2021 looks to be a better year for businesses as the world readies for normalcy. Technological innovation has sped up the rate at which we rely on the power of computing and the digital world to conduct our everyday affairs. Entertainment, education, healthcare and delivery services are looking radically different, with robots and A.I. looking to transform the way we interact with the world.
Some of the major trends businesses are tapping into include the need for contactless delivery and service, AI-powered solutions, virtual entertainment and healthcare. Our lives will continue to be integrated with and shaped by breakthrough technological trends like 5G and IOT (Internet of Things).
Given these major industry tailwinds, these 5 types of businesses look set to grow in 2021 and beyond.
According to GovTech, Singapore is second only to South Korea in terms of its installation of industrial robots, with 488 robots per 10,000 employees. This push for automation is appearing in the healthcare and construction industries but is also gaining traction in the service and delivery industries.
With 5G networks blanketing the Singaporean cityscape by 2025, advanced 5G technologies will allow robots to interact seamlessly with the environment due to greater connectivity and Internet speeds.
Rather than certain traditional industries tapping on new technologies to spur growth, it can be robotics that emerges as the growth sector providing products and services to other industries.
Service industry robots are gaining prominence in Singapore as the pandemic forces firms to rethink their labour policies to reduce contact points with customers. Early adopters like YOTEL Singapore are reaping the benefits of adopting robotic systems to help bolster the current workforce. The hotel is an early adopter of contactless robotic technologies to help visitors check in, deliver amenities and even cook food for you. Some of these robots have localisation and mapping technologies that allow them to identify and look for visitors accurately.
Service and delivery robotic companies are currently a dime in a dozen in Singapore but keep your eye on this space as more companies jump into the robotic service space when costs of maintaining a robotic fleet of service and delivery staff continue to fall.
#2 Deep Tech
First coined in 2014 by investor Swati Chaturvedi of VC firm Propel(x), Deep Tech refers to a proprietary technological innovation or discovery in the lab by doctoral students and research scientists. The combination of technology and scientific talent forms the backbone of the startup. Fields where you can see deep tech startups include life sciences, medical technology, clean technology, autonomous vehicles and other highly niche domains. Many of these startups have some sort of A.I. development breakthrough.
Although deep tech is still not a major sector among Singaporean startups, the government is highly supportive of growth in this sector, particularly because it is an area that could allow Singapore to compete more effectively (despite its small size) with other emerging Southeast Asian heavyweights in the general tech space like Indonesia and Vietnam.
Deep tech allows Singapore to integrate its strong talent base and world-class research facilities into an innovation hub. Credible intellectual property (IP) laws also help to protect startups in this space and bolster the citystate’s reputation as a contributor to the global AI ecosystem.
Startup SG has also recently announced more schemes such as Startup SG Equity to help incubate early-stage deep tech startups based in Singapore, with a primary focus on Advanced Manufacturing, Pharmbio/Medtech, Agri-food tech. You can find out more here.
#3 Virtual And Telehealthcare
Medical institutions such as hospitals and clinics aim to lower the exposure of COVID-19 to patients and workers by implementing telehealth offerings. Although telemedicine has been used in the medical sector for a few years before COVID-19 hit, it was after social distancing became the norm that people began looking for new ways to seek medical attention.
In one survey by Mercer, 78 per cent of respondents from Asian countries said they were ready to use digital healthcare, compared with 66 per cent globally. There have also been spikes in demand for telemedicine apps.
Apps like Doctor World and Doctor Anywhere provide easy access to teleconsultation under $20 with a Singapore-licensed GP on demand. Insurance providers are also leaning on such value-added services to engage customers. AIA has WhiteCoat, Prudential’s Pulse programme integrates MyDoc and OCBC’s HealthPass works with HiDoc and CXA Group.
This increases the convenience for those who may have trouble with mobility or those wanting to avoid coming into contact with other sick patients.
Some of the key features that these virtual and telehealthcare boast is:
– 24/7 teleconsultations and islandwide medicine delivery in under 3 hours (for common illnesses and chronic conditions)
– Booking appointments for health checkups, nursing care, specialist appointments, house calls and swab tests
– Check symptoms and health records
– Shop for products and health insurance
Businesses in this sector are facing increased competition and will continue to meet the growing demand with more creative and attractive offerings in 2021.
Other than the dive into the deep tech ecosystem, Singapore is also home to the world’s first global governing body for e-sports: The Global Esports Federation (GEF). eSports tournaments hosted by major conglomerates like Red Bull M.E.O. have taken the world by storm, allowing people to tune in from all over the world to watch top players fight it out on mobile games.
The global eSports market revenue is growing in massive numbers. Valued at just over US$950m, global eSports market revenue is set to reach almost US$1.6B by 2023, with Asia and North America representing the two largest eSports markets, with China alone accounting for 20% of the total market.
With Southeast Asia representing only 3.1% of the global gaming market, Singapore companies are looking to enter the fray with unique and attractive offerings to offer to the region’s relatively young and mobile-savvy population.
Startups such as Bountie offer casual gamers the chance to win some prize money when they pit their skills against other similar players, building up the amateur P2P eSports ecosystem.
Interest and awareness of eSports is only set to grow in the region, and it is likely that more Singaporean businesses will spring up to cater to the increased demand in 2021 and beyond.
#5 Live Streaming
As its name suggests, live streaming refers to the act of streaming your video live in front of an active audience, usually on social media platforms.
In countries such as China, live streaming has caught on like wildfire, with many live streaming celebrities make millions of dollars via product sponsorships and sales every year. It is not surprising, given that one of the pioneers of live streaming was Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. Taobao Live was launched in 2016.
Since then, live streaming has also caught on in the rest of the world. Facebook caught onto this trend and launched Facebook Live, and many Singaporean business owners decided to jump onto the live stream bandwagon and set up virtual auction houses.
The captive audience of the live streaming platforms delight in being able to connect with their hosts in real-time and appreciate the immediacy of the experience. A new concept – “shoppertainment” – the integration of entertainment and commerce, was thus born.
Companies like BeLive are also one of the local pioneers in this space, creating a space where local live streamers can be awarded with monetary awards for their contributions to this space.
As we see shoppers getting increasingly sophisticated with their shopping habits online, live streaming looks to cater to a growing segment of the population who desire immediacy, interaction and intimacy through live streaming, and businesses who can adapt well to this trend will thrive.
The Future Will Be Made Up Of Entirely New Business Sectors That Didn’t Exist Just A Short While Ago
As 2021 begins, the post-COVID business landscape may be littered with carcasses of a bygone era, but new opportunities and trends will arise out of this new technologically driven landscape. Businesses that can build attractive offerings in these high-potential sectors will likely see the fruits of their labour come to fruition down the road.
(Top image by Raymond Quek)
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