Latest Piyush Gupta News
Sep 8, 2020
Companies that have embraced digitalisation are able to seize new opportunities, say business leaders. The Business Times (Clockwise from top left) Moderator Fabio Vacirca of Accenture; AirAsia's Aireen Omar; DBS's Piyush Gupta; and Yoma's Melvyn Pun. 8 Sep 2020 - 05:50 THE winners that emerge stronger from the Covid-19 pandemic will be companies that not only react quickly to changes, but also have a workforce with the right mindset to adapt to new demands, said business leaders at a webinar on innovation amid the crisis. The webinar, titled "Innovation On The Fly - Adapting To The New World" held on Sept 4, was organised by the Singapore Economic Development Board. It featured a panel comprising Piyush Gupta, CEO of DBS Bank; Aireen Omar, president of AirAsia Group's RedBeat Ventures and Melvyn Pun, CEO of Yoma Strategic Holdings. The discussion was moderated by Fabio Vacirca, Accenture's market unit group lead for Australia, New Zealand, South-east Asia, India, Africa and the Middle East. With the pandemic accelerating many trends including digitalisation and innovation, companies that embraced digital transformation in recent years were able to seize new opportunities during the crisis. Ms Omar said that AirAsia started exploring ways to leverage data about three years ago, and set up ancillary businesses in e-commerce and financial services under RedBeat Ventures. When the pandemic hit, business boomed on its travel and lifestyle e-commerce app while air travel ground to a halt, and AirAsia redeployed its workforce to do home deliveries, source for new business partners and help small and medium-sized enterprises board the platform. Similarly, DBS has been digitalising for the past six years, and managed to use the last six months to bridge many last-mile gaps. Within less than a week, the bank opened 40,000 accounts for migrant labourers so they could transfer money digitally to their families back home. It also opened four times more electronic trading accounts in a three-month period during the pandemic than in the whole of 2019. Ms Omar said AirAsia's experience shows that the most valuable employees are not necessarily those with the best technical skills, but those who are open-minded and willing to tackle new challenges. "You need to have an open mind... Our pilots and cabin crew who had open minds, they came in and embraced (their new roles). When you have that attitude, anything you put your mind to, you can build the skill set that's necessary," she said. Mr Pun noted that the organisation also needs to have a clear purpose, which helps to motivate employees and guide innovation. "In a situation like Covid, you can distinguish clearly between a company that doesn't have a clear purpose and is trying to muddle through and survive, and other companies that have a much clearer identity and purpose. As they agilely realign themselves, they realign in a way that is in line with long- term values." Mr Gupta added that as continual learning becomes the norm to fill technical skill gaps, those with capabilities like adaptability, resilience and horizontal thinking will stand out from the competition. The social sciences will also rise in importance as technology advances, bringing up ethical questions around robotics and automation, for instance. The impact of the crisis on employment and particularly low-wage workers has increased awareness of environment, social and governance criteria for companies. Mr Gupta said companies will tread a fine line between hero and villain based on the role they play in society in the new world. "If you're not conscious of your role in society, your sense of purpose and how you are seen as a constructive member of society, you could land on the wrong side of that line," he said. "It's going to be a new world and whether it's environment, social or governance, you have to up your game and you have to respond differently." Businesses can explore less-developed Asean countries like Myanmar for opportunities to support environmental sustainability efforts in areas like infrastructure, said Mr Pun. "I personally find that in South-east Asia, people are cognisant of our relationship with nature... We've always had this mindset of not taking things for granted," he said. "We have a great chance to build things from scratch in a sustainable way." The Asean region will likely continue to see growth beyond the crisis, driven by fundamental trends like population growth, higher consumption from the growing middle class and gradual integration of the region, Mr Gupta said. However, Ms Omar said Asean members need to work more closely together to fully unlock the region's growth potential. She cited e-commerce as an area where years of discussion have not yielded the needed results, like an Asean Single Window platform. "With Asean, it has to be a consensus, as opposed to a few countries leading the way and the rest following, like what you see in Europe. That's something that needs to be looked at," she said. "We also need to look at standardised visas across the region to encourage travellers and businesses to be able to expand across the region." Mr Gupta said Singapore could play a part by shifting its approach to Asean from a bilateral one to trying to build more partnerships with multiple countries. This will be difficult especially with protectionism increasing, but Singapore could use its financial resources and status as a financial hub to make a difference. "It has been said that if Singapore wants to build a Marshall Plan for the region, much like the US did for Europe after the Second World War, that might be a really interesting thought," Mr Gupta said.