Help Yourself !

Self-ordering technology at restaurants has been around in the United State and Japan for at least 20 years. But here in Hong Kong, the demand for self-ordering technology has gone up over the past three years, according to Hans Paul, co-founder of a self-ordering solution provider. Profits of his company has tripled every year. Fast food chain restaurants, including McDonald's, started providing self-ordering service in mid-2015. Customers simply tap on a screen to choose their food. The automated system then charges users' credit cards and all they need to do then is just pick up the food once it is ready. Not only fast food chains but also other businesses or canteens in hospitals and universities starts to adopt this technology. For example, Citibank, Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital and City University of Hong Kong have installed self-ordering kiosks in their canteens. "As self-ordering technology becomes popular, customers will get used to it and use it efficiently. Other fast food restaurants such as Café De Coral or Fairwood will then have the confidence to develop it too," said Leung Wai-keung, Associate Professor of Marketing at City University of Hong Kong. Leung thinks the rising popularity of "self-ordering" has to do with the fast-paced lifestyle of Hong Kong. He said self-ordering service greatly reduces the waiting time for food ordering. This kind of time-saving model meets Hong Kong people's need, leading to the increasing trend of the service, he said. Leung pointed out that difficulties in hiring also contributes to the popularity of self-ordering systems. Labour cost is going up, plus few job seekers are willing to take on the heavy workload in the food and beverage industry. Paul thinks self-ordering solutions allow catering businesses to reallocate their human resources. They can cut out the cashiers and instead, hire staffs to …


The Fall and Rise of Traditional Craftsmanship

Whilst time has been slipping away, some local handiwork stay. Tucked away in Shau Kei Wan, an old fishing village on the Northeastern shore of Hong Kong Island, a small shop is all that's left of a Chinese tradition in Hong Kong. Lai Hing Kee Embroidery has been selling handcrafted quilts and Chinese wedding gowns for over half a decade. In recent years, Lai Sum, 49, who is the third owner of the 53-year-old shop, has stopped selling and renting out what he calls "obsolete" items, such as wedding dresses and towel quilts, some of which are on the First Intangible Cultural Heritage Inventory of Hong Kong. "Our business has not been doing well. To be honest, if this shop(鋪位) is not owned by my family, it would have been closed down long ago," said Lai, whose grandfather bought the shop in its early years. It started off as a traditional wedding supplies store, selling bedclothes and wedding gowns. "Many fishermen in Shau Kei Wan took traditional Chinese wedding customs, such as wearing a highly embroidered red silk dress with a pair of dragon and phoenix, very seriously back then," said Lai. A few years ago, the government Intangible Cultural Heritage Office visited their shop for a week and recorded the quilt making procedures, which ended up in the First Intangible Cultural Heritage Inventory of Hong Kong, said Lai. The office was set up in 2004 according to the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage adopted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. According to the convention, the aim is to safeguard heritage through "identification, documentation, research, preservation, protection, promotion, enhancement, transmission, as well as revitalization ". Yet all Lai received was a certificate from the office, which he considers of no help to his …


An augmented piece in the real world

Games with immersive experience are merely one dimension of AR world. In the blueprint of AR business people, classroom, retail market and advertisement will all become battlefields of AR in the future. The word Augmented Reality swept the city in 2016 with the viral game Pokémons Go. Although the game seems to be dropped by most of the people after the hit, Hong Kong entrepreneurs do not stop their attempts to go on exploiting the potential of AR industry in a diverse way. Serving education, retail, and advertising fields is the intensified direction of worldwide AR business. Figures speak out for the prospect of the market - a report of Goldman Sachs last year estimates that the value of global VR/AR application in retail and education field could reach about $12.4 billion and $5.4 billion respectively by 2025. A few Hong Kong startups woke up and smelled this opportunity these years but the whole industry is still in a primary stage. Though the technique itself sounds like a path to hyper-reality, local AR developers' role is more similar to contractors than scientists, who buy technology over- sea then offer made-to-order services to different targets. "When you scan a plan using AR, some three-dimensional kinds of stuff or videos will pop up – this is what AR could do now technically. However, the point is not what it could do but how to apply it wisely, creating fresh things", said Roy Lo, Business Director of Creote Studio. Roy and his wife Coby made a name for themselves for the innovation injecting AR into their wedding in- vitations and wedding album, which won them the HSBC Youth Business Award last year and triggered off the entrepreneurship. Now their business is trying to prove that AR marketing solution could be more vivid and …


Shopping Africa

  • 2017-04-11

An e-commerce platform based in Uganda may bring the country out of poverty and outdated technology.


Door-to-door Food Delivery: A Growing Trend

  • By: Angela Cheung
  • 2016-12-02

Is online trading applicable to food as well? by Angela Cheung Online food delivery services are growing and well-suit bustling Hong Kong. Foodpanda, Deliveroo and UberEATS are the main online food delivery service providers in Hong Kong. By partnering with different F&B businesses, they provide on-demand delivery services between customers and businesses. Hong Kong is one of the youngest markets of Foodpanda. They offer more than 1,000 restaurant options such as Jamie's Italian, Hungry Korean and Cali-Mex. Foodpanda provides the online food delivery service in 24 countries. It has been operating in Hong Kong for nearly five years. Alexander Roth, CEO of Foodpanda Hong Kong, said that they see a growing trend in these services. "I don't personally see it as a competition. Foodpanda, specifically in Hong Kong, is a educational process." Roth says despite the fierce competition within the F&B industry, businesses are getting more engaged with the online media. "There are a lot of different functions, menu items and restaurants we have but others don't. They are the key differentiators of different companies." 70% of the transactions are completed with the mobile application. Roth says more businesses are trading online than ever before, mainly because of its convenience and busy lifestyle of Hongkongers. Citizens in Hong Kong are worried whether these delivery services use a proper packaging when delivering from the restaurant to the customers. Abid Khan, 29, a master's student in Supply Chain Management, questioned whether these companies use appropriate materials to maintain food temperature in the delivering process. "The kind of delivery bag and how often they clean them is the two main operational factors which the consumers need to consider[when choosing which service provider to go for]." Simon Li, 47, a local resident, says he would not use these services because he prefers traditional dine-in …


Social Enterprise: to the Community

The government's plan to help social enterprises is not effective enough by Richelia Yeung & Cecilia Wong The problem of an ageing population is nothing new in Hong Kong. In his 2016 Policy Address, the Chief Executive predicted that the proportion of people aged 65 or above is estimated to increase from 15 percent in 2014, to 36 percent in 2064, that is, by over 1.5 million. "Hong Kongers have some of the highest life expectancies in the world. Many people have a long time to live after retirement," said Mr Derek Pang, one of the founders of Senior CID. "People need to be concerned about what they have to do to make a living for the rest of their lives. That inspired us to start our company," said Pang. Senior CID was established in early 2016 after Pang and two other partners participated in the Hong Kong Social Enterprise Challenge 2015 (HKSEC). It is a social enterprise that provides training in pet care for the elderly. Once trained, participants can then offer their services to pet owners. Pang said the difference between a social enterprise and a business company is that they have visions to do something for the society instead of just making money. "We want to give values to those in need." Pang added. "Providing a pet sitting service is a much better way for the elderly to make a living compared with collecting papers on the street," said Mr Keith Leung, one of the pet sitters in Senior CID, which he became after his retirement from a teacher's position at a secondary school. However, pet sitting services are not well known in Hong Kong. As a pet owner himself, Leung pointed out that the popularity of a pet sitting service in Hong Kong is much lesser than that of …


Graffitis: The New Bankable Design Trend

  • 2016-11-10

The story of an entrepreneur and his eco-friendly business by Nicole Kwok Graffiti is often associated with vandalism and rebellion, but with the growing popularity of street cultures, graffiti is now becoming a booming commercial design element, especially for interior design. "Couldn't say Hong Kong is a place that embraces graffiti as much as in the UK, Brazil, or Germany," said Hannah Smith, director of creative company Graffiti4hire. "But I think more people are changing this by subtly putting graffiti up in interiors, commercial spaces, or on objects meant for marketing use. They want people to see them as aesthetic pieces of arts." Graffiti4hire is a UK creative company that contacts graffiti artists for customers who plan to have graffitis for their businesses as design solutions. The company launched in Hong Kong in 2014 because they saw growing potentials from emerging popularity of graffitis. Since then, they have hired six local artists and over 100 international artists. The company's business has 2-3 per cent of steady growth every year. They are planning to do pop up exhibitions for their artists in the future, hoping to showcase their work and attract more opportunities. "Clients range from restaurants and our commercial spaces to hotels and gyms,"  Smith said. Rocky Lam, owner of New York Diner in North Point, put graffiti on three walls in the restaurant. "What kind of art could make a statement and create the vibrancy that my restaurant needs?" said Lam. "Then came the idea of having graffiti as my major design element here." He said the cost of putting up graffitis is at least 20 per cent less compared to other design decorations like brass pipes and lamps that relate to his restaurant's industrial, New York style theme. They help to market his business. "I think they have …


Are robot journalists real?

  • 2016-06-24

  Automatically generated news has flooded the financial news industry. But is it as good as the stuff produced by humans? by Alfred Lam and Daniel Ma News is not necessarily written by humans nowadays. Computers can do the job too. Computer programs such as Automated Insights and Narrative Science have been helping news agencies like the Associated Press (AP), Forbes and Yahoo to automatically generate articles based on financial data and sport competition results. AP now produces nearly 4,300 earnings stories per quarter – a 14-fold increase over its human efforts, according to Automated Insights. Ryan Thornburg, associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said there is an initial capital cost  in using such software, but then the cost of generating the articles gradually falls. The snag is that the articles may not be of high quality. Thornburg added that with technology, journalists who only have basic skills such as describing traffic accidents and recording videos will have difficulties finding jobs. "Students who want to be journalists need to learn how to make good use of these tools," Thornburg added. "They need to go more in-depth than the algorithms can." He said only a few companies can compete in the area of automated article generation since most news organizations do not have a big enough to justify the use of such a technology. But Tom Grundy, editor-in-chief of Hong Kong Free Press, said the technology is immature. "You still need human beings for the analysis and context." Grundy said machine journalism needs many more years to move beyond writing dumb stories and start to produce quality journalism or important investigations. The chief editor said he did not know any news organizations in Hong Kong that adopt this technology. "Basic stories like financial results and sports …


Fading The Lights

  • 2016-04-02

  by Daniel Ma The Environmental Bureau launched  the Charter of External Light in January after three years of heated debate. The aim is supposed to reduce light pollution and energy wastage. More than 800 companies and organizations are participating in the event. They will get a Platinum Award if they switch off their external lighting between 11 p.m. and  7 a.m.. Those which turn off their  lights between midnight and 7 a.m, will get  the Gold Award. Ruth Law, who lives in Mong Kok, said the government should penalise those who leave their lights on around the clock because of the nuisance to the neighbourhood. " Businesses should bear liabilities because they are ignoring residents' health and people living nearby should be able to claim compensation," Mr. Law said. Jason Chun Shing Pun, a principal lecturer at the Department of Physics at University of Hong Kong said energy-saving lighting devices are to blame for the light pollution. "Using energy-saving lights means that their electricity charges would drop while the lights can be even brighter than regular lighting. This is incentive for the shops to turn on their lights for longer," he said. Despite concern expressed by some in the business sector, the problem remains because bill boards are often regarded as a special features of Hong Kong, often shown in promotional photographs of the city. "The external lighting of restaurants and hot-pot shops in areas such as Tsim Sha Tsui and Lan Kwai Fong are an attraction," said Ricky Lam Kwok-Leung, vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Federation of Restaurant and Related Trades Limited. Mr Lam said consumers might think the restaurants are closed if they switch off their external lights after 11 p.m. Following the launch of the Charter of External Light, Wong Kam-sing, Secretary for the Environment was …

Culture & Leisure

Hong Kong Craft Beer: Local Style

by Henry Wong and Sing Lee Hong Kong craft beer brewery, Mak's Beer, has  been promoting their products for half a year. The based brewery's latest offering: "Cantonese beer" which they hope will attract local drinkers. The brewers got their inspiration from Yim Tin Tsai Village, a historic neighborhood in Hong Kong that produces  salt. The ingredients include traditional Chinese herbal tea,  wolfberries and longan fruit. "It's called ‘Cantonese beer' because we want to build a relationship with our community and educate local people on how to appreciate craft beers," said Mark Mak, co-founder of the company. Mak's brewery hosts free factory tours twice a month. Twenty per cent of their beer is offered for free at business and cultural events in order to promote their brand. Mak's beer is not alone. City Brew's beer "Kong Girl", for example, uses the nickname for Hong Kong women in their branding. The Bottle Shop is one of the largest retailers of craft beers  in the city They stock local brands such as Gweilo, Mak's  and Moonzen. " Some of the beers include creative local ingredients such as goji berries and chilies to spice up the drink,"  said Joey Chung Wing-yi , the brand and event manager at the Bottle Shop. But the cost of production is an issue for some of the breweries. Mak's produces 4000 bottles a month and they are priced higher than most commercially available beers. "The competitiveness is about branding and the  craft beer trend in the city," Mark Mak said. Ms Chung at The Bottle Shop believes craft beer market will become as popular as coffee and red wine in Hong Kong. "There is increasing demand for local craft beers and as more bars stock them, locals became more supportive of this emerging industry," according to Ms …