Cover Story

The sev­enth Nor­way-Asia Busi­ness Sum­mit in Singapore high­lighted how tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion has cre­ated more op­por­tu­ni­ties for Nor­we­gian busi­nesses in Asia.

Norway-Asia Business Review - - Contents - CHEYENNE HOL­LIS

The re­cently com­pleted Nor­way-Asia Busi­ness Sum­mit at­tracted many high-pro­file del­e­gates in­clud­ing Nor­way’s Min­is­ter of Fish­eries, H.E. Mr Per Sand­berg and Singapore’s Se­nior Min­is­ter of State at the Min­istry of Trade and In­dus­try and Na­tional De­vel­op­ment, Dr Koh Poh Koon.

How­ever, this ex­cit­ing fu­ture can only be fully re­alised af­ter some no­table chal­lenges have been over­come. This year marked 20 years since the first Nor­way-Asia Busi­ness Sum­mit took place.

H.E. Ms Anita Ner­gaard, Am­bas­sador of Nor­way to Singapore, pointed out that in a shift­ing land­scape, a meet­ing place like the Sum­mit is more im­por­tant than ever be­fore dur­ing her wel­com­ing re­marks.

No chal­lenge looms quite as large as trade at the mo­ment. While some coun­tries ramp up trade war rhetoric, H.E. Mr Per Sand­berg, Min­is­ter of Fish­eries, the first speaker at this year’s sum­mit, strongly as­serted Nor­way’s com­mit­ment to global free trade, a po­si­tion also held by host coun­try Singapore.

“Nor­way and the ETFA have four free trade agree­ments in Asia. These are with Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and the Philip­pines. We are also in ne­go­ti­a­tions with Malaysia, Viet­nam, In­dia and China,” Mr Sand­berg said. “We be­lieve free trade agree­ments pro­mote Nor­we­gian-Asian re­la­tions.”

More than 500 Nor­we­gian com­pa­nies cur­rently op­er­ate in Asia. Mr Sand­berg pointed out there is room for growth and the part­ner­ship be­tween the two is only in its ini­tial stages.

H.E. Dr Koh Poh Koon, Se­nior Min­is­ter of State, Min­istry of Trade and In­dus­try and Na­tional De­vel­op­ment, Singapore, fol­lowed Mr. Sand­berg. He noted that there were lots of op­por­tu­ni­ties avail­able for Nor­we­gian com­pa­nies through­out ASEAN and ex­pressed op­ti­mism re­gard­ing fur­ther in­te­gra­tion of the regional economies.

Mr Sand­berg and Dr Koh were then joined by Mr Håkon Bru­aset Kjøl, Se­nior Vice Pres­i­dent, Head of Pub­lic & Reg­u­la­tory Af­fairs at Te­lenor, for a group dis­cus­sion that touched on some key themes.

“ASEAN has made tremen­dous progress. It will ben­e­fit Nor­we­gian busi­nesses to be in­vested in the de­vel­op­ment and progress of Asia,” Mr Kjøl pro­claimed.

Up next was a panel on the eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal out­look in Asia. There was a gen­eral bullish­ness from all three speak­ers when it came to regional econ­omy. A no­tice­able de­cou­pling of politics and busi­ness in sev­eral ASEAN coun­tries, a still ex­pand­ing mid­dle class and steady GDP growth were among the rea­sons for the op­ti­mism.

“A new in­vest­ment cy­cle is be­gin­ning in South­east Asia. Gov­ern­ment spend­ing on in­fra­struc­ture projects is up. This is boost­ing busi­ness con­fi­dence and en­cour­ag­ing more for­eign in­vest­ment in the re­gion,” Mr Manu Bhaskaran, Part­ner at Cen­ten­nial Group In­ter­na­tional and Found­ing CEO, Cen­ten­nial Asia Ad­vi­sors, said.

At­ten­dees were then in­tro­duced to the ele­phant in the room, or as Pre­sen­ter Mr Tey­moor Na­bili called it, ‘the dragon in the cor­ner’, China. Ocean Ship­ping Con­sul­tants Di­rec­tor, Mr Ja­son Chi­ang, CFA, pro­vided in­sights on China’s am­bi­tious Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive. This would not be the last time the topic of China came up at the Nor­way-Asia Busi­ness Sum­mit and by the time it was all over, the dragon in the cor­ner would be stand­ing on cen­tre stage.

Dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion was the fo­cus af­ter

lunch with ex­cit­ing in­no­va­tions, such as au­tonomous ships, and chal­lenges, in­clud­ing in­dus­try dis­rup­tion, in the spotlight. Mr An­dreas Sohmen-Pao, Chair­man of both BW Group and the Singapore Mar­itime Foun­da­tion, got things un­der­way by shar­ing his ex­pe­ri­ence with dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion from the mar­itime per­spec­tive.

“When we started to dig­i­talise, the first thing that we needed to do was find a start­ing point. It’s im­pos­si­ble to do every­thing at once. We also needed to de­cide on who we would part­ner with. Even when fo­cus­ing on one area, it wasn’t pos­si­ble to do every­thing in-house,” Mr Sohmen-Pao ex­plained.

Dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion can pro­vide new op­por­tu­ni­ties for other in­dus­tries out­side of the tech­nol­ogy sphere. Mr Trung Minh Tran, Head of Digital LCI at DNB Bank ex­plained how it is has changed cor­po­rate bank­ing and forced DNB to move away from a tra­di­tional ap­proach. He then joined a panel with rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Te­lenor, IBM Singapore and Digital Nor­way to dis­cuss how in­cum­bent firms can sur­vive the change dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion is bring­ing.

The last ses­sion of day one was all about the digital trans­for­ma­tion hap­pen­ing in the ship­ping in­dus­try. Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Digital So­lu­tions at DNV GL, Ms Elis­a­beth Tørstad, kicked things off.

“The ship­ping in­dus­try is fac­ing trou­bled waters. Over­sup­ply, low freight rates and com­pe­ti­tion are all re­al­ity. Now is the time to look to the fu­ture and find ways to be more prof­itable,” she stated.

The next speaker, Mr Nakul Mal­ho­tra, Vice Pres­i­dent Tech­ni­cal So­lu­tions and Mar­ket­ing at Wil­helm­sen Group, laid out how it is pos­si­ble to digi­tise us­ing a process-driven so­lu­tion. While many firms in the ship­ping in­dus­try opt to use data to make dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion de­ci­sions, Wil­helm­sen re­alised it was bet­ter off us­ing a pro­cess­cen­tric method to utilise tech­nol­ogy.

No mat­ter how firms choose to em­brace dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion, the role of the ship can’t be over­looked. Mr Morten Lind-Olsen, Dua­log Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer, pointed out that ship­board In­ter­net is still a rel­a­tively new fea­ture with band­width speeds on land grow­ing sig­nif­i­cantly faster than at sea.

This isn’t the only hur­dle fac­ing firms in an era of dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion. The le­gal ram­i­fi­ca­tions of tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion will also need to be ad­dressed sooner rather than later.

“We have two worlds col­lid­ing: tra­di­tion ver­sus dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion. This will af­fect mar­itime law as well as con­tracts and in­sur­ance. There are some big ques­tions. Dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion will re­quire changes to In­ter­na­tional Mar­itime Or­ga­ni­za­tion frame­work,” Mr Chris­tian Ellingsen, Part­ner, Si­mon­sen Vogt Wiig Law Firm, re­ported.

While most of day one was ded­i­cated to the busi­ness heavy­weights, day two would fo­cus on star­tups. Ven­turra Cap­i­tal Man­ag­ing Part­ner, Mr Ste­fan Jung, got things started by pro­vid­ing a back­ground on what he looks for when in­vest­ing in star­tups. The topic of China would then be broached again with Mr Jon Eivind Stø, Man­ag­ing Part­ner at nHack Ac­cel­er­a­tor, tak­ing the stage.

“Nor­way needs to scale up glob­ally. It needs to bring its ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy and knowl­edge to the world,” he urged. “China is the world’s largest e-com­merce mar­ket. It also has the ta­lent. How­ever, if you are go­ing to suc­ceed in China, you need to be in China.”

Build­ing a startup, whether in China or else­where in South­east Asia, isn’t as sim­ple as hav­ing a great idea. Mr Wil­liam Klipp­gen, Co­coon Cap­i­tal Man­ag­ing Part­ner and vet­eran South­east Asian in­vestor, noted that a record amount of fund­ing was raised last year in Singapore. The abil­ity to raise cap­i­tal, along with its strate­gic con­nec­tions to ASEAN, makes it an ideal place to get started.

“They say the 21st cen­tury is Asia’s cen­tury. You can al­ready see it be­com­ing a cen­tre of in­no­va­tion and in­dus­try. It’s likely other re­gions will be play­ing catch up. South­east Asia re­ally is a good place to be a part of some­thing,” Mr An­dreas Ehn, Part­ner at Ap­proach and for­mer Spo­tify Chief Tech­nol­ogy Of­fi­cer, said.

A panel on build­ing star­tups in South­east Asia with a Euro­pean per­spec­tive ad­dressed why peo­ple would be drawn to some­thing where fail­ure is just as likely as suc­cess.

“I founded a startup since it was a chance to build some­thing that was my own. I could cre­ate some­thing that was mine,” Ms Nidhi Gupta, Co-founder and CEO of Port­cast, said. “The key for star­tups is it­er­a­tion. You try, fail and learn. That is the only way to find suc­cess.”

But can Nor­we­gian star­tups re­ally change the game, es­pe­cially on the global level? That was the ques­tion the fi­nal panel at this year’s Nor­way-Asia Busi­ness Sum­mit ad­dressed.

“You can now just plug and play when start­ing a busi­ness,” Mr Fridtjof Berge, Co-Founder and Chief Op­er­at­ing Of­fi­cer at Antler In­no­va­tion stated. “It is eas­ier to get go­ing and cheaper to en­ter the startup game now than it was a few years ago.”

Just be­cause it is easy to cre­ate a startup doesn’t mean it is some­thing ev­ery­one should do. In fact, some noted that startup fever might be get­ting a bit out of hand.

“Last year, there were more star­tups cre­ated than ba­bies born in Nor­way. We don’t need to cre­ate more star­tups. We just need to go out into the world more,” Mr Pål Thorvik Næss, Di­rec­tor of En­trepreneurs and Star­tups, In­no­va­tion Nor­way, stated.

Af­ter the fi­nal panel, Mr Ole Henæs, Regional Di­rec­tor Asia at In­no­va­tion Nor­way, pro­vided some re­flec­tions on day two. It was then re­vealed to the au­di­ence the Nor­wayAsia Busi­ness Sum­mit 2019 will be held in Shang­hai. This marks another step to­ward im­prov­ing re­la­tions be­tween Nor­way and China.

“China is now open to Nor­way af­ter years of cold re­la­tions. This shift of­fers new op­por­tu­ni­ties and ad­justed strate­gies for Nor­we­gian busi­nesses. We in­vite you all to come to Shang­hai next year,” Jon Eivind Stø con­cluded.

PHOTO: NBAS/ALEX JANU PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

PHOTO: NBAS/ALEX JANU PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

Above left: NBAS Pres­i­dent Mr Leonard Stornes with Nor­way’s Min­is­ter of Fish­eries, H.E. Mr Per Sand­berg, Singapore’s Se­nior Min­is­ter of State at the Min­istry of Trade and In­dus­try and Na­tional De­vel­op­ment, Dr Koh Poh Koon and Nor­way’s Am­bas­sador to Singapore, H.E. Ms Anita Ner­gaard. Above: One of the many in­spir­ing panel dis­cus­sions at the 2018 sum­mit was this dis­cus­sion on build­ing suc­cess­ful star­tups in Asia with a Euro­pean per­spec­tive mod­er­ated by Mr Wil­liam Klipp­gen of Co­coon Cap­i­tal.

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