On November 21, 2019, Lei Zhang, the founder and CEO of the global investment firm Hillhouse Capital spoke as a panelist on the future of capitalism at Bloomberg’s New Economy Forum in Beijing. The discussion was moderated by Matthew Slaughter, dean of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, and also joined by Ray Dalio, Steven Rattner and Dambiso Moyo.
Lei shared an example of how Hillhouse is using technology to improve jobs and productivity. Hillhouse, a private equity company, purchased a chain of brick-and-mortar shoe stores in China with 120,000 employees. Observers expected Hillhouse to chop up the retailer and make layoffs. But instead, Lei looked at his employees as assets and endeavored to make them more productive and fulfilled. “They are our user interface,” he said. “So we developed tools and apps for them to make the information much more transparent.” The company produced Youtube-like tutorials so employees could learn the new shoe models, and it put tracking software in floor models of shoes in experimental stores, to see how often a shoe was picked up or tried on. “The workers are more productive, and more proud to go to work,” Lei said. “Our goal is to transition them from box-movers to tech-enabled fashion consultants. I think this turned out to be a win-win-win solution…”