How businesses in Singapore and Vietnam embrace the enterprising spirit during COVID-19

The youth dialogue addressed the opportunities for innovation and importance of diplomatic ties for enterprises to rise above in a digitally-disrupted COVID-19 world.

Sarah Chan

Likes museum trips and is sometimes artsy. Can be found in pattern prints.

Published: 22 September 2020, 7:06 PM

COVID-19 has brought on a new normal of navigating the economy for enterprises in Vietnam and Singapore this year.

Companies facing the volatile environment are hampered by the economic downturn as countries close their borders, causing job layoffs and increased financial restrictions.

But this situation has its silver lining as enterprises innovate and push forward in their digital transformation, seeking new ways of collaboration with the use of technology.

To understand the enterprising spirit of businesses, youths from Singapore and Vietnam engaged with top business leaders from the region in ‘Embracing the Enterprising Spirit in the New Normal’ held digitally on Sep 20.

The dialogue was moderated by Mr Alvin Koh and Dr. Nguyen Duc Trung. PHOTO CREDIT: NATIONAL YOUTH COUNCIL


The dialogue was the second event in the INSPIRIT Regional Dialogue series and was co-organised by the National Youth Council and National Committee for Youth in Vietnam.

Here were some of the key points highlighted during the 1.5-hour dialogue:

1. Living in a digitally disrupted world during COVID-19 

In his opening address, Mr Christopher Pragasam, SOMY (ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Youth) Leader Singapore and assistant chief executive of National Youth Council Singapore, shared about the consequences of COVID-19 on a digitally divided and disrupted world.

While technology creates connections, he cited polarisation and online echo chambers as divisive factors affecting country relations in the US, China and ASEAN.

However, he also highlighted the acceleration of the Offline-to-Online (O-to-O) phenomenon in changing the way we live, work and play positively.

Online and offline communication are continuously integrated to involve the larger community and Mr Pragasam believed that an O-to-O world will only become more prevalent moving forward.

2. Strengthening multilateral relationships in ASEAN 

Mr Pragasam commended the bilateral relations of Vietnam and Singapore in his opening address and hoped that youth-to-youth and governmental relations can be strengthened further.

However, he also emphasised that ASEAN has to “come together” to facilitate relationships both “economically and socially”, and stand together in solidarity because the trading block can be fragmented sometimes.

More than half of ASEAN members are below 35 years old, he explained. With a strong economic manpower, higher education levels and opportunities for collaborations, he believed ASEAN can fulfil its potential when working collectively with the Asia region and the world.

3. Maintaining bilateral relations between Vietnam and Singapore 

Ms Trina Mai Phuong from SOMY Vietnam and the International Department of National Community for Youth in Vietnam praised the good diplomatic relations of both countries.

She cited the virtual dialogue as a way of affirming solidarity in the new normal, and believed such events can help further youth and economic cooperation.

Mr Chia Hock Lai, president of the Singapore FinTech Association (SFA) also shared that Singapore companies work together with software engineers from Vietnam. As Singapore lacks such expertise, he mentioned this as an example of how both countries can be “collaborative and complementary to one another.”

“It is not a zero sum game when it comes to blockchain and FinTech,” he said.

4. The challenges faced by the FinTech industry during COVID-19 and why it is a positive catalyst for the future 

When the pandemic closed borders, 80 per cent of business-to-business companies in Singapore’s FinTech industry were affected as they had relied on overseas sales and partnerships, Mr Chia explained.

In response, the SFA collaborated with the Government and private companies. Financial schemes and assessment frameworks were introduced to ensure regulatory compliance when working with financial institutions.

But in spite of the pandemic, Mr Chia believed that these issues faced were a silver lining.

COVID-19 has only pushed companies forward in their digital transformation journey as more consumers, including the older generation, move towards digital finance.

Accelerated digital adoption becomes a positive catalyst for FinTech. As Singapore moves to issue five digital banking licenses by end-2020, Mr Chia believed this will boost job growth and increase collaborations with FinTech companies moving forward.

5. The ‘digital fusion’ brought upon by blockchain technology 

Mr Tran Hoang Giang, product owner of FPT Software’s akaChain and Director-General of Fsoft, FPT Vietnam, explained how consumers today value their experiences and look out for their rewards for being a good customer.

Focusing on the ‘Loyalty & Reward Network’, one of five aspects in the blockchain-based enterprise solution, Mr Tran described how akaChain’s blockchain technology provides an integrated points issuing platform for consumers across enterprises.

In the new O-to-O world, this system facilitates the ‘digital fusion’ between banks and consumers. The data exchanged studies consumer behaviour and creates personalised benefits while promoting lifelong engagement, explained Mr Tran.

Ending his presentation, Mr Tran said that he hopes to one day create blockchain networks around the world for users to “stay connected in a disconnected world”.

6. How can youths prepare to face the disrupted fintech and blockchain landscapes 

In response to a question on how education can prepare youths for the disrupted landscape, Mr Long Nguyen, Senior Solutions Architect for FPT, acknowledged that a common problem faced by youths is about their knowledge surrounding the business and technology.

However, he believed that with more established lectures made available on platforms such as Coursera, online education is one way to reach out and help youths. Mr Tran also recommended websites such as FinTech Singapore and Forbes as resources for youths to understand more about the FinTech business.

Despite lower investments, Mr Alvin Koh said that resilient founders and willing investors can still work together with their strengths in the new normal. PHOTO CREDIT: NATIONAL YOUTH COUNCIL


Moderator Mr Alvin Koh, co-founder and CEO of LOOP Smart POS, concluded the dialogue by highlighting the opportunities present in the new normal.

Despite the challenges faced by the industries, Mr Koh said that entrepreneurs should utilise the support schemes available and founders should take this chance to create more meaningful products for the future.

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