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The Southeast Asia's Full List of '50 Asians to Watch'

The Southeast Asia's Full List of '50 Asians to Watch'

Six Indonesians deemed rising stars are included on a list of '50 Asians to watch'. One of them is Faye Simanjuntak, the grandchild of Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Panjaitan, who finds herself in the company of musician Joey Alexander and Tokopedia founder William Tanuwijaya.

The list is issued by Singaporean newspaper The Straits Times.

Faye cofounded non-profit organisation Rumah Faye when she was 11 years of age – with the help of her parents. The organization, which focuses on the prevention of sexual abuse and human trafficking and the rehabilitation of victims, has opened its own safehouse in Batam.

Jazz virtuoso Joey, the youngest on the list at 14 years of age, is a two-times Grammy-nominated pianist, whose debut in the United States began with a YouTube video. His debut album My Favorite Things was released in 2015.

William’s Tokopedia is among the country’s first unicorns, securing US$100 million in funding in 2014 from Softbank and Sequoia Capital. In 2017, Tokopedia again made headlines as the first Indonesian start-up to acquire funding from Alibaba founder Jack Ma - a whopping $1.1 billion.

Other Indonesians on the list are rapper Brian “Rich Brian” Imanuel, Go-Jek founder Nadiem Makarim and economist Budi Gunadi Sadikin.

Rich Brian, previously known as Rich Chigga, rose to fame with a homemade YouTube video. His debut album Amen has become the first album by an Asian artist to top the iTunes Hip Hop Chart.

Indonesia and India have the highest number of nationals on the list, with six individuals of various backgrounds from each country.

Herewith are the full list from Southeast Asia region:


NAME: Hun Chansan

AGE: 38

Keterangan Gambar (© Pemilik Gambar)

Phnom Penh is a rapidly developing capital city with both delightful and monstrous buildings. “Any other city would go through the same phase, you have to have the good and the bad at the same time,” said Hun Chansan. But this is the beginning, he tells The Straits Times. “How it ends, depends on me, the new generation.”

The United States and Singapore-educated architect was named Cambodia Real Estate Personality of the Year at the Cambodia Property Awards in March (2018). His seven-year-old firm, Re-Edge Architecture + Design, has been dotting the capital with notable landmarks like Noro Mall and Lumiere Hotel. Cambodian architecture tends to be associated with the post-colonial “New Khmer” style championed by former state architect Vann Molyvann. Mr Hun Chansan is charting its next direction.


NAME: Joey Alexander

AGE: 14

Keterangan Gambar (© Pemilik Gambar)

Born in Bali, Joey was the youngest jazz musician to be nominated at the Grammy Awards when his 2015 debut album “My Favorite Things”, garnered two nominations, for “Best Jazz Instrumental Album” and “Best Improvised Solo” for his performance of legendary jazz pioneer John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps”.

He was also a Grammy nominee last year, and is the first Indonesian musician to be listed on Billboard, the weekly chart of 200 top-selling albums in the United States.

Joey took up the piano at the age of six, teaching himself to play the instrument using a mini electronic-keyboard given to him by his father. He would later find inspiration from his parents’ jazz collection.

Now based in New York, the teenager continues to inspire youth around the world with his talent. Joey will be headlining the Rochester International Jazz Festival - one of the world’s largest - in June, and his new album, “The Eclipse”, is set for release on May 4.

NAME: Brian Imanuel

AGE: 18

Keterangan Gambar (© Pemilik Gambar)

Better known by his rapper moniker Rich Brian, the Chinese-Indonesian from Jakarta has gone from rising YouTube personality to a singer-songwriter and record producer on the US music scene.

The young teen, who learned English from watching YouTube videos, started out making comedies on Twitter. In 2012, a friend introduced him to hip-hop and there was no turning back. His 2016 debut single, “Dat $tick” propelled him onto the world stage and its official music video has been viewed more than 90 million times on YouTube.

His debut album “Amen”, released in the US on Feb 2, has since reach No. 1 on Apple’s iTunes hip-hop charts, making him the first Asian artist to do so.

NAME: Faye Simanjuntak

AGE: 15                          

Keterangan Gambar (© Pemilik Gambar)

“Being a kid is my super power,” Faye would often say, according to people who know her.

Indeed, she has never let her youth, nor her familial ties - she is the grand-daughter of senior Indonesian minister Luhut Pandjaitan - stop her from doing what she feels convicted to do.

After learning about the unfortunate fate of victims of child trafficking and sexual exploitation, Faye, just 11 then, started a non-profit organisation Rumah Faye with the help of her parents to prevent, rescue, and rehabilitate victims of trafficking.

Three years later in 2016, Rumah Faye opened its first shelter housing up to 20 girls between the ages of 12 and 18, and offers physical, psychological, and spiritual rehabilitation programmes as well as education and vocational training.

Last November, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Desmond Tutu named Faye as one of the top three finalists for the International Children’s Peace Prize for her efforts through Rumah Faye.

NAME: William Tanuwijaya

AGE: 36

Keterangan Gambar (© Pemilik Gambar)

After graduating from a high school in a small town in North Sumatra in 1999, William Tanuwijaya moved to Jakarta to study Information Technology. He travelled by sea, taking four days to reach Jakarta, as he could not afford to buy plane tickets.

To cover the cost of his study, he had to work at an internet cafe for long hours. He later worked as a game developer and software developer before starting Tokopedia with a friend in 2009. The start-up was a marketplace that allowed small retailers and large brands to sell to consumers in Indonesia online.

In 2014, Mr Tanuwijaya made headlines when Tokopedia received a US$100 million investment, then a record high, from Softbank and Sequoia Capital. Last year, it did better with a US$1.1 billion injection from Alibaba, making it the first Indonesian start-up investment by Mr Jack Ma.

NAME: Nadiem Makarim

AGE: 33

Keterangan Gambar (© Pemilik Gambar)

Mr Makarim’s bane turned out to be a boon when he returned to Jakarta after graduating from Harvard Business School and found the city’s motorcycle-taxi service somewhat haphazard.

Having worked in several tech firms including online retailer Zalora Indonesia, Mr Makarim knew there was an opportunity to develop an app for consumers to book these “ojeks”, or two-wheeled cabs. It also expanded into food delivery, and provided house-cleaning and massage services. The money soon came in - US$550 million in 2016; US$1.2 billion from Tencent Holdings last year; US$1.2 billion from Google, Temasek Holdings and China’s Meituan-Dianping this year.

Mr Makarim has already set his sights to take his start-up public in the next few years.

NAME: Budi Gunadi Sadikin

AGE: 53

Keterangan Gambar (© Pemilik Gambar)

Indonesian President Joko Widodo recently appointed Mr Budi as chief executive of state mining holding company Inalum - which owns coal, nickel mines and aluminium mines - and set him on major acquisition drives.

The ex-banker has held various senior positions in foreign and domestic banks. He was CEO of Bank Mandiri, which was then the country’s largest bank.

Mr Budi is now negotiating to acquire a majority stake in Freeport Indonesia which operates Grasberg mine, the world’s largest gold mine. If he succeeds, his company will be South-east Asia’s largest mining company.


NAME: Mattie Do

AGE: 37

Keterangan Gambar (© Pemilik Gambar)

Horror films can do more than scare. They can educate audiences about class and gender divides. This is what Mattie Do has done, as Laos’ first woman feature film director. Born in Los Angeles to immigrant parents, she went to Vientiane in 2010 to take care of her retired father. The former make-up artist negotiated her way around Laos’ inchoate film industry to produce two horror movies with strong female leads – a rarity in the local scene. She is working on her third, a science fiction thriller.

“I think the best thing about making films in Laos is that I get to define and create our very own Lao style, because before that, most of our films were kind of trying to be like our neighboring Asian countries’ films, ie. Thailand,” she tells The Straits Times.

“I literally can make any films I want as long as I can meet censorship requirements, which aren’t terribly stringent. If I avoid nudity, politics, and blasphemy, I’m golden!”


NAME: Shila Amzah

AGE: 28

Keterangan Gambar (© Pemilik Gambar)

Shila Amzah is a singer and songwriter, and the first Malaysian recording artist to break into the Chinese music market. She became an overnight sensation after winning a reality TV singing competition, Asian Wave, in China in 2012.

She moved to China, and learned both Mandarin and Cantonese in order to embrace her newfound popularity in the country. She has since amassed over 2.3 million fans on Weibo, and as a Muslim woman, tries to promote religious inclusiveness in China. She later also made history as the first Malaysian singer to win Best Female Stage Performer at the 2015 Global Chinese Music Award.

NAME: Darren Teoh

AGE: 36

Keterangan Gambar (© Pemilik Gambar)

Malaysian Darren Teoh has an impressive CV, with stints in Singapore’s Les Amis and Au Jardin but also staging - akin to an internship - in top European restaurants including Denmark’s Noma, which has been named World’s Best Restaurant four times. Yet, he ended up settling in Kolej Damansara Utama, teaching molecular gastronomy.

So impressed were the college owners that they decided to give him his own restaurant, Dewakan, in 2015. Since then, the chef has subtly re-educated tastebuds and turned his fellow Malaysians into locavores.

NAME: Ganesh Muren

AGE: 26

Keterangan Gambar (© Pemilik Gambar)

His journey started on a visit to India, when Mr Ganesh Muren saw how people had no choice but to drink dirty water due to a lack of clean supply. He looked closer to home and found, to his surprise, a community of about 100 Orang Asli families with no proper water supply in their village just an hour from Kuala Lumpur.

The mechanical engineering student set about building a water purifier that uses solar energy, and later set up Saora Industries that produces solar-powered water filtration devices providing clean and safe drinking water to rural communities in Malaysia.

His innovation and social activism have won him awards and recognition, including from former prime minister Najib Razak.

Last month, he was among a handful of young Asean representatives invited to meet former US president Barack Obama in Singapore. Mr Obama had asked to meet the region’s youth leaders advocating and changing lives through various initiatives.

NAME: Anthony Tan

AGE: 36

Keterangan Gambar (© Pemilik Gambar)

The co-founder and CEO of Grab made it to Forbes Malaysia’s 50 Richest list this year. But it wasn’t this accomplishment that placed Mr Tan on the radar, but rather his company’s takeover of ride-hailing Uber’s South-east Asia operations.

A Harvard Business School graduate, Mr Tan started a taxi-hailing application called MyTeksi with his former classmate in Kuala Lumpur. That eventually evolved into Grab which encompasses both taxis and personal cars. Tan is also the grandson of the founder of Tan Chong Motor, one of Malaysia’s largest automobile distributors.

Grab moved to Singapore in 2014 after receiving US$10 million (S$13.4 million) in funding from Vertex Ventures, the venture capital arm of Temasek Holdings. It also quickly expanded to other parts of the region, such as the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam. Last year, Mr Tan managed to secure a US$2.5 billion funding from Softbank, Didi Chuxing and Toyota, the largest venture fundraising in Southeast Asia. Grab is now valued at over US$6 billion, and has over 3.5 million daily rides.

NAME: Rachel Lau; Raja Hamzah Abidin; Lionel Leong and Jo Jo Kong

AGE: 32; 31; 31; 27

Keterangan Gambar (© Pemilik Gambar)

Two-year-old Malaysian venture capital firm RHL Ventures was founded and managed by several scions of the country’s conglomerates. With financial backing from family and its vast network of acquaintances, the company managed by Ms Rachel Lau, 32; Mr Raja Hamzah Abidin, 31; Mr Lionel Leong, 31; and Ms Jo Jo Kong, 27, have already invested in several big startups including popular dating app Coffee Meets Bagel.

Ms Lau is the daughter of the late Lau Boon Ann, non-executive director of Top Glove, while Mr Leong is the son of the founder of real estate developer Mah Sing Group. Mr Raja Hamzah comes from a political blue blood family, his father being prominent politician Raja Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin. Ms Kong is the daughter of Mr Kong Hon Kong, founder of Nirvana Asia, the region’s largest bereavement care provider.

The group of millennials pooled their knowledge of the region to invest in startups with ties to South-east Asia and also has a partnership with South Korean conglomerate Hanwha Investment. Other notable investments include Sidestep, a concert merchandise store, and Game On, a sports chatbot.


NAME: Min Min

AGE: 29

Keterangan Gambar (© Pemilik Gambar)

Tensions can run high around foreign journalists in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, where local ethnic Rakhine feel that they are victims of unfair international coverage over the purge of Muslim Rohingya last year.

Min Min, an ethnic Rakhine, has been targeted by such vitriol too. He co-founded Root Investigative Agency, based in the Rakhine state capital, which has helped shine a light on local corruption, drug trafficking and religious bigotry. In 2016, a bomb exploded outside his home and office in Sittwe.

Root, a donor-funded agency which runs a website and publishes a monthly magazine, now runs on a staff of about 10 headed by him. But the most difficult thing about his job, he tells The Straits Times, is recruiting good journalists. He is proud to promote investigative reporting and “boosting both the quality and quantity of investigative and enterprise reporting throughout new Myanmar”.


NAME: Jerwin Ancajas

AGE: 26

Keterangan Gambar (© Pemilik Gambar)

Boxing promoter Bob Arum has called Filipino Jerwin Ancajas “the next Manny Pacquiao”, a comparison the 26-year-old International Boxing Federation junior bantamweight champion baulks at embracing.

“The next Manny Pacquiao has not been born yet,” he said in his typical aw-shucks manner. But it is hard not to draw a comparison. Both are southpaws, with a preternatural killer instinct inside the ring.

Both were born into deep poverty in the war-torn southern island of Mindanao. Like Pacquiao, Ancajas was raised by a single parent. His father worked at a banana plantation, and would supplement his income husking coconuts. He remembered days when all they had to eat were bananas or sweet potatoes. Sometimes, there was no food at all.

NAME: Leni Robredo

AGE: 52

Keterangan Gambar (© Pemilik Gambar)

As head of the main opposition party in the Philippines, Vice-President Leni Robredo is vying to replace President Rodrigo Duterte when he steps down in 2022.

But she must first hurdle a challenge from her rival, former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr, son and namesake of the late dictator, who is contesting her election as vice-president via a manual recount of votes. That will not be settled for another six months.

Ms Robredo, a lawyer and economist, rode on the crest of her late husband’s popularity.

Her husband, former interior secretary Jesse Robredo, died in a plane crash in 2012. In 1988, Mr Robredo, then 29, became the youngest mayor elected in the Philippines. A public holiday named after him marks his death anniversary.

NAME: Cardinal Luis Tagle

AGE: 60

Keterangan Gambar (© Pemilik Gambar)

The lead contender from Asia for the papacy in 2013, Manila’s social media-savvy and charismatic archbishop is considered a “rock star” in the College of Cardinals.

He delivers inspiring, light-hearted liturgies on Facebook, and preaches and sings on TV and on stage. He rides his bicycle across Manila’s streets and invites the homeless to his dinner table.

A native of Manila and a banker’s son, with Chinese forebears on his mother’s side, Cardinal Tagle initially planned a career in medicine before being recruited to religious vocation by a Jesuit friend. After earning his doctorate at Catholic University, he rose quickly in the church, becoming bishop in 2001 and archbishop of Manila a decade later. Last year, Pope Benedict XVI welcomed him into the College of Cardinals.

His relative youth perhaps diminished his chances to become Pope. But it has also made the baby-faced cardinal among the most out-of-the-box choices and a favourite among those who are pushing for change.

NAME: Kris Aquino; Imee Marcos

AGE: 47; 62

Keterangan Gambar (© Pemilik Gambar)

The Aquino and Marcos families have had a bitter political feud that spans decades in the Philippines. Their duel for political supremacy had cost former senator Benigno Aquino his life, and the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos the presidency. Now, their heirs are continuing that battle.

In the years that followed the 1986 People Power revolt, the Marcoses have managed to rehabilitate their image, and regained much of their political clout.

Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos, 62, has expressed her intention to run for senator next year (2019) to regain the seat vacated by her brother, Mr Ferdinand Marcos Jr, who made an unsuccessful bid for the vice-presidency.

Ms Kris Aquino, 47, Mr Aquino’s youngest daughter, has eschewed politics, but she has used her fame and influence as a celebrity to sway voters into supporting her family’s political vehicle, the Liberal Party.

NAME: Robbie Antonio

AGE: 41

Keterangan Gambar (© Pemilik Gambar)

In less than two years, this 41-year-old businessman steered a company into becoming the Philippines’ first “unicorn”, as startups valued at more than US$1 billion are known.

Mr Antonio is CEO of Revolution Precrafted, provider of prefabricated homes. He formed the company in December 2015. Today, Revolution has US$2.1 billion worth of projects in the pipeline. It recently inked a US$3.2 billion deal to provide Dubai-based property developer Seven Tides with high-end, prefabricated condominium apartments and hotel villas.

A tireless networker, Mr Antonio has parlayed his ties with celebrities such as Paris Hilton and Lenny Kravitz, fashion houses Versace, Missoni and Armani, and the world’s top architects and designers to add glamour to his real estate businesses.

Revolution’s homes are not boxy, monotonous container vans. They offer instead dramatic lines, slanted roofs and walls of glass.

Revolution has its sights set on opening 20 offices, mostly in South-east Asia.


NAME: Martina Veloso

AGE: 18

Keterangan Gambar (© Pemilik Gambar)

Shooting stars are often described as short-lived trails of light, yet Martina Veloso promises to be anything but. Armed with a steely focus and cheery personality, the 18-year-old proved she is no flash in the pan as she won two gold medals, in the 10m air rifle and the 50m rifle prone, and set a new Games record for both events at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

In the 10m air rifle, her pet event, she held her nerve to win in a single-shot shoot-off, before blitzing the field in the more unfamiliar 50m rifle prone contest.

Veloso’s upward trajectory began when the Singapore Sports School alumnus won the ISSF World Cup in Munich, Germany as a 14-year-old in 2014 by beating Czech Katerina Emmons, the 2008 Olympic champion, and Serb Andrea Arsovic, the 2010 European champion. She went on to win the 10m air rifle team gold with Jasmine Ser and Tessa Neo at the 2015 SEA Games, as well as the individual gold last year.

With the Tokyo Olympics just two years away, she has set her sights on making history again by firing the Republic to its first Olympic shooting medal.

NAME: Tan Min-Liang

AGE: 40

Keterangan Gambar (© Pemilik Gambar)

Mr Tan is one of the most recognisable faces in technology today, and leads one of Singapore’s few unicorn start-ups.

As the chief executive and founder of Razer, Mr Tan heads one of the most successful gaming peripheral brands in the world. His company’s products, like mice, keyboards and headphones, are used alike by the everyday gamer and the professional on a world stage with millions at stake.

In recent years, Razer has also bought over famed audio-visual firm THX, and launched its first smartphone, the Razer Phone. Razer went public in Hong Kong last November, raising $688 million and making Mr Tan an overnight billionaire. He now has a net worth of just over a billion dollars ($1.05 billion according to Forbes) and is the latest entrant in this year’s (2018) Forbes billionaire list, ranking 22nd on the Singapore list.

He has also expressed interest in setting up a unified e-payment system for Singapore, having sent in a proposal to the Monetary Authority of Singapore last September.

His focus up next lies in growing the company within South-east Asia, after spending years expanding the business in the United States and Europe.


NAME: Taopiphop “Tao” Limjittrakorn

AGE: 29

Keterangan Gambar (© Pemilik Gambar)

A year ago, Mr Limjittrakorn was arrested and fined 5,000 baht (S$208) for selling his home-brewed lager, but that did not stop the tour guide from crafting beer, legally this time. He and three friends turned to crowdfunding to keep their Taopiphop Bar Project alive, and now sells his brew in a shabby-chic bar in the Nonthaburi neighbourhood in Bangkok.

The 29-year-old has been relentless in calling out what he describes as unfair competition, high barriers of entry and cronyism in Thailand’s 180 billion baht beer industry, accusing the government of favouring big companies that produce well-known beers like Chang, Singha and Leo.

Mr Limjittrakorn is planning to open a brewery in Vietnam, develop a marketing campaign for a Thai local moonshine, and campaign for an amendment of the 1950 Liquor Act to allow small manufacturers to enter the business.

NAME: Rasmee Wayrana

AGE: 34

Keterangan Gambar (© Pemilik Gambar)

With a voice that stops a crowd, lyrics that make everyday life ethereal, singer-songwriter Rasmee Wayrana is transforming the image of traditional Thai countryside music called Mor Lam. By infusing it with blues, rock, pop and African influences, she has won over urban audiences in her country as well as in Europe. In 2016, she won three national level awards for best female singer of the year, best album, and best song. Her songs are in Thai, Lao or Khmer.

“Traditionally Mor Lam was a countryside style of music so it was often looked down on by some urban people,” she tells The Straits Times. “However, the audience in my concerts is usually a blend of all types of people, from high society Bangkokians to rural people, as well as foreigners from different countries and of all ages, and people with very different levels of education and backgrounds.

“It is very rewarding to see that Mor Lam is appreciated as a part of the cultural heritage of Thailand.”

NAME: Netiwit Chotipatpaisal

AGE: 21

Keterangan Gambar (© Pemilik Gambar)

A speaker at the upcoming Oslo Freedom Forum, Netiwit Chotipatpaisal’s path to activism stretches back to his high-school years when he first called for reform in Thai education. Last year, the 21-year-old caused a stir for publicly denouncing an act of prostration during a university ceremony.

As a result, he was discharged from the prestigious presidency of the student council at Chulalongkorn University where he was studying political science. For his speech at the forum, an annual conference devoted to human rights advocacy, Mr Netiwit will speak on democracy, education and military conscription, which he views as archaic and stripping young Thai men of opportunities for “self-improvement”.

NAME: Parit Wacharasindhu; Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit

AGE: 25; 39

Keterangan Gambar (© Pemilik Gambar)

This well-connected duo is considered to be among the freshest faces to emerge in Thai politics since the May 2014 coup. Both have political aspirations and come from wealthy and influential families. Mr Parit, the nephew of Thailand’s former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, went to the prestigious Eton College and Oxford University and graduated in Philosophy, Politics and Economics.

Mr Thanathorn, heir to the auto-making giant Thai Summit Group, rallied over land rights during his university years and is known for being both a socially-conscious idealist and a business pragmatist.

Now that both are pushing ahead with their liberal agendas of reform and look ready to stand in next year’s general election, all eyes will be on whether Thai voters will be swayed by their enthusiasm, smarts and promise of a democratic future, despite their relative youth.


NAME: Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao

AGE: 47

Keterangan Gambar (© Pemilik Gambar)

The woman behind Vietnam’s notorious “bikini airline” is South-east Asia’s first self-made female billionaire. Educated in Russia, she traded in commodities and invested in real estate before setting up Vietjet Air, the country’s first budget airline, in 2011.

It quickly made headlines for its publicity stunts using bikini-clad flight attendants. Vietjet, which went public in February last year (2017), is going head to head with national carrier Vietnam Airlines as it ventures further across Asia and beyond.

Its first flights to India will start in July (2018) and it is planning to head to California to cater to underserved Vietnamese populations there.

Ms Nguyen has also reportedly declared her intention to turn 60 per cent of the carrier’s flights into international routes. “I have always aimed big and done big deals,” she told Forbes Vietnam.

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