#BeyondCOVID Town Hall - ASIA 05

#BeyondCOVID is the new mindset we have all had to adopt… how do we operate in this new changed state? I've gathered together some amazing Design Executives to share what they are doing now and in the coming months to survive and thrive in these difficult times.


Adrian Battisby Senior Director of Interior Design at LW

Dylan Brady Conductor (Owner) at Decibel Architecture

Doris Fong Head of Creative Industries at Invest Hong Kong

Bob Neville Global Creative Director and Head of Retail at New Balance

Michael Tam Global Associate Design Director at IBM iX

Ping Xu Founder and Design Director at PH Alpha Design

Quotes and Resources:

"Let the design work talk for itself" - Adrian Battisby

Start Me Up Festival Hong Kong

@hongkongbob living it up in NZ


Mark Bergin 00:00

Hello and welcome to another Design Exec Club Town Hall. I'm Mark Bergin, the Founder of DRIVENxDESIGN and joining me here is a panel of awesomeness. Hello everybody! Alright, so the theme behind the- Hi Ping, you just came in a little bit late, now you're in Shanghai at the moment aren't you?

Ping Xu 00:19

Yes. I'm actually in a hotel room.

Mark Bergin 00:23

Well I'm glad you're with us. So, viewers, we have people from Hong Kong, we have people in New Zealand who are based in in Asia, but actually because of quarantine, aren't able to get into the country. I'm coming to you from Australia where we're in stage four lockdown. I think I've got two and a half weeks to go before I can actually see another human being in real life and we'll get that energy exchange. Dylan's coming in from Melbourne and he's in the same circumstance that I am. But what I want to focus on is not so much what 'isn't', I want to talk about the New Possible and what 'is', and I think Michael in the pre conversation we were having a chat about what you're seeing in other markets in the UK and Europe, the GDP is down 20%, the US we know they're having lots of troubles, but you're finding your clients in Asia are actually, if anything, hitting the accelerator and their digital transformation is just forging forward. Is that right? Yeah, I actually wouldn't just limit it to to Asia, I'd say pretty much global, all around the world. I totally agree with you, GDP is down, economy is difficult, but I think it just makes a lot of these enterprises a little bit more cautious in terms of how they spend the money but I don't think they are putting a pause on anything they were already been planning to do in terms of transformation, digital transformation, because, you know, life's gonna go on right? They have to the plan for whatever happens after the New Normal. Now is pretty much normal for everyone. So I can see a lot of these enterprises definitely leveraging on global resources, tapping to talent all around different regions. So I think not just people, but enterprises are used to this kind of looking model now. And the fact that we can all connect with each other from different markets, different countries, is a good example of that. So I think this is actually quite exciting. Yes. And, Doris, I want to bring you in to the call because you were telling me in the pre-conversation about this startup festival that Hong Kong normally has and your role with Invest Hong Kong. I think it's about 10 years you've been in this role here, so congratulations on getting your first decade up and for bringing people up in Hong Kong with their posibilties. But we were talking about the startup festival and you were saying that the audience, it was much broader and much larger than it normally was. Help us out there.

Doris Fong 03:12

Sorry about the fire alarm testing! I hope you'll bear with me and if it gets too loud, then I'll just mute myself and wait for another round.

Mark Bergin 03:29

We can always ask people, what was the unusual thing that happened when Dorris was speaking and we'll know whether they sing episode or if they're just pretending? The fire alarm. Okay, so let's have another try anyway.

Doris Fong 03:42

Okay, well, we're just talking about possibilities because I was quite excited when we have our new Samia festival in July in a new format, because usually we have our Start Me Up Festival, which is a week long festival for startups. Usually we have it in January, it's a physical event in a big venue, a lot of speakers coming from overseas and Hong Kong and attendees as well, with the traditional booze everywhere and people can interact, it is our old normal, right? And the one that we had just now in July, we have huge interest, we attract 180,000 attendees. We weren't able to attract so many attendees in the past in our traditional physical events. And we also have 470 speakers, I think because they are all over the world and they can do it via Zoom, and therefore more people are interested in speaking at the event and more interaction digitally, of course and virtually, but we have 200 exhibitors, which we didn't have in the past, and these exhibitions are all coming from different parts of the world, startups of course, entrepreneurs and angel investors from 97 countries. So I see this as an opportunity that the digital tools enable us to connect to the rest of the world in a very different way than before. And all these digital interactions, even though we missed the human touch, I think it has also opened up possibilities that we never had before. People nowadays are so, so used to these kind of interactions but in the past if we tried to do it that way I don't think we could have attracted so much interest. And not to mention we have the digital assets, just like what you're now doing Mark. You're creating content, right? When we talk about creative industries, we are all content creators. And we are now creating for the Start Me Up festival I think nearly 160 hours of content. So like we are now our own content creator will have to create something interesting for our clients and find new ways of interaction which I think is all about reinventing ourselves?

Mark Bergin 06:03

Well, we're definitely going to put a link through to the library of that material. Now, Adrian, I want to go across to you because if I'm right, you've found that there's been new possibilities that you found, particularly with operators in hotels and venues in Macau, and this is work that you may not have normally bumped into.

Adrian Battisby 06:27

Correct. I think the timelines have been either accelerated, I know in any large development, there will be a constant cycle of upgrading etc. but we've had some very accelerated activity and fee proposals and are starting to commence work. We have been working with one of the with one of the leading casino operators there and they mentioned to us that they normally run at 89% occupancy all year round and of course that has changed, so they're taken the opportunity to renovate. So we're working on other projects, where we're taking the key count down from a 300 key hotel, to a 160 key hotel to create a more luxurious experience, two hotel rooms come into one, and three hotel rooms go into a suite. So it's fantastic to have all that space and it's an it's a very, very fast track project. We have to complete all of the documentation by September next year, so it's a lot to get done. And that's happening really fast because they want to take advantage of the travel restrictions, otherwise, they wouldn't want to press the button on the project.

Mark Bergin 07:36

And it's interesting that you mentioned that, you know, so the play they're going for is actually people buying space. That's a very interesting play. I've seen also in the food services space, that people are starting to talk about how fast they've sanitized the air with UVC and other strategies like that, that, you know, we now have new communications which is 'come to my hotel', 'come to my cafe', because it sanitized, there is space, there's air around, and I find that really interesting. You've also come across some bars where they've turned around and they've worked out how to go and actually deal with the space dilemma as well.

Adrian Battisby 08:21

For those of you that know Hong Kong, it's quite an intense and densely packed city and a lot of the F&B venues are a little bit on the cozy side, the small side, you know, and to keep operating during the COVID pandemic. A lot of the bars have introduced clear plastic screens that can segment either the bar counter or can give you a physical barrier to your neighbour so you're you're still kind of cozy together in a cocktail bar, but you have this perspex screen here that almost creates a little private nook and one thing I did really appreciate was normally in this particular bar it's very noisy, and you can't hear your your partner speak and now with these plastic screens that they have on either side of you have created an acoustic bubble. So you can actually continue a conversation without having to shout. So in a way, I kind of liked it because you had your almost semi private space in the in the public space of the bar and because they were clear, you didn't have any visual obstruction, you know, you could still see what was going on. So it's quite a cool idea.

Mark Bergin 09:24

And Dylan, I want to go across to you now because you're in a brand new space in Melbourne, which I don't think there's been any other conferences or meetings there? It's a boardroom for a company-