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Familiar faces at Tech Rocks Asia 2024

On the 7th of January 2024, I had the pleasure of attending Tech Rocks Asia 2024, organized by NFQ. It was the first big event of this calendar year, and what made it even more special for me was the fact that I saw a bunch of familiar faces on the speakers list. It was a no-brainer for me to attend the event.




Session 1: OLIVIER DOMBEY


The first session I attended was from Olivier Dombey, the Managing Director at Atiom. The topic for Olivier's discussion was ‘Behavior Change Tech: How to build frontline teams that drive service excellence’.


Olivier and his team have worked with some of the largest names in the hospitality and facility management space. 


Olivier started with a striking statistic stating that 77% of the global workforce would be considered disengaged. This disengagement can cause problems like low service quality, negative impact on ESG goals, higher pressure on safety, and overall more challenges for the HR. Olivier and his team at Atiom have built a gamified app that helps drive behavioral change among frontline workers, especially in the service industry.


They follow a very robust methodology to help drive this behavioral change, and his talk was an eye-opener for us to recognize how to drive behavioral change within our own teams.


Session 2: FRANCESCO TAVANO


The second session I attended was from Francesco Tavano, who is the Lead Product Manager at Foodpanda. The topic of his discussion was ‘The Practical Product Manager: A Journey Through Startup Agility and Corporate Realities’. Francesco started his talk with a couple of memes and ended it with a Lord of The Rings reference and had me hooked throughout the session.


Francesco weaved a fascinating narrative using anecdotes from his personal experience as a product manager. The examples that he used demonstrated that a lot of the challenges that product managers face are not necessarily explicit or even technical in nature. A lot of these challenges are implied and have a human element to them. 


The key takeaway for me was the fact that the product managers who typically deal with very technical challenges often need a high level of emotional quotient to be successful at their roles.


Session 3: AMRT SAGAR

The third session I attended was by Amrt Sagar, who is the former country head of Grab Myanmar and the former co-founder and CEO at Carzuno. The topic that he covered was ‘Launching Tech Products in Emerging Markets: The Story of Launching Grab in Myanmar’.


Amrt shared with us his story of being the first person on the ground to launch Grab in the country of Myanmar. The key learning for me in this whole talk was how he had to create a balance between Grab's regional strategies and localize them to the sensitivities of the local consumer, the local driver, and other stakeholders in the market.


He mentioned some key tactics that led to their success, such as removing the destination from the drivers’ UI, partnering with a local bank to overcome the drivers’ cash preference, leveraging Facebook for acquiring new drivers for their fleet, seeking the government's ‘blessing’ before launching and going hard on corporate partnerships to forge sustainable relationships in the country.


Session 4: PAUL MEYERS


The fourth session I attended was by Paul Meyers, who is the Head Coach at Asia Founder Coaching. He delivered a session on ‘Growing ASEAN economies, is it time to expand from your European base?’


The talk, while addressing the European businesses in the audience, was equally useful for local businesses trying to get a better understanding of the regional context.


Paul beautifully contrasted the pros and cons of running a business in Europe, some of the wildcards that we might be facing there, versus the key opportunities and challenges here in ASEAN.


One key observation that Paul made about the ASEAN market is that it's far from being homogenous. The different countries in ASEAN lie on a spectrum of being developed. He highlighted areas such as food, education, healthcare, urbanization, energy, transportation, and banking as some of the high-growth areas for European companies to leverage in this region.


His talk had a bunch of interesting insights. If you are a post-seed startup founder and are looking to get over that hump, you better call Paul.


Session 5: ROBERTO KAUFMANN


The fifth and final session that I attended was by Roberto Kaufmann, who is the former Group CPO at aCommerce. He delivered a session on ‘How to scale up your product in Southeast Asia’.


Roberto talked about sales-driven, product-driven, and market-driven approaches to scaling up here in Southeast Asia. He mentioned the importance of productization for truly being able to scale successfully.


He mentioned that the diversity of the region is one of the key challenges in scaling a product here, but also mentioned opportunities such as a large population size and high digital adoption.


He emphasized on the need to stay on top of certain strategies, such as understanding the local regulations, being able to localize and hyper-localize your product, to add value to the customers, to be extremely mobile-first, and getting a sense of the payment culture.


These were the five engaging talks that I listened to at Tech Rocks Asia 2024. Shout out to NFQ again for organizing this.




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