Entrepreneurs lead the way


  • Nation
  • Thursday, 12 Dec 2019

Meeting of minds: Fernandes (right) with (from left) Dwyer, Brown and Helianti speaking at the plenary session themed ‘Entrepreneurship: Working With Purpose’ on the second day of the programme. — Bernama

KUALA LUMPUR: AirAsia Group chief executive Tan Sri Tony Fernandes wants to make American rapper will.i.am’s 2019 track Be Nice his theme song.

“The world’s not becoming very nice, with all the nationalism. Being nice goes a long way, and being humble goes a long, long way as well, ” he said.

Fernandes credits his mother with instilling those values in him since young.

“The success of AirAsia is its people and culture, and a lot of that came from my youth – respecting people, humility, giving people a chance to turn from raw diamonds into diamonds, ” he shared with the participants of the Obama Foundation Leaders: Asia-Pacific Program yesterday.

“A leader’s core values will cascade down, and I hope they will carry on when I’m long gone, ” he added.

Fernandes was among a panel of speakers at the programme alongside Allbirds co-founder Tim Brown, JAVARA founder Helianti Hilman, and The Purpose Business founder and director Pat Dwyer about practising values-based leadership.

The participants at the conference are made up of 200 emerging leaders from over 33 nations, who were selected for a leadership programme by the foundation.

The five-day event, which began on Tuesday, will also host other prominent speakers including former US president Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.

Fernandes said his company officially added “sustainability’ as its seventh core value, which they had announced at AirAsia’s 18th birthday celebration a few days ago.

“We are obviously contributing to carbon emissions in a big way, so we have a responsibility to decide that our next value is to be sustainable, ” he said.

Brown, whose company designs environmentally friendly footwear with natural materials such as merino wool, eucalyptus tree fibre

and sugar cane, told the audience that it is possible to build an enterprise while making a positive difference.

“We’re in this important moment between manufacturing and caring for the environment. It’s a creative challenge to solve.

“It’s the challenge of our generation, to find a more sustainable way to live and that is our purpose, ” added Brown, who is also a former professional footballer.

Helianti, who sells artisanal food products sourced from indigenous farmers, said entrepreneurs could benefit by learning from nature and indigenous people.

“We’ve been so busy learning from books, but we’ve missed out listening to the universe, ” she said.

“I’m amazed by the intuition that indigenous farmers have, to be able to tell what’s edible or not. Some people say that we empower them farmers with our work, but they’re the ones who are empowering me with their knowledge.”

The conference, which takes place until Saturday, is part of a one-year leadership development programme for emerging leaders across the region.

Participants will be able to attend plenary sessions, skill-building workshops, leadership development training and networking opportunities.

The sessions are live-streamed and can be viewed on the Obama Foundation website at www.obama.org/asia-pacific-19/#livestream.

The plenary session yesterday followed Tuesday’s which included Miniwiz founder and CEO Arthur Huang, poet Aaron Maniam, Mongolian MP and geologist Dr Oyun Saanjasuren, and Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh.Michelle and US actress Julia Roberts will be hosting a session today, while Barack will be speaking with Dr Maya Soetero-Ng, the former president’s Indonesian-American half-sister and a consultant for the foundation, tomorrow.

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