Getting to Know our Asia-Pacific Leader – Alex Yao

Jeremy Deutsch
Alex Yao

The rise of digital technology in China is transforming every aspect of business. With the country starting to roll out nationwide 5G services, its digital transformation journey is now in full swing. This is not only providing opportunities for businesses to flourish domestically, but also for Chinese companies to explore new markets on a global scale.

To get a better grasp on the changes taking place in this unique market, I caught up with our China Managing Director, Alex Yao, to learn more about the country’s digital landscape and how Equinix is helping Chinese companies grow their international footprints.

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The overpass is the conjunction of the Yan'an Elevated Road and the North-South Elevated Road, Shanghai, China.

Jeremy Deutsch (JD); Alex Yao (AY)

JD: Prior to joining Equinix, you co-founded an IT service company in China. How has this spirit of entrepreneurship helped you to develop your business acumen?

AY: I came from an engineering background, so the experience I gained in those early start-up years really helped to get me out of my comfort zone. During my time at the IT service company, I got the chance to work in different departments, including sales and marketing, engineering, business operations and technical support. This enabled me to get a clear picture on how to make every component come together and contribute to a company’s success.

My experience has shown me that strategy and implementation are equally important, and they must go hand-in-hand. The China market is unique in many aspects. This requires me to remain agile and adjust our plans where needed.

JD: As you mentioned, China is a unique market so what do you think about its data center landscape? Are you seeing emerging opportunities for Equinix in China?

AY: As the world’s second-largest economy, China represents a vast market with huge potential. The country is experiencing a period of unprecedented growth, and this is especially true among industries that are supporting the nation’s march into the digital era.

China is now leading the world in e-commerce. More than 40% of the world’s e-commerce transactions currently take place in China. This figure sat at about 1% a decade ago.[1] It is also notable that China’s digital economy was valued at about USD5 trillion in 2019, accounting for 36.2% of the country’s GDP.[2]

Driven by digital growth and the rapid adoption of IT and digital services, companies in China are growing at full speed, not just domestically also overseas. According to a research conducted by Boston Consulting Group, nearly 60% of the executives at Chinese digital companies regard international expansion as a priority that is equal to or higher than domestic expansion. This presents huge potential for Equinix.[3]

With our strong product portfolio and global footprint, Equinix is poised to help Chinese companies scale up their IT infrastructure, either physically or virtually, and accelerate their digital advantage. Companies can leverage Platform Equinix® to quickly localize their infrastructure or connect with thousands of service providers and enterprises through our robust ecosystems securely and seamlessly. Our portfolio of products and services are there to enable our Chinese customers to create globally interconnected enterprises that can run at the highest levels of efficiency and security.

With our strong product portfolio and global footprint, Equinix is poised to help Chinese companies scale up their IT infrastructure, either physically or virtually, and accelerate their digital advantage. Alex Yao

JD: We are seeing many Chinese cloud service providers expanding into overseas markets, how can Equinix best support them on this path?

AY: We have been closely working with cloud giants in China since they embarked on their global expansion journeys. As their international businesses continue to grow, we have been evolving our offerings and services to facilitate their business needs.

As a case in point, we announced in July that Equinix has extended access to Alibaba Cloud through Platform Equinix for customers in 17 metros globally. Through this partnership, Alibaba Cloud can enjoy secure, direct access to a robust, interconnected ecosystem of more than 9,500 customers, including 1,800 network providers and over 2,900 cloud and IT service providers globally to enhance performance, lower latency, and increase reliability for its customers. We are very proud that some of China’s top cloud service providers have evolved into our long-term partners, and we will continue to look for ways to support their growth globally.

JD: With China becoming a mobile-first nation, from your point of view, what are the key elements to ensuring seamless digital experiences across devices?

AY: In many fields, China is leading when it comes to innovation. It was one of the first countries to roll out 5G services and is probably the only place where digital payments have been adopted on a truly massive scale.

With its ultra-fast speed, 5G is taking connectivity to the next level, which in turn is leading consumers to expect more convenient, reliable and secure transactions. To ensure a seamless digital experience, the key lies in providing businesses with ready access to data, applications and networking controls. When services are located closer to the end-users, they can deliver smoother and more seamless digital payment experiences. Equinix is able to power digital leaders by bringing them onto our platform with speed and flexibility so that they can move quickly in accordance with market needs and conditions.

JD: Can you tell us a bit about your plans for the China market?

AY: Thanks to our product portfolio and robust ecosystem, we have been keeping up with the rapid pace of change that this booming market has been experiencing. Last year, we opened our fifth International Business Exchange™ (IBX®), SH6, together with Datang Telecom in Shanghai. Located in the Pudong Free-Trade Zone, the SH6 IBX data center is our largest facility in Shanghai and is a hub for the trading and financial services sectors. Thanks to our financial ecosystems in major financial centers around the world, we can support mission-critical financial services applications to improve performance. Looking ahead, we will further enhance this cutting-edge facility, to make it a best-of-class data center example for the China market.

In addition, with Chinese companies rapidly expanding overseas, we will continue to support our customers as they embark on global journeys. Via Platform Equinix, companies can accelerate their growth on a single platform that can offer direct interconnection – within a vibrant set of ecosystems – to their customers and strategic business partners across the globe.

JD: How would you describe your leadership style?

AY: I’m a true believer in the power of teamwork – a good team can bring great results in ways one may never have thought possible. So instead of calling myself a leader, I would prefer to be described as a pioneer and a supporter.  As a leader, I am the one who needs to guide us into new areas, so I proactively search for opportunities to innovate, grow and improve. Meanwhile, I also do my best to support the team so that they can focus on what’s critical – delivering value to our customers, which in turn helps us to grow.

JD: Last question, tell us something about yourself that we don’t already know.

AY: I am an avid lifelong learner. During my early career, I attained certification in different engineering disciplines, and got my EMBA degree 10 years ago. I’ve recently started my next challenge – completing my doctoral studies!

I also value giving back to the community. During the pandemic, our team sprang into action to donate funds and support communities suffering from COVID-19. Personally, I donate 5% of my annual income every year and I am happy to say that my family not only supports me in this endeavor but has also joined me in doing the same.

Forming the IT backbone to accelerate Chinese global expansion

I hope this interview with Alex has provided another perspective of our story in China. It is exciting to see how we are growing together with our customers in China. I am sure Alex and the team will continue to support more customers to achieve new heights in the years to come.

Stay tuned for our next interview in the ‘Getting to Know…’ series.

[1] https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/china/digital-china-powering-the-economy-to-global-competitiveness

[2] http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2020-07/03/c_139186711.htm

[3] https://www.bcg.com/publications/2019/china-digital-companies-ready-go-global

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