These women bosses among Asia’s Most Influential are doing it their way
An Iron Princess, a former volunteer teacher and a new billionaire are among the female CEOs in Tatler Asia’s Most Influential list. Armed with daring vision, they are changing the way things are done even as they raise the profile of women in business throughout the region. These six women are unafraid of introducing new ideas, revamping old practices and sharing their creations for the good of many.
Janice Lee, Hong Kong
CEO of Viu
Janice Lee, CEO of Viu, is betting on local content to grow the pan-regional streaming service. Already, the streamer—found in 16 markets in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa—is holding its own against major services thanks to its strategy of ad-supported subscriptions and ad-free paid subscription tiers. Viewers get access to a host of K-dramas, along with original series and adaptations of global shows such as the Malaysian version of South Korea’s Black, Indonesia’s take on Pretty Little Liars and Still, an original musical drama from the Philippines. In Media Partners Asia AMPD Research for the fourth quarter of 2021, Viu ranked as the number one premium video on demand platform in terms of the number of monthly average users in Greater Southeast Asia.
Pei Chun Tsai, Taiwan
CEO of Pou Chen Group
In 2012, Pei Chun Tsai took the helm of Pou Chen, the world’s largest manufacturer of athletic and casual footwear, from her father, who founded the company almost five decades ago. Then just 33 years old, the young Wharton graduate took charge of a company that now has over 400,000 employees around the world and has recorded revenues of over US$8 billion—up to one in five shoes worldwide may be manufactured by Pou Chen.
Pei Chun Tsai’s strict work ethic has earned her the moniker “Iron Princess”, famously showing zero tolerance for corrupt practices that she observed while working as her father’s assistant, and acting decisively to transform the archaic leadership structure that she inherited. She brought in young professional managers outside of her family and from other industries to further modernise the company.
Cheryl Ann Fernando, Malaysia
CEO of Pemimpin Global School Leaders
As CEO of Pemimpin Global School Leaders, Cheryl Ann Fernando is working to transform the educational landscape of Malaysia by training school leaders.
Fernando’s journey in education began when she served as a volunteer teacher in a rural school in the northwestern Malaysian state of Kedah. There, the former PR practitioner saw how teachers can transform students’ lives: she led her students, some of whom were not fluent in English, to fifth place at a district-level choral speaking competition.
Fernando has been appointed to the Ministry of Education’s National Education Policy Review Committee, and has also served as the director of education and learning at the non-profit organisation EduNation Malaysia. Most recently, she has been working to honour educators by launching the inaugural Malaysia Teacher Prize.
Natalia Kusomo, Indonesia
CEO of Agung Sedayu Group
Amid the challenges of the pandemic, Natalia Kusomo dreamed up the concept for the Indonesia Design District (IDD), which is envisioned to be the largest and most comprehensive furniture and design centre in the country. The shopping hub, which considers the shifting preference toward outdoor spaces in its design, will include leisure amenities for events, exhibitions, dining, and more. Located in North Jakarta and found just seven minutes away from Soekarno Hatta International Airport, Kusomo’s IDD will launch at the end of 2022.
Cynthia Chua, Singapore
CEO of the Spa Esprit Group
Cynthia Chua’s many lifestyle concepts include 15 brands—which include waxing expert Strip, eyebrow and eyelash bar Browhaus, café chain Forty Hands and restaurant and bar Tippling Club—found in 12 cities across the region. The serial entrepreneur is never afraid to introduce new ideas, such as natural wine bar Drunken Farmer or gluten-free eatery The Butcher’s Wife. Her most daring concept yet? The Blackout Mask, an activated charcoal mask that detoxes, brightens and moisturises the vulva.
Melanie Perkins, Philippines
CEO of Canva
With a net worth of US$6.5 billion, Melanie Perkins lands on the 386th spot on the Forbes Billionaire List. In 2013, the techpreneur co-founded Canva, the freemium design platform that has rocketed to success (it now has 60 million users) with its easy-to-use interface that allows novices to express their ideas, from a professional deck to social media visuals, in a few clicks.
Beyond their impact on tech, Perkins and her husband and co-founder, Cliff Obrecht, are also making waves in philanthropy circles: In a note published on Medium in 2021, the CEO shared that she and Obrecht will pledge “the vast majority of our equity (30% of Canva) to do good in the world” via the Canva Foundation.
Discover the changemakers, industry titans and powerful individuals who are making a positive impact on the region in the Asia’s Most Influential list from Tatler.