|BUSINESSWEEK ONLINE : JULY 3, 2000 ISSUE|
|INTERNATIONAL -- ASIAN COVER STORY
The Stars of Asia (int'l edition)
50 Leaders at the Forefront of Change
In this year of hope, our annual Stars of Asia issue highlights the men and women who want to build an even firmer foundation for Asia. That means mending a social fabric torn by crisis and punishing the injustices of old dictatorships. But it also means unleashing Asia's entrepreneurial energies to build the winning companies of the new century and strengthen Asia's edge in technology and manufacturing.
A striking feature is the number of Japanese Stars committed to new businesses and new technology. Although many of the economic statistics from Japan are still discouraging, the view from the standpoint of individual businesses looks rosier. These Japanese Stars have broken the old mold of the Japanese salaryman and are role models for a new, very different generation. Look at Keiichi Enoki, the brains behind NTT DoCoMo's Internet phone, a runaway hit that's taking the country by storm and leaving the rest of the world behind. Or Toshifumi Suzuki, who invented a new business model and is driving sales by marrying the convenience of the corner Seven-Eleven store with the speed of the Internet.
Technological dynamism and financial wizardry are key to standing out in the New Economy. In Hong Kong, the father-and-son duo of Li Ka-shing and Richard Li have pulled off staggeringly lucrative successes in their separate forays into telecommunications and the Net. Fellow Hong Konger William Fung embraced supply-chain management to thrive in the cutthroat garment-sourcing business. In China, people like Liu Yonghao are transforming the state-planned economy.
The combination of technology and capital is bringing unexpected prosperity to India in an era of recovery. A cascade of money flooding back into India from expatriates such as Kanwal Rekhi who have made fortunes in Silicon Valley is giving India a chance to accelerate its high-tech development. One entrepreneur continues to stand out: N.R. Narayana Murthy, whose Infosys Technologies provides a model for an open, transparent company.
Some of our most prominent Stars are part of a new wave of postcrisis democratization that's becoming ever more deeply rooted in Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand. Taiwan's new President, Chen Shui-bian, rode to office on a wave of revulsion against the corruption that ate away at the island republic under the one-party rule of the Kuomintang. Indonesian Attorney General Marzuki Darusman is risking his life as he follows the trail of wrongdoing left by the circle of former president Suharto. The chairman of Hong Kong's Securities & Futures Commission, Andrew Sheng, has been pushing for more transparency and accountability so that investors can make better-informed choices.
These people are Stars because they are laying the critical building blocks for sustained growth and development. Without transparency, Asian cronyism and corruption can fester, tilting economic gains toward a favored few, sapping incentives for others, and stoking popular anger. Without a strong rule of law and a sense that justice is being done, economies grow more slowly. Just as important, governments lose the trust of their people. During the first stage of Asia's boom, which ended with the 1997-98 meltdown, it was easy to imagine that none of these institutional building blocks mattered. The crisis smashed that illusion.
This year's Stars continue to pry open Asia's closed financial systems with innovative financing techniques. South Korea's Lee Min Hwa has spearheaded the venture-capital boom that holds the promise of breaking the iron grip of big business on the economy. In Bangladesh, Grameen Bank founder Muhammad Yunus is marrying finance and technology, using his micro-credit model to finance cell-phone franchises and Internet kiosks in rural villages. The projects provide income for the women who run the kiosks and give doctors, students, and others unprecedented access to the wider world.
In the postcrisis rebuilding years, it's abundantly clear that economic development is about more than just flashy cars and posh condos. It is about giving parents the ability to send their children, especially daughters, to school. It means having the money to buy antibiotics for a sick baby. That's what drives people such as Thai Senator Prateep Ungsongtham Hata, a former child laborer and longtime antipoverty activist. Development is also about showing governments better ways of delivering much-needed services, as Taiwan's Buddhist Master Cheng Yen did after the devastating earthquake last September.
From venture capital to cell phones, from microlending to Buddhist charity--in 50 different ways, this year's Stars are beacons of light. Together, they and others like them are showing the way to better times for Asia.
By Mark L. Clifford in Hong Kong, with Sheri Prasso in New York and bureau reports
A number of Business Week correspondents and contributors wrote this special report. They are: Frederik Balfour, Ken Belson, Brian Bremner, Mark L. Clifford, Bruce Einhorn, Manjeet Kripalani, Irene M. Kunii, Moon Ihlwan, Sheri Prasso, Dexter Roberts, Michael Shari, and Jennifer Veale. Sheri Prasso and Duane Anderson edited the report.
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The Stars of Asia (int'l edition)
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