Tech in Asia Conference 2023 Unwrapped: A Glimpse into the Next Frontier — Part 1

Jennifer Handali
8 min readOct 21, 2023
Jennifer Handali — Tech in Asia Conference 2023

This marks my 3rd time attending Tech in Asia Conference in Indonesia! Back then in 2016, I was still in my college years, being young and energetic enough to absorb all the insights I could get! It feels so nostalgic to re-experience this excitement again during Tech in Asia Conference on 18–19th October 2023.

Note by Author: I’m excited to share a lot of inspiration I got from this event but it would be a long, long.. article. Let’s not exhaust your eyes and brain. Follow me to not miss the 2nd part of this article!

About Tech in Asia Conference

In case you just heard about this, Tech in Asia Conference is an annual flagship event providing learning and networking opportunities to Asia’s tech and startup community.

Overall, what you can expect from the event:

  1. Gather industry insights from hundreds of top global panelists (including from Google, Microsoft.. you name it)
  2. Connect with investors, innovators, and like-minded professionals.
  3. Witness emerging startups sharing their visions and missions on stage.
Half Day 1 Agenda on Main Stage

You can check the full agenda and other full benefits on their site. This event might be best for you who are into investing or creating/promoting startups. As for professionals like me, I was looking forward into the industry insights, latest trends, and networks in the tech world.

In this following article, I would tell you more about the keynotes and panels I attended on Day 1 of the Tech in Asia Conference 2023.

Day 1: Learn from the Experts

I wish I had clones of myself to attend all 4 different stages at the same time. I found most of the conference topics are interesting & brought up by speakers and panelists with awesome portfolio, but I had to prioritize. My goal is to get a good balance of insights about the overall industry and vertically around E-Commerce, Fintech, AI, and impact-driven companies.

Seeing the Job Market Trends — Pre-pandemic vs Now

Slide by SEEK — Asia Job Market Trends Pre-pandemic vs Now

The opening ceremony started with SEEK sharing Asia Job Market Trends from pre-pandemic vs. now. It would be a tough market since companies are limiting their hiring budget. With limited opportunities and employees impacted by waves of layoffs, there is a surge of competition between other hires. I’ve been seeking for a new opportunity for a month now. I can confirm that it is not as “easy” and “fast” as it used to be. I wanted to comment on the graph’s X axis, but well, we can still understand the message here.

Digital Banking: Redefined

Panel 1 on Main Stage — The Rise of Digital Banking

Next, I would like to dive into the rise of digital banking, specifically in Indonesia. Dima Djani, Founder & CEO of HijraBank, provided an excellent standpoint on how HijraBank is trying to understand what the customers need. Their customer segments are majorly young muslims in big cities who usually have multiple apps in their phone to do banking and perform their prayers. This opened up an opportunity to incorporate their day to day needs into a single app, yet providing them a trusted, transparent, and Islamic law-obeying financial solutions.

Sukiwan, Chief Business Officer of Superbank, also shared how he kept reminding the team to be laser-focused. We cannot solve everything, that is why we need to pick the sector where we have the resources and excell there.

Living the Era of Hyper Personalization

Keynote 1 on Tech Frontier Stage — Conquering the Personalization Ladder

One of my favorites keynote is actually this topic about Hyper Personalization brought by Marc-Antoine Hager, Regional Head in Southeast Asia of CleverTap. Customers engaged with personalized messaging or context will have a better chance of acquisition, retention, referrals, and brand loyalty. Marc shared 4 steps of the personalisation ladder using McDonalds as example:

  1. Demographic Segmentations: How McDonalds have localized menu in different countries/states, like pita bread McArabia in Arab countries and McBaguette in France.
  2. Behavioral Segmentations: Using the customer’s past history to understand or predict what will be suitable for the next purchase. More data points would increase the accuracy. For example, you have just bought 25 burgers for a party last week, but that doesn’t mean you would want to repuchase another 25 burgers in the following week. It would be better if you can look on a 1-year-old data (instead of 1 week or 1 month).
  3. Behavior Triggered Delivery: Brands should engage while the users are still in the app. By delivering the right personalized content at the right time, the result would be enhanced. For example, when the user is buying soda, we can recommend other finger foods that pair best with it.
  4. Message Content Personalization: This is another level where we remember who the customer is and can recommend what the best user experience is for them. For example, there are apps with personalized quick menus based on what the users oftenly use.

Brands should put more focus on building 1-on-1 Relationship with the users.

Building a Multimarket Business

Panel 2 on Main Stage — Scaling Fintechs Beyond Borders

Still around fintechs, I am delighted to listen on the beginning eras of Modalku and Xendit. Kelvin Tan, Group CEO and Co-Founder of Modalku, shared his story of making sure the product launch first and they can see how the market responds later on. Because, it usually takes a long time in order to satisfy the regulators and collect the users data. In a high volume but low margin business, Modalku pushed to go into multiple markets. Kelvin shared some tips on how they grow through building credibility (through licenses), invest in powerful PR where people can find informations easily about them, and through channels. The multimarket services also gives advantages in cross-learning the market and sharing of cost when one is struggling.

Moses Lo, Founder and CEO of Xendit, shared similar stories about the multimarket business. With localisation and humility to really understand the market, the team built connections slowly and stayed true to the locals. By finding the right culture fit and investing in the people, Moses is building the massive business that excells both in single country (specialied in the demographic) and multinationals.

Utilizing AI in Companies

Panel 3 on Main Stage — AI: How Companies Can Adapt, Adopt, and Advance

Artificial Intelligence (or AI) is more accessible now. Suthen Thomas Paradatheth, Group CTO of Grab, shared how Grab utilized AI for calculating things (like giving ETA when the driver will arrive) and make relevant recommendations so people can discover new things they like.

AI is making task easy to be done, saving time and costs, giving instant responses with better customer services. In a discussion with all panelists, including Michael Smith Jr., Microsoft ASEAN Startup Leader, and Abby Zhang, Principal Venture Architect of BCG X, there are 4 things to consider whether a company should build or buy an AI:

  1. The Value: what we would love to achieve through this AI
  2. The Regulations: can it comply with the local/global rules?
  3. Cost & Capacity: we will also need to consider the maintenance cost. Keeping it competitive in the market would require time & resources
  4. Reversability: whether it is a one way or two way door, can we target different models?

Impact vs Profitability

Panel 4 on Aspire Founder’s Summit Stage — Focusing on Impact vs Profitability

The last panel of the day is truly eye-opening for me. With two panelists focusing on niche problem about air quality and housing prices, they successfully planted awareness on the audiences mind that these are common problems we face in Jabodetabek, Indonesia.

Piotr Jakubowski, Co-Founder of Nafas Indonesia, helped us realize that the outdoor air quality is really unhealthy. On top of it, the indoor air quality (he even showed the current air quality in the stage room) is also worse. It is interesting that we pay attention to what we eat and drink, but not on the microscale level — the air we breathe every second. Aiming to solve what is still in our control, Piotr and the team focus on how we can have a better indoor air quality and live a healthier life in the city where most likely would be polluted.

Where the impact is the underline of the business, Sabrina Soewatdy, CEO of Rukita, also shared the similar view. Tackling a big problem, Sabrina and the team stressed on the data that 81 million millenials in Indonesia does not own a home. The housing price has gone really high while people cannot afford it. That is when Rukita team discovered that Kos-kosan (co-living) in Indonesia as the local, natural answers to it. Rukita tried to balance the profitability by revenue sharing models (instead of fixed rate), adjusting pricing based on the demand per location, matchmaking the right tenant persona, and many more initiatives. Sabrina mentioned that when we are addressing what the market really needs, we actually don’t have to get them to pay for it.

End of Part 1 — My Overall Comments

Whoa, I hope this give you a lot of inspiration and motivation, especially if you are professionals and startup enthusiasts in the tech industry.

From my experiences, you got to manage your expectations when going to conferences. You won’t really get much insights on technical expertise but you can dig deeper on the founders & decision makers mind!

If I can summarize Day 1, there are 3 keywords I found these leading professionals from rising companies posesses:

  1. Preserverance: How strong you believe in your ideas and vision, then you constantly prove it with actions!
  2. Humility: Realizing what is our strength and what is not. Find people who care on similar issue, great at solving it, and collaborate with them!
  3. Sustainability: Solve things people really need, keep up with the trends, utilize the latest tech, evolve with the industry!

Of course I actually joined more sessions, but I can only cover the highlights of this experience. If you love events like this, perhaps we can meet on upcoming opportunities! Or read my thoughts post-events I joined, HAHA!

Continue to Part 2?

Anyways, I still want to cover a lot on Day 2 of the event. See you on Part 2!

Sneakpeeks: more panels & keynotes, networks I made during the event, and of course.. the Startups Pitch Battle!



Jennifer Handali

An ENFJ with 5+ years of experience as a Product Designer. Love to share my thoughts and processes.