A day in the life of Google’s highest-ranking executive in Southeast Asia, who lives in Singapore, has 40 hours of meetings a week, and used to live on a sailboat

google singapore stephanie davis
Davis, who’s from the US, moved to Singapore in 2017 in the role of Google’s Country Director.

  • Stephanie Davis is Google’s Vice President for Southeast Asia, based in Singapore.
  • Since April, she’s been back at the office two days a week and working from home the other three.
  • Davis has about 40 hours of meetings per week, most of which are virtual.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Stephanie Davis is Google’s Vice President for Southeast Asia, making her the company’s top-ranking executive in the region.

google singapore stephanie davis
Davis is from Georgia in the US and has lived in Singapore since 2017.

Davis, who’s in her 40s, has worked for Google for 15 years. Originally from a small town in Georgia in the US, she spent stints working in the San Francisco Bay Area, Dublin, and New Zealand before moving to Singapore in 2017 as the company’s Country Director.

Now, she’s Google’s highest-ranking executive in Southeast Asia, overseeing about 2,000 employees at Google’s Southeast Asia headquarters in Singapore, as well as teams in the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia. 

Before the pandemic, Davis said she was typically traveling in the region for work eight to 10 days out of the month.

Stephanie Davis

Whenever possible, she would tack on a personal day to a work trip and her husband would join her for a mini-vacation.

“I think it’s one of the beauties about this region,” Davis told Insider. “You have the organization, the safety, and the beauty of Singapore, a professional place to be in terms of career. But then you step on a boat, step on a plane, and you can just be in some of the most adventurous, amazing spots in the world.”

Now, like many office workers, Davis has been working from home for over a year. In April, however, Singapore’s loosened restrictions allowed Davis to start going into the office two days per week and to work from home the other three.

singapore google executive
Davis’ home workstation.

Davis, who lives in Singapore’s Tanjong Pagar neighborhood with her husband, Jack, said she thought she had a sufficient home office setup before the pandemic.

“But I soon realized my desk and my small chair may have worked for weekend work and a few hours at night, but it certainly wasn’t cut out for working full days at home,” she said. “So I’ve certainly had to adapt a more ergonomic setup.”

Davis got a better chair, a desk that raises and lowers so she can alternate between sitting and standing, and a keyboard and monitor. 

Google, which is known for providing lavish amenities to its employees like a free café and on-site massage therapists, is saving more than $1 billion a year while its staffers work from home, Bloomberg recently reported.

7 to 7:30 a.m: As often as her schedule allows, Davis starts her day with a yoga session.

singapore google executive stephanie davis

“I have found yoga to be so helpful to my well-being during this time that I sometimes manage to squeeze in two sessions a day, with a second one that’s a nice wind-down before bed,” Davis said.

One of her favorite channels is Boho Beautiful with Juliana Spicoluk, she said. The morning yoga is a new addition to Davis’ routine since she started working from home.

“Singapore is an easy city to get around so it’s not that I have a really long commute, but that saving of time in the morning has allowed me to do yoga most mornings,” she said.

7:30 to 8 a.m: After yoga, it’s time for Davis’ morning coffee made with Malaysian-grown coffee beans from the local Tiong Bahru market and brewed by her “kind husband,” she said.

google executive singapore stephanie davis

“No fancy coffee machines in our home — we lived on a boat for many years, and it’s still a stovetop espresso maker for us,” Davis said. “We love the simplicity and low waste.”

With her coffee in hand, Davis starts getting ready for her day.

“Another pandemic-driven change: I get ready for WFH much faster than I get ready to work from the office,” she said.

8 to 9 a.m: Davis typically spends the first hour of her workday clearing her inbox.

singapore google executive stephanie davis
Davis at her home workspace.

Davis said she gets “hundreds” of emails per day and tries to “carve out time each day to read and respond to top priorities.”

9 to 10 a.m: Davis’ first meeting of the day is with the Southeast Asia Search Product and Marketing team. It’s one of about 40 hours of meetings in a typical week.

singapore google executive

They discuss how to make Google Search more useful for consumers in the region. 

“We know that people in Southeast Asia are increasingly using voice search to discover a wide range of information — from song lyrics to recipes to store hours, restaurants nearby and items to buy,” Davis said. “The number of people across SEA who used their voice to interact with Google on their phone grew 49% compared to the previous year.”

10 to 11 a.m: Her next virtual meeting of the day is with Southeast Asia’s YouTube team.

singapore google executive

Google sees YouTube (which Google owns) as an “integral partner” to the growth of the internet economy in Southeast Asia, Davis said.

Five of YouTube’s biggest markets globally, based on watch time, are in Asia: India, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam, she said.

After the meeting ends at 11:00 a.m., Davis takes a 15-minute break to stretch and refill her water bottle.

11:15 a.m. to noon: Davis meets virtually with Farhan Quresh, Google’s country director in Pakistan, for South Asian frontier markets.

singapore google executive
Quresh and Davis.

Davis typically meets with her direct reports for 45 minutes every two weeks.

She and Quresh discuss how Google can help start-ups and developers in Pakistan. 

Noon to 12:30 p.m: Davis sits in on an in-person meeting at Google’s office in Singapore, where the company’s Incident Response Team is discussing their continuing efforts to make the offices safe for Googlers to return.

singapore google executive
A socially distanced meeting with the Incident Response Team in December 2020.

The meeting is typically virtual, but some members of the team were able to meet in-person at the end of last year.

12:45 to 1:45 p.m: Davis has lunch at a local café with a founder who has decided to start a new business that aims to fight climate change.

singapore google executive
Davis had the Oriental Shrimp Salad at Singapore’s Little Part 1 Cafe.

“I look forward to when we can once again host guests at our offices, but I’m also thankful for the many local cafes in Singapore, where we can easily meet up and have productive business discussions,” Davis said.

2 to 4 p.m: After lunch, Davis has more virtual meetings, including one with Google’s philanthropic arm, Google.org, to get an update on its recent projects.

stephanie davis google singapore

Google.org announced on April 26 that it was contributing $18 million to the COVID-19 crisis in India. The philanthropic arm also works with local organizations in the Southeast Asia region to support education for underprivileged children, Davis said.

Then she has a 30-minute call with a large e-commerce company in the region about how the two companies can work together to get more small businesses online.

At 3 p.m, Davis takes part in a regional Google town hall to celebrate diversity, inclusion, and belonging.

“Town halls like these are an integral part of Google’s culture, and at this one, we hear personal stories from Googlers across the region,” she said. 

4:15 to 6 p.m: Davis is a few minutes late to the monthly meeting of the Singapore Computer Society, where she’s an Executive Council Member.

stephanie davis google singapore
Singapore Computer Society president Dr. Chong Yoke Sin, left, with Davis, right.

The Singapore Computer Society is an infocomm and digital media society with 42,000 members — including industry professionals, students, and tech enthusiasts — that helps grow the tech industry in Singapore, she said.

The meeting is in-person, with masks and social distancing, Davis said.

6:15 to 6:30 p.m: Just as she gets back home, Davis gets a video call from her brother in North Carolina so she can say good morning to her 1.5 year-old niece, Vivian Cora.

stephanie davis google singapore

“It’s been more than a year since I last saw my family in the US,” Davis said. “I come from a close-knit family, and it’s been difficult to not see them, but I’m grateful that we’re healthy and well connected via video calls.”

6:30 to 8 p.m: Davis and her husband go for a hike at Singapore’s Mount Faber, a 138-acre park with scenic views of the city. It’s a hike they do several times per week, she said.

google executive singapore stephanie davis

“He and I catch up on our respective days, but then our earbuds go in, we listen to our favorite podcasts or books, and then share learnings with one another,” Davis said.

Davis recently finished “So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo and said she liked the author’s “straightforward style in suggesting how we can have better conversations about race.”

“A few stretches at the top and some reflection while the sun goes down is a great way to close the curtain on the day,” Davis said.

8 to 9 p.m: For dinner, Davis and her husband have a kale Reuben sandwich. “Jack is the chef in our home – lucky me,” she said.

stephanie davis google singapore
Jack’s kale Reuben and tomato soup

While they eat, they watch YouTube videos including the evening news, late night replays, and some sailing videos like Ruby Rose.

9 to 11 p.m.: After dinner, Davis gets some more work done.

google executive singapore stephanie davis

“This is when I prepare for the next day — read materials for meetings, think through presentations, look at the revenue numbers, etc,” she said. “All with a nice candle burning nearby.”

11 p.m. to midnight: Davis spends some time reading before bed.

stephanie davis google singapore

“So that I don’t wake Jack, I have a little light that attaches to my book — or should I say one of a few books, as it’s common for me to be reading several at once,” Davis said. “I seem to read fiction when on a holiday, but otherwise, I enjoy non-fiction.”

One of Davis’ favorite books is Jane Goodall’s “Reason for Hope,” which she says has influenced how she chooses to lead.

And finally, it’s time to sleep.

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Shopee exec explains how mobile-first platforms are helping businesses in Southeast Asia optimize

TERENCE PANG   Shopee
Terence Pang, chief commercial officer at Shopee

Southeast Asia (SEA) has seen rapid development in the past decade, as countries become more urbanized, populations more connected and affluent, and technology more advanced. The region is set to be one of the largest and fastest-growing economies over the next few years, with the digital economy accelerating this growth.

One area that has gone from strength to strength is e-commerce. It currently accounts for less than 5% of total retail in SEA but is growing faster than developed markets like China and the US. With rising connectivity, a young population, and a widening middle class, the industry has plenty of headroom for growth.

So it is not surprising that more businesses are going online to capture a slice of this growth. But in a highly diverse and digital-first region, many brands may find it difficult to establish and grow their online presence. Instead of going at it alone, brands should leverage the ecosystems and reach of platforms, so they can focus on the things that matter- growing their business.

Platforms offer a gateway to mobile consumers

The digital revolution in SEA is just beginning and mobile is at the heart, where the majority access the internet mainly via mobile devices. The global pandemic further accelerated mobile digital adoption and consumption. Google estimates that 1 in 3 digital service consumers in SEA are new as e-commerce, food deliveries, and other online services become essential, and 94% plan to stick to these habits even after the pandemic.

A key demand driver is convenience. There is an app for almost everything in SEA and consumers want to shop and access essential services with a few taps of the smartphone. For retail, consumer traffic is flowing to platforms as people can now buy everything they need from luxury products to electronics to groceries all in one app. For them, platforms are a means to “window shop” virtually at any time, as they compare products at scale and shop for all their needs at one destination. In short, convenience is fast becoming the norm.

SEA consumers are also amongst the most engaged in the world, spending more time on mobile than anywhere else, with most on social media apps. For brands to connect and build loyalty with customers means to continually engage them with exciting mobile experiences.

For example, POND’S launched its AI-powered chatbot on Shopee to give users real-time skincare analysis and recommendations, resulting in two times better conversions. Similarly, L’Oreal launched an immersive AI and AR-powered digital experience and complemented the experience with livestreams and mini games, all within the Shopee app, to deepen engagement with consumers for a more personalized online retail experience.

This seamless mobile experience allows brands to focus on finding innovative ways to engage their customers while also enabling higher sales conversions through its integrated ecosystem, which allows one-stop convenience from discovery to delivery.

Brands can hyper-localize at scale with platforms

Though often seen as a bloc, SEA is one of the most diverse regions in the world with a rich mosaic of cultures, languages, ethnicities, beliefs, and nationalities. In Indonesia alone, census data shows that over 800 native languages are spoken in the country.

Countries are also different when it comes to economic conditions. On one hand, Singapore is a relatively affluent and urban city, while countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines are still developing with larger rural populations.

This means that brands cannot take a one-size-fits-all approach in developing their digital ecosystems. The vast majority of consumers are more likely to shop with brands that offer personally relevant recommendations, but scaling these efforts can be difficult and costly.

Through the right platforms, brands can now do so easily. The most successful platforms take a hyper local approach, regardless of market, to ensure that everything from the app design to product selection to payment methods are tailored to local audiences. This not only helps to build trust, but also allows brands to more effectively target specific audiences. By analysing the behaviors of millions of users daily, such platforms can also identify consumer insights and trends that allow brands to optimize their marketing or make it more efficient to test a new product or grow a specific segment.

Beyond data and tools, platforms also provide experienced teams that add value to key but often “hidden” aspects of e-commerce such as partnerships or customer service, that are vital to a brand’s relationship with its customers. This allows brands to offer a complete end-to-end experience even if they lack resources or expertise.

Infrastructure support helps brands to connect the dots

SEA’s geography and demography present unique infrastructural challenges to e-commerce. In many countries, fragmented geographies impact delivery reach and timeliness. Countries like Indonesia and the Philippines comprise thousands of islands, stretching delivery times and making it more costly to buy and sell online. Outside of big cities, road and logistics networks are also underdeveloped, further slowing delivery efficiency. But infrastructure is catching up and new solutions are emerging to address the region’s unique needs.

This is both a challenge and opportunity for brands going digital. Consumers in non-metro and rural areas formed the bulk of the region’s new digital consumers in 2020 and will drive e-commerce demand in the future. Shopee observed similar trends in the year-end shopping season, with shopping activity growing significantly in places like West Java in Indonesia and Nonthaburi in Thailand. Brands that can reliably reach and meet the needs of rural shoppers will have an edge.

Fortunately, there is a wave of logistics support emerging to fill delivery gaps from first to last mile, including parcel dropoff services that connect businesses to logistics providers who can ship swiftly and reliably. The key for businesses is again to work with local partners who know the lay of the land and have the right infrastructure to help them achieve the right mix of reliability, speed, and reach. For example, by partnering with local logistics partners throughout SEA, Shopee has cut delivery lead times in East Malaysia in half and can ensure nationwide deliveries in Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

There is a sea of opportunity for online retail but businesses do not have to swim alone. To do more and go further, it is important to team up with the right platforms and partners. I for one am excited to see where we can go together in the future.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Grab, the food-delivery giant backed by Softbank, is going public in the US via the largest-ever SPAC merger, valuing it at $40 billion

Tan Hooi Ling
Tan Hooi Ling, chief operating officer and cofounder of Grab.

  • “Superapp” Grab is going public in the US via a SPAC merger with Altimeter Growth.
  • The deal is set to value Grab, backed by Softbank, at $39.6 billion.
  • The Singapore-based app offers services ranging from deliveries to financial services.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Southeast Asian ride-hailing and food delivery giant Grab, whose backers include SoftBank and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, announced Tuesday that it planned to go public in the US via a merger with blank-check company Altimeter Growth.

The deal is set to value Grab at $39.6 billion, and would be the biggest-ever special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) merger.

A SPAC is a company created solely to merge with, or acquire, another business and take it public, making it a cheaper, faster alternative to an IPO, Insider’s Martin Daks reported.

Singapore-based Grab said it expected its securities be traded on Nasdaq under the symbol GRAB “in the coming months.”

Read more: Grab’s cofounders took a $10,000 business school prize and turned it into a ‘super app’ worth $40 billion as part of the largest SPAC deal ever

Grab describes itself as a “superapp.” It offers services ranging from deliveries to financial services.

Grab started as a ride-hailing venture in Malaysia in 2012 and is now the region’s most valuable startup.

Grab said that it decided to go public because of its strong financial performance in 2020. It posted a gross merchandise volume (GMV) of $12.5 billion, which is more than double its 2018 figure, despite the pandemic.

The company added that it accounted for about 72% of Southest Asia’s GMV for ride-hailing, and 50% for online food delivery, as well as 23% of regional total payment volume for digital wallet payments in 2020.

Shares in Altimeter Group were last up around 9% at $15.16 in US pre-market trading.

Read the original article on Business Insider