A PIONEER IN GREAT STARTUP SUCCESS STORIES

A PIONEER IN GREAT STARTUP SUCCESS STORIES

Quek Siu Rui is the CEO and co-founder of Carousell, a virtual online marketplace that is recognised as the pioneer of mobile classifieds in Singapore. It is available both on Android and Apple. In 2018, Carousell was valued at a whopping $500 million. The idea for Carousell stemmed from Siu Rui’s frustration when he tried selling his old Macbook. Before the advent of his company, he had to go through traditional forums and classified ads which he found troublesome. He saw an opportunity for a streamline solution. Siu Rui’s idea coinciding with the rise of the smartphone trend would bring about one of the greatest Singaporean startup success stories.

Siu Rui graduated from the National University of Singapore in 2012 with a Bachelor of Business Administration and Entrepreneurship as a Reserve Valedictorian. He excelled as a student, having been listed twice on the Dean’s List and received the NUS Global Merit Scholarship and the NUS Overseas College (Silicon Valley) Scholarship. He participated in the NUS Overseas College Program through which he spent a year at Stanford University. The university’s close proximity to Silicon Valley allowed him to work full-time as an intern for VSee, a tech start-up where he gained valuable first-hand experience of a culture that is always looking for new solutions to existing problems.

Carousell in its earliest form was “Snapsell”. Siu Rui, together with his friends Marcus Tan and Lucas Ngoo created a virtual flea market where users can easily buy and sell second-hand items. The three pitched the idea during Singapore Startup Weekend in March 2012. Siu Rui recalls how Snapsell nearly did not make the cut and it was only through other teams dropping out that they were able to make it to the final round of pitching. The team would spend 54-hours of difficult coding to eventually win the top prize at Startup Weekend. This gave them the breakthrough to have their own office space at Blk 71, a startup ecosystem. They also had a chance to pitch at Angel’s Gate where they could gather investors and funding.

In May 2012, Siu Rui dropped out of his honours year to work full-time on Carousell. Siu Rui remarked having to face his parents’ disappointment over his decision to drop out of his honours year while batting away fears of larger companies crushing their start-up. As of 2019, the Carousell CEO reportedly drives a second-hand car that he bought on Carousell.

Snapsell eventually morphed into Carousell which was launched on 13 August 2012. The first 18 months of Carousell was a difficult period for the founders as they worked without salaries and had to convince their parents for support. After this period, Carousell would experience very rapid growth. In 2014, the 26-year-old Siu Rui was offered US$100 million to sell Carousell but turned down the offer. It evidently paid off as the company today is worth around 5 times more than that. By 2016, Carousell had over 8 million items transacted on the platform, and users’ listings amounted to 26 million. Since 2015, Carousell has been hosting Carouselland, the largest indoor bazaar in Singapore. It features curated vendors that sell a wide variety of things including handcrafted goods, jewelry and many more.

One key factor in Carousell’s growth and expansion has been its business acquisitions. In 2016, Carousell acquired Caarly, 6 developers from Watch Over Me and Duriana. In line with Siu Rui’s vision in to cement their leadership in the classifieds sector in Southeast Asia in the next 2 to 3 years, Carousell acquired OLX Philippines in April 2019. As of 2019, Carousell operates within Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia and the Philippines.

Siu Rui recognizes the importance of adapting to the constantly changing technological landscape. They adopt artificial intelligence—more specifically, AI-powered listings. In June 2018, Carousell launched Caroupay, a payment system that allows users to complete transactions without having to leave the app.  Carousell also partners with leading financial institutions. With Carousell Pro, it has also provided a subscription-based service for property.

Siu Rui is a great example of how determination, passion and hard work can trump almost seemingly insurmountable challenges. Going from having to rely on his parents’ support for his startup to being the founder of one of the most popular apps in Southeast Asia, Siu Rui’s story is one of the shining beacons of the entrepreneurial world. His inspirations include Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey, and he is certainly following in their footsteps.

AN UNPRECEDENTED YOUNG TRAILBLAZER

AN UNPRECEDENTED YOUNG TRAILBLAZER

Ankiti Bose is set to become the first female founder from India of a billion-dollar startup (unicorn). She has revolutionized how independent fashion is distributed and sold in Southeast Asia and beyond. Top 10 of Asia takes a look at the inspiring story of Ankiti Bose and how she overcame all odds to become one of the most successful entrepreneurs in Asia.

Zilingo is an e-commerce platform that enables businesses across the fashion value chain to be more efficient and scale faster. It is an online marketplace that aggregates the region’s independent retailers and helps them sell online. Approved merchants are allowed to sign up and self-list their products for free after vetting by Zilingo for authenticity, pricing and a series of other metrics. They are given support services like tech support, financing and insurance. In exchange, Zilingo charges a commission for each sale.

Zilingo was co-founded by Ankiti Bose and Dhruv Kapoor in 2015 and is headquartered in Singapore. The idea for Zilingo came to Ankiti Bose when she was on holiday in Bangkok and noticed that many of the small and medium-sized shops had no online presence. Casually pitching the idea for a platform targeted for these small and medium-sized shops to her friend Dhruv Kapoor, a then 24-year old software engineer, he was immediately sold. Pooling their savings for $30,000 each they began executing the idea. Little did anyone know, it would soon become a unicorn.

Bose graduated in 2012 from St Xavier’s College, Mumbai with an Economics and Mathematics degree. She worked as a Management Consultant at McKinsey & Company from 2012 to 2014. From 2014 to 2015, she was an Investment Analyst at Sequoia Capital before starting Zilingo. She had said her day jobs were important roles for her and her co-founder to inform them of what works and does not, and how to build a sustainable business.

Zilingo started by helping small merchants to sell to consumers but has since expanded into new areas. As they grew and started dealing with thousands of small sellers, they realized that many lacked access to technology, capital and economies of scale. Committed to providing the best opportunities for their merchants, Zilingo expanded to include developing software and other tools to allow vendors to access factories from Bangladesh to Vietnam and also help with cross-border shipping and inventory management. Since 2018, Zilingo has also worked with financial technology firms to provide working capital to small sellers so they can buy raw materials to produce goods. In the same year, Zilingo also gave out scholarships to 200 of its merchants in Indonesia to learn English.

Zilingo is a great help for independent fashion and lifestyle retailers to sell directly to consumers without relying on third-party distributors that cut on their profit margins. It allows for a more even playing field against the giants of fashion. Zilingo came at a time when e-commerce powerhouses such as Amazon, Alibaba and Flipkart emerged in major economies like the U.S., China and India which at the same time also showed a lack of choices for consumers.

Bose’s company has also been able to provide opportunities for female entrepreneurs and workers to uplift themselves. Over 60 percent of the people their merchants employ are female. More than half of Zilingo’s staff are women. Bose credits her extreme positivity and resilience part of what made her entrepreneurship journey successful. Believing in the importance of positivity, Zilingo staff get medical leave and reimbursements for mental health in Zilingo.

In just four short years the company has seen phenomenal growth. Zilingo initially began with seed funding from Sequoia India, the same venture capital firm Bose worked in before starting Zilingo. It raised an additional $8 million in a Series A funding round in September 2016. There was an additional $18 million in 2017 in a Series B round and $54 million in a Series C round in 2018. In 2019, the company raised $226 million in a Series D round. Zilingo is now set to reach unicorn status and Bose, to become India’s first female unicorn founder at the age of just 27 years old.

Bose’s achievements have been nothing short of astounding. She comes from a country where only about 14 percent of women own or run businesses. She also came from the male-dominated tech industry to become one of the few unicorn founders in the world. Bose is not resting on her laurels. She wants to keep her keen sense of observation and continues to watch the industry and her competitors closely to stay ahead of the curve. She has set even bigger goals and wants Zilingo to be a global company.

THE CZAR OF INDIAN IT

THE CZAR OF INDIAN IT

Azim Hashim Premji is an Indian business tycoon, investor, engineer, and philanthropist, who is also the chairman of Wipro Limited. Wipro is an Indian multinational corporation providing IT, consulting and business process services. Under Azim Premji’s leadership through four decades, Wipro stands today as one of the global leaders in the software industry. Azim is currently the second richest person in India with an estimated net worth of US$21.5 billion. He has been listed in TIME’s 100 most influential people twice, once in 2004 and once in 2011.

Azim Premji had a privileged childhood. However, it scarcely takes away from his achievements. Azim also certainly has a good perspective on his wealth given his huge philanthropic work. In 1966, on the news of his father’s death, the then 21-year-old Azim Premji returned home from Stanford University, where he was studying engineering, to take charge of Wipro. Years later he would finish his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering.

“It is a testament to Azim that his business career and philanthropy are two outstanding beacons of inspiration.”

Wipro in 1966 dealt only in hydrogenated oil manufacturing but Azim Premji’s vision saw it later diversified to different industries especially those related to soaps. Seeing a vacuum left by IBM’s exit from India in 1978, and recognizing the importance of the emerging IT field, he entered Wipro into the high-technology sector and shifted its focus from soaps to software.  By hiring the best minds in software engineering and providing them with top-notch training, Wipro was able to develop high-quality software at considerably lower costs compared to American companies, enabling them to export custom software to the US with great success. It is currently one of the fastest-growing global IT services brands. Wipro has consistently maintained high ethical standards.

Azim is well-known for his outstanding philanthropic work. In April 2013, he said he has already given more than 25 percent of his personal wealth to charity.  In 2001, he founded his non-profit organization, Azim Premji Foundation. In December 2010, he donated US$2 billion for improving school education in India which was done by transferring 213 million equity shares of Wipro Ltd to the Azim Premji Trust. Years later on March 2019, he would outdo himself by donating a stunning US$7.5 billion to charity by pledging 34% of Wipro stock. It is the single largest contribution to an Indian foundation on record and possibly the biggest donation ever given to charity. His total endowment to the foundation amounts to US$21 billion.

It is a testament to Azim that his business career and philanthropy are two outstanding beacons of inspiration. He transformed his company from humble beginnings to one of the global leaders in IT.  In 2011, he was awarded the Padma Vibushan, the second-highest civilian award by the Government of India.

THE HEAVENLY KING RETURNS

THE HEAVENLY KING RETURNS

Jacky Cheung Hok-yau is known as one of the “Four Heavenly Kings” throughout the larger Chinese-speaking world. The term was first coined in 1992 to describe the four biggest male entertainment figures in Hong Kong at that time. With his rich baritone and dramatic vibrato voice, Jacky Cheung dominated the entertainment industry in the 90s along with the rest of the “Four Heavenly Kings”. He is regarded by many as the best singer of the four. He is deemed the God of Songs of Hong Kong. With a career spanning over 30 years, Jacky Cheung is still one of the household names of the larger Chinese-speaking entertainment industry and is as hardworking as ever.

Cheung was born and raised in Quarry Bay, at the Eastern District of Hong Kong Island. His first language is Cantonese, but he also speaks Mandarin and English. His singing languages are even more diverse having sung in Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean and English. Cheung came from humble beginnings having been raised in a small one-room apartment with his family.

He first worked as a reservation officer for the airline Cathay Pacific. His singing career began when he won the Amateur18-Hong Kong District singing contest in 1984 and bested 10,000 other contestants. It was certainly no small feat and Polygram Records (now Universal Music Group) knew it. They signed Cheung after the competition and he has been with the record company ever since. A bright start did not mean Cheung achieved immediate supremacy as the Cantopop scene was then dominated by Leslie Cheung, Alan Tam, Anita Mui and Danny Chan.

Success soon came a-calling as Cheung won two major awards in 1985, the 1985 RTHK Top 10 Gold Songs Awards and the 1985 Jade Solid Gold Top 10 Awards. His 1992 album, Love Sparks achieved audited sales of over 400,000 copies in Hong Kong alone. 1993 proved to be a groundbreaking year for Cheung as his 1993 album, The Goodbye Kiss broke multiple album sales records. It still holds the record as Taiwan’s second highest selling album. The album sold over 4 million copies in 1993, making Cheung the first Asian artist to become one of Polygram’s first top 10 artists worldwide. He also became the first non-Taiwanese to win Taiwan’s Golden Melody Awards.

Cheung has certainly never shied away from the grand and ambitious. In 1995, he embarked on a record-breaking 100-show world tour, Yau Hok Yau. The tour traversed Hong Kong, Australia, Taipei, China, parts of Europe and even the premier Madison Square Garden in New York, USA. Cheung was regarded by Business Week as the new Michael Jackson.

With wild success came a gush of recognition and awards. In 1996, Time Magazine crowned him as one of the 25 most influential people in the New Hong Kong. In 1999, he was named one of the Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World by Junior Chamber International. In 2000, he was awarded the Golden Needle Award, an equivalent of a lifetime achievement award which recognises outstanding contributions to music.

Cheung’s success carried forward past the 90s. Although one could argue that the 90s were his prime years, such unprecedented success was difficult to maintain for such a long time in the first place. In 2004, he released his album Life Is Like A Dream in which his songwriting skills were featured and Cheung again proved to the world that he was more than just your typical pop star. He composed all of the songs in the album and penned the lyrics for three. The next year, Jacky Live Performance won Best Selling Cantonese Album in the Hong Kong IFPI Awards.

The 105-show Year of Jacky Cheung World Tour 2007 broke the record for the highest numbers of shows in a tour by a Chinese artist, breaking his own previous record of 100. His 2010 tour Jacky Cheung ½ Century World Tour would later go on to break the 105 record with 146 shows. It also broke the Guinness World record for the largest combined audience for a live act in 12 months with 2,048,553 audience members.  This year, his 157-show world tour, A Classic Tour, broke the record for the most performances in a single tour by a Chinese singer, with more shows yet to be performed. Again, his own previous record of 146 shows was broken. His encore concerts in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia scheduled in early October and organised by Star Planet was sold out in less than 5 hours.

2009 marked another reinvention and a changing of gears for Jacky Cheung as he recorded his first jazz album, Private Corner, from which he coined the phrase “Canto-jazz”. The original song Everyday is Christmas from the album became the tenth most downloaded Christmas song in 2010 on the Nokia music download service website (Ovi.com). Cheung is the only Chinese language singer to make it into the Top Ten.

Similar to many other Cantopop stars, Cheung forayed into acting. His work in As Tears Go By (1988) won him Best Supporting Actor at the 8th Hong Kong Film Awards. His lead role in the 2002 Hong Kong drama July Rhapsody won him the Best Actor Award at the New Delhi Film Festival. He has attracted a strong following from his work in films.

Cheung’s longevity in the Hong Kong pop music scene has certainly been unparalleled.  From humble beginnings to the record-breaking multi-faceted artist of today, Cheung is in a position very few singers in the world ever get to. He is not an artist that simply comes and goes but will instead be forever remembered in the annals of time as a legend of Chinese music.

Determined Leader Making A Change

Determined Leader Making A Change

“Many leaders promise, we deliver” are encouraging words that Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum lives by. He is the current Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and the ruler of the Emirate of Dubai. He is one of the prominent figures in the Gulf Region and is responsible for the major transformation of Dubai into the global city it is today. Transforming a nation into a global leader is certainly challenging, but according to Sheikh, the word “impossible” does not exist in the UAE’s lexicon.

The third in a family of four sons, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum was privately tutored in Arabic and Islamic Studies since young but began his formal education at the age of 6. He went on to subsequently study at the
Mons Officer Cadet School, the same British military training establishment in England in which Prince William and Harry trained. He was awarded the sword of honour as the top Commonwealth student.

Sheikh Mohammed took over as the ruler following the death of his brother Sheikh Maktoum who suffered a heart attack in Australia back in 2006. He has done wonders since his accession, including launching the UAE vision 2012
which aims to make the UAE as one of the best countries in the world by year 2012. Having a strong commitment to gender equality, he also has undertaken reforms in the UAE’s government. He formed the Gender Balance Council,
placing focus in strengthening and evolving the role of women as partners in the development of the UAE.

H.H. Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum , Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman, Dubai Executive Council, United Arab Emirates attends the opening plenary of the World Economic Forum’s Summit on the Global Agenda 2010 held in Dubai, 29 November – 1 December 2010.

He is also committed to the development of education. Apart from launching the Arab reading challenge, the first project of its kind in the Arab world which uses incentives to encourage children to read more, Sheikh Mohammed also launched the Dubai Cares campaign, a special campaign to raise money to educate children in poorer countries within the region. He matched the public’s AED1.65 billion and made a total of AED3.5 billion to be donated.
Under his leadership, Sheikh Mohammed is responsible for the launch of major enterprises such as Emirates Airline, DP World and the Jumeirah Group. He has also overseen plenty of projects in Dubai which has brought major changes in the nation, including the creation of a technology park, the Dubai Internet City, Dubai Media City, the Palm Islands, and the well-known Burj Al Arab hotel along with the Burj Khalifa. Sheikh Mohammed launched the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives (MBRGI) to support his vision to promote humanitarian, developmental and community work building on sustainable and positive changes aimed at improving lives. Under his initiative, 42 million people in different countries have benefited from the different projects.

A man of many talents, Sheikh Mohammed is an avid equestrian as he was introduced to horse riding at a young age. He is also a poet in his native Arabic language. He began writing poetry when he was schooling and cited his father
as his greatest influencer in his development as a poet. His poems were even published in newspapers but under fictitious names as it was important for him to be sure that people admired him for his poetic skills and not just for his status.

He currently has twenty three children in total, fathered from 6 different wives. His six daughters married into royal families in the Middle East. His family wealth is estimated to be ‘in excess of’ $4 billion.

Leading The Charge Into The Future

Leading The Charge Into The Future

Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, formerly the Chief Secretary for Administration of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region was given the nickname ‘tough fighter’. In the recent election, Lam ended up being elected the first female Chief Executive of Hong Kong, an outstanding achievement that elevated women empowerment. She officially began her 5-year term earlier this year, and was sworn in by Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China. Being the first woman to lead the city is a huge task, but Lam is prepared to take on the challenge.

Growing up was always an adventure for Carrie Lam. She was the fourth of five children, born into a low-income family of Zhoushan ancestry in Hong Kong. They grew up in a cramped apartment shared by several families. A devout Catholic, she got her first taste of leadership in St. Francis’ Canossian College, an all-girl Catholic school where she was chosen as the head prefect. She became more involved in student activism when she attended University of Hong Kong, organizing exchange trips and majoring in social work. She eventually switched majors and graduated with a Bachelor of Social Sciences in the 1980. She is currently married to mathematician Lam Siu-por, whom she met at Cambridge University.

Lam promises a brand new style of governance, attempting to solve the city’s housing problems and engaging youth in policy making. She also vowed to repay the support and trust of the public and central government with diligence, attentiveness and results. She revealed her manifesto titled ‘Connecting for Consensus and A Better Future’ during nomination period, which placed focus on reforming the government structure and boosting economy. It included expanding the Central Policy Unit, establishing a Culture Bureau and new Tourism Bureau. She made it clear that her election campaign helped her to understand the business sector and young people’s worries better and promised to rebuild social harmony and trust.

The selection of the Chief Executive of Hong Kong is made by the 1,194-member Election Committee, casting their votes in a secret balloting system. The elected winner will need at least 601 votes to win, and if there is no winner, the leading two candidates will battle it out in a second round of voting which will take place later that day.

The 59-year old ended up winning by a huge majority with 777 votes in comparison to 365 for former finance chief John Tsang and 21 for retired judge Woo Kwok-hing. In her victory speech, she vowed to heal social divide among citizens and promote unity in society to move forward. Lam is also the first leader ever to graduate from the University of Hong Kong.

“Hong Kong is a diverse society, with different views coexisting.  Values such as inclusiveness, freedom of the press and of speech, respect for human rights, and systems which have taken generations to establish, such as the independent judiciary, rule of law, and clean government, are matters that we Hong Kong people find precious and are proud of.  As your Chief Executive, I shall do my utmost to uphold “one country, two systems” and to guard our core values,” she mentioned in her inspiring 12-minute victory speech.

The mother of two was a former teacher at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Capital Normal University in Beijing. She also previously lived in England, but renounced her British citizenship to take up the principal official post in the Hong Kong SAR government in 2007.

Lam is one of seven prominent figures across political, business and community service sectors to be awarded with the Grand Bauhinia Medal, the highest award under the Hong Kong honors and awards system which recognizes selected people for their the significant contributions to Hong Kong. She was also given the Gold Bauhinia Star, a recognition awarded to those who have given distinguished service to the community. Not long ago, she was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Social Sciences by Lingnan University.