BY SILVI WRITER
Chinese tech platform Meituan-Dianping was named world’s most innovative company in 2019 by the US-based Fast Company, the world’s leading business media brand.
Other listed Chinese companies range from internet giant to electric automaker.
Let’s take a look at the top 10 most innovative companies in China.
10 GJS Robot
GJS Robot is a robotics and AI startup based in Shenzhen, China, that makes battle robots. These look like toys but they’re sophisticated devices that can fight both physical opponents as well as AR-based ones. The well-reviewed products use computer vision to identify a foe (as well as its owner). They retail for about $450, but a new robot line, named Geio, debuted at CES in January 2019 and will sell for $200.
Sogou is a Chinese information and communication company, which operates the second-largest mobile search engine in China. In 2018, Sogou launched two AI-powered portable translation devices, the Sogou Travel Translator and the Sogou Smart Recording Translator. These devices use image and speech recognition as well as translation tech to simultaneously translate verbal speech into one of 17 languages or text within images. The devices operate without needing to be connected to the internet. The Sogou Travel Translator sold out in its initial day on sale, generating approximately $1.6 million.
8 Luckin Coffee
Luckin Coffee is a fast-growing coffee chain across China. Launched in 2018, it quickly established 2,000 outposts by the end of the year. The overwhelming majority of these locations are purely delivery or pickup nodes in Luckin’s app-powered network. Ordering and purchasing take place through the app. Even if one is standing at a Luckin, they must use the app to manage the transaction. Luckin is working quickly to make coffee-drinking a habit in China, particularly among office workers. Its lower cost and willingness to offer coupons for future purchases has allowed Luckin to quickly become a value challenger to Starbucks, which is a premium brand in China. Luckin’s rapid proliferation forced its global rival to partner with Alibaba on a delivery option in an effort to remain competitive with customers who like the convenience of Luckin’s delivery network. The company is rumored to be doing a public offering on an American stock market in 2019.
Beijing-based VIPKid is giving American teachers an income boost from halfway around the world. Under cofounder and CEO Cindy Mi, the online learning company contracts with more than 60,000 North American instructors and matches them with some 500,000 primarily Chinese pupils (from pre-K to 12th grade) for one-on-one video sessions in English—along with a growing stable of other subjects. In 2018, VIPKid more than doubled its number of students from 2017. Students follow up live video lessons with online learning. Approximately 5% of teachers who apply are accepted. Educators rave on Facebook and YouTube about the ability to teach classes from anywhere (and to typically make about $20 an hour, usually in the time before or after school). Parents seem to share their enthusiasm: The platform has a 95% student-retention rate.
6 Ant Financial
Formerly Alipay, Ant Financial Services is a spin-off of China’s Alibaba and akin to PayPal in the U.S. The organization has expanded beyond mobile wallet Alipay to include an online lending platform, MyBank, and an investment fund, Yu’e Bao.
In June 2018, Ant Financial introduced the world’s first cross-border remittance network based on blockchain. Via a partnership between its AlipayHK brand and GCash, it offers real-time money transfer between Hong Kong and the Philippines, with lower fees than traditional transfer services.
Ant Financial has also used its AI expertise to improve wealth management services and make them both more accessible and more customizable for users. In June 2018, Ant opened up its AI services for any Chinese asset managers to modernize their services. Ant’s AI-powered accounts on its Ant Fortune platform give fund managers new insights into their customers. In August 2018, Ant debuted 14 new target date retirement funds on Ant Fortune, in an effort to encourage personal savings for retirement in addition to China’s pension system.
As of January 2019, Ant and its global partners serve more than 1 billion users worldwide.
Nio is an electric-car company in China. It has brought the same kind of excitement to the market as Tesla has in the United States, but amid a much more crowded market of electric-vehicle startups. In 2018, Nio debuted its ES6 SUV, launched its ES8 SUV, deftly used its racing team to advance the art of its technology and build more fans, and used fashion collaborations to set itself apart. Nio went public last September on the New York Stock Exchange.
4 Megvii Technology
Megvii Technology is a Chinese, AI-driven company focused on using this intelligence to power facial recognition and internet of things sensor networks. Megvii’s tech has successfully enabled more than 500 million IoT devices.
Face++ is Megvii’s open platform for AI developers, enabling them to use facial and body recognition as well as text and objects. More than 300,000 developers from more than 210 countries have taken advantage of Face++. Megvii’s FaceID has provided real-name authentication services for 295 million people globally, in such sectors as banking, insurance, securities, and digital finance.
In January 2019, Megvii announced a $300 million bet on using its AI prowess to help companies make their supply chains more smart and efficient.
Xiaohongshu, which translates in English as Little Red Book, is a popular social shopping application. It combines user recommendations and reviews with the ability to purchase, and it offers international items for purchase by Chinese consumers. It reported 200 million registered users in January 2019 and is the leader in cross-border e-commerce, though it has expanded to include Chinese brands as well.
2 Alibaba Group
China’s largest e-commerce company presides over a collection of online platforms—including Tmall; Taobao, similar to eBay; and the payment service Alipay—that together create one of the most sophisticated and lucrative online retail ecosystems in the world.
Alibaba has established itself as a global innovator in what it has dubbed “new retail,” the blending of digital into real-world shopping experiences with the goal of creating the best of both worlds. Alibaba’s Hema Xiansheng grocery stores (which translates as Freshippo in English) blend app-based services into a vibrant physical environment. The store itself emphasizes fresh ingredients from the regions near its more than 100 stores in 19 Chinese cities as well as items from around the world.
1 Meituan Dianping
Meituan Dianping is a Chinese company that aspires to be the Amazon of services. Its apps connect consumers with local businesses for food takeout, hotel bookings, and movie tickets, among other services. In 2018, it acquired the bike-sharing company Mobike (since rebrand to Meituan Bike) to offer local transportation services as well. Meituan’s tech platform uses data from its high-frequency applications to suggest its lower-frequency ones and inform users where to go next. The company is keenly focused on efficiency, finding new ways to make its delivery platform more cost-effective. Meituan’s surfeit of data is also an asset to help digitize local businesses, informing where they might expand and finding gaps in the market for new restaurants or stores. In the first half of 2018, Meituan facilitated 2.77 billion in food delivery transactions alone for more than 350 million people in 2,800 cities. Its gross transaction volume across all its services totaled $33.8 billion.