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AI tech helping firms adopt 'new forces'

By XING YI in London | China Daily | Updated: 2024-06-03 10:05
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Guo Wei, chairman of Digital China Group Co, delivers a lecture at London Business School in May. [Photo/CHINA DAILY]

As artificial intelligence technologies continue to develop, Digital China Group Co, a Chinese IT solutions provider, has quickly capitalized on the trend by helping companies in traditional sectors adopt "new quality productive forces" to boost efficiency, making itself the latest case study for London Business School.

Guo Wei, chairman of the group, was in London in May to engage with a cohort of prospective global business leaders and researchers of management in the UK's top business school, sharing his company's practices, and a paper about how his company is harnessing the potential of data, cloud and AI was added to the school's case repositories in April.

"The digital transformation of traditional sectors is the process of developing 'new quality productive forces'," Guo said about his understanding of the current buzzword among Chinese entrepreneurs.

"A majority of companies are not born digital, and therefore they need a digital renovation," Guo said. "It's like during the Industrial Revolution, the British improved the spinning wheel and the steam engine, which eventually increased productivity immensely.

"In the traditional economy, land, labor, capital and technology are all critical factors of production, but in the digital age, data have become a new production factor … We help companies digitize their business so they can integrate their operation with AI technology, which will unleash productivity immensely."

Digital China was founded in 2000 first as a distributor of IT devices and later evolved to provide services such as IT integration, smart cities, big data and cloud computing. Riding on the wave of China's rapid growth of the digital economy in the past decade, the company has become a partner for major businesses across sectors, helping them improve efficiency with IT technologies.

Listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, Digital China Group Co reported an annual turnover of 119.62 billion yuan ($16.5 billion) in 2023, ranking 29th on the Forbes 2022 China Digital Economy 100 list.

Julian Birkinshaw, vice-dean of London Business School, and Liang-Hong Ke, the school's program director for executive education, co-authored the case study of Digital China about the metamorphosis of the company from an IT distributor to a leading digital transformation partner in the past 20 years.

In 2019, Birkinshaw wrote a case study about WeChat, the dominant all-in-one social networking app in China, and was impressed by the innovation and agility showcased by Chinese companies.

"It is so easy to get trapped in the thinking that Silicon Valley is where the exciting, innovative stuff happens. But this particular case study here is a really innovative, proactive company (Digital China) coming out of Beijing," Birkinshaw said about the intention behind writing the Chinese case studies.

"Chinese companies, because of the competitive threats and pressures within China, are very good at trying things out, experimenting and adapting their products to market quickly," he said, adding that the cases give students a window on what is practical.

"Specifically around Digital China, one can see how quickly they moved on to AI, harnessing generative AI and immediately rolling it into their products and services," said Birkinshaw.

After ChatGPT was launched in 2022 and a huge demand for AI offerings suddenly emerged, Digital China quickly recognized this as a tremendous technological leap and in 2023 introduced its AI model platform, SmartVision, which focuses on corporate use of generative AI to enhance productivity, championing its "model as a service" vision.

Guo said digital strategies have already been elevated to the status of corporate strategy for multinational corporations, and the amassing of data assets will be the pivotal lever for business innovation.

"We are exploring opportunities to provide some of our solutions and services in this area to overseas clients," he said, adding that the company has been in contact with companies and academia in Europe.

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