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How To Champion Asia’s Entrepreneurs Of Tomorrow

By Salil Chari | August 12, 2022

For 16 years, we’ve been supporting youth entrepreneurship with an annual student trade challenge. But in today’s world, what does the recipe for start-up success look like?

It’s official: the number of young entrepreneurs in Asia is rising. Armed with fresh perspectives and creative thinking, Gen Z are the future leaders of this dynamic region, with the potential to make a significant impact on the future economy.

Since 2007, FedEx has been collaborating with Junior Achievement to host an International Trade Challenge (ITC) for young people who aspire to become future entrepreneurs. More than 37,700 students have participated from across Asia. Many of them have realized their dream of becoming business leaders and are shaping the economy of today.

At FedEx, we have decades of experience watching businesses grow and start-ups rise to become powerhouses with the ability to impact the global economy. It’s an exciting ride! After spending some time with the latest talented crop of ITC Finalists, as well as their judges and mentors, I’m more convinced than ever that starting a new business is one of the most viable options out there for the next generation.
Group of people putting hands together

So with the majority of new businesses benefiting from the guidance that can swing them in the right direction, what are the trends that can help a first-time entrepreneur to succeed?

The short answer is that there are three important trends that will fuel the growth of entrepreneurship:

Our world is interconnected
Today, we are all living in an interconnected world. Physical boundaries are no longer a constraint for business thanks to globalization.

Today, we are all living in an interconnected world. Physical boundaries are no longer a constraint for business thanks to globalization. We’ve seen a growing number of bilateral and multilateral trade agreements signed between Asia and the rest of the world over the past few years and they are all good news for business.
Today, we are all living in an interconnected world. Physical boundaries are no longer a constraint for business thanks to globalization.

With the world’s largest trade deal - The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) taking effect this year, start-ups and small businesses are being presented with new opportunities to join a wider and stronger regional value chain. It’s particularly worth noting that entrepreneurs in Southeast Asia will have immense new opportunities to join the interconnected commerce. Why is that?
Cargo container ship at industrial port

If you look at what’s happening around the world in global trade, there’s a clear trend that businesses are ‘rethinking’ and ‘reshaping’ their manufacturing and supply chain strategies. At the centre of this shift is the move from a single source strategy to a multi-source, more diversified sourcing strategy.

Countries such as Vietnam, Thailand, India and the Philippines are strong contenders to become the next global manufacturing hub. This can only be good news for the regeneration and recovery of business in the region.

Technology democratizes opportunity
The future will be powered by technology and built on agility and resilience.

The second trend is technology democratizing the conventional business world, providing more opportunities for young entrepreneurs to compete on the global stage. The future will be powered by technology and built on agility and resilience.
The future will be powered by technology and built on agility and resilience.

Throughout COVID-19, digital tools have married the physical and virtual workplace together. So too has the science of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, which has made so much more possible for small businesses. At FedEx, we’ve recently seen start-up founders in Singapore use AI to build a predictive healthcare solution to solve the world’s leading chronic disease, and many other similar examples exist throughout the region.

Today’s youth were born into the digital world. They have the innate ability to not only navigate technologies like AI and Machine Learning as part of everyday life, but also invent something new and innovative to move the business world forward.

While all these digital shifts aren’t new, the rate of digital acceleration is. For instance, we’re seeing businesses that once mapped digital strategy years ahead now scale the same initiatives in a matter of weeks. The speed of change has been phenomenal.
Two men using mobile phones while walking

Purpose driven businesses are leading progress

The third trend is that future businesses will be purpose-driven, shaped by a new set of values shaped in the wake of the global pandemic and climate crisis. We’ve learned from numerous studies that businesses are increasingly prioritizing people and the planet over profit. Sustainability is a business imperative today and will remain so for years to come as we know the path to net-zero cannot be built overnight.

For future entrepreneurs, building a purpose-driven, sustainable business is an absolute must. To achieve this, many young entrepreneurs are increasingly looking for solutions and business partners who share the same values, from sourcing and packaging to operations and investments.

FedEx is a people-focused, purpose-driven organization. We’re proud to be the leader and forerunner of the logistics industry by setting an ambitious goal of achieving carbon-neutral operations by 2040 – that’s 10 years ahead of the goals set by the Paris Climate Agreement.
A bicycle and FedEx zero-emission all-electric vehicle

Of course, achieving this bold goal cannot be done by FedEx acting alone. That’s why supporting initiatives like the ITC are so critical. We believe the key to success lies in collaboration and ground-breaking innovation.

We see a real need to help nurture next-gen business leaders with critical skills to build future-ready, purpose-driven businesses. It requires more than expertise and digital know-how. It needs burning passion, dedication, and commitment in every step you take.

For instance, in the Philippines, we have been working with an inspiring young entrepreneur who built a social enterprise that employs local female artisans to create a wide variety of high-quality, traditional Filipino handicrafts and sell them to global customers.

In India, to reduce waste from single-use plastics, one young female entrepreneur has built one of India’s largest sustainable food packaging businesses by converting common crop waste into sustainable packaging that is 100% natural, compostable, and biodegradable.

As leaders around the world place more emphasis on sustainable business practices, there will be strong growth in climate, and equality-focused start-ups in our region. And I look to the next generation to be part of that growing entrepreneurial community.
Young man sitting on the floor with laptop

Future entrepreneurs will be those who dare to challenge the status quo. Who do things that haven’t been done before and make a positive impact on people and communities by making the world we live in more inclusive, equitable and sustainable.

And finally when it comes to entrepreneurship, let me share one thing that hasn’t changed. In the words of one very successful entrepreneur, Fred Smith, who founded FedEx some 50 years ago: “Fear of failure must never be a reason not to try something.”

And seeing so many talented young people already starting out with such promising steps, I look forward to seeing many more of today’s students set the world alight on their future entrepreneurial journey.

For more support and advice when setting out on your first business venture, visit our Small Business Center here.
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About the Author
the author bio

Salil Chari

Senior Vice President, Marketing & Customer Experience,
Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa (AMEA), FedEx Express

Before stepping into his role as Senior VP of Marketing & Customer Experience, Salil served in other leadership positions in Asia Pacific, Latin America & Caribbean.
He is a four-time recipient of the FedEx Five Star Award, a significant recognition bestowed on employees who demonstrate leadership, creativity, superior performance & distinguished efforts in support of FedEx customers.
Salil is based in Hong Kong.

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