Inside Asia Podcast
Purpose Nomads (w/ Zayd and Akshita Khoury)

Purpose Nomads (w/ Zayd and Akshita Khoury)

September 19, 2021

It’s been said that the global pandemic has offered us a rare moment of existential reflection. When not battling the disease or avoiding infection, it has allowed time for us to consider what’s most important. Young professionals are no exception. Data shows that increasingly “the best and brightest” are opting into life and career choices that take them out of the corporate career path and land them in the midst of a gig economy re-energized by a world in crisis. 

Headlines announcing “The Great Resignation,” “The Big Quit,” or “Global Burnout” suggest that even when times are tough and unemployment is a real possibility, well-educated professionals are voting with their hearts, not their wallets – leaving behind well-paid jobs in search of something more. But what, exactly?

For some thoughtful insight on the subject, I’m joined by Zayd and Akshita Khoury – two extraordinary people who speak to a broader trend that could prove good for the world, but bad for corporates. What do I mean by that? Well, stay tuned. This is a conversation you won’t want to miss. Visit us at www.insideasiapodcast.com.

Seeding Purpose (w/ Elizabeth Hernandez)

Seeding Purpose (w/ Elizabeth Hernandez)

August 29, 2021

When was the last time you thought about where your food comes from? And I don’t mean from your local supermarket… Well, according to the U.N. Food & Agriculture Association, 70% of food consumed globally comes from so-called “smallholder” farmers. 

There are an estimated 570 million of them, and nearly half live and operate in the world’s poorest countries. In most developing markets, agriculture contributes anywhere from 15 to 35% of GDP. Without this constellation of farming communities, unemployment would soar and economies would crumble. 

Not surprisingly, there’s a political dimension to supporting the smallholder farmer. This requires governments throughout the region to make constant adjustments – balancing local subsidies against foreign food imports.

Into this socio-economic brew enters Corteva Agriscience, a company that a little over two years ago spun off from the chemical giant DowDupont in order to focus exclusively on agribusiness. Today, the company produces high-yield, pest-resistant hybrid seeds, land management, and digital solutions. As my guest, Elizabeth Hernandez, explains, the timing and focus of their market entry offers a unique opportunity for farmers and investors alike.

This is the latest in a series of episodes we have planned featuring companies that are delivering on Corporate Purpose. Two episodes back we featured another Corporate Purpose leader, T.C. Ng, Asia Pacific Managing Director of the iconic tech company, HP. If you missed that episode, you can listen or read about it by  visiting www.insideasiapodcast.com

In coming weeks, we will feature on this program conversations with leaders of other purpose-driven institutions. Our discussions are founded on in-depth case studies created in a three-way partnership between Inside Asia, The Conference Board, and the Center for Creative Leadership.  

One year ago, we came together to introduce the Asia Corporate Leadership Council, which today is comprised of 20 plus Asia-based CEOs, Regional Managing Directors, and heads of family-run businesses. It’s a select group of senior individuals representing best-practice corporate purpose. The case studies – and these accompanying podcasts – are designed to demonstrate what Corporate Purpose in action looks like.

The Age of the Employee-Centric Workspace (w/ James Soback)

The Age of the Employee-Centric Workspace (w/ James Soback)

August 22, 2021

In this most recent episode of Inside Asia, I speak with James Soback, Director of Sustainability and Hospitality Advisory for OMNE/WX, a firm pushing the edge of the “work-from-anywhere” culture. 

It’s safe to say that thanks to Covid, work will never be the same. What it will ultimately look like is anyone’s guess. For decades, creating efficient, yet pleasant workspaces has been the subject of some debate. 

Finding that balance between efficiency and comfort is not always easy. More often than not, available space and design features are the result of limited budgets and doing what the boss wants, while claiming to have the employee’s best interests at heart.

These days, words like “engagement” and “productivity” are bandied about. Words that are measured. In order to increase the two, you need to find ways of motivating and inspiring the workforce. 

To this end, companies have experimented with open architecture, free drinks and snacks, adding a ping-pong table or creating lounging areas. All fine attempts, but still, mostly determined by the culture or the preference of the powers-that-be.

In the world of work 2.0, something’s got to give. My guest suggests that “employee-centric” workspaces are a good first step.

Driving Purpose Through Partners (w/ T.C. Ng)

Driving Purpose Through Partners (w/ T.C. Ng)

August 15, 2021

There are few businesses in the world that have a sales and distribution network as vast and varied as the tech giant, Hewlett Packard. HP has been building and selling personal and enterprise technology for over 80 years. And during that time, it has assembled an ecosystem of business partners that reach from Beijing to Belfast. 

Not surprisingly, that kind of network generates some significant revenue. HP today is a US$60 billion dollar a year business. And according to my guest this episode, 85% of that income is derived through tens of thousands of distributors, wholesalers, and retail operators. HP has mastered the art of building and coordinating its partner networks. So, it may come as no surprise that when it comes to driving a corporate purpose and sustainability agenda, enlisting its network is mission critical.

Here to discuss how it’s done is T.C. Ng, HP’s Managing Director for Greater Asia. In coming weeks, we will feature on this program conversations with some of Asia’s most purpose-driven institutions. Our discussions are founded on in-depth case studies created in a three-way partnership between Inside Asia, The Conference Board, and the Center for Creative Leadership.  

One year ago, we came together to introduce the Asia Corporate Leadership Council, which today is comprised of 20 plus Asia-based CEOs, Regional Managing Directors, and heads of family-run businesses. It’s a select group of senior individuals representing best-practice corporate purpose. The case studies – and these accompanying podcasts – are designed to demonstrate what Corporate Purpose in action looks like.

The Ocean Economy (w/ Jack Kittinger)

The Ocean Economy (w/ Jack Kittinger)

August 8, 2021

When you think of the ocean, what comes to mind? Rolling waves and the soft pounding of the surf? Boating? Fishing? Cocktails at sundown? While you’re relaxing and enjoying these sights and sounds, remember this: The ocean doesn’t rest. In fact, it never stops working.

Indeed, without our oceans and all they offer, life – as we know it – would not exist. Over 70% of our planet’s oxygen is produced by the ocean. 90% of Earth’s heat is absorbed by it. And because of the amount of carbon we humans dump into the atmosphere, the oceans are 30% more acidic than ever before. The changing temperature and make-up of our open waters is bad enough. But as if to add insult to injury, annually we dump eight million tons of plastic into the ocean, destroy tens of thousands of kilometers of coastal wetlands to make way for resorts and housing developments, and have so over-fished the seas that by 2048, all seafood, as we know it, will be gone, unless we do something about it.

That’s the bad news. Now here’s the good news. The world is waking up to the power and importance of our oceans. We have science to thank for that, but also a rising consciousness among politicians and industrialists who see that failure to protect our oceans will most assuredly result in social and economic chaos. Nothing like the threat of losing power or profit to drive some positive behavior change. At the epicenter is Asia, which represents over 90% of global fish and seafood farming and almost half of all commercial fishing.

Here to talk about oceans and the challenges we face is Jack Kittinger, a Senior Director at Conservation International and Head of it’s Center for Oceans.

Riding the ESG Wave (w/ Steve Okun)

Riding the ESG Wave (w/ Steve Okun)

July 18, 2021

If you hear the acronym “E-S-G” being bandied about, it’s for a reason. The world is waking up to the fact that traditional business practices are no longer enough to meet the needs of the 21st century. ESG stands for Environmental, Social, and Governance. Together, they form the foundation for a new set of principles that codify a new way for companies and investors to operate. They also speak to the so-called “intangible” assets within an organization. That can make them hard to measure, and one thing business executives hate are things that are hard to measure.

It seems like every time you look up, some management consultant or business guru is introducing a new concept to supercharge the enterprise. Each new process has had its day in the sun, and an acronym to match. Remember BPR, “Business Process Re-engineering?” Or how about ERP, “Enterprise Resource Planning. And who could forget CRM, “Customer Relationship Management.” Even the folks in the back-office had their three letters. To keep it simple, they called it ABC, “Activity Based Costing.” 

If the mere mention of these past activities bore you to death, let me offer hope. ESG is different. It has soul. Got your attention now? Then sit back and listen to my conversation with Steve Okun. He’s been a guest on Inside Asia before. In past episodes, we’ve covered impact investing, US politics, and international trade. Steve has a diversity of talents and interests, but a cornerstone issue for him these days is ESG.  He plies his trade by serving as a Senior Advisor with McClarty Associates and chairing the Global Private Capital Association in Southeast Asia.

Sustainable Angels (w/ Mark Inkster)

Sustainable Angels (w/ Mark Inkster)

July 11, 2021

This week on Inside Asia, we take a look at the world of seed investing. I’m not talking about farming, although, in some ways, I am. I’m talking about the way good, early-stage ideas attract seed capital to get their ventures off the ground. And while I don’t have the data to support it, I suspect that the number one reason why most great business or product ideas never see the light of day is for one reason, and one reason only: Money.

After calling in favors from friends and family and tapping out the credit card, there’s a funding gap. To fill it, entrepreneurs oftentimes turn to angel investors. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some are successful entrepreneurs themselves, happy to spread their new-found wealth to help others like them. Others organize themselves into groups with a common set of investment goals or interests. In recent years, online platforms have emerged, letting almost anyone get involved. Like buying one hundred lottery tickets, just one might get lucky. 

Increasingly, angel investors are starting to specialize. Assemble together a team of consumer bankers, payments experts, and techno-geeks, and you can – for example - specialize in FinTech. Think about how technology can be applied to solve climate change, and you become Sustainability investors. That’s exactly what my guest this week has done. Mark Inkster is a technologist at heart. He’s spent decades in the region holding strategic roles at Yahoo!, eBay, Microsoft, and a handful of startups. Earlier this year he co-founded Asia Sustainability Angels, and together with a hand-full of others, he’s formed a circle to seed early stage companies bent on solving some of the biggest sustainability problems of our day.

Putting the Purpose in Strategy (w/ Tom Malnight)

Putting the Purpose in Strategy (w/ Tom Malnight)

June 27, 2021

My guest this week is Tom Malnight. He took time to speak with me from Lausanne, Switzerland, where he serves as Professor of Strategy at IMD Business School. 

We live in an era when time-tested business practices are all of a sudden being called into question. The same goes for strategy; that nebulous part of the planning process that asks you to take a 30,000-foot view then bring it down to actionable outcomes.

The fact is, there are as many theories on strategy as there are organizations in need of one. Some take it seriously, employing high-paid consultants to produce thick and colorful playbooks that are then left unopened. Others try to make it sound simple. Remember Jack Welsh, GE’s notoriously outspoken former CEO. He once famously said (and I quote): "In real life, strategy is actually very straightforward. You pick a general direction and implement like hell." 

That might have worked during the 1980s and 90s. In fact, by all traditional measures, it did work. GE’s revenues grew five-fold under Welch’s leadership. Today, however, running a business is more nuanced. Stakeholder Capitalism is far from straight-forward. Just how strategy has changed and how companies are failing to adapt is the subject of this week’s conversation. And wouldn’t you know, Corporate Purpose is playing a big part.

Advisory Boards Come of Age (w/ Louise Broekman)

Advisory Boards Come of Age (w/ Louise Broekman)

June 20, 2021

There’s not a person or organization out there that couldn’t do with some good advice, particularly in times like these. Perhaps, therefore, it’s no surprise that organization’s the world over are reaching out and establishing Advisory Boards as a way of bringing outside expertise in. This rush for talent and insights should come as no surprise.

Companies, large and small, are inundated with a new set of complex challenges. They’re asking questions, like: How do I build a cyber-security network to stave off hackers? What does it mean to use artificial intelligence ethically? Or, how do we, as an organization, create diversity and inclusion policies to attract the next generation of talent?

You might say this is the job of the leadership team. But who’s going to run the day-to-day business if these kinds of issues keep popping up? Some say, it’s the responsibility of the Board of Directors. Aren’t they supposed to see problems arising before they happen? They are. But oftentimes, they don’t. There are reasons for this, and it all comes out in my conversation this episode with Louise Broekman, Founder and CEO of the Brisbane-based Advisory Board Centre.

Future Food (w/ Isabelle Decitre)

Future Food (w/ Isabelle Decitre)

June 7, 2021

My guest this week is the Founder and CEO of ID Capital, a Singapore-based firm with a focus on food. It’s an age-old industry now receiving high-profile attention from investors, inventors, and activists. It seems like everyone, these days, has something to say about the future of food.

Here to help us break it down is Isabelle Decitre. After successive roles with high-end brands like Alfred Dunhill, Cartier, and Hennessy, she gave it all up in 2014 to focus on sustainable and disruptive food solutions. She and her colleagues now work with venture capital firms to help advise and direct them on deals that show promise of augmenting or displacing traditional food products.

 

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