Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) form a vital component of the Malaysian economy. Contributing to over 38% of the country’s GDP, SMEs form over 97% of the total number of business establishments and employ around 70% of the workforce in Malaysia. The people behind it all are, of course, entrepreneurs. The daring visionaries who had sketched the outlines of their next great venture on a canvas of ambition and determination and then transfigured those ideas to reality. Spoilt for choice as it may be, here’s Top 10 of Asia’s random list of the top 10 most dynamic and inspiring young entrepreneurs of Malaysia under the age of 40.
Fiqa Liyana Chong
Fiqa is a face that will no doubt be familiar to many as apart from being the founder of FIQS, a company that produces comfortable, foldable footwear, she’s also a prolific TV commercial talent – appearing in over 30 commercials over the past decade. FIQS has expanded to Hong Kong and is looking to add yet more creative designs to its line of flats.
It’s easy to see why FIQS’ products have caught on. Made of cow leather for durability and designed with an emphasis on fit and comfort, Fiqa goes the extra mile to ensure the quality of her company’s product, as it is something she uses herself.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then Jewel Ling has written countless beautiful tomes. With a portfolio that is able to boast the likes of Asia’s Next Top Model Cycle 2 winner, Sheena Liam, Jewel is a gem in the Malaysian photography realm that continues to shine on.
The proud owner of her own photography studio, Prounited, Jewel provides an exclusive platform for professional new age and influential photographers to dispense their knowledge both locally and internationally. She seeks to connect to photographic society on a personal level, in the hopes that it will cultivate and refine a new level of photography now and in the time to come.
Overflowing with personality and genuine congeniality, Jessie Chong just gives off the vibe of a good time. It’s only fitting then that she founded Boozeat, the largest alcohol eCommerce start-up in Malaysia and among the top 5 in Southeast Asia. Having sold Boozeat, Jessie now focuses her efforts on her e-commerce consulting company and operating Headspace, a co-working space in Subang Jaya.
She also spends her time mentoring students enrolled with Taylor’s Team Entrepreneurship, sharing her experiences with them and giving them invaluable guidance as they seek to one day build successes of their own.
Aw Tai Hau / Eden Hoong
Aw Tai Hau and Eden Hoong are the entrepreneurial spirits behind Pott Glasses. Producing chic eyewear equipped with the ‘Asian Fit’, they understand the unique demands Asian features require and have created Pott Glasses to fit exactly those.
With a variety of designs on offer, Pott Glasses will have you looking your best. The dynamic duo also have a heart for social causes, fronting the ‘A Pair For Those In Need’ project that provided glasses to kids in Kelantan free of charge in the aftermath of the 2014 floods.
Jin Xi Cheong
An avid drone enthusiast since the age of 14, Jin Xi Cheong started Poladrone in 2016 with visions of bringing drone technology to commercial industries. Since rebranded as Aonic, the company started off using drones to increase efficiency in Malaysian palm oil plantations and crop farms.
It now functions as an all-in-one drone solutions provider for enterprises that are looking to modernise their operations and streamline their workflow processes. A fixture in the commercial drone industry, Jin Xi Cheong’s example affirms that you can turn your passion into a living.
Harmini Asokumar used to be a communications executive who did online marketing for her company. Prior to that, she tried on many hats – being a fashion and home products buyer at one point and a writer at another. While still employed, Harmini threw herself into her online business outside of her 9 am to 6 pm office hours.
Disliking the lack of flexibility and feeling the constraint on her ideas and creativity, she chose to dare and strike out on her own and start Deeper than Fashion. That decision has paid off not just financially but also bought her that most priceless of commodities, freedom.
Teoh Jiun Ee
Teoh Jiun Ee, or JT as he’s more often known, founded Carsome at the age of just 25. A car-purchasing e-commerce platform, Carsome allows users to compare extensively between models and prices to ensure they’re getting exactly what they’re looking for – all on one convenient platform.
Having expanded to Indonesia, Thailand, and Singapore, Carsome is well on its way to achieving its aim of becoming the undisputed number one car-selling platform in the Southeast Asian region. With such a dynamic presence spearheading the company, you wouldn’t want to bet against them
Teoh Wee Kiat
The Petaling Jaya area is awash with burger shacks but none perhaps so well-known for its mouth-watering charcoal buns as myBurgerLab. The brainchild of Wee Kiat, the young entrepreneur had known since his high school days that building a business was his calling. In fact, he’d already been running a small CD customisation business back then.
Now a seasoned businessman with some invaluable experience under his belt, his entrepreneurial zeal has shown no signs of abating, with Wee Kiat having since gone on to start OpsNinja, alongside Chok Leang Ooi, the CEO of AgilityIO
Sherlyn Tan registered Twenty3 when she was 23. The name was a reminder to Sherlyn Tan from herself to never give up on her dreams of building a movement that would in turn empower other dreamers everywhere. Made for the woman on the go, Twenty3 has you covered every part of your day.
From work to workouts, to a night out with the girls, Twenty3 makes that transition as smooth as can be. From their humble studio in Petaling Jaya, their collections saw the runways of KL Fashion Week in 2015 and 2016 as well as making appearances internationally
VapeClubMy is a vape flavour subscription service founded by Jeannette Goon. Offering a wide variety of flavours, VapeClubMy has all the traditional favourites alongside Malaysian delights such as teh o ais limau and durian. The company has gone from strength to strength since its inception and now ships flavours to over 30 places worldwide, including the faraway shores of Macau, Norway, and Russia.
Meeting co-founder Jeremy Ong through NEXT Academy’s Web Development Bootcamp, it was there that she found a kindred spirit with the technical skills to build to help build VapeClubMy into what it is today.
With the Southeast Asian region fast gaining recognition as a fertile ground for start-ups, Thailand has gotten in on the action with a number of companies seeing their nascent beginnings in the Land of Smiles. Known the world over for its beautiful natural scenery, mouth-watering cuisine, and a rich culture steeped in antiquity – Thailand is now making a name for itself as the place to be for start-ups.
With a remarkably low cost of living when compared to the quality of its infrastructure and high-speed internet widely available, it’s little wonder that Thailand – long a favourite of digital nomads – is seeing an ever-increasing number of self-starters flocking to its shores and choosing to set the foundations of their next big idea there. In the latest edition of the rankings list, Top 10 of Asia shares its picks (presented in no particular order) of the start-ups you’ll want to keep your eye on.
Sunday is an insurance technology company on a mission to not only personalise the insurance space but to make it easy and accessible to all people. An insurance technology provider determined to make a positive impact on the lives of its customers, Sunday delivers a simple and enjoyable experience – be it in the healthcare, car, gadget, or travel spaces.
Insurance can be easily bought and activated anytime and from anywhere directly with them, through key ecosystems, or even through referrals. Enabled by virtual and reliable risk management services, you can rest at ease knowing Sunday has your back.
2) Flash Express
Established in 2017 by Mr Komsan Saelee, Flash Express has come on in leaps and bounds since its inception. Its meteoric rise saw it become the first start-up to achieve unicorn status in Thailand just three years into its operations. A comprehensive integrated e-commerce service provider, the company counts over 10,000 employees ready to serve across all 77 provinces in Thailand.
Operating over 2,500 delivery points 365 days a year, Flash Express’ delivery service is about as extensive as it gets. Delivering more than a million pieces a day, Flash Express is the connective heartbeat of Thailand.
Finnomena is a fully integrated digital wealth management platform for investors and financial advisors. Finnomena can count more than 100,000 investment accounts opened with them and provides professionally generated investment content through its own investor’s knowledge hub that attracts 15 million monthly views. Born from the words ‘finance’ and ‘phenomena’, Finnomena has most definitely managed to live up to the billing as a financial phenomenon.
Finnomena’s application also has a feature where it recommends an automated portfolio of stocks based on the level of risk their investors choose, helping to further simplify the process.
4) Rabbit Internet
Created in 2015 and backed by Bangkok’s leading public service provider, BTS Group, Rabbit Internet offers a platform to accelerate the process of building internet business and to provide the opportunity to invest in local entrepreneurs in the early and growth stages of their pursuits.
Rabbit Internet’s key focus is on sustainable consumer business models for the Southeast Asian region and its specialisation in product-centric organisations means that Rabbit Internet understands how to help businesses reach their full potential. With a broad investment spectrum encompassing businesses of all sizes, Rabbit Internet is set to be behind some big happenings in the Thai business scene.
5) Queue Q
We’re all no strangers to standing in the middle of a seemingly unending queue. A task as mentally draining as it is physical, queues are a necessary evil to ensure the orderly functioning of society. Or are they? Que Q, a revolutionary queuing system that allows its users to virtually stand in line, is here to make your aggravation a thing of the past.
Users are allowed to book their spot in a queue within a range of 2 km from the selected outlet and then carry on with what they were doing without fear of missing the queue. Que Q is currently dominant in the chain restaurant industry, numbering a million users on its platform.
A crypto-fintech and venture-building platform, Everex utilises hybrid crypto/legacy payment and card tools to power consumer-based projects in GameFi, SportFi, PolitiFi and POV video streaming. Knowing the pitfalls of the cumbersome and outdated payment processing traditionally used by non-fintech start-ups, Everex instead seeks to make payments seamless and practical for everybody worldwide.
With financial service companies typically doing either card issuing or card payment processing, Everex combines both in one product line and with additional perks on top of that – making their fintech product a unique one.
Having created a splash in Thailand’s automotive dealership scene, Siamcardeal now looks to gain a foothold regionally as well. Founder Damien Kerneis started the company after a bad personal experience trying to buy a car. Going from dealer to dealer he found they either wouldn’t have the right car in stock or they wouldn’t have his preferred financing options. The thought occurred to him that it would be easier to do online and this led to the eventual formation of Siamcardeal.
With the site’s popularity so far, it seems that many would agree with that sentiment. Connecting customers with car dealerships around Thailand, users can shop by make or model or even just browse for special deals.
8) Z Home
There is no shortage of online real estate portals in Thailand yet it still sometimes takes Thai people a year or more to sell their homes. A major cause of this issue is that the majority of the properties listed on Thai websites are by agents who have no official agreements with the owners to sell their properties.
Z Home seeks to remedy this issue by providing a portal exclusively for owners to list their properties with no agents allowed. Through this, Z Home seeks to eliminate high commission costs and alleviate the illiquidity of the real estate market.
Freshket was founded in 2017 by Paniangwet and Tuangploi Chiwalaksanangkoon as an e-commerce marketplace bringing together farmers and food processors and enabling them to supply fresh produce to B2B and B2C customers throughout Thailand. The platform functions as an integrated workflow marketplace for fresh food suppliers and restaurants.
The Freshket team believes that through the use of technology, they can grow to become the most trusted and sustainable end-to-end food supply chain platform in Thailand. They hope to be able to link everyone in the food supply industry and make it more efficient, creating a ripple effect that can help everyone involved.
Nothing spoils a city quite like traffic and rampant carbon emissions. SCOOTA seeks to help alleviate those ills and was founded on an idea to make urban mobility smart, resourceful, and a lot of fun to boot. Founded in 2018, SCOOTA has gone on to establish themselves as the leaders of electric micro-mobility in Thailand.
Offering electric scooters to meet urban commuters’ demands, SCOOTA helps solve the first/last mile problem too. SCOOTA’s e-scooters get its many users wherever they need to go – be it travelling to work, going to class, running errands, or just the more enjoyable aspects of life like going to the beach or exploring the city.
Singapore is a country with no shortage of good law firms. According to research carried out by The Straits Times in collaboration with German-based international research firm Statista, about 1 in 10 law firms practising in all of Singapore have managed to achieve the Best Law Firm grade in one category or another. This is indicative of a generally high standard of legal representation in the country. In this edition, Top 10 of Asia shares its list of the top ten most excellent law firms (presented in no particular order) in the cosmopolitan city-state, whether it be for their prestige, dedication to the cause, or undoubted professionalism in the legal field.
Allen & Gledhill
Allen & Gledhill is led by Jerry Koh, Managing Partner of the firm that has a regional network of associate firms operating in Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Myanmar. Besides being known as one of the largest law firms in Singapore, it is also one of the oldest in the country, having been founded in 1902. Particularly renowned for its expertise in the banking & finance, capital markets, and corporate and M&A sectors, it provides excellent guidance on related transactional and advisory matters. The firm caters to a whole host of clients including MNCs, local companies, financial institutions, and individuals. Allen & Gledhill has been regularly ranked in the top tier by legal directories and publications. The award-winning firm’s network includes over 650 lawyers regularly working on cross-border transactions in the cities of Southeast Asia and worldwide.
Rajah & Tann
Led by its Managing Partner, Patrick Ang, Rajah & Tann has 12 offices across Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, China and the Philippines. Rajah & Tann has practices in banking, corporate governance, corporate finance, dispute resolution, information technology, infrastructure, insolvency, insurance, mergers and acquisitions, shipping, telecommunications and trade. The firm is additionally known for its China, Japan and South Asia specific practice groups. Its network also includes R&T Asia Resources which procures project-specific in-house lawyers to support the firm’s clients and R&T Technologies, a consulting firm that is focused on cybersecurity, data breach readiness and response, a virtual law academy and other legal tech services. Its clientele ranges from multinational, Fortune 500 corporations to emerging high-tech enterprises and start-ups.
Silvester Legal LLC
Established in 2018 and led by Managing Director Walter Silvester, Silvester Legal LLC is a fast-growing Singapore-based law firm that excels in disputes and corporate matters, specialising in shareholders’ disputes. Its service is aimed at business owners and companies, providing proactive and strategic legal counsel and services to help resolve legal issues. Silvester Legal offers the services of a full-service business law firm. It has practical experience throughout the business life cycle because its lawyers have served as both outside and inside legal counsel with start-ups, early and growth-stage companies, as well as family-owned and mid-market businesses across Asia Pacific.
Baker & McKenzie Wong & Leow
Led by Managing Principal Andrew Martin, the lawyers at Baker & McKenzie Wong & Leow in Singapore are featured in the world’s leading legal directories for their work on high-profile transactions. With over 30 years of experience in the field, it is the go-to firm for many major Singapore companies, multinationals and financial institutions that use Singapore as the hub for their Southeast Asia operations. The firm is able to deliver domestic and international expertise from a single legal team to find the best solutions for its clients in corporate transactions, major project financings, complex disputes, IP enforcement, and tax planning and structuring. The firm has expertise in all areas of corporate and securities, including M&As, private equity, capital markets, insurance, real estate, IT and communications, employment and, antitrust and competition.
Bird & Bird
Led by CEO Christian Bartsch, Bird & Bird was formed in 2009 through an association with a leading local firm, Bird & Bird ATMD, a leader in Singapore’s legal market. With over 50 lawyers in its ranks, it provides high-quality advice across all major areas of practice and expert sector knowledge in the automotive, aviation, energy and utilities, financial services, life sciences and healthcare, media and entertainment and, technology and communications spaces. Bird & Bird is experienced in handling a range of local and cross-border issues. It works closely with large multinationals, government agencies and regulatory bodies being changed by the digital world and the knowledge economy.
Eugene Thuraisingam LLP
Eugene Thuraisingam LLP is an award-winning law firm in Singapore founded in 2012 that was established by Eugene Thuraisingam. The firm’s vision is to provide first-class representation in commercial and criminal disputes. It has won cases of unusual commercial complexity, cases involving novel questions of law of public interest, as well as cases in which liberty or even lives are at stake. The law firm provides services in criminal litigation, commercial litigation, commercial arbitration and, corporate and commercial cross-border matters.
WMH Law Corporation
WMH Law Corporation is led by its Joint Managing Directors, Wilbur Lim and Mark Lee. The medium-sized boutique full-service law firm has won numerous awards and specialises in dispute resolution and corporate law. It is equipped with strong regional capabilities via the WMH Regency network in Greater China, Indonesia, and Malaysia. WMH Regency is a network of structured regional practice groups conceptualised with the aim of providing clients with first-class legal representation in this globalised world. WMH has been recognised by Thomson Reuters’ Asian Legal Business as one of the leading boutique law firms in South East Asia.
IRB Law LLP
Founded by Mohamed Baiross, IRB Law LLP was founded with a vision to build a law firm that delivers effective and efficient legal services to everyone. IRB Law has over 50 employees and the firm offers top-quality legal services. Its areas of practice range from family, probate, criminal, personal injury, and personal debt recovery, to international arbitrations, construction and infrastructure, start-ups, mergers and acquisitions, commercial agreements, asset tracing, and enforcement actions. IRB also provides services in Syariah law practice. It advises and represents clients in all aspects of Syariah law, such as wills and inheritance matters and divorce. On civil and commercial matters, IRB has represented clients at all levels in the Singapore Courts, including the Court of Appeal. Its international arbitration team worldwide has been representing large international contractors, companies and consultants in arbitrations in Singapore, Malaysia, as well as in more distant jurisdictions such as India, China and Romania, primarily in construction, infrastructure, engineering and commercial disputes.
Duane Morris & Selvam LLP
Duane Morris & Selvam LLP is led by Krishna Ramachandra, the Managing Director of the firm. Duane Morris’ office in Singapore provides clients with access to legal services in markets throughout the Asia Pacific region and the rest of the world. Selvam LLC is regularly ranked among Singapore’s top corporate finance and mergers and acquisitions law practices by Legal 500 Asia Pacific, Chambers and Partners, Leading Lawyers and the International Financial Law Review 1000. The firm’s attorneys in Singapore represent businesses, ranging from small entrepreneurial enterprises to multinational corporations with operations in Asia, as well as businesses seeking to establish investments in Asia. Duane Morris also leverages its global platform to facilitate Singapore-based companies’ entry into markets such as the United States, Latin America and the United Kingdom.
PKWA Law Practice
Founded by Christopher Song, PKWA Law Practice is an award-winning law corporation that was established in 2004 to take over the practice and business of its predecessor, a law firm established in 1988. PKWA Law was named as one of ‘Singapore’s Best Law Firms’ in 2021 and 2022 in a nationwide survey by the Straits Times in partnership with Statista. PKWA Law scored the maximum 5 stars for its excellence in family law. With more than 30 years of experience, PKWA Law has established itself as one of the leading law firms in Singapore. It is focused on providing top-quality and affordable legal services in conveyancing, divorce law, family law, wills, probate, litigation, corporate services and insurance law.
Setting up a business is no small feat, as any entrepreneur who has toiled through the interchanges of sun and moon will attest to. Having the gumption to risk it all for something you believe in is a quality in short supply. Even more uncommon is pairing that with the know-how and determination to see your business expand and flourish. Rarer still is to find this potent combination in a person whose best years are still well ahead of them.
In this issue, Top 10 of Asia takes a brief look at its list of the top 10 young and inspiring in entrepreneurs of Singapore (presented in no particular order) in businesses ranging from skincare to education and who have turned their passion into successful enterprises.
Kendra Liew-Glausch – I Love Katfood
The touchpaper for I Love Katfood was lit sometime back in 2014. A starry-eyed 26-year-old ready to take on the world back then, Kendra divided her time between her corporate job as a litigator and her true passion for developing her skincare business.
This delicate balance was thrown off kilter when her boss at the time gave her an ultimatum – either commit full-time or leave. For Kendra, there was only ever one option, and now I Love Katfood finds itself a burgeoning brand in the waterless skincare arena.
Hong Kai Yap – Roceso Technologies
Helping bring independence and dignity back to people’s lives, Roceso Technologies has grown to become one of the world’s leading soft robotics companies – and it all started as a university research project by Hong Kai Yap, the co-founder and CTO of the company. Its first product – the EsoGLOVE – is one of the lightest hand rehabilitation and exoskeleton devices in the world, offering users top functionality and comfort.
Finding his way onto a spot in the 2019 Forbes 30 under 30 Asia list, Hong Kai has developed his determination to transform lives into a wild success. And you best believe he’s not slowing down anytime soon.
Ian Ang – Secretlab
From a university dropout to being the co-founder of a company worth some USD224 million as of last year, Ian Ang has been through quite the journey. A favourite of gamers everywhere, Secretlab is known primarily for the stellar quality of its gaming chairs.
Trading sleep to play video games on school nights, what is perhaps not the wisest investment for most children, has paid off handsomely for Ian – with the company counting juggernauts such as Game of Thrones, League of Legends, and AAPE among their partners.
Magdalene Chan – Her Velvet Vase
Magdalene Chan caught the entrepreneurial bug earlier than most, starting Her Velvet Vase (HVV) alongside her older sister at the tender age of 15. When you multiply a precocity like Magdalene’s with enough time, you get the resounding success that HVV is today.
The brand’s Instagram following of nearly 80k is evidence of its reach among its adoring clientele and it’s in there that they showcase their inspiring pieces of clothing designed to elevate women and help them look their best. Starting with just $5,000, HVV’s success has culminated in the opening of an outlet all the way in New York.
Grace Ciao – Grace Ciao Illustration
If you’re a fan of all things designer, chances are you’ve heard the name Grace Ciao. The fashion illustrator and artist extraordinaire is known for her distinctive use of real florals and watercolours woven into the most mesmerising patterns. She calls her signature style “Bloom Belles” and her work adorns the façade of pieces by Bvlgari, Chanel, and Dior to name a few.
Told to focus on her studies and put art aside, Grace thankfully didn’t listen and continues to shine on as an inspiration for all those harbouring dreams of making a living from their passion but finding encouragement hard to come by.
Nicolas Travis – Allies Of Skin
Nicolas Travis faced immense difficulty from the beginning. As a teenager, he struggled with bad acne and had neither the money nor the know-how to alleviate his concerns. It was from there that his interest in better skincare took root and after finishing his Master’s thesis, he turned his attention to creating a skincare line of his own.
Facing rejection from every single skincare company he had applied to, he took a loan from his family in his determination to make his dream a reality. Safe to say that’s paid off and more, with Nicolas’ products a mainstay of Sephora outlets all across Singapore.
Oh Chu Xian – Magorium
Plastic pollution has become one of the world’s prime environmental concerns with the dependence on plastic products having already reached unsustainable levels. Oh Chu Xian decided to do something about it and that something was founding Magorium in 2019. The company breaks down plastic from shopping bags, bottles, and other rubbish to convert it into a material that can be used to partially replace a component of the mixture used to build roads.
Inspired by her stint at a construction company that dedicated research to environmentally-friendly construction materials, Chu Xian is leading her business and doing her part for the environment all at once.
Sazzad Hossain – SDI Academy
Sazzad Hossain didn’t have the easiest of times bedding in when he first moved to Singapore aged 11. Barely able to speak or write English then, Sazzad grew up wanting to make sure that people didn’t have to face the same difficulties he did. This desire led to the establishment of SDI Academy, a company that seeks to empower migrant workers through providing lessons in English, computer literacy, and financial planning.
Around 10,000 migrant workers took up his four-month course during the pandemic which he offered for just $15. Working with the Ministry of Manpower to increase the scale of the project, SDI also has designs extending beyond Asia.
Mandy Chan – The Bold Company
Mandy Chan was just 19 when she, like a lot of people that age, decided to take a gap year before resuming her studies. Unlike most other people that age, however, she decided to spend her gap year focusing on building her business. Using that time to create BOW, her own line of functional travel bags together with her co-founder CK Koh, Mandy endured a tumultuous 12 months in which her savings dried up and disappointments seemed to mount one after the other.
On the verge of giving up, a miraculous turnaround saw their first product, Quiver, fully funded on Kickstarter in just 3 days. Since rebranded as The Bold Company, it continues to go from strength to strength.
Shavonne Wong – Zhiffy Photography and GenV
Shavonne Wong’s photography skills have not just made a splash in Singapore but have extended far beyond the island’s shores too. An award-winning photographer with the likes of Lancôme and Cosmopolitan in her portfolio, Shavonne has even been a guest photographer on Asia’s Next Top Model.
What was once a hobby picked up to kill some time has turned out to be her calling all along. She’s not just got an eye for composition but one for creativity too, developing her own technique allowing still images to be animated called ‘Living Stills’. The co-founder of Zhiffy Photography and founder of GenV, Shavonne made the Forbes 30 under 30 list in 2020.
When you see the word ‘unicorn,’ the first thing that comes to mind would probably be the beatific horned beast of a many mystical stories. The very term is synonymous with this image of something left to be desired, but unicorns do exist—in the business world at least.
In this context, a unicorn is a privately held start-up company valued at over $1 billion. Coined by venture capitalist Aileen Lee in 2013, it’s used to represent the statistical rarity of successful ventures, and, as of February 2021, there are more than 500 unicorns around the world, and we have our fair share of them right here in Asia.
In this issue, Top 10 of Asia takes a look at its list of the most admirable companies, (presented in no particular order) that have risen to impeccable acclaim and achieved unicorn status to become heavy-headed players in their respective economies and internationally.
Bukalapak is an Indonesian-based technology unicorn established in 2010 by technology entrepreneur and then CEO Achmad Zaky, with a focus on helping to create a fair economy for all. Through their online and offline commerce platforms, they aim to provide everyone with options and opportunities to get more out of life. Serving more than 6.5 million online sellers, 7 million Mitra Bukalapak and 100 million users, they have also completed their services, with a B2B e-procurement line named Buka Pengadaan Indonesia (BPI) in 2019.
In 2020, Rachmat Kaimuddin was appointed as the new CEO by Bukalapak founders. Under Rachmat’s leadership, Bukalapak has proven the resilience of its business model that has been able to create social-economic impacts among the people. Last year, Bukalapak recorded an 80% increase in EBITDA and 4 million growth in a number of sellers and Mitra, representing its solid business performance and its existence as a digital platform that gives solutions to people’s needs.
Grab Holdings Inc., commonly known as Grab, is a Singaporean multinational ride-hailing company founded by Anthony Tan and Tan Hooi Ling with operations in Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Japan. In addition to transportation, the company offers food delivery and digital payments services via a mobile app. It is Southeast Asia’s first “decacorn,” a start-up valued at over US$10 billion).
The idea to create a taxi-booking mobile app came to Anthony while he was still attending Harvard Business School after seeing similar ideas being pioneered in the US. Aiming to provide safer taxi-riding experiences, he launched the ‘MyTeksi’ app in Malaysia with fellow Harvard graduate Tan Hooi Ling in 2012. In 2014, Grab moved its company headquarters from Malaysia to Singapore. The app has gone through a few name changes since its creation, from ‘MyTeksi’ to ‘GrabTaxi’ and then finally settling on ‘Grab’ in 2016.
Founded in 2012, Lazada Group is Southeast Asia’s leading eCommerce platform with a presence in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Founded by Maximilian Bittner, with the backing of Rocket Internet, the platform was started with the intention of establishing the Amazon.com business model in Southeast Asia. Since 2016, they became the regional flagship of the Alibaba Group, and are backed by Alibaba’s best-in-class technology infrastructure.
In 2018, LazMall was launched as Southeast Asia’s biggest virtual mall connecting shoppers to over 18,000 leading international and local brands. LazMall serves as a platform for brands and sellers to directly engage and create a customised experience for their customers.
Oyo Rooms, also known as Oyo Hotels & Homes, is an Indian hospitality chain of leased and franchised hotels, homes and living spaces that initially consisted of mainly budget hotels when first starting out. Founded in 2013 by Indian billionaire, entrepreneur and recipient of the Business World Young Entrepreneur Award, Ritesh Agarwal, OYO came to be when Ritesh was travelling across India at the age of 17. Having stayed in more than 100 bed and breakfasts, guest houses, and hotels, he came to realize that there was a massive undersupply of affordable and good-quality hotels in the unbranded budget hotel category. In a short time, OYO became one of the fastest-growing and second-largest hotel chains in the world.
Indonesian e-commerce technology company, Tokopedia, specializes in democratizing commerce through technology. Co-founded by William Tanuwijaya, CEO, and Leontinus Alpha Edison, Director, in 2009, it is an Indonesian unicorn along with ride-hailing company Gojek, travel service firm Traveloka and e-commerce company Bukalapak. Headquartered in Jakarta, Tokopedia has been a force that pioneers digital transformation in Indonesia, building an ecosystem where anyone can start and discover anything by empowering millions of merchants and users across diverse marketplaces, logistics, payments and financial technology businesses.
SEA Limited Group
SEA is the leading consumer internet company in Southeast Asia and Taiwan that has developed an integrated platform consisting of digital entertainment, electronic commerce, and digital financial services. Founder Forrest Li has served as the group’s Chairman and CEO since its inception in 2009. Headquartered in Singapore, the company operates three businesses: Garena, Shopee and SeaMoney.
Garena, the company’s digital entertainment business, is a global game developer and publisher with a presence in Southeast Asia, Taiwan and Latin America providing access to mobile and personal computer online games. Shopee provides users with a shopping environment that is supported by integrated payment, logistics, fulfilment, and other value-added services. SeaMoney is a digital financial services provider that offers e-wallet services, payment processing, credit-related digital financial offerings, and other financial products.
Traveloka is an Indonesian unicorn company and leading online travel company that provides a wide range of travel needs, airline ticketing and hotel booking services online throughout Southeast Asia and Australia. It recently expanded to provide lifestyle products and services, such as attraction tickets, activities, car rental, and restaurant vouchers.
Co-founded by Derianto Kusuma, Albert Zhang and acting CEO Ferry Unardi, the company has established partnerships with more than 100 domestic and international airlines, serving more than 200,000 routes worldwide. It also has the largest direct accommodation inventory, varying from hotels, apartments, guest houses, homestays, to villas and resorts.
Razer Inc., is a Singaporean-American multinational technology company popular for designing, building and selling the world’s largest gamer-focused ecosystem of hardware, software and services. Founded by Min-Liang Tan, the Chief Executive Officer and Creative Director, and Robert Krakoff in 2005, Razer is dual-headquartered in Irvine and Singapore and is recognized as the leading brand for gamers in the USA, Europe and China.
Razer began as a subsidiary of Kärna LLC, developing and marketing a high-end computer gaming mouse targeted to computer gamers but ceased operations due to financial issues. Tan and Krakoff procured the rights to the brand following a large investment from Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing and Singaporean holding company Temasek Holdings, creating the current iteration of Razer we all know.
In January 2021, Razer launched a range of high-grade masks designed to allow lip-reading and seeing facial cues when people talk, with LED lights to illuminate the wearer’s face in dark environments as part of the company’s initiative, Project Hazel, to encourage more people to wear masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Founded in 2010 by Joel Bar-El and Dror Feldheim, Trax is a Singaporean technology unicorn company and world leader in computer vision solutions for retail with offices throughout the Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, North America, and South America. Their unique technology uses a combination of image recognition, deep learning and data science to turn shelf images captured with mobile devices, fixed cameras or robots into real-time actionable insights. Customers use the company’s computer vision technology to collect, measure, and analyse what’s happening on physical store shelves.
As of Feburary 2021, Justin Beha is the acting Chief Executive Officer, joining in 2018 after Trax’s acquisition of the company he founded, Quri, with Joel Bar-El and Dror Feldheim appointed as Executive Chairman and President respectively.
Established in in 2008, Zomato is an Indian online restaurant guide and food delivery platform co-founded by Pankaj Chaddah and Deepinder Goyal that achieved unicorn status in 2015 with a billion-dollar valuation which has since doubled. Zomato provides information, menus and user-reviews of restaurants as well as food delivery options from partner restaurants in select cities, connecting over 55 million users to restaurants in 24 countries across the world. Zomato was founded under ‘Foodiebay’, and was renamed in 2010 as Zomato Media Pvt. Ltd.
It’s safe to say at this point, with what’s been going on in the world, when you can’t even tell what day it is anymore or if time is even passing with how long you’ve been bound to the four walls of your home, it’s still well and good to have in mind where you can go to for your next break from city life.
In this issue, Top of Asia shares its random list of the top ten nature getaways in Asia where awe-inspiring nature together with comfort give you a break that you will never forget, be it just for a change of scenery or a break-away from the hustle and bustle of life.
Pulaithree Retreat, Kuala Kubu Bharu, Malaysia
(Photo Courtesy: Pulaithree)
Tucked in a rainforest atop a private hill in the Titiwangsa Mountain Range, and situated near the rustic town of Kuala Kubu Bharu in Malaysia is where you’ll find PulaiThree, a cosy and stylish villa designed with an open-shed concept and a deep respect for the environment. This 2-bedroom hideaway offers a picturesque view of the emerald green forested mountains beyond the beautiful town. Take the time to cool off in the tranquil pool, and when night falls, head on to the open platform as you enjoy a peaceful dinner with the full kitchen and outdoor barbeque area.
(Photo Courtesy: Pulaithree)
Elephant Hills, Thailand
Elephant Hills is Thailand’s first luxury tented jungle camp situated in the Khao Sok National Park, part of southern Thailand’s largest stretch of primary rainforest in the Surat Thani province. Their signature Elephant Hills Tours are reminiscent of the safari camp idea of African national parks with the spectacular tropical evergreen forest environment of southern Thailand’s Khao Sok National Park. Elephant Hills comprises two camps, Elephant Camp, the main camp, and the floating Rainforest Camp, both housing spacious, waterproof glamping tents that come fully equipped with all the amenities you’d be accustomed to finding at a regular 4-star hotel room.
Tiarasa Escapes, Janda Baik, Pahang, Malaysia
(Photo Courtesy: Tiarasa Escapes)
Nestled in the cool foothills of Janda Baik in the state of Pahang in Peninsular Malaysia stands a glamping wonderland short of a 45-minute drive from the city. Established by celebrated Malaysian director, producer and actress Tiara Jacquelina, Tiarasa Escapes spreads across 7 acres of majestic trees and fragrant fruit-laden grounds. The award-winning landscape architects at WHZ Environmental Design worked with the existing ecosystem to beautifully balance natural elements to furnish the area with 20 luxurious safari-style tents and 5 treetop villas, creating a charming space for corporate and intimate retreats, destination weddings and special events.
(Photo Courtesy: Tiarasa Escapes)
The Rainforest Ecolodge, Sri Lanka
The Rainforest Ecolodge was designed to preserve and provide a sensational experience of the forest habitat in all its glory. Thriving on a five hundred-acre division of the Enselwatte Tea Estate bordering the South-eastern side of the Sinharaja Rainforest, the environmentally-friendly alfresco room, observation deck, lounge and meeting room form key components within each unit. Guests can also enjoy the spellbinding view from any part of the lodge.
Treeful Treehouse Resort, Japan
(Photo Courtesy: Treeful Treehouse)
Located in Nago City, the northern part of the main island of Okinawa, Japan is Treeful Treehouse. Inspired by the concept of a “Sustainable Treehouse Resort”, the treehouse is supported by a living tree and legs based on an independent foundation, with one of our treehouses built on the side of the Genka River. This is all done strategically to ensure that nature’s creatures are undisturbed. The resort also promotes and acts on creating a sustainable society by not using fossil fuels but using electricity instead, and producing more electricity with solar energy than used. Kitchen waste is used as compost and used as fertilizer in the field.
(Photo Courtesy: Treeful Treehouse)
Secret Paradise Resort & Turtle Sanctuary, Phillipines
Secret Paradise Resort & Turtle Sanctuary is perfectly situated between Port Barton’s Marine Park and Sabang’s world famous ‘Puerto Princesa Subterranean Underground River’, voted one of the ‘New 7 Wonders of Nature.’ This getaway is also special for being an accredited Turtle Sanctuary by the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development and is a partner of WWF-Philippines. Turtle Bay marine sanctuary has promoted the protection and increase of beautiful corals, tropical fish and sea turtles for the last 12 years, and operates with a vision and mission of protecting endangered sea turtles and the surrounding large nature reserve.
Kingfisher Ecolodge, Laos
(Photo Courtesy: Kingfisher Ecolodge)
Kingfisher Ecolodge is a perfect retreat situated just outside the Ban Kiat Ngong village in Pathoumphone District, Champasak Province, Southern Laos, and in access to some of the last remaining elephants in Southern Laos. The Xe Pian National Protected Area, soon to become a national park, attracts its fair share of visitors as it’s in view of an array of birds and other nature-dwelling creatures.
Like a number of retreats featured on this list, Kingfisher Ecolodge is dedicated to ensuring everything operates as sustainably as possible with its location. As a single-use plastic free lodge, every room is equipped with refillable bottles and a refill station is open to all guests. Hot water is supplied by a solar panel heating system, a vanity unit, tea and coffee and a spacious veranda complements a luxurious lounge for a relaxing stay.
(Photo Courtesy: Kingfisher Ecolodge)
Malihom, Balik Pulau, Penang, Malaysia
Malihom is a homegrown retreat tucked away in a 40-acre private estate in Balik Pulau, Penang. Open to the public since 2009, it offers two types of accommodations that one can choose from. Its signature Hilltop barns will have you spending your days in rice barns made of teak wood.
The Foothill homes, an old artist-in-residence turn into a co-living home for families or groups, is an Airbnb-style accommodation perfect for a close group of 5 to 6 people, and is equipped with a kitchen, BBQ pit and outdoor patio, while bathroom is on the floor above. A special treat about this residence comes in the form of its natural spring. From the water you drink to the water you bath in, all of it comes from this natural-occurring source.
Lodges Ekologika on Portibi Farm, Indonesia
A place for a great getaway, and rediscovering nature, Lodges Ekologika situated on Portibi Farm is a place to eat well with friends and colleagues while enjoying the simplicity of how life can be. Part of a reforestation project that mixes available local knowledge, guests have the unique experience to try their hand at more urban activities including farming, construction, and old school kitchen mastery. When that’s all said and done, it’s nice to just sit in the company of one another, digging into local and international flavours and creating a place to share wonderful tastes and stories, while the trees grow up around you.
The Sticks, Fraser’s Hill, Kuala Kubu Bharu, Malaysia
You’re probably well familiar with this entry to the list. The Sticks is an off-grid glamping retreat set in a lush Malaysian jungle an hour away from Kuala Lumpur. Featuring 12 unique houses and ‘tendoks’, a stay here will have you getting lost in nature and feeding into your inner daredevil. From white water rafting and paragliding to just lazing in a hammock, you’ll never be bored that’s for sure. And when that’s all over and done with, enjoy hearty home-cooked meals prepared on a flame-grilled barbeque or flavourful steamboat spread to satisfy every gastronomic craving you have during your stay. It’s no wonder many people can’t get enough of this place.