Businesses must embrace innovation or risk being left behind, says EY leader

Modi noted that businesses in Singapore should re-examine and redesign existing operations for long-term business continuity.

Gaurav Modi is EY Asean and Singapore Consulting Leader, where he provides strategic leadership to Consulting services, spanning Business Consulting, Technology Consulting and People Advisory Services. He is also responsible for business performance, client service and talent development for Consulting services in the said region.

Passionate about digital and its impact on business and the broader society, Gaurav has worked with various global consulting and tech companies in Asia-Pacific. He comes with a deep understanding of technology and its implications combined with sound knowledge of the Asia-Pacific market.

Gaurav holds a Bachelor of Technology in Industrial Engineering and an MBA in Management and Strategy. He has also attended executive education programmes that focus on strategy, as well as mergers and acquisitions.

Looking into Singapore’s performance in the past year, Gaurav acknowledged that its economic recovery was bolstered by multiple global and regional tailwinds that laid the foundation for a smoother economic rebound. Free trade agreements also greatly enhanced cross-border transactions, according to him.

He added that digital ecosystems would be an important avenue for businesses to stay ahead amidst challenges. “By working within an ecosystem, businesses can catapult growth by tapping on the knowledge from partners across verticals and act based on first-hand industry insights,” Gaurav said.

The EY leader spoke with Singapore Business Review and shared his perspectives on the current state of the country’s business landscape, what metrics can be used to measure success for organisations, incorporating sustainability initiatives in operations, as well as considerations for diversity and inclusion in the industry.

How do you think the Singapore business landscape fared in the past year? Are there any trends that we need to watch out for?

Singapore’s economic recovery in the past year is bolstered by multiple global and regional tailwinds that lay the foundation for a smoother economic rebound. Free trade agreements like the Pacific Alliance-Singapore Free Trade Agreement and the upgrade of the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area greatly enhance cross-border transactions. Post-COVID-19 pandemic, businesses are focusing on being future-ready and resilient, and this is visible from the nature of initiatives that are being put up on boards. Businesses are also focusing a lot more on leveraging technology and data and looking at risks associated with cyber threats, whilst becoming more invested in sustainability and environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals. 

Businesses across the globe are now in the spotlight with the need to commit to a more sustainable future. How do you think businesses in Singapore can incorporate sustainability or ESG programmes into their operations? What will be some obstacles in this undertaking?

Businesses in Singapore should re-examine and redesign existing operations for long-term business continuity and identify opportunities along the value chain to integrate sustainability or ESG goals. A strong, stable and secure infrastructure coupled with a dedicated task force to bridge communications to stakeholders is the key imperative to ensure that these ESG initiatives are incorporated into the operations smoothly. Success hinges upon defining clear ESG goals and having the commitment as an organisation to manage the changes associated with it. 

How will you measure the growth and success of businesses for this year? What are the main indicators we can check for?

Organisations are often fixated on financial metrics and single-dimensional statistics to track their business performance. Whilst top and bottom lines do reflect an aspect of the business, there are two additional key parameters that companies should look into. 

The first is the measurement of sustainability goals and progress, and the second is the extent to which data is being leveraged to steer organisations to become more data-driven. Company management needs to analyse in greater depth the correlation of factors and prioritise them in order to focus on those factors that would lead to pivotal shifts in their business performance for appropriate allocation of resources and growth maximisation. 

How do you think businesses can stay afloat amidst a challenging global economic situation? Are there any strategies or technologies they can leverage?

Businesses today face a myriad of fast-evolving challenges, from geopolitical, economic, technology and regulatory shifts and disruptions. Hence, they need to stay abreast of the market trends and be opportunistic to ride on those that favour them. 

Digital ecosystems would be an important avenue for businesses. By working within an ecosystem, businesses can catapult growth by tapping on the knowledge from partners across verticals and acting based on first-hand industry insights. Time-to-insights would be a defining factor that should prompt businesses to build, tap into and make decisions based on the actionable insights as they gear toward becoming a more data-centric organisation. 

Businesses should also strive to uphold clarity and continuously build rapport with suppliers along the value chain for business continuity. The EY whitepaper, Supply chain reinvention: what you need to start and stop now highlights that the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the fragility and inherent inefficiencies of traditional supply chains. Whilst the pandemic is now behind us, the changing landscape means that businesses need to relook at their supply chain and build a resilient supply chain that is fit for the future. 

Additionally, with new technologies and new ways of doing business emerging all the time, businesses must embrace innovation or risk being left behind. Innovation is not easy, but there will be clear benefits for businesses that drive a culture of innovation in their organisations. 

With more employees placing greater consideration for diversity and inclusion in the workplace, how do you think businesses in Singapore can ensure an empowering environment for their stakeholders?

Numerous studies have shown that diverse perspectives, combined with an inclusive culture and equitable opportunities, drive better decision-making, stimulate innovation, increase organisational agility and strengthen resilience to disruption.

According to the EY report Belonging Barometer Asia-Pacific 2022, less than half (48%) of Singapore respondents covered in the survey feel a strong sense of belonging in the workplace. 

The EY research provides very clear evidence of the financial benefits of belonging, in that those who feel like they strongly belong are three times as likely to have a positive working experience, or are more engaged. They are also almost three times as likely to stay with their employer. This uplift in engagement and retention can have a significant impact on the operational efficiency and financial outcomes of an organisation.

Hence, companies must pay greater attention to the varying needs of their people and place more focus on diversity and inclusiveness within the workplace. For a start, companies can conduct regular feedback sessions to understand more about employee needs, which can be collected and strategically channelled into effective programs that resonate with them. Implementation of these programs and their impacts can be tracked and measured against the intended goals of these D&I programs. This should be accompanied by tailored change management to build awareness around the inclusive workplace whilst keeping employees engaged and supported on all fronts.

What are you expecting to see amongst this year’s entries?

I look forward to seeing outstanding next-gen trendsetters who are unapologetically forthcoming, innovative and opinionated with their product or service creation that can help build a better working world for all.

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