What will be the defining features of successful global technology companies of the future? It’s a question that I believe all of us in the IT world must address if we are to continue forging successful businesses and expanding the possibilities of human endeavour.
Not only are the capabilities of technology changing rapidly, but so is the world in which it will be used. New markets are opening up and driving demand. Younger people, who have never known a world without computers will have completely different expectations than their aging parents. When we consider that when NASA first sent a man to the moon it had less computational power available to it than an average Western student has in their laptop bag, we understand how vast the change has been and how inspiring the possibilities could be.
So how to harness this potential? The maxim that businesses should focus on what they are good at will still hold true. When we look forensically at their business models, the big global technology companies of today have a remarkably narrow focus. It may first appear that they have a multitude of offerings and services, but most activity stems from a few core principles. That will not change.
What will be new, however, is the need for relentless focus on collaboration. Of course technology developers have always taken a strategic approach to information sharing: Microsoft and Intel have long worked closely to develop chips and operating systems with optimal mutual functionality, for example. But the need to collaborate is going to become the defining feature for every aspect of IT. Technology companies will therefore face a twin challenge: to maintain the internally focused effort to produce the best possible solutions and to look externally to see where partnerships and alliances may be formed.
E-commerce is perhaps the clearest example of the present. Developers of mobile telephony and payment applications are coming together to change the way that goods and services are paid for. We’ve already seen huge successes in Kenya, South Africa and India with regard to these types of schemes. New collaborative approaches are being launched in established markets in the US that effectively turn phones into credit cards. This is real disruptive technology, changing the way that people think about established processes, and at the same time bringing a whole new group of customers and prospects into the market. The new ideas and demands that come with them will continue that process of disruption and change.
What’s more is that collaboration is going to be global. Countries that used to be referred to as emerging markets have now arrived. Other developing economies are taking their place. Old certainties about who leads the world in innovation are about to be shattered. No-one can be sure where the next solution will come from, but developers in South Korea and Brazil are as likely to avail themselves of the opportunities as those in Silicon Valley.
The underlying factor in all this is those young people with their unprecedented computational power. Members of this generation have been sharing ideas all their lives. They expect that technology is limited only by what they want. There is no science fiction for this generation: only future fact.
Therefore countries that have the right educational infrastructure, and the right attitude to developing their young people will be the ones hosting the most successful global companies. And those companies that recognise the need to engage, enable and embrace this generation and their ideas will be the successful businesses of the future.
To illustrate the point, this generation is used to having entertainment and information at its fingertips. It is fully conversant with the power of mobile technology. This is the generation that understands that mobile phones can be used as payment methods as well as cameras, and these are the entrepreneurs that understand that an iPad can be a POS device as well as a magazine reader. They don’t want to wait to make purchases or gain access to online services. They have learnt that banks aren’t infallible – and that there are plenty of alternative ways to make purchases and access goods.
All these experiences mean that this generation is transforming the way commerce operates. They are open to using the Square Card Reader, PayPal Local, MocaPay, Dwolla and FaceCash in the US, or Redecard from Brazil’s Itaú Unibanco among many, many other alternative P2P payment methods. These services and the expected explosion in NFC-enabled mobile payments have brought the power of e-commerce back into the bricks-and-mortar stores and created a new way of paying for goods and services. When we consider the arrival of Facebook Payments and payment services from Apple, as well as Google Checkout and Google Wallet it is clear that old forms of commerce are changing fast.
There has never been a greater need for state-of-the-art payment gateway software to facilitate these hassle-free online transactions, such as that produced by Grafix Softech. Just as there has never been a better time for entrepreneurs who want to build global technology companies of the future. The trick is to take advantage of a world that is transforming itself with technology.
Tej Kohli is an international businessman and philanthropist, with a diverse portfolio of commercial and charitable operations in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and India. His business interests range from e-commerce and IT, to real estate and reconstructive and cosmetic surgery. The Tej Kohli Foundation supports under-privileged children in Costa Rica, and funds and promotes corneal transplants to alleviate blindness in India.
Edited by Brooke Neuman