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Big Data: the energy powering the technology era

BIG data is changing our interface with technology, moulding the Internet, optimising user experience to meet individuals' needs and desires. For foresighted businesses harnessing massive user data, the benefits are seemingly limitless, enabling realtime adjustments, highly responsive business models and a cascade of new revenue streams.

In Asia, the age of information technology is quickly transitioning into an era of Big Data technology.

In this new era, cooperation among companies in Singapore, South-east Asia and China has never been more important. In this region, where we share so many cultural and economic influences, the data insights generated by a billion users in China will yield far greater value for business than anything that originates in the US or Europe.

And this new era is without question good for business. According to the International Institute for Analytics, companies using data will see US$430 billion in productivity benefits compared to their competition not using data by 2020.

We are already seeing a trend towards closer collaboration in the region and this will quicken as companies seek Big Data to deliver competitive advantage, and realise that the better the data, the greater the advantage.

The application and benefits of Big Data are already much in evidence - smart health care, voice recognition, online education, product recommendations, and even dating services. And this is very much the tip of the iceberg. Big Data is powering businesses to work smarter, refine their offerings and get closer to customers.


The scale of data that can be collected is astonishing; by 2020, data from nearly 38.5 billion Internet of Things (IoT) enabled devices will be available to companies to sift, store and analyse. And there's no question that we will continue generating larger and larger volumes of data, be it through apps, crowd-sourced data collection such as online reviews and wearables.

Indeed, the Asia-Pacific region is on the cusp of an online shopping boom. We predict that over 50 per cent of China's consumption will be conducted online within 10 years. Here in Singapore, a report by Google and Temasek revealed that the city-state's e-commerce market will reach US$5.4 billion by 2025, up from US$1 billion in 2015.

Our mobile Taobao e-commerce app is the biggest in the world by Gross Merchandise Volume (GMV) and over 150 million people visit every single day. The amount of data these visits generate means we can provide innovation, insights and smarter solutions like never before.

For example, we know that that almost a third of users are in the 18-24 age bracket, with just over a quarter in the 25-29 age group. These young customers are increasingly discerning. They expect an enhanced, highly personalised and localised experience when they open their browsers. One size no longer fits all.


To harness the true power of Big Data, businesses need to work with Big Data companies that can offer access to data beyond the confines of their own customer base. This is the sweet spot of Big Data. Knowing how tastes are evolving, what product range in their segment is selling fastest - learning from the activities of all users, not only their customers. And there are no bigger data companies than in China, with Alibaba by far the biggest.

At Alibaba we take all our businesses, including commerce, payment, logistics, marketing services, cloud computing and use them to create powerful data. We then use that data to help our partners do business better in this fast-changing digital world.

Lazada is now being integrated into the Alibaba ecosystem, where it can tap analytics based on vast amounts of data to help drive growth in Singapore and across the 560 million consumers it reaches in Southeast Asia.

We are in a Big Data technology era and fast-developing Singaporean and South-east Asian startups need to harness the power that Big Data companies in China can offer to supercharge their growth.

  • The writer is a co-founder of Alibaba Group and is managing director of Alibaba Singapore.