Asia’s Power Businesswomen 2023
ِِِAs the world navigates new economic realities, businesswomen in Asia-Pacific remain undeterred. They are pushing forward with new ventures and rising to secure top spots at some of the region’s largest and most prestigious enterprises.
Here are 20 such leaders who constitute this year’s Forbes Asia’s Power Businesswomen list. They operate in a broad range of industries, including finance and banking, property, technology, and commodities.
Some have moved up the corporate ladder to the top rung—and in many cases, becoming the first woman to take on these roles. Others are leading their family businesses to new heights or building their own enterprises.
All women featured this year are newcomers to the list, adding to our network of outstanding businesswomen in the Asia-Pacific region. They have been selected for their achievements and track records as business leaders.
Edited by Rana Wehbe Watson
Research and reporting: Jonathan Burgos, Susan Cunningham, John Kang, Danielle Keeton-Olsen, Phisanu Phromchanya, Anuradha Raghunathan, James Simms, Jessica Tan, Yue Wang and Ardian Wibisono.
Governor, Reserve Bank of Australia
Age: 60 • Australia
In September, Michele Bullock made history when she became ninth governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), the first woman to helm the central bank. The appointment came a little less than 18 months after her promotion to deputy governor, making her the first woman to hold that position. “She is an outstanding economist and leader with a deep understanding of the RBA’s role and operations, built up over her long and distinguished career with the central bank,” said Australian Treasurer Jim Chalmers when Bullock was named in July.
An RBA lifer, Bullock grew up in the regional town of Armidale (halfway between Sydney and Brisbane) and earned a master’s at the London School of Economics. She joined the central bank as an analyst in 1985 and has held a number of roles, including assistant governor for the financial system. Bullock has a big task ahead: overhauling the RBA’s operations after the central bank was criticized for its poor public communications as well as continuing its battle to contain inflation. “I am very conscious that I provide [other women] with the realization that they, too, can move up” through the RBA, Bullock said in an interview last year with her undergrad alma mater, University of New England in Armidale.
Founder and CEO, Perfect Corp.
Age: 61 • Taiwan
Alice Chang is the founder and CEO of Taipei-based beauty tech firm Perfect Corp. In the late 1990s, Chang quit her finance job to start software firm Cyberlink with husband, Jau Huang, which had annual sales as high as $150 million. In 2014 she left to form Perfect Corp., whose key product evolved from photo-editing software to AI and AR-powered services that allow online shoppers to virtually try on makeup, hair colors, jewelry and other products.
Today over 600 brands use Perfect’s technology, including some of the world’s largest beauty companies. Chang says businesses that help customers try before they buy see better sales. “If you cannot catch up with the new paradigm in technology, you will be out of the game,” she says. In late 2022, the company went public on the Nasdaq market in the U.S. and in its most recent first half results posted 6% revenue growth to $25 million year-on-year. It expects at least a 12% uptick in full-year sales. To enhance its offerings, Chang says the company is starting to use generative AI to provide better product recommendations to users.
CEO and managing director, Worldwide Hotels
Age: 46 • Singapore
Carolyn Choo quit her job at a local bank in Singapore in 2002 to heed her father’s call to join his budget hotels chain. Billionaire Choo Chong Ngen, a former fishmonger and textiles seller, who started the Hotel 81 chain in the city’s Geylang red-light district in the mid-1990s, needed help with the family business. Choo led the group’s transformation as it expanded into the mid-tier segment and across Asia-Pacific. She was appointed CEO and managing director in 2017. The following year, she oversaw the restructuring of the family business, which was renamed Worldwide Hotels.
As of October, the company owned 38 hotels in Singapore, managed by its six hotel brands. It will add three new hotels by end-2023 at a cost of about S$1.7 billion ($1.2 billion). Internationally, Worldwide Hotels owns a total of 11 hotels across Australia, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and Thailand. They are managed by the likes of Holiday Inn, Ibis and Travelodge. Growing Worldwide Hotels’ global footprint over the next decade will be a key priority, Choo says, adding that the company isn’t interested in resorts or luxury hotels. “We don’t chase targets or numbers, we’re really opportunity-based,” she says. “We always invest for the long term. So we don’t sell any assets, we just buy.”
President commissioner, Metropolitan Land
Age: 62 • Indonesia
Junita Ciputra joined Ciputra Group, an Indonesian property developer founded by and named after her late father, in 1988 as a finance manager. Now she helps run the group along with older sister, Rina, and brothers Cakra and Candra. Besides serving as commissioner or director at several group companies, she is also president commissioner of Metropolitan Land, which focuses on building residential and commercial properties mainly in the greater Jakarta area. It also operates malls and hotels in Jakarta, Cirebon and Bali.
She is actively involved in the Ciputra family’s foundations that focus on education and entrepreneurship—reflecting her father’s goal of creating millions of entrepreneurs in Indonesia. Ciputra has been the chairman of Citra Berkat Foundation since 2002 and of Ciputra Pendidikan Foundation since 2006. These foundations currently run 11 schools and two universities across Indonesia. She has a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University San Francisco and an M.B.A. in finance and real estate from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.
CEO, Taobao and Tmall Group, Alibaba Group
Age: 47 • China
An early founding member of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, Trudy Dai was recently tapped to run its Taobao and Tmall shopping sites after the company announced in March its decision to split into six smaller business units. The 47-year-old is focusing on promoting value-for-money products amid China’s economic downturn, which has helped Alibaba attract consumers and merchants alike despite fierce competition from rivals such as JD.com and PDD Holdings.
By selling cheaper products and charging merchants lower fees, Taobao and Tmall have grown their user base and generated 115 billion yuan ($16 billion) in revenues in the April-June quarter. That accounted for 49% of Alibaba’s total sales during the period, which beat expectations to rise 14% year-on-year to 234 billion yuan. Dai said in an analyst call in August that value-for-money products would remain an area of major investment for Taobao and Tmall. Prior to her current role, Dai led Alibaba’s domestic e-commerce sales, as well as a business-to-business sales unit that included its global AliExpress shopping site and Taobao Deals, a platform for buying discounted goods.
Managing director, Biological E
Age: 46 • India
Mahima Datla joined the Indian pharma and vaccine company founded by her paternal and maternal grandfathers as general manager in 1998 after obtaining her bachelor’s in business management from London’s Webster University. She became managing director in 2013. Last year, a nearly decade-long battle with her mother over the company’s ownership was resolved with India’s Supreme Court ruling in the daughter’s favor.
Privately held Biological E, in which Datla owns a majority stake, responded to the pandemic by producing a Covid-19 vaccine called Corbevax in partnership with Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, supplying 100 million doses to the Indian government until August 2022.
Revenue grew at a compound annual rate of 40% over the last four years, touching 39 billion rupees ($475 million) in the year ended March 2023. Biological E—which has eight vaccines prequalified by the World Health Organization, including those against tetanus, rubella and measles—produces more than 2 million vaccine doses daily and supplies them to more than 130 countries. Next up is a pneumonia vaccine for which Datla won approval from India’s drug regulator for commercialization and production.
Anna Ma. Margarita B. Dy
President and CEO, Ayala Land
Age: 54 • Philippines
Anna Ma. Margarita B. Dy took the helm at Ayala Land in October, becoming the first female CEO of the Philippines’ second-largest property developer by market value. Her rise comes as the company—the real estate arm of the Ayala group, a conglomerate controlled by billionaire Jaime Zobel de Ayala and his family—accelerates the launch of residential projects to meet surging housing demand. Dy joined Ayala Land 18 years ago and has been on the management committee since 2008. Prior to her appointment as CEO she oversaw many of the firm’s luxury housing projects as chief operating officer and head of its residential business group.
Ayala Land’s net profit jumped 41% in the first six months of 2023 from a year earlier to 11.4 billion pesos ($200 million). That reflected stable rental income from its office and commercial properties, along with robust demand for residential projects such as Park East Place, a high-rise development in Bonifacio Global City, and Ciela at Aera Heights, an upscale estate in Cavite, southwest of Manila. “We continue to see healthy appetite for quality residential developments, especially at the mid and upscale market segments,” says Dy, who holds an M.B.A. from Harvard. “These are our traditional bastions of strength.”
CEO, Team Global Express
Age: 59 • Australia
Christine Holgate was hired to helm Team Global Express in 2021, after private equity firm Allegro Funds bought the logistics company for a mere A$7.8 million ($6 million) from Japan Post compared with the A$6.5 billion the latter paid for it in 2015. Two years later, the company formerly called Toll Global Express, delivered a 17% increase in revenue growth for the 2023 financial year although after-tax losses continued to widen. In a move to greener transport, earlier this year Team Global struck an 11-year A$1.8 billion deal with rail freight operator Aurizon to ship freight over Australia’s rail networks. Meanwhile, in August, Team Global appointed UBS in a broad-ranging advisory role, hinting that overseas investors are looking at possibly buying the company from the private equity firm.
Born and raised in the U.K., Holgate worked a series of marketing management jobs before being appointed CEO of local health supplement company Blackmores. She then became CEO of Australia Post from 2017 until 2020, when a controversy over her $20,000 gift of Cartierwatches to senior managers and a resulting government inquiry pushed her to resign. Holgate maintained that no taxpayer money was used to purchase the watches. After a court-mediated review, Australia Post said it regretted the circumstances of her departure and agreed to a A$1 million termination payment without admission of liability.
Head of private and growth equity in Asia Pacific, Goldman Sachs
Age: 50 • Hong Kong
A Goldman lifer, Stephanie Hui first joined the bank as an analyst in 1995. She left briefly to get a Harvard M.B.A., rejoining the firm in 2000 and climbed the ranks to co-head its merchant banking division for Asia Pacific excluding Japan a little over a decade later. She was named the head of private equity in Asia Pacific (including Japan) in 2019.
Hui says the best advice she’s received was to speak up and get herself heard. “The Asian culture is more of keeping your head down, getting your work done and someone will somehow notice you,” says Hui. “But many of my mentors have taught me to be more vocal. If I see things that need to get changed, I need to speak up.”
Among her deals, Hui worked on one to take a 7% stake in ICBC in 2006 for $2.5 billion ahead of the Chinese bank’s IPO—which became one of Goldman’s most profitable investments. Under her leadership, the firm also led a $36 million investment in South Korea’s biggest food delivery app Woowa Brothers in 2014 (Germany’s Delivery Hero completed its acquisition of Woowa Brothers at a $4 billion valuation in 2021), and a $50 million series C round in 2021 in fellow listee Alice Chang’s Perfect Corp., a Taipei-based beauty-tech startup.
Managing director, Jyothy Labs
Age: 45 • India
In April 2020, M.R. Jyothy took over as managing director of the Mumbai-based consumer goods company founded and named after her by her father, M.P. Ramachandran, now chairman emeritus. Jyothy Labs makes products such as detergents and dishwashing soaps at 23 plants across India and is a market leader in the fabric-whitener segment, with more than 80% market share led by its flagship brand Ujala. The company ranks second by sales value in the dishwash bar and liquid category and is No. 2 by volume in mosquito repellent coils.Revenue grew 13% to 25 billion rupees ($300 million) in the year ended March 31 and net profit rose 51% to 2.4 billion rupees despite a steep hike in raw material prices.
“We are very hungry for growth,” Jyothy says. “We need to scale up in all the areas that we are in. There is a lot of room for growth in each of our categories, be it fabric care or dishwashing or personal care or insecticides.” Jyothy, who has an undergraduate degree in commerce and an M.B.A. in marketing from the Mumbai-based Welingkar Institute of Management and Research, joined the company’s marketing division in 2005 and became the chief marketing officer in 2017. She assumed the top operational post in the early months of the pandemic.
Visit forbes.com to check the full Asia’s Power Businesswomen 2023 list.
Source: Forbes Middle East