Asia Pacific

Tammy Kassiou’s Philotimo Group works to uplift Timor-Leste

By Leon Gettler, Talking Business >>

WHAT ARE the challenges for a business overseeing the development of Timor-Leste, having one of the youngest populations in the Asia-Pacific region, with a median age of 17.4 years?

Timor-Leste is ranked as a ‘least developed’ country and its economy is heavily dependent on gas and oil extractions. About 74 percent of the population is below 35 years of age.

Tammy Kassiou is the founder and chair of Philotimo, an international business operating in Timor-Leste which runs International Mobility Services (IMS), a job placement organisation and an Industry Safety Assessment and Training (ISAT) a training organisation. Ms Kassious said it was a major challenge for her company, which was established in 2010. 

Ms Kassiou said the road to prosperity for Timor-Leste was through creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and partnerships with major companies like Santos.

For the last decade, non-government organisations had been overseeing the development of Timor-Leste. It was now moving into a commercial phase for business.

Ms Kassiou said the best way to do this was to create jobs and people had to be skilled to international standards to develop quality infrastructure and quality living.

Challenging times for Timor-Leste

Ms Kassiou said the challenges of running a business in a developing country were “certainly not for the faint-hearted” and required a long-term vision.

“Not over three years, you need to look ahead perhaps 50 years,” Ms Kassiou told Talking Business. “It’s to put the foundations in place to have a look at the return over a long term period instead of very short.”

She gave an example of a typical day for her in Timor-Leste would be where she is in her high heels and suit and having a meeting with a government Minister at 9am and then at 11am she is “overseeing the distribution of rice to some of the villages”.

“You have to be quite flexible and very open minded to doing business a different way,” she said.

Ms Kassiou said the challenges were mainly about building a skilled workforce for the companies.

“The skill level is a challenge,” she said.

Training the trainers a priority

As a result, IMS has taken industry people and put them through a training and development program for them to become trainer assessors, qualified under Australian standards.

“Our trainer assessors are helping us ensure that we can build our own workforce with the right skills to be able to compete internationally but also to be able to impart that knowledge and build a sustainable workforce pool across Timor-Leste,” Ms Kassiou said.

About $500 million of goods are now imported into Timor but only 2 percent comes from Australia. The rest comes from China and Indonesia.

“That has been the opportunity where we have grown our workforce to 100 staff and over the next 12 months, we forecast that may double,” Ms Kassiou said.

“The benefits are about us creating jobs and giving skills for that long-term prosperity.”

Ms Kassiou said the workforce for Timor-Leste was diverse and are aged between 18 and 45.

Much of the more skilled labour into Timor-Leste had been imported in the past.

“We see that as a cornerstone to have local people building the infrastructure to international standards and creating jobs,” Ms Kassiou said.


Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at



Upskilling takes off through Udemy platform

By Leon Gettler, Talking Business >>

UDEMY is the biggest online learning and skills development platform in the world.

Consider this: 74,000 subject matter experts and instructors, 13,000 courses and 57 million users.

“Think of it as the of learning,” Udemy vice president and managing director Peter Kokkinos told Talking Business.

“There is nothing like it anywhere else in the world,” he said. “You can learn anything from baking bread to playing guitar to a leadership course or advanced data sciences.

“We have people all over the world to skill up in their careers.” 

That is the business-to-consumer (B2C) model. The B2B model, business-to-business, is where Udemy curates content down to business-relevant topics which are then wrapped up in an enterprise grade platform which are then provided to all sorts of companies – from major corporations to small businesses – which then make those learnings available to staff anywhere in the world.

Udemy is a global business, and it set up its Australian operations in Melbourne to support significant growth across the business. Udemy APAC is already planning to expand into Singapore, Malaysia and India then across all of Asia.

“What we’re seeing today, more than anything else, is this idea of digital transformation,” Mr Kokkinos said. “We’re seeing companies that are leveraging towards technology to change the way they do business.”

Staff anticipate future skills

Mr Kokkinos cited one example of a Udemy client, a bank, which had recently seen a big shift in its workforce, where half of its staff now come from the tech sector.

“So they’re focused on cloud technologies, security technologies, and data science,” Mr Kokkinos said.

“And anything to do with business skills, power skills, and leadership skills,

“So there really is a diverse requirement for learning across businesses in Australia and all over the world and Udemy has probably the most diverse platform.”

Besides banks, Udemy’s Australian client list includes Australia Post.

Mr Kokkinos said organisations were now up-skilling their workforces post-pandemic and they were leveraging Udemy technology to train staff.

He said the big challenges facing businesses today were the war for talent and the fact that 38 percent of Australians want to leave their jobs for work elsewhere.

“You’re not going to be able to hire your way out of this problem,” Mr Kokkinos said.

“People are leaving their organisations for new jobs and people are finding it hard to find the skills they need to up-skill their workforce and realistically. They’re leaning on organisations like us to be able to upskill and reskill the employees they have today to give them a chance to be competitive.”


More to it than tech upskilling

Besides technology, Udemy was seeing businesses train employees in other progressive areas.

“We’re starting to see a real uptick in even tech people leveraging power skills, and business skills and looking for ways to be more efficient and do more with less.” Mr Kokkinos said.

Mr Kokkinos said there was a major opportunity to build the Udemy business in Asia and the firm was now exploring that.

“Because we can get access to talent in this part of the world, we’ve created this hub that not only supports the Australian and New Zealand market, but will also expand out to support the Asian market,” he said.

“We have built the foundation of great talent here that will label us the springboard into growing more customers and supporting more customers in that region as well.”


Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at


Siemens Energy appoints Thorbjörn Fors, Samuel Morillon to new AsiaPac roles

SIEMENS Energy has appointed Thorbjörn Fors as senior vice president of the Asia Pacific region based in Singapore. He succeeds Samuel Morillon who is now vice president of the Pacific sub-region based in Melbourne. 

Mr Fors oversees all operational business areas across16 countries out of Singapore. He reports to Siemens Energy executive board member Anne-Laure de Chammard.

“The Asia Pacific region plays a crucial role in the energy transformation,” Mr Fors said. “As we rise to meet the region’s growing appetite for energy, we must harness the momentum for the energy transition to power the shift from coal to gas and renewables. I look forward to being part of this exciting new chapter and working with the people in this diverse region.” 

Prior to his current appointment, Mr Fors was based in Finspång, Sweden as EVP of Siemens Energy Industrial Applications Division. Before joining Siemens, Mr Fors held leadership positions at ABB and Alstom.


WeQual awards recognise 8 exceptional business women across Asia

EIGHT talented businesswomen, holding prominent executive roles in leading companies listed across the Asia-Pacific region, have been named winners in the WeQual Awards.

The WeQual Awards were created to accelerate gender parity at the top of the largest companies in the world. More than 35 percent of WeQual Awards winners are now at global executive committee level, and more than 50 percent of the category winners of our first awards have made it to the top – including one chief executive.

There are now more than 160 major companies worldwide that can boast a WeQual Award finalist – known as WeQual Alumni – among their senior leadership. 

“WeQual’s mission is to achieve corporate gender parity. The WeQual Awards are designed to identify, celebrate and encourage talented women who are ready and willing to take the next step to group executive committee level,” Katie Litchfield, the founder of WeQual said.

To help accelerate gender parity in business leadership, WeQual recently launched an online platform, WeQual Global. Members benefit from regular events, think tanks, peer-to-peer coaching and instant access to a global directory of WeQual women, creating the conditions to collaborate with thought leaders at some of the largest companies in the world.

(pictured) are: 

Finance: Rajani Kesari, chief financial officer for Ambuja Cements Ltd, Holcim.

Product: Sarala Menon, executive vice president for manufacturing and product supply chain, Colgate-Palmolive India and South Asia.

Marketing: Paula Pinto, global head of business and marketing excellence, UPL.

Strategy: Mehrnavaz Avari, area director UK and general manager, St James’ Court, a Taj Hotel; and Taj 51 Buckingham Gate, Suites and Residences, London for Indian Hotels Company Ltd.

People: Sarah Southwell, general manager for human resources, for GrainCorp, Australia.

Communication: Frances van Reyk, head of investor relations for Ampol Limited, Australia.

Operations: Kavita Jain, vice president for supply chain and operations, South Asia, Hindustan Unilever.

Innovation: Deborah Peach, executive general manager for health, safety and the environment, Cleanaway, Australia.

All entries for the WeQual Awards are anonymously assessed, meaning assessors see neither their name nor the company for which they work. After the assessment, the 24 finalists are appraised by one of WeQual’s executive interviewers before eight category winners are chosen.

WeQual’s executive interviewers include: Dame Inga Beale, chair of Mediclinic and former CEO of Lloyd’s of London, Mediclinic; Pier Luigi Sigismondi, president of Dole Sunshine Company; Shumit Kapoor, president, AP-MEA for Kellogg Company; Umang Vohra, managing director and global chief executive officer, Cipla; Tamara Box, managing partner for Europe and Middle East, Reed Smith; Tulsi Naidu, chief executive officer APAC and group executive, Zurich Insurance; Sanjiv Mehta, president, South Asia, chair and managing director, Hindustan Unilever Limited; Zoran Bogdanovic, CEO, Coca-Cola HBC.


Rubrik names Antoine Le Tard as APAC VP

RUBRIK, known as the Zero Trust Data Security Company, has appointed experienced cybersecurity leader, Antoine Le Tard as its vice president for the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region.

Based in Sydney, Mr Le Tard brings more than 25 years of IT industry experience following senior leadership roles at RSA Security, Verizon, and most recently as global vice president for Asia-Pacific Japan and China (APJC) at AppDynamics. 

“There is no way to stop every single cyber attack, regardless of what industry you’re in,” Mr Le Tard said. 

“With this in mind, the future of cybersecurity lies in turning the traditional fortress mentality on its head and making the business resilient in the wake of an attack. That’s why I joined Rubrik. The company’s approach to data security helps ensure potentially catastrophic incidents become minor inconveniences.” 

Le Tard said his priority as Rubrik’s APAC leader would be to build upon the company’s positive momentum and strong community of partners and customers while continuing to accelerate Rubrik’s mission to secure the world’s data.     

Mr Le Tard will work closely with APAC country leaders including Scott Magill, Koichi Ishii, and Ritesh Gupta who lead Rubrik’s businesses in Australia and New Zealand, Japan, and India, respectively. 

Mr Le Tard’s appointment follows Rubrik’s strong global momentum including recently surpassing $400m in subscription annual recurring revenue (ARR), accelerating customer count to more than 4,500, and the appointments of former CIA chief information security officer (CISO), Michael Mestrovich, as Rubrik’s new CISO, and former director of the US Cyber Security and Infrastructure Agency, Chris Krebs, as chair of Rubrik’s CISO Advisory Board.   

Rubrik pioneered its trademarked Zero Trust Data Security to help organisations achieve business resilience against cyberattacks, malicious insiders, and operational disruptions. Rubrik Security Cloud, powered by machine learning, secures data across enterprise, cloud, and SaaS applications.


Aust Govt looks to assist human rights of women and girls across the Pacific

THE Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade of the Australian Government presented a critical report on the human rights of women and girls in the Pacific to the Parliament in late 2020. A total of 14 substatial recommendations were made in the report.

A key theme of the inquiry was that the underlying issues were interconnected and touched on all areas of society. Work to progress gender equality issues cannot be relegated to a small number of targeted areas, the report affirmed.

"The committee acknowledges the considerable efforts of national governments in the Pacific nations," Chair of the Human Rights Sub-committee, Kevin Andrews MP said.

"Our recommendations seek to build on the strength of their efforts and to propose means whereby Australia can further assist local efforts," Mr Andrews said. 

Another clear theme of the inquiry was support for local leadership, design and delivery of programs. Local faith-based groups, local none-government organisations (NGOs), and local leaders were best placed to build and establish the institutions and infrastructure that lead to ongoing and sustained change, the report said.


"Women and girls are continuing to shape their societies for the better," Mr Andrews said.

"We trust that our recommendations will encourage their continuing commitment to supporting peaceful, resilient and happy communities throughout the Pacific."

Further details about the about the inquiry can be obtained from the committee’s website. A list of recommendations were made:

List of recommendations – Human Rights of Women and Girls in the Pacific

  1. The committee recommends that all support provided by the Australian Government to any organisation or bodies undertaking disaster management planning and response work include women representatives.
  2. To ensure that an understanding of women’s needs in local areas are taken into account, the committee recommends that the Australian Government works with Pacific governments to build the capacity of local organisations in the Pacific to respond to natural disasters and ensure Pacific women are included in the delivery and evaluations of programs.
  3. The committee recommends that the Australian Government works with Pacific governments to provide support for projects mapping the vulnerabilities experienced by women and girls in the region during disasters.
  4. The committee recommends that the Australian Government work with the tertiary education sector to maintain networks with alumni from Pacific island countries who have studied in Australia, including women and girls.
  5. The committee recommends that the Australian Government continue to focus diplomatic efforts on the implementation of treaties and other legislation aimed at improving the quality of life for women and girls, including political representation and involvement in decision-making.
  6. The committee recommends that the Australian Government continue to work with Pacific governments on public sector capacity-building work.
  7. The committee recommends that the Australian Government publish an assessment of the progress on building the capacity of local organisations in the Pacific to advance the rights of women and girls. This should include data about what proportion of funding is provided to local organisations directly, and/or through intermediaries.
  8. The committee recommends that the Australian Government work with Pacific governments to provide support for the secondary and tertiary education sector within Pacific island countries, including infrastructure for education institutions.
  9. The committee recommends that the Australian Government extends the role of the multi-role vessel to include working in partnership with civil society to support the Pacific Islands.
  10. The committee recommends that the Australian Government consider long-term funding cycles for official development assistance to be at least five-years.
  11. The committee recommends the Australian Government extend its current five-year commitment to the Pacific Women Lead program to allow for funding cycles of this duration to be provided and to include a target for its gender expenditure.
  12. The committee recommends that the Australian Government commit to continuing to undertake and publish strategic, thematic evaluations focusing on substantive human rights issues affecting women and girls. This should allow evaluations of the full range of official development assistance, and extend evaluations beyond those focused only at the investment or program-level.
  13. The committee recommends that the Australian Government improve monitoring, evaluation and reporting of development assistance programs to ensure transparency and easy access to data, especially including reporting on funding for gender equality and women’s empowerment activities in the Pacific.
  14. The committee recommends that the Australian Government, on an annual basis, publish data on the disbursements made to organisations for the purpose of gender equality initiatives. This should list the organisations receiving disbursements.


Finder buys GoBear to help forage Asia

By Leon Gettler >>

LITTLE ATTENTION has been placed on Finder, a fintech company headquartered in Australia, announcing that it had acquired South East Asia-focused brand GoBear as part of its global expansion. The acquisition was for an undisclosed sum.

Based in Singapore, GoBear has operated as a comparison site for insurance, credit cards, and loans. In January, however, it announced it was ceasing operations because of the challenges of COVID-19.

Enter Finder, which compares more than 200 different verticals ranging from personal finance products such as credit cards, home loans and savings accounts to online shopping, cryptocurrency, share trading and much more.

Finder operates in 80 markets, with offices in Australia, the US, the UK, Poland, the Philippines and Canada, and a lot of its categories are global in nature.


Finder co-founder and global CEO Frank Restuccia said it was a natural fit for Finder and was perfect for expanding its market into South East Asia. Go Bear operates out of Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines and its main office is in Singapore.

He said the two had such similar business modes and he felt a “real alignment” with the brand.

“I knew that the customers that were using Go Bear would be very aligned to what our new service will be in that region for them so that was really the main attraction for me,” Mr Restuccia told Talking Business.

He said many of Go Bear’s clients were “unbanked” and he saw it as a great opportunity for Finder.

The other great opportunity was that all Go Bear’s were using mobile devices and Finder had recently developed an app.

“I see a great opportunity for those customers in the region to benefit from the Finder app in their mobile device so we are bringing that service straight into their mobile. That’s a massive motivation for this acquisition,” Mr Restuccia said.


Finder has now moved into cryptocurrency as a growth market. 

“It’s changing the world of finance so rapidly that we would be remiss not to keep on top of it,” Mr Restuccia said.

Back in 2016, Finder built a brand called HiveEx which was an over-the-counter brokerage which helped people trade in cryptocurrencies. While that was subsequently sold, Finder retained the knowledge and insights from that experience and is now looking to expand again into that space.

“A lot of consumers out there don’t fully understand cryptocurrencies, but they want to put some of their wealth into purchasing Bitcoin and Ethereum,” he said.

“It actually creates a new world of possibilities for participants, for consumers, to try and do things differently, to use technologies like blockchain to make things more accurate and to make things more transparent and to break down some of those walls and legacies that exist in the banking world.

“We are at the cusp of major change.”

Finder launched in 2006 so it is celebrating its 15th July.

“We feel like we are starting,” Mr Restuccia said. “We are building this brand and service to live beyond our lifetime. That’s the motivation for me.

“I want my children and their children to be able to experience the service and get that utility and satisfaction of being able to get some advice, use some of the tools that we provide and make some amazing decisions that are going to transform and help them live their life,” he said.

“So 15 years may seem like a long time, to me it’s just the beginning. It may sound odd to say this but we are gearing up for a 1000 year old company.”

Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at


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