For the fourth year in a row, our team at Forbes Asia has been scouting the Asia-Pacific region in search for 300 outstanding individuals to highlight in the annual Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list.
Across 10 industries, young entrepreneurs and rising stars have been selected from 23 countries and territories to make up this year’s list. Honorees from as far as Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Laos have landed spots on the list for the first time – making the 2019 list even more inclusive and diverse.
If you think millennials and Gen-Z are just building businesses for the short-term gain, think again. This year, it was particularly interesting to note that many of these innovators are not just driving change in the region – but working towards cementing its positive effect in the long run, especially in developing and emerging markets.
From using technology to better their sectors, to helping SMEs thrive through sustainable options when it comes to food and energy – some have been working on innovative solutions to solve problems while building successful businesses at the same time.
Take 25-year-old Manuri Gunawardena, founder and CEO of HealthMatch for instance. As a medical student at the University of New South, Gunawardena experienced firsthand the difficulty of finding patients to participate in trials for potentially lifesaving treatments. She also noticed there was no convenient way for patients to search for alternative treatments for their conditions. It was then, in early 2017, that she decided to play matchmaker and her startup HealthMatch was born.
Launched in Australia earlier this year, the Sydney-based startup applies machine learning to clinical data to help researchers and pharmaceutical companies find patients suitable for their studies—and vice versa. “We are automating access to clinical trials globally and dramatically improving the future of healthcare by lowering barriers to research and development,” says Gunawardena.
Another 30 Under 30 Asia 2019 list honoree employing technology to solve a problem and potentially save lives is Richard Yim, cofounder of Demine Robotics from Cambodia.
The 25-year-old social entrepreneur started Demine Robotics with the hope that his creation – Jevit, the world’s first remote-controlled robot can lift a landmine out of the ground without detonating it — will help others avoid the fate of his aunt, who died of a landmine explosion over a decade ago when he was growing up in Cambodia.
While the company focuses on Cambodia’s own underground bomb challenge where more than 64,000 casualties have been recorded since 1979, Yim hopes to eventually deploy Jevit to other conflict areas, such as Afghanistan, Colombia and Iraq.
“I truly believe in building a business that will change the world for the better,” he tells Forbes Asia.
Working Towards Sustainability
Other stars on the list have been concerned with issues such as climate change and actively tackling that by introducing alternative ideas and solutions to reduce harmful impact on our planet.
28-year-old chef Anahita Dhondy who runs New Delhi-based Parsi restaurant SodaBottleOpenerWala, promotes the various types of Indian millets, which are nutritious and inexpensive homegrown grains, in dishes in the restaurant and in recipes posted on social media.
Clean energy entrepreneurs also made this year’s 30 Under 30 Asia list. Mongolia’s Orchlon Enkhtsetseg, CEO of Clean Energy Asia, an energy startup, raised $128 million to build its first 50MW wind farm in the country’s Gobi desert while Yashraj Khaitan, founder of solar power startup Gram Power, uses smart grid technology to address the widespread energy shortages in India.
Methodology and judging process
Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list undergoes a rigorous process to pull together. Starting with over 2000 online nominations, our team researchers, fact-checks and selects an initial shortlist of 500 semi-finalists who then get vetted by a lineup of A-list judges and industry experts. The final 300 get selected afterwards taking into consideration criteria such as demonstration of leadership, impact, potential of success and the embodiment of the entrepreneurial spirit, synonymous with Forbes. Other factors like innovation, disruption – and size and growth of their ventures in some categories – play a role in making the final decision.
This year’s judges includes accomplished and acclaimed entrepreneurs and business leaders such as Hiroshi Mikitani, CEO of Rakuten; JP Gan, Managing Partner at Qiming Venture Partners; Noni Purnomo, President Director of Blue Bird Group Holding; Kaifu Lee, CEO of Sinovation Ventures; Kishore Lulla, Philanthropist and Chairman of Eros International; Changpeng (CZ) Zhao, CEO of Binance; Falguni Nayar, Founder of Nykaa.com ; Patrick Grove, Cofounder and Group CEO of Catcha Group and 30 Under 30 Asia list alumnus, tennis superstar Kei Nishikori.
The birthday cutoff to make the 2019 list was December 31, 1988.
List and Project Editor Rana Wehbe
Reporting and research: Pamela Ambler, Ambika Behal, Elaine Ramirez, Anis Shakirah Mohd Muslimin, James C. Simms II, Yue Wang, Ian Christopher Wong, David Yin
Editorial interns: Lan Yunsi, Tracy Qu, Jisu Song
Photography: Thierry Coulon (Liu Liyuan & Liao Wenlong), K M Asad (Hussain Elius), Abishek Bali (Anahita Dhondy), Hu Ke (Neo Nie), Jing Wei (Rashmi Kwatra, Manuri Gunawardena, Kenny Wang), Antoine Raab (Richard Yim), Winston Gomez (Steven Wongsoredjo), Franco Origlia/Getty Images (Naomi Osaka)
Senior Photo Editor: Merrilee Barton
Graphics: Luke Kelly
Design: Joy Hwang
Project Manager: Justin Conklin
Associate Product Owner: Grant Tunkel
Data Management: Dmitri Slavinsky
Manager, Software Engineering: Chuck Rea
Software Engineer: Ken Barney
Junior Engineer: Christopher De Leon