As the year comes to a close, Gen.T honourees discuss the lessons they gained this year and their plans for 2023

As we take the festive year-end period to enjoy a break from work, there has never been a better time to look back at how we've spent our year—from the wins to the challenges to the new experiences we may have had.

For some of us, 2022 was when the term “post-pandemic” felt the most real even though Covid-19 is still around, as live events and overseas travels came back in full swing. For others, it may have been a year of change or opportunities, whether it be a new job or a decision to live better or differently. But however 2022 has been for you, there would have been moments and lessons to reflect back on.

Here, five Gen.T honourees share what they've learned from the year and what they hope to achieve in 2023.

Nithiya Laila

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Nithiya Laila
Above Nithiya Laila is a culinary anthropologist who runs a pop-up dining club called Brunch Bandits and SG Seed Exchange, a community platform for the exchange of native seeds

What was the biggest lesson you gained in 2022?

Nithiya Laila (NL): I had the opportunity to spend some time with the Jane Goodall Institute in Tanzania this summer and although I had met Dr Goodall while emceeing her address at the University Cultural Center back in 2019, this was the first time I witnessed her work on the ground in East Africa; the widespread impact one can have to create a better, more sustainable world with action that is consistent, strongly gentle and expansive. Even in an economy that can sometimes treat sustainability as a trendy buzzword, I saw the lived importance of bringing your truest self to your work with every step in harmony with nature; that you can still create long-term positive impact across generations and geographies with your heart in the right place. 

What was the biggest moment or your proudest achievement this year, and why was it so impactful to you?

NL: We threw an amazing party in the Kranji jungle [in Singapore] to [raise awareness about saving] our permaculture heritage soil farms. We brought together a diverse set of people to share and educate what farm-to-table looks like, from Nasi Ulam by Green Circle to Thunder Tree from Fireflies Farm. The farms still got shut down, but many guests went on to join the seed and soil community, cross-pollinating among themselves to create their own projects and carry on that legacy with renewed fervour. That's what I love—to share and connect, and the powerful realisation that even as a plant comes to the end of its life and goes to seed, the cycle of life continues and new good things will sprout up from the ground.

This might sound silly, but I was proud when the native edible plant seeds that people picked up from Singapore Seedxchange from our pop-up earlier in the year at Orchard Library seeded and grew into plants, producing their own seeds that were shared back full circle with the community. The growers ranged from enthusiastic schoolkids to retirees; it really fills you up with hope. I felt that we were really building a vibrant, thriving, growing ecosystem. 

What are your plans for next year?

NL: I hope to continue to create opportunities for equitable interconnectedness between farmers, chefs, academics and bureaucrats in the conversation and explorations around resilient food systems where heritage, histories and soil have a space to be heard. Even as we wholeheartedly embrace all the innovations in agritech.

We are looking at 10 billion people to feed nutritiously and nourish in the next 30 years and I feel the edible plants from the global south hold the key. Just look at the superfoods over the last decade. So spreading that awareness and creating platforms to access that information in a fun, interactive way is a big drive for 2023.

Singapore being a region with various stages of development can help to craft how we feed the world across the equator. Tangible markers such as a wellness festival themed around seeds at the iconic Kampong Bugis building and a video content series on future foods are also in my pipeline for next year.

Read more: How This Entrepreneur’s New Agri-Fintech Startup Is Helping Underserved Farmers To Stay Competitive

Jirayut “Topp” Srupsrisopa

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Above Jirayut “Topp” Srupsrisopa founded Bitkub, Thailand’s largest group of blockchain and digital asset companies

What was the biggest lesson you gained in 2022?

Jirayut “Topp” Srupsrisopa (JS): [That] change is inevitable. Experiences will help us grow wiser and there will always be new challenges arising. As we take a step further, the challenges become more complex. So we have to be prepared and seek the ability to unlearn and relearn essential skill sets. It's also important to embrace our passion and use it to stand out [from the crowd].

What was the biggest moment or your proudest achievement this year, and why was it so impactful to you?

JS: I will forever be humbled by the opportunity to represent Thailand on several international stages, from the World Economic Forum: Davos 2022 to the B20 Summit. I'm honoured to work with leaders across the globe to deliver scalable solutions for the improvement of the state of the world. It was also our privilege to have been selected by the Royal Thai Government as a communication partner for APEC 2022. It was a huge milestone for us to promote technologies and digital products that will contribute to Thailand’s digital economy.

What are your plans for next year?

JS: For years, we have been staying true to our mission and vision. We are looking forward to improving for a better cause. Along with the experiences gained from international stages, we will continue to promote Thailand's digital economy and deliver a greater societal impact. We will not only be committed to building a safe and responsible financial system but also help unlock broader innovations.

Read more: Hong Kong NFT Experts Decode Why the Blockchain Isn’t As Safe As You Think

Annabelle Hutter

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Above Annabelle Hutter oversees production at her family's Säntis Textiles and has also founded her own sustainable fashion company Born on Saturday

What was the biggest lesson you gained in 2022?

Annabelle Hutter (AH): 2022 was a very transformative year for me, both in the business and personal sphere. I’ve really come into my own self and with that learned to trust myself and my instincts. As a result, I’ve taken more risks, and that’s empowering.

What was the biggest moment or your proudest achievement this year, and why was it so impactful to you?

AH: Of course, being featured on Gen.T List was a huge highlight! There have also been countless moments, such as moderating panels on sustainable cotton in London and having my own Born on Saturday booth at the Wonderfruit festival in Thailand. 

What are your plans for next year? Or what do you hope to achieve next year?

AH: We are launching our proprietary recycling machine and technology, which means the global market will have access to this recycling machine, thus increasing accessibility to recycling cotton like never before. I am excited to work on this launch and continue to support my friends in the industry to make fashion greener with our technology. 

Read more: This Sustainability Leader Is Turning Trash into Treasure

Olivia Chan

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Olivia Chan (Photo: Affa Chan)
Above Olivia Chan is behind AI-powered app BeautyFact, which allows people to check the ingredients in products for safety and sustainability (Photo: Affa Chan)

What was the biggest lesson you gained in 2022?

Olivia Chan (OC): Feeling uncomfortable is a sign of growing. Launching and growing a product is never easy. This year, our team went through the 500 Global Accelerator and received a lot of comments from our users and mentors, both good and bad. It’s not always comfortable to hear “honest comments”, but these are important to our growth. Giving up what we built and changing our product and business model is uncomfortable, but it is essential for us to grow.

What was the biggest moment or your proudest achievement this year, and why was it so impactful to you?

OC: Does being a 2022 Gen.T honouree count? (laughs) Launching our first BeautyFact pop-up store at Harbour City was also one of our proudest achievements this year. I got the chance to talk to our target customers in person to understand more about their needs. Going from online to offline wasn't easy. There was a lot of planning and tedious work, but I am glad to have the support of my teammates and friends. 

What are your plans for next year? Or what do you hope to achieve next year?

OC: Personally, I am starting a master's degree in arts and cultural enterprise. I am excited to have a chance to further study after six years of working full-time. For BeautyFact, we are expanding the social e-commerce function for our users to engage with people with similar problems. Also, we will expand our products from skincare to lifestyle products.

Read more: This Former Beauty Editor’s App Promotes Green and Clean Beauty

Mark Kennedy Bantugon

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Above Mark Kennedy Bantugon created Pili Seal, which is a sustainable sealant derived from waste material from the Philippines' native pili tree. His invention won a 2021 James Dyson Award

What was the biggest lesson you gained in 2022?

Mark Kennedy Bantugon (MB): Always allow yourself to dream because it is valid. And on your journey, you are never denied but only redirected. Do not be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. It is where you go, glow and grow as an individual. Always put your full trust in God. And as you trust Him, you should also trust His processes and His promises. Your past or current situation will never dictate your end destination.

What was the biggest moment or your proudest achievement this year, and why was it so impactful to you?

MB: There are many. Pili Seal was recognised as an outstanding product invention at several events and by award-giving organisations both locally and internationally.

As the Pili Seal served as a great blessing in my invention journey, it helped me to become an instrument of blessing to humanity and society through service, dedication and passion in imparting my expertise, experience and learnings. It allowed me to share my knowledge in science, technology, research, innovation, invention and entrepreneurship as a speaker at different platforms, from webinars to conferences.

With these opportunities and platforms, I was able to give not only inspiration but also plant seeds of hope and aspiration in the next generation. I realised that by equipping and empowering people with the right foundation in education, we can produce more changemakers to create an impact and difference in the world. We need people who are willing to be part of a solution and in order to get these people, we need to plant the right seeds.

Sharing things and teaching people are also close to my heart as my mother is a teacher. I got to see how she helped students to engage with different environments and fields like science and technology. Her being a teacher also taught me that sharing is not only about caring, but one of the ways of serving humanity to help others attain success. Because success is best experienced when shared.

What are your plans for next year? Or what do you hope to achieve next year?

MB: Currently, I am part of the Startup Incubation Program of the Ateneo De Manila University Intellectual Property Office (AIPO), which is helping me to commercialise Pili Seal, as well as obtain patent and trademark protection for it locally and internationally. My vision for Pili Seal is to use it as a means to build my own manufacturing company of aviation sealant in the Philippines, as our country currently imports all of our aviation sealants from other regions. With the company, we can help the Philippine aviation sector and our local farming community with new jobs.

I am also finishing up my master’s degree programme in materials science and engineering at Mapua University as a Department of Science and Technology-Engineering Research and Development for Technology (DOST-ERDT) Scholar. This will enable me to improve my invention through further research studies, particularly on its other applications in different industries such as the construction, automotive and marine sectors.


See the latest batch of honourees on the Gen.T List.

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