H.E.R Asia Summit 2019

Opening Remarks by Chairperson Renee Tan, Founder, Rendeur (H.E.R® Entrepreneur)

Our chairperson Renee Tan introduced the topic of discussion: Digital transformation. She mentioned that juggling both work and family (during pregnancy) was certainly not an easy task but digital transformation enabled her to utilize technology to ensure productivity anytime, anywhere. Digital transformation has also paved the way for expansion of the H.E.R market – which is attended by c-suite business owners and owners of influential brands – and this expansion would not be possible without digital transformation. Further stressing its importance, Renee emphasized the point that digital transformation has the ability to transform businesses. 

H.E.R Community App

Renee announced the launch of the H.E.R Community app to connect like-minded business owners and entrepreneurs. 

A poll was also conducted for the first time, where participants had to download the app to answer the question below:

What is the biggest challenge in embarking on digital transformation for your business/company?

 

The results for the poll:

Brands for Good 2019
Lastly, Renee ended of her speech on a high note as she announced that Rendeur had won the Brands for Good 2019 Award. It was indeed a proud moment for the company. 

GOH’s SPEECH 

Joan Pereira, the MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC graced our event as the Guest of Honor. She recounted a heartwarming episode of the widening disconnect between her and her family members due to her increasing work load. She then ended off by saying that she understood the importance of technology to bridge the widening gap between families as it had helped her overcome such challenges.

 

‘Doing Well While Doing Good’

Keynote Speech by Swati Pandey, CEO and Co-Founder of Arboreal (award-winning biotech company)

 

Swati delivered a moving speech about acceptance and perseverance in a male-dominated industry. An engineer by training, Swati had no experience in the field of agriculture and biotechnology. Her introverted nature further exacerbated this her problem of trying to make a name for herself. But by doing massive amounts of research in biotechnology and agriculture, Swati was able to develop IP technology and food technology across all areas in India. Because of her hard work and perseverance, many farmers in India have regained their livelihood. Her quote “Stay hungry, stay curious, and when faced with challenges, dare to say, why not?”, was certainly inspirational for all the attendees. 

Opening plenary: Scaling up a local business to global heights through innovative strategies

The opening plenary started off with an introductory video for each one of our speakers: Michelle Peh, Michelle Yong, and Imelda Harsono. 

When asked about expansion of the business, Michelle Peh answered succinctly that mindset matters. Michelle Yong talked about the vision and values of the company being aligned, and about further exploring options to expand in Australia and parts of Asia. Overall, different strategies, mergers and acquisitions, partnerships mattered when it came to scaling up your business.

Below is a brief summary of the questions asked and the answers provided by each panelist. 

Qn 2: Could you share with us how your transformational journey is like as you grow?

Michelle Peh: I realized that taking control of teachers’ training is extremely important.

Imelda: The 1st transformation starts with the people. You have to be a benevolent dictator – do something good for the people. Change management is crucial – build an independent task force to oversee the digital 4.0 initiatives.

Qn to Michelle Peh: How did you transform your business to this scale? What were the challenges?

Michelle Peh: Mindset was the key challenge. Success does not depend on being in the profession such as a doctor, lawyer, etc. I had to play an active role in educating parents, educators, and the whole society that straight As are not everything. It also depends on how we transfer the mindset to lead the team. I had to do whatever that is necessary, regardless of the budget – a brand is never built through glossy campaigns or big-scale marketing.

Qn to Imelda and Michelle Yong: Share with us challenges with running the family business.

Imelda: Legacy issues were the main challenges that I faced and still face. 

Michelle: The lack of freedom to make many changes that were necessary is a challenge. I had to earn  my stripes, and not every business that I started could succeed. I also have too many ideas and too many businesses, with 3 new businesses in 3 years. I have to learn to not start businesses to quickly even though I have so many ideas.

Qn to Michelle Peh: Share with us how did you go about with this innovation throughout the years.

Michelle: MindChamps gathers experts in 4 key domains, including the incorporation of neuroscience and theatre. Had to find ways to embrace challenges while balancing out technology – which meant we  had to embrace technology instead of fighting it. 

PANEL: Panel: Applying New-Gen Technologies To Drive Business Growth

A brief summary of the questions and answers after a round of introduction given by each panelist:

 

Qn 1 : What impact do you think new technology such as AI blockchain and Machine Learning has on your consumers’ learning experience?

Grace: Machine learning allows you to gather and use the data points obtained from your patients, which is extremely useful for data analysis.

Aik-Phong (AP):  The main thing is to look into the data that we have and turn into actionable data – give it in bite-sized form so that merchants can consume it; there is no point having data that is not actionable. The importance of being merchant -centric – Inspired by China’s two payment methods: Alipay and Wechat pay, denotes that cashless payment is huge, and merchants want repeat customers, and thus have a way to drive innovation.

Violet: Blockchain is still in its infancy, but it helps with the verification of singles, which is extremely important to prevent catfishing (impersonating), and scammers. It also helps to ascertain the identity of the person, by matching the person with a photo/video, etc. The difference between gen z and millennials is that the new gen Z expects everything to be in one click. Hence, applying new technology is a must to drive business growth.

Qn 2: How does Cloud help your company?

Grace: Security is of paramount importance. Our company relies on local servers and data centres. Thus, being in the cloud allows us more time to focus on the bread and butter of DocDoc.

Violet: Cloud reduces cost and increases the security factor.

AP: Scalability – it is much easier to scale when in cloud. Cloud minimises loss of information, which we certainly would like to avoid.

Qn 3: How do you work with technology for your company to produce results?

AP: It is important for companies not to adopt technology for the sake of adopting technology. You have to ascertain when you have to adopt tech;. It usually depends on what industry you are in. Focus on the problem that you are trying to solve, go about on what is the best way to achieve it. Spend time to look at the problem; see beyond the gloss, and you need to have an ROI matrix. Do not be afraid to change – adopting tech requires you to unplug from everything. Get every stakeholder by end, and do not kill your projects too early – you have to persevere. For my company, I decided to put a monetary investment into the project and the project started to take flight.  Understand that empathy is important, then break down everything. 

Grace: Well, the state of the art machines in hospitals is the fax machine – the state of technology is not very advanced here. Remember that trust is everything in healthcare – a hacking incident, breach of personal information will result in a downward spiral. Have to acknowledge the fact that AI platform is technology-based, and there is no human touch. 

Violet: Have to understand what users are looking for and innovate to produce those results. Technology allows our associates to spend time on more human interactions as it streamlines processes and value-adds time.

Qn 4: Do you think you are a disruptor?

AP: No. In the process of scaling up, disruption happens. I would say that it is more of a by-product.

Grace: No, just  that we use a different way of thinking, being able to provide data and allow patients to make data -informed decisions.

Violet: Our objective/mission is to become the most effective dating platform by innovating and disrupting. But the word disrupting has negative connotation. We want to stay relevant, and continue to help people find a happy relationship.

Panel: Developing an Innovative Business for the Sustainable Future

Our panelists were: Swati Pandey, Atchara Poomee, Koh Seng Choon, and Claire Sancelot. 

A brief summary of the questions and answers after a round of introduction given by each panelist:

Qn 1: What were the challenges faced and how did you overcome them?

Swati: Farmers are not really educated. Hence there was difficulty in transferring information of risk to them. The change has to be gradual . We had to “become” farmers ourselves to learn how to address this issue, and in the end demonstrated that it it possible to find a solution. 

Atchara: The biggest challenge was market acceptance. We had this new technology which needed time to be introduced into the market. Some customers did not trust our local technology so we had to prove to them that homegrown technology is effective. At first, it was hard to find customers. We had to educate them first. The financial aspect is also important. We invested a lot in the market and went to governments for funding. 

Seng Choon (SC): Training a disabled/special needs person is much harder. To overcome this, we need empathy among Singaporeans to buy food made by the disabled. It takes time as trying to convince Singaporeans to support the disabled is a major issue. 

Claire: The main challenge I faced would be saving money. Sustainable food is much more expensive than normal food. To overcome this issue, we upcycle everything and reuse paper bags to save money on packaging. We also collect all e-waste and old prescription glasses, which brings food traffic. This is important as the millennial generation is very concerned about sustainability, which creates social media buzz about our green initiatives and in turn brings in more revenue. And I agree with Seng Choon – people with Down Syndrome love repetitive tasks, compared to average people. I made the best decision by hiring disabled people to work in my company to do mundane tasks as they appreciate doing such things.

 

Qn to SC: What are some ways businesses can be more inclusive?

SC: Hire more disabled people, train Singaporeans to learn sign language. The disabled love repetitive tasks (short hours, routine jobs) so you have to deduce what their needs are, i.e physical, mental, etc. 

Qn to Atchara and Swati: What are some of the collaborations/partnerships that you have with businesses to ensure sustainability?

Swati: The top priority for businesses is profit. Gen z and millennials care a lot about the environment. The key criteria is still quality and price. The differentiating factor for a company would then be its social impact.

Atchara: Most of the companies are concerned about the environment today. We do co-marketing and educate companies about customers. For example, we collaborate with a petrol company who uses solar energy to reduce carbon emissions, greenhouse gases, and carbon footprint. There is also green marketing in hotels. 

 

Panel: Dominating the Local Market with Expansion Strategies

This panel consists of Alexander Pang, Rehan Amarasuriya, and Laura Bertotto.
 

Qn 1: What issues did you face with your business in terms of structure? Share with us about the issues with an International business.
Alex: It was about the structure put into place when it first started. I had to be particular about the values I should possess. There are many things that I could appreciate as I had done it from the ground and I know where the mistakes have been made, though on hindsight, I might have given a bit more time to expand. The three main things to care about are rent, manpower, and cost of goods. You have to plan with a goal in mind, but have to be aware that things can change pretty quickly. Funding is necessary, be it traditional or non-conventional – loan financing, equity financing, etc. You also have to be aware that key dynamics can change – once things are not going smoothly, you may have to let businesses go. 

Rehan: We are not extremely structured – somewhere in the middle. But I would like to move to a more professionalized business structure. I separated myself from my father by taking up a small office space so my father won’t feel to scrutinize as much. You always have to take the harder route and lead from the front. Spend time with people to hire the right people – they are your main resources. Flying all over the world is the nature of an international business. Singaporean businesses should take the initiative to expand to international markets.

Laura: In terms of having an international company, technology is a godsend. It makes up for the lack of travelling that I do (lack of money) with communication through apps by leveraging all the technology available. 

 

Qn 2: What are some of your thoughts about whether you would like to build a sustainable company in the future?

Alex: I take what I have learnt and bring it into the service industry. Singaporeans don’t see F&B as a career – many slip into the industry; it’s not a deliberate choice usually. I try to put value into Singaporean food which I feel is worth growing as a brand. 

Rehan: Today is a modern world, and the focus is on making more profits. I wish to use BP de Silva as a vessel for a higher purpose. Businesses can be profitable with a higher benchmark. To me, success/legacy is more about the idea that you can plant in the tea industry – whether can we push ourselves to higher standards, and not about making more money. It should be able to outlast the family. 

Laura: I run the business as if I may be run over by a bus tomorrow. I have to look into ways to sustain the business over the long run. I am not on this planet to run this business. I’m here because I want to do good in this world. 

 

Following the panel, we had a round-table discussion, and ended off the summit with a networking tea extravaganza and and a lucky draw. There was an abundance of insightful discussions and we hope all our attendees had a meaningful day. H.E.R Entrepreneur would like to thank all the speakers, moderators, and attendees who made this event a success. We hope to see you at our summit coming up next year!

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