By John Koppisch
For the eighth straight year we spotlight notable philanthropists in the Asia-Pacific region, especially those who made news in the past year by launching new and innovative projects. The 48-member honor roll ranges from billionaires with expansive visions of how best to help society to less well-known business people whose generosity is also leaving a huge mark.
Our goal is not to rank the biggest givers–the figures would be impossible to collect. Instead we aim to call attention to people and causes. We try to identify a new group of altruists each year, though several people here are returning to the list because of an important donation or project announced since a year ago. MORE
I contributed to this annual list of Asian givers.
The King in Exile: The Fall of the Royal Family of Burma by Sudah Shah (Harper Collins)
Reviewed by Susan Cunningham
MYANMAR’S LAST ROYAL FAMILY, summarily ousted by British colonizers more than 125 years ago, hasn’t been a sensitive subject since independence in 1948. But less than three years ago, The King in Exile by Sudha Shah might have run afoul of censors just for noting that Taw Phaya Galae, a grandson of the last Burmese royal couple and one of her sources, served a stint in prison after participating in the squelched 1988-1990 democracy movement.
It is one of many signs of change that an edition of Shah’s family biography, already available in English in Myanmar, will soon be published in Burmese.
The Final Four Burmese Princesses
For the past two years, Myanmar’s military government has assumed a gentler, less martial face as it bids to welcome tourists and Western investors. After nearly 20 years of house arrest, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi won a seat in Parliament in 2012 and ventured abroad to collect her 1991 Nobel Prize and other laurels. The strides the country has taken toward greater freedom of expression in the past two years have received less attention, but are also important. MORE
By Susan Cunningham
Beginning with fashion site Zalora in the Philippines in late 2011, Germany’s Rocket Internet has been hatching dozens of copycat e-commerce sites in Southeast Asia and the general vicinity–and quickly shutting down some of them. It’s invested at least $200 million already in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam–perhaps more like $500 million if Rocket startups are spending tens of millions of marketing dollars in each country as rumored.
In the coming year, we’ll probably see some of that money expended on the intense city contests for taxi-booking apps and restaurant delivery services. I also think that, as new fashion sites pop up or existing ones become more visible, Zalora will have to come up with a better selection of women’s clothing. MORE
Jasmine’s Pete Bodharamik
By Susan J. Cunningham
Five years ago Pete Bodharamik was a 35-year-old with a big challenge. He had just taken over as chief executive of Jasmine International, the telecom holding company his father had started back in 1982. It was going through rough times, emerging from years in bankruptcy court after his father had diversified madly on borrowed money in the 1990s.
One of Jasmine’s biggest assets, a 30% share of fixed-line operator TT&T, was in bankruptcy itself. And expectations weren’t high that Pete was the one to turn things around. He had held what he calls a “small job” at Jasmine for a few years, dabbling (and losing) in the dot-com boom, before leaving in 2003. “It was surprising,” one equity analyst recalls. “To many observers he was just a rich boy with a big inheritance. No one thought him capable of cleaning up his dad’s mess.” MORE
By Susan J. Cunningham
April 15, 2013
As he clowns around for a photo shoot in front of the giant fiberglass animals adorning his restaurant compound off of tony Thonglor Road, Tan Passakornnatee is sporting vivid yellow pants and a polka-dot shirt, his customary style for addressing college students or business groups.
When he’s in an even more casual mood, he wears T-shirts with the image of a pig (he was born in the year of the pig). But either way he always dons a captain’s hat–not least when he flies amid tall buildings wearing a caped costume in the commercials for his company’s current promotion. The tubby superhero “Tan Man” is on his way to change the lives of 60 people–one a day for 60 days–who are about to win 1 million baht ($33,000). As consolation prizes, he’s also giving away … MORE