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A Resource of the Asia Society and Citigroup Foundation

Q & A: Suzanne Kai, Co-founder, AsianConnections.com

On Thursday, February 8, 2000, the Asia Society will feature a half-day conference entitled, "The Women Powering Asia's Internet." AsiaBusinessToday conducted this Q&A with Suzanne Kai, one of the featured speakers.

Interview conducted by Diane Ruengsorn

Q: You're going to speak at the Asia Society's program, "The Women Powering Asia’s Internet.?What are some specific challenges you feel women face in the technology sector that your male counterparts don't?

A: Some of my women colleagues who are working professionals in the technology sector are traveling on the road 5 days out of the week for months at a time. That's OK for women who do not have young children. It's hard on male counterparts, too, but for working moms, it's always a juggling act. But, that's the beauty of the Internet, a mom can run an Internet project from her home, while her children are in school, or after they are tucked into bed.

Q: Is there a difference between being a female entrepreneur in Asia and the U.S?

Yes and no. It depends on which country, culture and the woman. I have worked in both Asia and the U.S. with female entrepreneurs and have found the same ideals, focus, and goals. The Internet is a real liberator for women who chose to stay at home and want to become an entrepreneur.

Q: What percentage of your users are women?

A: Depending on which channel and which Web site in our network, we have an audience mix of approximately 40% women and 60% men.

Q: Given that most web users tend to be male, what measures have you taken to address this? What has AsianConnections done to attract more female users?

A: We do features for women produced by both men and women writers and producers.

At AsianConnections.com, the fashion models, actresses, athletes, feng shui masters, martial arts experts, scholars, artists, chefs, historians, entrepreneurs, and others featured are not just static pictures as in a print magazine, but real living people who speak from their heart.

Women (and men, too!) are often surprised when they send an e-mail, they often receive a response back directly from the author. This year, we will be adding chat, celebrity events and more message boards. Another example, on Valentine's Day we will be featuring tips on relationships and romance. It will be from an Asian male's vantage point on how women can improve their relationships with men, since the author is an Asian male!

Q: What are some of the challenges marketing your site to a pan-Asian audience?

A: At AsianConnections.com, we are still in an early development phase, so we are showcasing features on as many of our Asian cultures and peoples as possible. Since there are hundreds of ethnic groups within the term "Asian" we are very thankful that we do receive wonderful contributions from around the world from fans eager to fill in the gaps!

Also, we have opportunities to team with a number of companies and websites both in the U.S. and in Asia and would love to work with everyone. We keep our eyes on managing our growth so our systems can be managed well, and not overloaded.

Q: With the recent dot-com fall out, what success factors are unique to AsianConnections?

A: I think many dotcoms forgot about the essence of what makes the Internet such a revolutionary medium. It is an amazing, 24/7, online party with limitless ways for businesses and people around the world to efficiently integrate, connect, bake, boil and stir fry! It can be totally automated and virtual, or as hands-on with a "human touch" as you like.

Plus, with all the fantastic low-cost technology, multimedia laptops and hand-held recording equipment out there today, you can run a dotcom almost from a bus-stop!

It's great because sometimes in certain conditions, interviews are much better conducted when using smaller, more discreet equipment. We have taped some of our best exclusive Hollywood celebrity interviews with stars such as Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Lucy Liu, Sylvester Stallone, Chow Yun-Fat, and Jodie Foster with the same store bought recording equipment that any consumer can find. It looks and sounds just as good on the Web as if they were recorded from our professional TV broadcast-quality equipment.

In my former television background, I was used to working with lots of people, and millions of dollars of infrastructure and equipment in order to broadcast television programming. Before we started, we visited and actually interviewed a number of dotcom operations. I found some successful dotcoms that were already making money, and observed how they efficiently worked with very small staffs. I was totally hooked after that.

We have stayed focused at building our venture in phases, and from the beginning, keeping our eye on profitability.

We did not spend the tens of millions of dollars to try to win the race to be" #1." Most of those "winners" are now, sadly, out of business, burdened with too much debt and no way to return profit to their investors. We also had the luxury of starting our venture with contributors and partners that are already global name brands with television, book and other media properties such as my friend and e-commerce partner, Chef Martin Yan of TV's Emmy award winning Yan Can Cook. We are a proud sponsor of his new TV series which is aired nationally on PBS and internationally in 75 countries.

 

 

 
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