CIO Academy Asia was invited by Shivani Saini, Head of Tech, Asia Pacific of GSK Consumer Healthcare to attend and witness an oxford style debate called Funnovation at the GSK Asia House on Mar 28, 2019.

A topic close to their business for winning in GSK Consumer Healthcare Asia Pacific.  Shoppers are demanding. They expect products to be available online, but also a trustful and impeccable in-store service. They expect the experience to be frictionless, immediate, personalized and private and sustainable.  Retail shopping is likely to change more in the next 10 years than it has in the last 1000 years. To understand the trends, viewpoints, and insights, four panelists were invited.

The panelists “for the motion” were Connie Cheng – Trax, EVP of Global Strategic Initiatives and Simon Bell – GSK, APAC Shopper Science Lab Director. The panelists “against the motion” were Mr. Simon Paterson, CEO AAD South East Asia and Sekhar Krishnamoorthy –Chief Products Officer, Latent View Analytics.

“Big companies make what they think is/will be an appealing core product usually on core category benefits, market it well thru broadscale traditional media where they had cost advantages, get sales scale and wait to analyze the results,” said Sekhar. “These advantages are eroding. Innovation life cycles are shortening, broadscale media with a spray-and-pray approach is less effective, eCommerce has eroded traditional go to market scale and the playing field for smaller nimble players is rapidly getting better. Smaller players on the other hand, innovate at the fringes, not at the core, and are not afraid to take risks, fail, try again and grow rapidly thru a series of small wins”.

Simon Bell explained his perspective by replying “Increasingly big businesses are buying the smaller startups with the right/ relevant technology or innovation or route to market so they can adapt it to the bigger play. Giants like Walmart are learning. ‘Walmart’s scale allows them to invest heavily, and like several big players they are adapting and learning from startups. This combination will help them win versus others. For other large companies however, everything seems to be a risk because of regulatory pressures, legal implications and set corporate policies. Whilst some of these maybe real, others are often about culture and mindset. Large companies need to move to ‘What would it take to make it work/ What if it was a success mentality.

“Buying everyone else is not winning or innovating,” Mr. Simon Paterson said. “It’s death by data. Big business says we’ll give you money and advice. They have a lot of money, but little advice. That’s because they’ve never taken the risk, never experimented and failed, and have too many dependencies unlike the startups.”

“Most companies use research like a drunk using a lamp post; they lean on it for support, and not for illumination”.

Regarding data analytics, Sekhar narrated David Ogilvy’s comment about “Most companies use research like a drunk using a lamp post; they lean on it for support, and not for illumination”. Big business and big organisations use them more often to further agendas, getting approvals from gate keepers rather than for true discovery. So big business likes proven performance indicators. Smaller agile players take calculated risks, and prefer probabilities and propensity indicators, quickly course correcting if they misfire” he said. “That’s a big mindset change. Big business is built for scale; startups are built for speed. Big biz likes to keep control, while nimble startups like to experiment , zigging and zagging but getting faster to a destination.”

It was a thought provoking debate. It helped us to reflect what could be holding us. It gave us learnings and ideas on how we need to build capabilities and bring in culture of speed and innovation.