Credit Suisse Asia Entrepreneurs' Forum Highlights from the Credit Suisse Asia Entrepreneurs' Forum
The 3rd Asia Entrepreneurs' Forum, with the theme ‘Technology: The Future of Work’, brought together eight speakers to share valuable insights into the world of fast-paced digitization. Featuring founders, investors, and industry leaders, the forum presented an opportunity for guests to hear more about how collaborations on technological innovations help maximize and leverage their business needs.
Benjamin Cavalli, Head Private Banking South Asia and CEO Singapore, set the stage for the evening with his welcome address, as he painted a picture of the landscape that lay ahead.
“By 2020, it is projected that the global market for cross-border business-to-customer e-commerce business will cross US$900 billion, a staggering number”, he said.
He observed that developments in technology, such as big data and advances in computing power, have triggered a technological evolution, disrupting traditional brick-and-mortar businesses, reinventing the entire industry of what we are experiencing. These make for exciting times, bringing enormous improvements, and presenting a host of investment opportunities for long-term investors.
In line with the theme of digital innovations, Ben also proudly showcased Credit Suisse’s latest technological innovation—CS Chat. CS Chat allows clients to conveniently communicate with their CS team in a secure and compliant manner anywhere, anytime.
The keynote dialogue that followed featured Tony Fernandes, Group CEO of AirAsia. Moderated by Jullie Kan, Vice Chairman, Private Banking Southeast Asia, “Master of Transformation” Tony regaled the audience with his candid and often tongue-in-cheek comments about his journey in turning AirAsia around.
From the time he bought the airline 18 years ago, Tony has transformed AirAsia from a conventional business to a highly profitable outfit with digital assets. Beginning with a humble inventory of two planes, 254 staff, and 200,000 passengers, AirAsia today boasts 250 planes, 21,000 staff, and 1,000,000 passengers, making it the 7th largest airline in the world.
Attributing the airline’s success to “its amazing people and culture”, Tony proudly spoke about the company flat structure and culture where “everything is possible”. Bearing testament to this is the fact that AirAsia was the first airline to hire female pilots (today they have 300), and a dispatch boy who is now a First Officer.
Beyond that, Tony shared that his “whole life has been about trying things out—nothing ventured, nothing gained”. From opening up brand new routes and flying where no other airline had flown before, to using the Internet and selling all their inventory on AirAsia.com, AirAsia capitalized on opportunities to do something different.
Looking ahead, he saw their “phenomenal data” as their big asset. Having built up a tremendous amount of data over the last 18 years, the journey has begun to transform AirAsia.com into something more than just selling tickets. Coupled with their “phenomenal network”, Tony sees an opportunity for AirAsia to disrupt the cargo industry, and to allow small-medium enterprises to sell goods outside their own countries.
Discussing some of the greatest challenges that he faces today, Tony acknowledged that “every business is full of challenges, and airlines have extra challenges”. That said, he also encouraged the audience that “there is always a silver lining; where there is a crisis, there is an opportunity, and one should never give up”.
A big believer in free market, Tony hopes that there will be more open competition in Southeast Asia, with business-friendly government and legislation that will continue to encourage innovation and creativity. In addition, if ASEAN, and its 700 million strong market comes together, he is bullish about the times ahead.