Caixin
Nov 15, 2021 07:47 PM
ECONOMY

Caixin Summit: Southeast Asia Will Need to Change How It Does Business Post-Pandemic

Ling Hai (right), co-president of Asia Pacific Mastercard, speaks at the summit’s Singapore venue on Friday. Photo: Alex Chen
Ling Hai (right), co-president of Asia Pacific Mastercard, speaks at the summit’s Singapore venue on Friday. Photo: Alex Chen

In a post-pandemic Southeast Asia juggling climate change and demographic changes, companies need to be ready to adapt to customer needs both old and new, entrepreneurs and investors said Friday in the Singapore venue of the 12th Caixin Summit.

The key to successful investments across Asian countries with differing opportunities is being local, including understanding the market and who to partner with, Jaka Prasetya, a partner at investment giant KKR & Co. Inc., said at a panel on investment trends for global investors in Southeast Asia.

Tan Chin Hwee, Asia-Pacific CEO of commodity trading and logistics company Trafigura Group Pte. Ltd., said people can’t know everything about the pandemic, but what they can do is to execute as best as they can, such as choosing the right person for the right job at the right time, and change their practices when things change.

However, “implementing changes has been not straightforward,” Prasetya said, noting that established businesses can be reluctant to change the way they operate. But now people live their lives differently and consume differently, so investors and companies need to think about how to conduct businesses “the right way” or “the different way,” he said.

On the shift to environmental, social and corporate governance investments to address climate change, Prasetya said green investments are not a zero-sum game. Investors can invest in industries that are not green and encourage the companies to change toward sustainable sourcing and recycling. He cited a KKR investment in an auto-part company, after which the firm began to recycle and reuse 90% of its waste.

In addition, demographic changes in Asia, including the growth of senior population and the expansion of younger generations’ consumption power, also require businesses to take a segmented view, customizing products to meet consumers’ needs and not treating everyone the same, said Ling Hai, co-president of Mastercard Asia/Pacific Pte. Ltd. For example, even as more and more people go digital, a mix of online and physical experiences will continue to exist after the pandemic, and businesses need to provide “omni-channel” services instead of assuming that everyone’s online.

Meanwhile, with everything getting more digitalized, consumers want both data privacy, and convenience and transparency. “They don’t want to make a trade-off,” Ling said, noting that means technological innovation such as the decentralized distributed storage of data is the way to go.

Prasetya said digitalization aside, people’s living environment also matters, and investors need to do more to improve the physical infrastructure in Asia, which in many countries is still in need of development.

Contact reporter Zhang Yukun (yukunzhang@caixin.com) and editor Joshua Dummer (joshuadummer@caixin.com)

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