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What top executives see as their biggest challenges in 2021

·Finance Editor
·9-min read

SINGAPORE — We have finally made it through the terrible 2020. Yahoo Finance Singapore asked some Singapore-based top executives about the challenges and personal goals, and what they are looking forward to this year.

Stephanie Davis, Vice President, Google Southeast Asia. (PHOTO: Google)
Stephanie Davis, Vice President, Google Southeast Asia. (PHOTO: Google)

Stephanie Davis, Vice President, Google Southeast Asia

What do you see as the biggest challenge or opportunity in 2021 for the industry?

With its young, diverse and mobile-first population, I believe that Southeast Asia will help define the future of digital economies. In 2020, a year in which the global pandemic has had a profound impact on all of us, and on GDP and businesses across the region, our digital economy has proved to be resilient and is set to cross US$300 billion by 2025.

So despite this uncertain year filled with understandable angst, I’m choosing to hold on to optimism as we enter 2021. I see the opportunities that the digital economy offers us - this region is a bellwether for digital consumer trends around the world, with Southeast Asians preferring voice, visual and video content, and the adoption is driving possibilities for all SEA.

With Google, we will continue to do our best to be helpful, to offer the best of our technology, skilling programs and products to all of our customers, partners and communities, and to be part of the economic recovery for as long as it takes, so Southeast Asia can ultimately emerge stronger.

What is your personal goal/resolution for 2021?

Climate change will be one of the biggest challenges we will tackle in this lifetime. I’m fortunate to work for a company that believes every business has both the opportunity and obligation to protect our planet and support the communities where we operate. Operating our business in an environmentally and socially responsible way has been a core value since Google’s founding. I’m proud of that. So my personal goal for 2021 is to do more personally to help further the conversation related to climate change in Southeast Asia, to protect this beautiful region and help it sustainably grow.

Amit Malhotra, Regional Lead of Disney+ Southeast Asia. (PHOTO: The Walt Disney Company)
Amit Malhotra, Regional Lead of Disney+ Southeast Asia. (PHOTO: The Walt Disney Company Pte Ltd)

Amit Malhotra, Regional Lead of Disney+ Southeast Asia

What do you see as the biggest challenge or opportunity in 2021 for the industry?

The pandemic has upended the entertainment industry and reshaped how people enjoy their favourite shows and movies. This has accelerated demand for direct-to-consumer options and high-quality content. One thing remains certain through it all – we know that people turn to the magic of storytelling to find moments of comfort, happiness and inspiration, especially in these recent challenging times.

In September 2020, we launched Disney+ Hotstar in Indonesia, our first Southeast Asian market, and will focus on expanding the Disney+ footprint in Southeast Asia in 2021. We recently announced the launch of Disney+ in Singapore on 23 February 2021, offering viewers of all ages a new way to experience the unparalleled content from our iconic brands including Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic and Star, a familiar entertainment brand in Asia.

What is your personal goal/resolution for 2021?

To continue bringing the best-in-class entertainment experience to audiences of all ages, not only with a world-class product, but also a content pipeline that is bolstered by our amazing storytelling and award-winning creative teams.

This connects with another key interest of mine, which is to put the spotlight on the rich treasure trove of Asian stories and Asian talent waiting to be discovered. In Indonesia, Disney+ Hotstar has collaborated with top Indonesian studios and talent to bring over 300 local movies to Indonesian viewers, who have been embracing our local entertainment content. We will continue enriching our Disney+ Hotstar offering with stories from local filmmakers. More opportunities are also opening up closer to home, with the recently concluded Singapore Media Festival by IMDA as an example.

Lee Li Meng, CEO, Razer Fintech (PHOTO: Razer)
Lee Li Meng, CEO, Razer Fintech (PHOTO: Razer)

Lee Li Meng, CEO of Razer Fintech

What do you see as the biggest challenge or opportunity in 2021 for the industry?

I think the biggest challenge for 2021 is the uncertainty around the continued impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on economies around the world and spending power of the consumers as a result. This could also pose challenges to companies looking for funding to continue on their growth trajectory if investors become more cautious. However, in 2020, we have actually seen an acceleration in terms of the adoption of digital platforms and digital payments around the world so if a fintech company has a viable commercial product, then 2021 would present a great opportunity for such a company to scale up aggressively.

What is your personal goal/resolution for 2021?

To continue to drive the hyper growth of the Razer Fintech business and extend our businesses more aggressively regionally and globally.

John Cahalane, President and CEO of Kerry Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa
John Cahalane, President and CEO of Kerry Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa

John Cahalane, President and CEO of Kerry Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa

What do you see as the biggest challenge or opportunity in 2021 for the industry?

COVID-19: It presents both the biggest challenge and opportunity.

The pandemic has made us acutely aware of the importance of good health as well as food safety. The origin of food will continue to be critical. People want to know where their food is sourced, with greater trust placed in local produce over imported foods. There will be stricter scrutiny of labelling as well, with greater demand for clean, toxin-free, non-modified ingredients and health claims backed by science or research.

What’s exciting is how pivotal a role the food and beverage industry can play in addressing these concerns. Our priority is to harness our innovation expertise and solutions portfolio to create healthier food and beverages that satisfy consumer needs, offer greater value, and are ultimately better for everyone.

What is your personal goal/resolution for 2021?

I hope that travel opens up over the coming months as I would like to personally meet our local leaders, employees, and customers, as well as to travel with my family and get to know the different countries and cultures in the region.

Since coming on board as President and CEO of Kerry Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa in April this year, I have not had that opportunity due to COVID-19. The upside from the pandemic is that it’s made me more aware of the importance of health and fitness ─ I started running regularly in April and completed a half marathon in June. I’ve also been spending much more time with my family now, which I appreciate, as I used to travel frequently for work, pre-COVID.

Victor Lee, CEO of CIMB Bank Singapore (PHOTO: CIMB SIngapore)
Victor Lee, CEO of CIMB Bank Singapore (PHOTO: CIMB SIngapore)

Victor Lee, CEO of CIMB Bank Singapore

What do you see as the biggest challenge or opportunity in 2021?

The economy remains fragile, we could still face surprises at the turns. However, for those who have pivoted to the new normal, have digitised, captured new markets and segments, as a result quick digital evolution will likely win bigger.

What is your personal goal/resolution for 2021?

I wished I could skip 2020. It has been a tough year for every organisation. CIMB Bank Singapore has recalibrated our 5-year strategic plans, and we look forward and are ready to deliver our growth, and get back on track for our ambitious goals.

Lien Choong Luen, Gojek Singapore GM (PHOTO: Gojek Singapore)
Lien Choong Luen, Gojek Singapore GM (PHOTO: Gojek Singapore)

Lien Choong Luen, General Manager of Gojek Singapore

What do you see as the biggest challenge or opportunity in 2021 for the industry?

Hygiene and safety will remain a top priority in the minds of consumers, so improved standards will stay and this is a good thing for the industry. Alongside this, we see a significant opportunity to make point-to-point (P2P) transport an even more vital part of Singapore’s transport network in the year ahead. Underpinned by the recent implementation of the new P2P regulatory framework, key players in the ecosystem - operators, regulators, drivers and vehicle owners - will now be able to work even closer together to ensure the safest and most reliable ride environment.

What is your personal goal/resolution for 2021?

I’m optimistic about the new year! My personal goals are for my team to remain close-knit, motivated and inspired, and for us to take even better care of our driver-partners and customers, such as by finding new ways to enhance their earnings and the ride-hail experience. I’m confident of better days ahead for everyone.

Jessica Liu, Co-President and Regional Head of Commercial, Lazada Group. (PHOTO: Lazada)
Jessica Liu, Co-President and Regional Head of Commercial, Lazada Group. (PHOTO: Lazada)

Jessica Liu, co-president and regional head of commercial, Lazada Group

What do you see as the biggest challenge or opportunity in 2021 for the industry

I believe the trend of online shopping and e-commerce growth will endure even after the situation normalises. In the upcoming year, there will be opportunity for ecommerce to continue supporting the growth of the shopping malls of tomorrow, as more traditional retail businesses and brands make e-commerce a concerted part of their overall business strategy and adopt an omni-channel approach.

Lazada’s priority will continue to be supporting SMEs to digitise operations and diversify their retail channels, which in turn will boost local economies in the region. We have just concluded a successful year-end campaign season, and will continue to work on enabling more sellers and brand partners to leverage Lazada’s technology, logistics infrastructure and fulfilment capabilities to improve the end-to-end customer journey and serve more customers across the country and even on an international stage.

What is your personal goal/resolution for 2021

The past year has made me reflect deeply on the importance of family and community. My personal goals are around my family and friends, as well as the role that I can play to contribute to the development of Southeast Asia’s e-commerce landscape.

My family will be settling down in Singapore soon, and we are looking forward to life together in Singapore and making new friends here, especially my son. I plan to build a personal routine of running in the morning, and also encouraging my family to join me on more runs together.

My goal in 2021 is to fortify Lazada’s position as the top shopping destination for Southeast Asian consumers, to enable more brands and SMEs to leverage Lazada as their key platform of choice to connect with consumers in Southeast Asia.

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