Founder of tech giant Sea Forrest Li named Businessman of the Year
Previously in debt, he built Sea into a New York-listed global Internet company
When Mr Forrest Li first arrived in Singapore more than 15 years ago, the then 28-year-old was in debt to the tune of $100,000, had next to nothing in his bank account and made just enough to rent a room in a flat in Braddell.
Today, Mr Li, 43, is the billionaire founder and group chief executive of tech giant Sea, which owns e-commerce platform Shopee and operates businesses in gaming and digital finance.
Mr Li was last night named Businessman of the Year 2019/2020, in recognition of his efforts in building Sea into a New York-listed global Internet company with the mission of improving the lives of consumers and small businesses through technology.
He took home the coveted title at the 35th Singapore Business Awards (SBA), held at the Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) News Centre auditorium and live-streamed yesterday. The SBA is jointly organised by SPH publication The Business Times and DHL Express Singapore.
Mr Li said digital transformation can enable even a small country like Singapore to have a profound impact on the world.
However, the acceleration of digital transformation can be unsettling for many as the pandemic creates more urgency for communities to go online, he added.
"It is now more critical than ever for us to help those who are uncomfortable with technology to learn how to use it, so that nobody is left behind. This has always been a concern for Sea, and something we will focus more on," he said in a speech at the event.
In April, Shopee introduced a regional programme amid the pandemic that, among other things, helps small and medium-sized enterprises attract customers online by temporarily lowering administrative fees and providing marketing support.
Mr Li, a naturalised Singapore citizen who hails from Tianjin in China, also paid tribute to Singapore's role in Sea's success. "There is a stereotype out there that businessmen only come to places like Singapore after they have found success elsewhere. That is not my story... Long before I had any success, (the Singaporean community) made me feel welcome, and let me and my family make our home here," he said.
Meanwhile, NTUC Enterprise and FairPrice group chief executive Seah Kian Peng, 58, was named outstanding chief executive for his efforts to ensure daily essentials remain accessible and affordable to Singaporeans amid the Covid-19 crisis.
Mr Seah told The Straits Times that FairPrice stepped up in areas such as ensuring adequate supplies and protecting staff and customers.
"Covid has taught many of us that at the end of the day, basic, essential things are what matter," he said.
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