Forrest Li, the billionaire founder and group chief executive of tech giant Sea, which owns e-commerce platform Shopee and also operates businesses in gaming and digital finance was 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.
Forrest Li was named as the Businessman of the Year at the 35th Singapore Awards (SBA)
The event held at the Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) News Centre auditorium and live-streamed yesterday, Nov 25. Past recipients of the Businessman of the Year title include PhillipCapital Group executive chairman, Mr Lim Hua Min, and Raffles Medical Group executive chairman, Dr Loo Choon Yong.
Meanwhile, NTUC Enterprise and FairPrice group chief executive Seah Kian Peng, 58, was named outstanding chief executive for his efforts to ensure that daily essentials remain accessible and affordable to Singaporeans amid the Covid-19 crisis.
Forrest Li recalled when he first arrived in Singapore at the age of 28-year-old and was in debt
Forrest Li is a naturalised Singapore citizen who hails from Tianjin in China. When he first arrived in Singapore more than 15 years ago, he was $100,000 in debt and had nothing in his bank account. He barely survived and made just enough to rent a room in a flat in Braddell.
He was born and raised in the port city of Tianjin by state-company lifers and attended a Shanghai university in his teens. He adopted his English name from the fictional character Forrest Gump. His Chinese name is Xiaodong.
The billionaire founder said digital transformation can enable even a small country like Singapore to have a profound impact on the world
He recalled how he connected with Sea’s co-founders, Mr David Chen and Mr Ye Gang, here, and how the Economic Development Board introduced them to Sea’s eventual investor, tech giant Tencent.
When they were ready to scale, it was again Singapore that enabled them – by providing a deep and skilled talent pool. They managed to build a strong team presence both from local professionals and bright young graduates from the local universities.
In April, Shopee introduced the Shopee Seller Support Package, a regional programme that includes a range of initiatives to help small and medium-sized enterprises to overcome economic challenges arising from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The programmes helps helps SMEs to ease operational costs and attract customers online by temporarily lowering administrative fees and providing marketing support.