As 2023 draws to a close, we take stock of an eventful year, where generative AI catapulted into the mainstream, a devastating war in the Middle East and a banking crisis, among other stories, shaped the year.
Throughout the year, The Peak Singapore team has interviewed many prolific Singapore-based business leaders in industries that run the gamut, from Artificial Intelligence, hospitality, media, retail to the arts. They shared their drive and ambition to make an impact in their industries and a meaningful difference to the wider society, and how they are future-proofing their business to face the uncertainties in a fast-changing world.
This year also marked the return of The Peak’s annual Power List, which celebrates and acknowledges individuals who have demonstrated exceptional leadership, influence, and impact within their respective fields and the broader community. We also launched our Telegram channel, where you can get our latest stories in thought leadership and luxury lifestyle on the go.
To conclude 2023, The Peak Singapore looks back at the 10 most-read thought leadership stories.
10. LinkedIn APAC MD Feon Ang shares why going viral on the platform is not always about attention and likes
Two strategic content changes rolled out on the social media platform this year ensure that authenticity and meaningfulness remain priorities. For Ang, the bigger objective of all these content strategies goes beyond impressions — creating precious economic opportunities.
She references the invitation-only Top Voice program which features a global group of experts on LinkedIn covering a range of topics across the professional world. “It opens up plenty of opportunities — connecting with more like-minded professionals, increasing business or sales leads, or getting invitations to speak at major conferences. It can change your life,” she adds.
9. The business of authenticity — how an accidental CEO brought TSL to its first decade
Bryan Choo shares how he transformed TSL from one listicle made in his bedroom to a leading Singaporean lifestyle brand a short decade later. 10 years after starting TSL, Choo sings a clearer, more lucid tune regarding the media house’s North Star. “We want to create tangible value in the world,” he offers. “Success, for TSL,” he offers, “isn’t merely measured by numbers or profit margins.”
That value, for Choo, relies heavily on content authenticity. What the 40-year-old CEO knows to be true is that ‘people tend to reject content with an apparent agenda’. “They’re drawn to genuine experiences and real emotions that aren’t overly scripted.”
8. This is why Ying Shaowei is worried about the AI divide
Ying Shaowei shares his thoughts on the breathless development of AI and what it takes to narrow the digital divide. One of the many initiatives technology services firm NCS initiated was a collaboration with Singapore Prison Services to harness digital tech to improve the digital literacy of rehabilitees. This is in hopes of breaking the cycle of re-offending and easing former inmates back into society.
Ying predicts that it is only a matter of time before AI plays similar roles in uplifting the community and benefiting humanity. “The use of intelligent technology is becoming more ubiquitous in our work and personal lives, driven by wider data availability, the increasing availability of compute power, and more accessible AI algorithms.”
7. The Peak Power List 2023: Corinna Lim, executive director of AWARE, reflects on her lifelong fight for gender equality
Corinna Lim, the Executive Director of AWARE, stands as a beacon of quiet power, leading pivotal changes in women’s rights and gender equality in Singapore. Her journey is one steeped in resilience and empowerment, reflecting her unwavering commitment to fostering an equitable society for all.
Today, Corinna is on the lookout for the next generation of feminist leaders, a fitting example of how Lim’s leadership and strategic advocacy are carving pathways to meaningful progress.
Taking on the all-consuming lead role and dealing with societal injustices on the daily can fatigue even the most tenacious, but Lim finds a balance with the philosophy of tai chi chuan, which she practices. Adopting the principles of yin and yang, she likens yin to a form of quiet power that grounds and re-energises. “It’s an exercise in soft power that nourishes not just my body but also my decision-making, my leadership, and my ability to influence positive change in the lives of others,” she adds.
6. The Peak Power List 2023: AI Singapore’s Simon Chesterman on balancing AI innovation with ethical governance and the critical role of human oversight
Professor Simon Chesterman is on the cusp of something nascent and exciting: navigating AI Ethics through thoughtful governance. He is a prominent figure at AI Singapore, quietly leading the AI Governance desk, tasked with delving deep into the ethical fabric of AI and ensuring its responsible and safe development.
Within Singapore, Chesterman is looking at two broad questions that aim to move the needle forward in AI adoption. The first is looking at whether we should trust AI. “How do we ensure that it is fair, accountable, appropriately transparent, and so on? That’s important to ensure that people aren’t harmed by ‘bad AI’.” The second is to explore how humans can engage with AI more responsibly. “That’s important to ensure that people aren’t harmed by bad decisions in the use of AI — whether that means relying on AI when you shouldn’t or not taking advantage of ‘good AI’ when you should.”
5. The Peak Power List 2023: Yvonne Tham, CEO of Esplanade believes in the power of the people to shape Singapore’s art scene
Yvonne Tham, CEO of Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, is quietly shaping the future of arts in Singapore by ensuring it’s diverse, inclusive, and reflective of our communal identity. She shares: “Singapore’s art scene is resilient, one worth championing and fighting for, and the only one we own.”
The 49-year-old’s love for literature spills into her work to position Esplanade as an art centre for everyone. She likens this vision to poetry, where “at the heart of our national pledge, which is not unlike a poem every child learns to recite at school, is the ideals of diversity and equality”.
“Esplanade’s role,” Tham quips, “is to be a shared civic space through the arts. Of the 3,500 performances and activities that we present every year, about 70 per cent are made free for all to enjoy, regardless of your background.”
With a vision to make arts a shared civic space, learn how Tham’s leadership is fostering a resilient and vibrant arts culture and creating avenues for everyone to experience the beauty of artistic expression.
4. This clean energy entrepreneur on his breakthrough with biofuel
Allan Lim, founder and CEO of renewable energy startup Alpha Biofuels shares how it got its break in the unlikeliest of times. Alpha Biofuels works by collecting used cooking oil from food and beverage businesses, food manufacturers, and households. This is blended with diesel in different ratios.
Two years ago, in an unprecedented trial, Alpha Biofuels powered bulk tanker Frontier Jacaranda’s sail from Singapore to South Africa. The fuel, a blend of 7 percent biofuel and 93 percent regular, reduced the tanker’s CO2 emissions by 5 percent.
Says Lim, “We all have to look at how to lower carbon emissions, not just in manufacturing. The lightbulb moment happened for us in 2007. After trudging along for 14 years, it’s like ‘I told you so’ — we were right. It’s a powerful moment when we see our fuel going into a 300m vessel. Then, Formula 1. We’ve been collecting used cooking oil from them for more than 10 years but they were reluctant to use our fuel until last year, when it was used to power a food and beverage area. More corporates are willing to commit now.”
3. Love, Bonito CEO Dione Song on the highs and lows of running a fashion powerhouse
From leading through crises to expanding into the US market, Dione Song’s unstoppable drive fuels Love, Bonito’s loftier ambitions.
In the six years that Song has devoted to Love, Bonito, she has shepherded the transformation of a largely online operation into a hybrid retailer with 17 stores. Organic growth on its online platform looked to be healthy, at a 60 per cent year-on-year increase in 2022 , while group revenue saw a boost of 41 per cent. Profitability, however, is not quite there yet although she assures, “We’re in the mid-term horizon; definitely moving in that direction.”
2. Sojao’s Priscilla Tan explains why thread count for bedsheets is a gimmick
The 35-year-old has devoted the past five years of her life to educating the Singapore public on why they should treat their bodies right. Tan is the CEO and co- founder of Sojao, a bedding emporium selling organic cotton bedsheets that she started with her former polytechnic schoolmate and floorball comrade, Janice Tan.
Two years and eight trips to India later, Sojao was ready to launch, becoming Singapore’s first local online bedding brand made from 100 per cent organic cotton, which is Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified. GOTS is widely considered to be the gold-standard organic cotton label. “I believe we are still the only bedding company in Singapore to have that certification,” she reckoned.
Since 2018, they have been building their small online business into one that has not only proven viable — the duo’s online outfit broke even after one year, consistently growing their revenue at two times their projection annually — but has grown.
1. Quek Kwan Yi, COO of Q Industries on why Singapore’s style of efficiency does not work in Vietnam
Moving to Vietnam didn’t just boost Q Industries’ business operations; it transformed Quek Kwan Yi in a way he never imagined. When the COO of hospitality integrator Q Industries first arrived in Vietnam, he thought he was more than capable to apply his knowledge and seamlessly elevate the company’s Vietnam operations. However his well-intentioned methods backfired and failed to deliver results.
Unlike result-oriented Singapore, openly discussing a business problem or failure in Vietnam may get you looks of askance That’s when he learned that the Vietnamese prioritise relationships over results. “Results may take precedence in Singapore, but in Vietnam, nurturing relationships are vital.” he says.