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EQT’s first New Retail Forum hosted in Shanghai

Last week, EQT hosted its first New Retail Forum gathering some 50 participants from across EQT’s portfolio companies and Industrial Network as well as leading consulting firms working closely with EQT in Asia.

The theme of the forum was “New Retail – Technology Enabled Digital Transformation”. CEO’s and industrial experts shared their views on the challenges and opportunities within the retail industry following the rapid growth of AI-based and big data driven interactions with customers, manufacturers and retailers. The forum discussed how retail will develop over the next coming 3-5 years covering “buzz words” such as new retail, omni-channel marketing, intelligent interaction and big data analysis.

Jerry He, Partner and Head of EQT Partners China, gave the opening speech and elaborated on the fast retail industry evolution and emergence of new technologies, and how it all drives changed consumer behaviors. The trend of online/offline integration is accelerating and the entire industry is in the midst of a massive disruption. Jerry also explained how EQT strives to always stay at the forefront supporting and encouraging the portfolio companies to be agile, embrace change and take advantage of the opportunities that the technology transformation brings.

Another speaker was Weiwen Han, Managing Director of Bain Greater China. He dug deeper into the actual concept of New Retail and how it redefines and reconstructs the three core elements of retail: people, merchandise and marketplace. The ability to collect and analyze data to better understand consumer behavior will be the key competing area.

Next on the agenda was a case study on HEMA, an iconic venture in New Retail in China. Jack Chuang, Partner of OC&C Consulting, used the case study to emphasize the importance of better understanding the customer demand and decision-making process. His stated that customer needs are the building block of everything, and that companies should take advantage of the new technologies to increase efficiency. Lei Zhu, Partner of DTT Digital, continued with an overview of various digital implementations to enable retailers to manage individual customer interface.

The New Retail Forum also introduced the digital strategies of three EQT Asia portfolio companies. Firstly, LBX Pharmacy, a China A-share listed company and the No.1 pharmacy retail chain brand measured by comprehensive strength. Weicheng Liu, Head of New Retail, described LBX’s O2O strategy and how the company plans to apply for instance AI, community e-commerce and online clinics to set up an integrated digital health management platform.

Secondly, Artwall, the leading wallcovering brand owner in China, has sharpened its retail strategy in recent years. Ling Li, the CEO of Artwall, said that by leveraging its world leading flexible production technology, customized design, as well as VR-based customer experience tools, Artwall is building a technology platform targeting a C2M (consumer to manufacturer) future.

Thirdly, Alan Hsu, CEO of CFB Group, one of the largest and most diversified multi-brand restaurant groups in China , shared their digital transformation experience. It was an overwhelming process but achieved “thumb work space” (meaning that everything is now available on smart phones, accessible using simply a finger) in the entire organization.

In the concluding remarks, Martin Mok, Partner and Head of EQT Partners Asia, said that retail companies are facing severe challenges and a dynamic changing environment every day. “In times of rapid change, EQT can support entrepreneurs and company owners in Asia to capture the development opportunities by applying its industrial approach and leveraging the global Industrial Network with some 500 experts across the globe.”