On 30th October 2021, ABYA held its inaugural ABYA LEAPS X TALENT @ SWITCH Youth Challenge (Demo Day). The event was jointly hosted by Talent @ Switch and ABYA as a culmination of the ABYA LEAPS Youth Challenge, a programme that aims to help tertiary students sharpen their business acumen and knowledge of ASEAN markets while enabling companies to gain different perspectives from youths in building business resilience through sustainable strategies.
Written by: Hui Min, Wei Wen & Mavis
Background & Event
On 30th October 2021, ABYA held its inaugural ABYA LEAPS X TALENT @ SWITCH Youth Challenge (Demo Day). The event was jointly hosted by Talent @ Switch and ABYA as a culmination of the ABYA LEAPS Youth Challenge, a programme that aims to help tertiary students sharpen their business acumen and knowledge of ASEAN markets while enabling companies to gain different perspectives from youths in building business resilience through sustainable strategies. Centred around the theme of “Sustainability”, more than ten youth teams worked intensively over the past three months on real-world challenges issued by regional and international businesses such as YCH Group, City Developments Limited (CDL), Hatch Blue, WTH Foods and Enea Consulting. Their projects explored the subthemes of (i) Food Security and Resilience; (ii) Liveable Cities; and (iii) Impact Investing within the broader focus of sustainability.
LEAPS Demo Day 2021 was held in *SCAPE and welcomed over 220 online and offline attendees. The event was honoured by the presence of Mr David Chua, Chief Executive Officer of National Youth Council (NYC), Ms Cindy Ngiam, Director of SWITCH Programme Office Enterprise Singapore, Ms Ivy Lim, Executive Director of *SCAPE Co., Ltd., Mr Jason Seymour, Public Affairs Officer of the U.S. Mission to ASEAN and Mr Ian Yip, YSEALI and Alumni Coordinator at U.S. Department of State. The event was also graced by business representatives who mentored the youth teams for the Challenge.
Guests of Honour Addresses
Addressing the attendees, Mr David Chua stressed NYC’s focus on inculcating antifragility in today’s youth and expressed his appreciation for the Youth Challenge as it encouraged youths to step out of their comfort zones. He also underscored the importance of building social networks, a function of both ABYA and this Youth Challenge. This focus was further stressed by Ms Cindy Ngiam and Ms Ivy Lim in their respective addresses. Ms Cindy Ngiam further highlighted the importance of open-mindedness and innovation in creating solutions and new opportunities. Ms Ivy Lim emphasized *SCAPE’s focus on sustainability and noted that the Youth Challenge reinforced *SCAPE’s effort to support youths, especially in this area. Finally, addressing the attendees online from Jakarta, Mr Jason Seymour underlined the United States’ and YSEALI’s support for ASEAN youths. Referencing the mentorship structure of the Youth Challenge and the importance of social networks, he also noted that “Everyone needs a mentor, not just one – Two, three, four…”.
Youth Presentations & Mentorship Experiences
The team presentations that were the focus of the event introduced a range of innovative solutions to real-world problems across South-East Asia. These problems included funding for SMEs in Vietnam, discarded furniture and energy inefficient appliances among commercial property tenants in Singapore, the low adoption of technology among smallholder shrimp farmers in Indonesia and potential avenues for impact investing across the region.
After the event, Mr Kevin Sun, an analyst from Enea Consulting who mentored three teams for the Youth Challenge, said, “It’s great to see the creativity and innovation that the participants have come up with to solve very real challenges in the society”. Regarding the teams he mentored, he noted that “It was a very challenging problem statement that we gave to them. It’s something that big corporates have approached us very recently [with], asking about investing in nature… We gave this challenge to them because these are the terms that will crop up more and more frequently in the future. We wanted to give them this exposure.”. He praised his teams’ performance, stating, “Their proactiveness and responsiveness and responsibility in looking for all these solutions is very heart-warming to see” and “they really exceeded my expectations and all of our expectations.”.
Participants shared that they have learnt a lot about sustainability through this Youth Challenge. Many were grateful for the opportunity to meet like-minded individuals and work with fellow youths across ASEAN. For many of the participants, the Challenge also provided an avenue for them to apply the theory that they have learnt in school to real-world problems.
Esther Chan from Team 4, which pitched the integration of circular economy features to CDL’s existing app for tenants at Singapore’s Republic Plaza, shared that the Challenge had given her greater insights into the issue at hand. She noted, “When we think about environmentally friendly, we think about using eco-bags, changing from plastic to metal straws, but we did not think…in terms of [the broader perspective], how businesses themselves can be sustainable, as normally we think about how consumers can contribute.”.
Thinzar from Team 11 which pitched intercropping as a sustainable solution to the traditionally environmentally unfriendly palm oil, shared that, “The entire journey was very fulfilling…, we have learnt a lot about sustainability and this is not something that we would do on our own if we did not join this project.”.
Rounding up the online event was a networking session that provided opportunities for participants to meet business representatives from various organizations, including YCH Group, K-Startup Center Singapore, Polish Investment and Trade Agency (PAIH). This activity allowed participants to engage with business representatives and gain deeper insights into the workings of various companies. The networking session underscored the goal of the LEAPS Youth Challenge: driving deeper engagement between youths and businesses over the issue of sustainability and business resilience.
In an interview after the physical event, Mr Ian Yip said, “It’s always great to see young leaders stepping up and talking about their passion projects.”. Regarding the event’s presentations and conference, he stressed that “these are aligned with YSEALI in improving and positively impacting the community that the young leaders are in”. Concluding the interview with a few words for ASEAN youths, he underscored, “Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, continue to dream big, do big and learn from one another.”
ABYA would like to take this opportunity to thank Singapore Week of TeCHnology (SWITCH), *SCAPE, Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI), National Youth Council (NYC) and the various business mentors and participants across the region for making this event such a success.