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September, 29, 2016

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S. Asia underrepresented at summit

KATHMANDU -- The Milken Institute organized the third Asia Summit in Singapore last week on Sept. 15 and 16. Over 450 high-profile executives, CEOs of Fortune 100 companies, institutional investors, asset managers, policymakers, philanthropists and academics from 25 countries participated. Deliberations ranged from crucial social sectors like health and education and accelerating modern infrastructure and cyber security to global capital markets and the emergence of new leaders.

It was different from the usual conference bonhomie and rhetorical jamboree in four major ways. First, presentations were mostly from the horse's mouth and narrations were based on experimented practices. Second, no one reinvented the wheel as the audience was fairly well versed in basics and looked forward to more advanced pathways. Third, it brought together stories from all across the globe, with much more focus on the Asia and Pacific region. Finally, the speakers were drawn from varied professions with a sprinkling of younger generation women and men.

Interesting Stories

The session on "New Faces of Asia: Leaders Transforming the Region" brought together people who have significantly transformed their professions. Most of them were second-generation entrepreneurs and deviated magnificently from what their parents did. Malaysia-based Anthony Tan's grandfather was a taxi driver, and his father started a taxi company. Tan now owns "GrabTaxi," a mobile application that assigns available cabs to nearby commuters using mapping and location-sharing technology, which has grown to become a household name in Southeast Asia.

Dilhan Fernando from Sri Lanka, owner of Dilmah Tea, while calling tea a "boring beverage" narrated how, away from family traditions, he started mixology and gastronomy to provide a palatable drink for the younger generation. When Fernando initiated the MJF Charitable Foundation, his primary objective was to blend the business of "ethical tea" with social and environmental responsibilities. This is where he connected Dilmah Tea with peacebuilding in war-torn Sri Lanka and employed a huge number of war-affected communities. He realized it is actually inequality that is the corrosive precursor to conflict and that is debilitating society. And business can play a role in it during pre- and post-conflict situations.

For Dubai-based Leili Gerami, both as the chairman of LEGE Investments and a partner at Maven Pictures, success is achieved only when it is relevant to one's values. Devoting over 30 percent of family business to philanthropic activities, Gerami, a social entrepreneur, finds human resources the most cost-efficient and hence, concentrates primarily on linking people's emotions with what is happening at the ground level. Her projects include the redevelopment of the ocean liner QE2, Burj Khalifa and the Great Mall of Dubai, and she actively participates as an advisor of DKMS, the world's largest bone marrow donor center.

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