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Stories Asia

When a crisis becomes an opportunity

A culture of innovation fuels business resilience and economic recovery

Innovation becomes a necessity in a time of crisis. And history tells us that by adapting, humankind can progress to a much better place. With COVID-19, “we have witnessed firsthand how a wave of transformative change has swept across the region,” says Ahmed Mazhari, president of Microsoft Asia. “This is no easy feat; organizations have challenges to overcome, and innovation is no longer a luxury. It has to form the core part of an organization’s DNA.”

Many in the business world agree. A new Microsoft-IDC study, Culture of Innovation, Foundation for business resilience and economic recovery in Asia Pacific, shows that 41% of organizations surveyed regard the pandemic as an opportunity to innovate and rethink their business models. The same enterprises also expect to bounce back with similar or better revenues than before the current economic crisis.

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Ahmed MazhariCulture of innovation: A recipe for economic recovery and resilience

Why does innovation matter? Shouldn’t we minimize risk and play it safe during a crisis? In the struggle for survival, doesn’t it make more sense to conserve resources and hunker down? On the contrary, innovative organizations expect to recover from the pandemic faster. One-third of culture of innovation leaders expect to increase market share despite the pandemic. And 45% expect their businesses to fully recover in less than six months. To attain resilience and success, we will need to look to the key four ingredients in the culture of innovation.


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All great chefs know that the best dishes come about through generations of experimentation, innovation, and improving from feedback with customer-centricity in mind. In the same way, we must not be complacent but seek constant improvement in these four areas – people, data, processes, and technology – to serve the people we are impacting better.

Ahmed Mazhari, President, Microsoft Asia

A culture of innovation fuels business resilience and economic recovery

  • 74% of all business decision-makers in Asia Pacific say innovation is now a ‘must’, not just a good to have; they see the ability to innovate as vital to performance and resilience, according to a new Microsoft-IDC study
  • Almost all (98%) leading organizations with the most advanced culture of innovation share the same belief that innovation is key to responding quickly to market challenges and opportunities; they are more resilient to crises like the current pandemic, and expect to recover faster
    • 50% more leaders, in comparison with other organizations, expect to grow their revenue in 2020
    • 1 in 3 leaders expect to increase their market share despite the pandemic
    • 45% of leaders believe that their organizations will recover from the COVID-19 crisis in six months or less

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What our customers say …

Understand consumers, upskill workers

“Our approach to innovation is: ‘We need to do this, with specific goals, from top to bottom.’ People must be able to feel the benefits that transformation brings to the entire company and its employees .” – Marvin Lee, Far EasTone Telecommunications, Taiwan

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Step-by-step innovation

“We do not limit where an idea comes from. It can be internal or cross-department … but we can work closely together.” Wei Bi, Lenovo, China

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Protecting pharmaceutical supply chains

“Everybody was impacted. Everybody had to wake up to a new reality. We had to adapt.. Because we upgraded the company’s systems and migrated to cloud-based services with Microsoft Azure, what would have taken weeks to do before can now be done in days. What would have taken months or years to launch can now be implemented in weeks.” – Tom Vanmolkot, Zuellig Pharma, Asia Pacific

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Saving Sri Lanka’s tea industry

A new e-auction solution “has transformed the lives of almost two million people in the Sri Lanka tea industry by sheltering them from the consequences of a COVID-19 shutdown. The e-auction, with all its competitiveness and nuances, was launched in less than a week through herculean effort, dedication, strong collaboration between stakeholders.” –  Anil Cooke, Ceylon Tea Trade Association, Sri Lanka

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The culture of powering up

“Over the years, Meralco gradually came into this culture of adaptability that is distinctly ours. It’s a key strength of this company, and it’s not something we stumbled upon it’s something we built. That kind of culture is the best foundation to build upon, through technology, to achieve growth and transformation.” – Ray Espinosa, Manila Electric Company, Philippines

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Agility in a changing market

“In our original business case, we were very focused on the flexibility to scale up the environment in line with the strong growth trajectory the business has been on. In this situation we’ve been able to scale down and reduce that cost, knowing that as the industry recovers and volumes increase, we can turn things back up. Just a whole level of flexibility that we’ve never had before.” – Andrew Stoneham, Joval Wine Group, Australia

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Helping farmers

“Our digital strategy … fully supports our overall commitment to develop the economy from the grassroots level and sustainably elevate the quality of life for farmers. Modern organizations have to adjust their strategies and objectives to fit current circumstances in an agile and flexible way. In many cases, success now requires cooperation across multiple parties and can no longer be attained by a sole winner.” – Apirom Sukprasert, Bank of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives, Thailand

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Disrupting fashion with data

“The amount of data from which we learn today is six to seven times more than the pre-COVID world … We’re now selling what consumers want and not what we want to sell. The credit also goes to the brands that responded to these insights in a matter of days and not weeks.” – Amar Nagaram, Myntra, India

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Responding to a pandemic

“The care of our patients and staff is always our number one priority … Technology has the potential to help us closely track the progress of patients from afar without breaking (COVID-19) quarantine or isolation, keeping patients connected to arrange urgent medical care, if required. It’s also incredibly exciting to think about some of the future benefits we may be able to offer to our patients.” – Dr. Jason Kwong, Austin Health, Australia

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Automating agriculture

“We are fully aligned with Microsoft’s mission of empowering others. We want to improve the lives of people around the world with technology … Once you set up a 3D model of the farm, you don’t need to modify it until you do some modification or construction work that alters the plot. So you can use it for many years.” –  James Wu, FJ Dynamics, China

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Clean energy innovation

“Both Microsoft’s products and its people were critical to the regulator’s rapid and successful move to the cloud ‘just in time’ to quickly work from home in response to COVID-19.  We now have a strong foundation to pursue further innovation.” – Mark Williamson, Clean Energy Regulator, Australia

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Transforming customer experiences

“We see the opportunities going forward to create more visibility and transparency on the customer journey. The system puts the power in the customer’s hands, in terms of when, where and how they want to interact with us.” – Nick Mittas, Bankwest, Australia

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