The year 2020 will be remembered for the turbulence caused when a pandemic swept through the world, fundamentally changing people’s way of life, presenting unprecedented challenges to governments worldwide, and forcing businesses to reflect and adapt in order to survive. With this in mind, the Asia Business Council and the Tanoto Center for Asian Family Business and Entrepreneurship Studies at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) embarked on a six-month research project to analyze how Asia Business Council member companies have responded to the pandemic in strategic, innovative, or impactful ways.

For Lotte Group, the fifth largest conglomerate in South Korea, the response to the crisis was not just about braving the storms of the pandemic but also about accelerating pre-COVID-19 developments. Lotte saw its e-commerce app, Lotte On, as the key to its business transformation. Building on the idea of “open innovation,” or the practice of sourcing ideas and solutions from other organizations, Lotte On has collaborated with a number of start-ups since the app was launched in April 2020.

These start-ups include start-ups invested by Lotte Accelerator, namely online convenience store start-up Nowpick, delivery start-up PLZ, and beauty marketing start-up LYCL. Lotte On also rolled out a new brand in partnership with a fashion A.I. start-up Designovel. Given that South Korea already had one of the most sophisticated technological infrastructures in the world prior to the pandemic, the challenge for Lotte is whether it can adapt, transform, and emerge as a winner in the post-coronavirus era.