SOUTH-EAST Asia is still an attractive region for building an entrepreneurial ecosystem, noted panellists at Innovfest Unbound 2019, which discussed prospects of the region becoming the next big world economy.
In general, panellists came to a consensus that South-east Asia is still ripe for entrepreneurs to bloom, given that there are existing problems yet to be addressed in the region of about 600 million people.
Fajrin Rasyid, co-founder of Indonesia's unicorn e-commerce technology company Bukalapak, noted increasing traction of entrepreneurship within the ecosystem, compared to nine years ago when Bukalapak was launched.
"Nowadays, the situation is changing. What people see is that a lot of values are created from the (entrepreneurial) industry and there are now people who want to join the ecosystem from the investor communities, from academic institutions," he added.
Mr Rasyid also said that Bukalapak is working closely with the Indonesian government regarding collaboration to boost the technological knowledge base in Indonesia and improving the curricula of universities to fulfil industry demands.
Finding tech talent is also important to building the ecosystem, said Joel Bar-El, chief executive officer of Trax, a technology company headquartered in Singapore. He added that South-east Asia has seen growth in the level of skills transference that multinational companies have brought to the region.
Santitarn Sathirathai, group chief economist at SEA Group, said there was a need for industry players to do their part to keep entrepreneurship alive in the region. SEA Group is an Internet company based in Singapore.
Its new initiative launched last week in commemoration of their 10th anniversary which aims to train 10 million people in 10 years to equip them with the digital skills they need to survive in the 21st century.
However, it is important not to ignore the potential challenges that arise from tensions between the US and China, said Leslie Teo, chief economist and director, economic and investment strategy at GIC.
"I guess what I am worried about most is that when we look at these changes and we say that we don't like the change, we will go back in our shell. That to me is our biggest problem. We have these challenges, we just have to deal with them. That's reality," he said.
Regarding the possibility of South-east Asian technology matching up with that of the US and China, Dr Teo said that regional technological companies are poised to address regional problems, something which goes beyond just providing technological solutions but instead adding value to solutions.
"In my view, there are vast opportunities in South-east Asia, and local companies and entrepreneurs will solve those problems. Technology is a great enabler for that," he said.