HP: Product design must reflect rapid Asian urbanisation, changing demographics

Asia's growing population needs to have a bigger voice in the global development of new products, which also will need to cater to the region's increasingly young workforce and change in consumption from transactions to subscriptions.

As its population and economies continue to grow, Asia should have a bigger voice in the global development of new products, which will need to cater to the region's increasingly young workforce. Consumption also is moving from transactions to subscriptions, so future product designs should facilitate this change. 

A wave of rapid urbanisation currently was sweeping through Asia, where many were moving into big and mega cities, said HP's president of Asia-Pacific Japan, TC Ng. By 2030, he noted, of the 41 megacities worldwide--each defined to have a population of more than 10 million--22 would be in Asia such as Indonesia's capital Jakarta. 

At the same time, the region's workforce was seeing changing demographics, with millennials comprising 25% of Asian working population. By 2020, this figure was expected to climb to 75%, Ng said in an interview with ZDNet. 

These trends meant that Asia, with a bigger population, would have a bigger voice in the development of future products and technology vendors, such as HP, should look at locating more design centres in this region, he said. These facilities then would build products in Asia and based on insights from Asian customers, he added. 

He declined to reveal how many design centres HP operates worldwide, but said the global design centre for its printers was located in Singapore. It also has an innovation centre for PC and printers in China, exclusively supporting the Chinese market. 

Asia's growth, developing trends such as its rapid urbanisation, and digital transformation would have implications on the kinds of products and services HP sold, said Ng. He added that consumption was moving from transactions to subscriptions--a trend that already was taking place in the printer market. This, for one, had led the vendor to tap online and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to integrate functions that supported the change in consumption. 

In Singapore, for instance, it partnered Challenger to offer an ink delivery service, where--integrated with an auto-detect "low on ink" alerts--HP's WiFi-enabled printers would automatically send alerts to Challenger. The IT retail chain, in turn, would alert their customers via its Value Club app, who then could confirm the replacement order and receive the new cartridges or toners between three and five days, and before their ink ran out.

This service was launched in May with new purchases of compatible HP printers and would be expanded to existing HP customers in the second half of 2019, said Ng, who was responsible for the vendor's operations across 15 markets including Southeast Asia, Japan, China, and India. 

HP does not break down its customers by region, but Asia-Pacific contributed 22% of the company's global revenue in its second quarter of 2019, where it saw total revenue hit US$14 billion. The Americas contributed 42%, while EMEA accounted for 36%. 

Asia-Pacific was the only region to clock a growth in revenue for the quarter, at 7% year-on-year, compared to a 2% drop for the Americas and 1% dip in EMEA.

Ng pointed to Southeast Asia as a big growth market for the vendor, apart from China and India, which traditionally had seen high growth. He noted that while China's economic growth had slowed, and potentially impacted by the ongoing trade war with US, Southeast Asia had proven resilient and was a key focus segment for HP. 

Japan, too, was a high growth market particularly in the PC space--fuelled primarily by a major migration from Windows 7 to Windows 10--and a focus area due to the country's preparation for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, he added.

He also highlighted education, healthcare, manufacturing, and games amongst verticals HP was seeing strong growth. 

Its games-targeted products, in particular, saw strong uptake in markets such as China, which he attributed to the company's efforts in integrating customer insights into its product design. For instance, it developed the dual-screen laptop OMEN X 2S 15 from observing Chinese gamers' habit of playing with a secondary screen such as their mobile phones, which they used to communicate with fellow gamers or watch game tips and livestream during gameplay. 

To ensure it was able to meet the unique needs of consumers in Asia, HP would have to continually invest its efforts in understanding the use cases and environments in which its products would be used, Ng said. Small and midsize businesses in India, for instance, likely would be located in the country's rural areas and would need equipment that were robust and able to operate in such environments. 

He added that localised services and local partnerships were essential to support customers across the various Asian markets.

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