Robin Li, Co-founder of Baidu,
reveals latest AI innovation in Beijing at Baidu World
Robin Li, co-founder of Chinese search leader Baidu. Everywhere he goes, he risks being surrounded by mobs of adoring fans.
At the recent Baidu World technology conference in Beijing, he was the star attraction again but carefully guarded. Such is the life of Internet celebrities in China who were among the first generation of successful entrepreneurs such as the powerful three:
Jack Ma of
Pony Ma of
Tencent. All three have veered from their original core businesses - Baidu from search, Alibaba from e-commerce and Tencent from social messaging and gaming.
At this annual forum in Beijing, Li, dressed in his classic white shirt emblazoned with a Baidu logo, set an upbeat tone for a series of product introductions and upgrades. In the forefront were autonomous driving, smart city improvements, and voice activated speakers that respond not just to short commands but within conversational flows.
Flashy, surround-sound videos displayed how these new products work in real life. M
any of them revolve around Baidu's Apollo autonomous driving platform that was launched two years ago. Two initiatives in AI-driving were unveiled: a partnership with China's large auto manufacturer
to produce autonomous passenger vehicles and start testing them next year in Beijing and Changchun, and the pilot launch of 100 self-driving taxis in Changhsha.
Smart city projects that leverage AI and are designed to work first in Beijing and Shanghai municipalities were also on display.
Volvo Car Group's president and CEO
Hakan Samuelsson joined the stage to announce that Volvo is teaming up with Baidu to develop electric vehicles with self-driving capabilities for the large China market. With Volvo security and Baidu AI, it's a good combo. Volvo is the first western car maker with Baidu workings.
By the way, Baidu has a new slogan - Yes AIDo, a double meaning and play on words since AI sounds like I love in Chinese and of course it stands for AI.
Meet Meituan And Its Makeover
Chinese tech giant
Meituan keeps reinventing its lifestyle services business that spans food deliv
ery, restaurant ordering, travel bookings, and movie tickets, ordered over mobile app. I
t's morphed way beyond its
-like origins as it competes with Alibaba's beefed up delivery business
on its defined mission to help folks eat better, live better.
One of a new era of Internet-plus Chinese companies that have sprung up in recent years,
Meituan has just restructured amidst China
's heavily competitive mobile apps market. Meituan plans to sharpen its focus on matching up supply and demand from among its 357 million customers and its 5.1 million merchants in China -- not to mention its 529,000 riders who deliver the goods on speedy scooters.
The restructuring, the first since raising $4.2 billion in a Hong Kong IPO in September 2018, is about strengthening Meituan's "food + platform. " Meituan is creating three business units: in-store, at home and a user platform with a subset of its services. Meituan has been chiefly known for its food delivery business, bringing box lunches to office workers but it's also a super app for all kinds of services. There's really nothing like it in the West.
Meituan is also expanding by getting into fresh food retailing, like
did with its
acquisition. Meituan has opened a new boutique supermarket under the brand name
. I visited one of these supermarkets-plus stores in northern Beijing not far from Meituan headquarters. I give it high marks for selection of fresh foods, spaciousness, cleanliness and some high-tech touches such as a customer service machine. There's a dine-in section and fresh seafood section as well. We'll soon see how it compares with
White glove delivery service launched June 2017 by China's large e-commerce and logistics company JD.com is now available in nine Chinese cities.
Footnote: This special issue of Silicon Dragon is based on some goings-on during my 3-week trip in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Macau. More soon!