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Asia’s Top 10 Most Inspiring Business Personalities
Asia has seen rapid development in many ways over the past few decades, with several countries rising from obscurity to become modern-day economic powerhouses. This rise has largely been driven by a number of inspiring personalities in the fields of business who have painstakingly built empires of their own, or those who have fought tooth and nail against challenging circumstances to emerge at the top of their respective hierarchies. In this edition of the rankings list, Top 10 of Asia presents (in random order) its pick of Asia’s 10 most inspiring business personalities. Whether having to fight through poverty, conventions, or tribulations, these personalities have something in common – success didn’t come easy for them.
Gordon Lam (Singapore)
Gordon Lam was born in Hong Kong and educated in Australia, and this blend of cultures is reflected in his leadership style. Where many would have steered clear of joining a business that had been in decline for many years, Lam saw an opportunity. Taking on the responsibility of leading Syniti Asia Pacific & Japan (APJ) in 2019, Lam saw it as a chance to prove what he’s made of. Just five months after his appointment, COVID-19 took over the world. What had seemed an arduous task before now seemed impossible. And yet, through Lam’s steady leadership, Syniti APJ grew its APJ software business by threefold that same year.
Kim Beom-Soo (South Korea)
Kim Beom-Soo, also known as Brian Kim, is the founder and chairman of internet giant Kakao. A businessman today with a net worth in the billions, it wasn’t always plain sailing for Kim. Growing up in poverty, Kim’s family of eight shared one bedroom in a poor neighbourhood in Seoul. His parents, who weren’t educated beyond elementary school, went from job to job just to put food on the table. The first of his family to go to college, Kim started Hangame in 1998 – an internet café business that merged with Naver to become South Korea’s dominant web portal. Kakao was started in 2010 and has since gone on to become one of South Korea’s largest companies.
Chiranya Prachaseri (Thailand)
Chiranya is the CEO of Cryoviva, a private stem cell bank with over 500,000 units stored in its group and which has seen more than 2,000 cases where clients elected to retrieve stem cells for personal use – and that number is growing steadily under her direction. A strong leader with excellent communication skills, Chiranya has worked tirelessly to build high-performance teams that deliver results in culturally diverse environments. With a passion to help raise the quality of life for people, she encourages her team to be lifetime partners for their clients and support them every step of the way.
Kim Bong-Jin (South Korea)
Kim Bong-Jin grew up on a small South Korean island. His family ran a small diner and he often had to wait for guests at the diner to leave before he slept as there was no proper bedroom for him. He scraped his way through a cheap vocational school, crediting “good luck and God’s grace” for making it through. Now the wealthy founder and chairman of South Korean delivery app operator Woowa Brothers, Kim hasn’t forgotten his roots. He and his wife were the first South Koreans to sign up for the Giving Pledge, a philanthropic initiative set up by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett in which the world’s wealthiest individuals give back at least half their fortune for societal good.
Bhunyaras Panichsiri (Thailand)
Bhunyaras Panichsiri is the Regional Manager – Asia Pacific at Luthi Machinery Co, Inc. Upon joining the company, her situation looked dire. Finding herself tasked with the challenge of growing an uncompetitive business in an industry that was completely foreign to her, she was confronted with a customer base that was quite unhappy with the service they were getting. Where most would have crumbled, Bhunyaras spent her first few months at the company working closely with the team to improve their products and services. Luthi’s business saw a quick turnaround as a result, growing by 200% within the span of four years and with many happy customers along the way.
Lee Thung Hing (Malaysia)
Venturing into the construction business after completing basic education, Lee tried to make ends meet by manufacturing and installing rain gutters and door frames for his customers. Times were tough at the beginning, with Lee often only receiving one order per week. Lee persevered however and in 1983 he set up the Thung Hing Group. The company saw rapid success following its inception and is a major player in the production of steel building materials today. Lee’s philosophy in life is to always never remain stagnant and to always be doing something, a code that has carried him very far indeed.
Rosaline Chow-Koo (Singapore)
Rosaline had an idea she believed in fervently – the creation of a platform that would allow companies to overcome the rising costs of group insurance. Rejected year after year for five years straight by her previous employer, Rosaline was determined to see her idea through. She wanted to address the inability to customise insurance for diverse employee needs but could never secure the funding required. In 2013, she took a leap of faith and decided to pool her savings with her husband’s to bring the platform to life herself. With the CXA Group now able to count nearly 800,000 users and 500 clients across 20 countries, it’s safe to say that’s paid off.
Veranita Yosephine (Indonesia)
AirAsia Indonesia CEO Veranita Yosephine is an immensely accomplished woman. A female CEO in Indonesia’s male-dominated aviation industry and achieving that in her early 40s to boot, it’s clear to see that Veranita is someone special. She’s not only an inspiration to women everywhere but a force for their empowerment too – receiving the UN HeForShe award for initiating a mentorship programme and leadership training at her previous employer, Danone. The programme, the achievement she’s most proud of in her illustrious list of them, originated in Danone Indonesia before eventually making its way to Brazil, the Netherlands, and then the rest of the world.
Pang Lim (Singapore)
Pang Lim is a man from humble beginnings. Coming from a low-income family and as the eldest son of six, Pang used to help his mother sell nasi lemak in the mornings before setting off for school. Dropping out at age 13, Pang started his journey in the F&B industry as a dishwasher and as a roadside hawker. He was around his late 20s when, operating a small fruit stall and selling vegetarian dishes in a coffee shop, he began to take an interest in the coffee shop business as a whole. Fast forward to the present day and his food court operations business, Koufu, finds itself listed on the Singapore Exchange.
Anabelle Co-Martinent (Philippines)
Parenthood usually takes the appetite for risk out of someone but not for Anabelle Co-Martinent. She’d just had a baby when she made the decision to leave her corporate role at Microsoft to build her own company. Today, Anabelle is the founder and managing director of the La Juiceria group of companies which includes brands such as Super Saigon, The Honest Treats and HawkerHall under its umbrella. The decision to strike out on her own wasn’t spur of the moment by any means. It was one that had been brewing for years, and ultimately – the call of starting a business was one Anabelle felt she just had to answer.