered by Grab.

An easy way to receive payments

If you’re a social seller, take advantage of Grab’s Offline to Online (O2O) Merchant Support Program. Businesses with no online presence can set up their online stores, and utilize an integrated GrabPay checkout for virtual payments through a landing page on Grab.com.

Since the lockdown, people turned to social selling for sustenance. However, online selling plies with tricky payment methods. Grab aims to ease purchasing and receiving payments through its Remote GrabPay link solution, where sellers can hand out URLs to their customers.

These links will allow customers to make direct payments from their GrabPay Wallet, which sellers receive easily. Access the service through this link.

Connecting rural entrepreneurs

Grab is also leveraging its leadership in technology and innovation to help expand livelihood opportunities to Filipino farmers across the country.

It has been actively working with local governments in helping traditional ecosystems maintain their presence in a growing digital economy. Together with the Department of Agriculture’s Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita program and the Department of Tourism’s Philippine Harvest Initiative, Grab seeks to create an avenue for Filipino farmers to earn through the Grab platform. More importantly, their fresh produce will be delivered to customers across Metro Manila.

To learn more about Grab’s response in the COVID-19 impact, check their social report, Grab for Good through this link.

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Enterprise

Facebook, to boycotters: ‘You’ll be back’

They won’t change any policies

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Between piling privacy issues and moderation controversies, Facebook is facing a reckoning. The company’s own employees have already started to revolt against Mark Zuckerberg’s stances on current issues. Externally, Zuckerberg is also under fire from its huge slate of advertisers. Since last week, the world’s biggest brands have started pulling out of the platform’s advertising opportunities. The list includes Starbucks, Unilever, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, PlayStation, and counting.

As the boycott gains momentum, the ball is on Zuckerberg’s court. Unfortunately, based on a leaked transcript of an internal meeting obtained by The Information, the Facebook boss has no intentions of taking the boycott seriously.

According to Zuckerberg, Facebook will not change any internal policies or strategies “because of a threat to a small percent of [their] revenue.” He assures the company that the boycotting brands don’t make a dent on their bottom line. True enough, Facebook’s revenue stream relies mostly on advertising, wherein millions of companies post ads on the platform.

Further, Zuckerberg claims that “these advertisers will be back on the platform soon enough.” Though ballsy, his statements echo an odd strategy to downplay the effects of the boycott. If anything, he also plans to meet with boycotting brands to develop a compromise for the situation. Of course, whatever the compromise will be, it won’t change anything substantial in the company’s overall policies.

Whether you believe in Zuckerberg’s braggadocio or not, screaming “you’ll be back” at dissatisfied customers is an ill-advised practice in public relations. As of now, the boycott is still full steam ahead. Only time will tell if more advertisers will join the battle.

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Enterprise

US is calling Huawei, ZTE a national security threat

The odds aren’t in China’s favor

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The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) designated Huawei and ZTE as a national security threat. This doesn’t come as a surprise since the US has been trying to sideline the two Chinese telecom equipment companies for months.

However, with the new designation comes a flood of bad news for the two companies. The action means carriers won’t be able to use money from federal subsidies to buy or maintain equipment from the two companies. While the US has actively tried to reduce its dependence on Huawei or ZTE gear, the latest announcement is an indication of escalation.

FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks said on Tuesday that “untrustworthy equipment” continues to remain a part of US telecom infrastructure. He asked Congress to allocate funding to replace the remaining equipment.

Three state-controlled telecom operators — China Telecom Americas, China Unicom Americas, Pacific Networks Corp, are also on the grinding block. FCC is considering termination of its authorization to operate.

Huawei is combatting issues on multiple fronts at the moment. The US has lobbied allied countries to avoid Huawei or ZTE technology. Furthermore, Huawei is barred from transacting with American counterparts like Google. Its consumer smartphone division has come to a startling halt since the phones can’t run the full capabilities of Android via Google Mobile Services.

ZTE too has been out of luck. In 2018, US President Donald Trump had said that of the two vendors, ZTE could continue trading after paying a fine of US$ 1.3 billion, and providing “high-level security guarantees.” However, the latest designation again puts the company in an impossible spot.

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