Engineer today, entrepreneur tomorrow: How fintech is leveling the entrepreneurial playing field. Southeast Asia’s financial technology (fintech) market is among the fastest-growing in the world, with estimates placing expected market growth to reach up to US$100 billion by 2020. According to a Deloitte report, fintech investments in Southeast Asia soared by over 30 percent to nearly $6 billion over the course of 2018 alone.
Today, Singapore remains the region’s fintech hotspot and a prominent leader in the global sector, with over 490 fintech companies operating within its borders. However, neighboring markets are not far behind–for one, Indonesia, the largest economy in Southeast Asia, is seeing rapid growth in digital payment platforms.
Consequently, we have also begun to see a transformation in the profiles of business leaders in this new economy. Many of the founders of today’s top unicorns weren’t computer science majors or holding distinguished MBAs–Evan Spiegel of Snapchat studied product design, while mobile trading app Robinhood’s Vladimir Tenev and Baiju Bhatt studied mathematics and physics.
In Asia, the story is no different, with the surge in startup success stories from the likes of Go-Jek, Grab and Lazada. Thanks to improved education, technological advancement, and increased government investment, the past decade has witnessed the rise of a new breed of entrepreneurs in the region.
Mastering the mindset
Generally, the wider perception is that in entrepreneurship, you have to be a “natural” to succeed. However, I believe that entrepreneurship, just like any skill or field of study, is learned and not acquired. The purpose of education, though, is not simply to teach. Rather, it is to create the optimal conditions in which students can learn, acquiring and sharpening the insights and qualities that they need to succeed in the real world.
In this respect, theoretical knowledge alone is not enough. Students need adequate mentorship, opportunities to showcase their entrepreneurial abilities, and room to explore hands-on applications of their skills. Thus, it is crucial for academic institutions to cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset in their students, nurturing a new generation that can innovate, think outside the box, and willingly take on the risks to try new things.
Coupled with the fact that the significant majority of businesses in the country are regarded as micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), the benefits of formalizing the culture of entrepreneurship elevates the career choice with a greater sense of legitimacy.
Today, the School of Business and Management ITB–Bandung Institute of Technology offers a Bachelor’s Degree in Entrepreneurship. Noted for its competitiveness as one of the best business schools in the country, students are able to learn the ins-and-outs of establishing a business, risk analysis, and developing business strategies in light of technological advancements.
Meanwhile, Tangerang’s Surya University offers a Technopreneurship course that blends emerging tech and entrepreneurship topics together, asking students to focus on a specific sector as they pursue their studies, whether it be in the sciences, energy, information and communications technology (ICT) or proptech (technology for the real estate space).
For some others, entrepreneurship is a legacy process, through the generational transfer of ownership in family businesses. The prolific nature of family businesses goes to show that an entrepreneurial mindset can be both encouraged or fostered from a young age. This phenomenon is especially prevalent in Asia, where 85 percent of the most prominent businesses are family-owned.
Much like the culture of South Korea’s chaebol, family businesses in Indonesia will account for almost half of businesses in the country by 2025. Though an emerging economy, studies have shown that Indonesian family-owned businesses are markedly more prepared than their ASEAN counterparts when it comes to a succession plan, with 78 percent having a successor in mind.
It was also found that these businesses tended to be more progressive in their approach with decision-making rooted in factors such as capability and experience rather than gender. With such a forward-thinking approach to the propagation of the family business model, young entrepreneurs, irrespective of gender and background, are encouraged early on that there are certainly benefits to starting your own business and being your own boss. For these businesses, keeping it in the family doesn’t necessarily need to be a thing of the past. Engineer today, entrepreneur tomorrow: How fintech is leveling the entrepreneurial playing field (Max Kantelia, The Jakarta Post)
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