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What’s Next for ASEAN Businesses in 2024?

Sujith Abraham, SVP and General Manager for Salesforce ASEAN shares his top 4 predictions that will shape the course of ASEAN’s dynamic business landscape in the upcoming year.

This year marked a watershed moment for the tech industry. The introduction of generative AI brought AI use to the fore, and it is now dominating the business agenda. 

While 2023 has been a year of AI innovation, 2024 will be a year in which AI transforms the enterprise. By 2025, AI won’t be an auxiliary technology but the core around which successful businesses revolve, ushering in a new era of unparalleled transformation.

Amid this, how businesses operationalise AI will be critical next year. Businesses that fail to adapt will risk being left behind. In the year ahead, what else can businesses in ASEAN expect, and how can they get ready to leverage the opportunities in this new era of work? 

In my view, here are some trends that will shape the dynamic business landscape in ASEAN:

#1 AI delivering a golden opportunity for ASEAN businesses to leapfrog

AI has the potential to contribute nearly S$1.36 trillion to the ASEAN economy by 2030. Capitalising on the AI opportunity and new use cases across sales, marketing, commerce, and IT interactions will allow businesses to leapfrog and supercharge growth on a global stage. 

The time is now, especially with ASEAN being seen as a favourable business destination, amid geopolitical tensions elsewhere. Global enterprises such as Hyundai and Procter & Gamble are already investing in the region with new factories and R&D centres, and more are expected to follow.

ASEAN countries are also making steady progress toward AI adoption, with Indonesia and Thailand recording one of the biggest improvements in overall AI readiness across the region. Much of the growth is attributed to government AI readiness, with the introduction of new national AI strategies and policies. However, business AI readiness has stagnated. The missing piece? A lack of trusted and secure tools that enable businesses to harness AI’s potential. 

Businesses in the region will need a trusted digital advisor, with access to trusted technology and a thriving ecosystem, to set themselves up for success.

#2 Companies Need to Lay the Right Data Foundation to Leverage AI

AI’s full power relies on accurate, comprehensive data, making a company’s AI strategy only as strong as its data strategy. The AI revolution has turned the spotlight on data, highlighting the need for companies to develop a robust data strategy to harness its benefits. 

With over 71% of a company’s applications disconnected, enterprises will need to unify data across disparate sources for AI to deliver the right predictions and recommendations. As ASEAN organisations still have untapped data, it is projected that more companies will lay the groundwork for AI by 2024. To build a strong data foundation, corporate leaders will need to prioritise data harmonisation, eliminate silos to extract value from data sources, democratise data for personalised insights, and ensure data privacy and compliance. This requires businesses to put in place strong data governance frameworks, well-defined policies for data collection, storage, and use, and constant monitoring and auditing of training data.

A framework that makes trusted data sharing the default, without jeopardising data sovereignty, can help enhance competitiveness in the region and unlock ASEAN’s next phase of growth. 

Sujith Abraham
SVP and General Manager for Salesforce ASEAN

#3 Trusted data sharing will supercharge ASEAN economies

Cross-border data flows are also an essential part of building this data foundation, as they allow ASEAN businesses to tap data in a trusted manner. To set things in motion, negotiations for a new ASEAN Digital Economy Framework Agreement (DEFA) began in September. This will encourage more seamless and secure data flows across ASEAN member states. With negotiations set to conclude by 2025, the next two years will be an opportune time for ASEAN to realise its ambitions for digital integration and write its own rules for data governance. A framework that makes trusted data sharing the default, without jeopardising data sovereignty, can help enhance competitiveness in the region and unlock ASEAN’s next phase of growth. 

#4 A new era for customer engagement: everything, everywhere, all at once 

Customer expectations are increasing, and competition is fiercer than ever. In this new era of customer engagement, businesses need to connect with customers through new channels and pathways and provide personalised experiences at every touchpoint. Innovations across AI, data, and CRM help businesses achieve this by providing a better understanding of their customers, and enabling personalisation at scale. 

In the new year, industry-specific solutions will rise in demand, as businesses seek tailored solutions to deepen their engagement with customers and build stronger relationships. For example, banks are introducing digital solutions to cater to tech-savvy customers, and innovative financial products to meet the needs of different customer segments. Banking-specific solutions can give banks a better idea of who their customers are, what financial products they have, and what more they might desire.

Wrapping up the year for Salesforce ASEAN

It has been an incredible year for Salesforce in ASEAN, filled with exciting milestones. As a company, we have driven incredible innovation, and led customers into the future with our combination of CRM + AI + Data + Trust.

We expanded our presence in the region, with a new permanent office in Thailand and the launch of our new entity in Indonesia. This has allowed us to get closer to customers and partners in the region, and hire local talent to build our operations and deliver customer success. 

At the same time, we also put into action our commitment to address the skills gap in ASEAN. Our initiatives across Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines have contributed to exceeding our commitment of training 500,000 women and girls in IPEF emerging economies by 2032. We’re the first out of 14 companies under the initiative to do so, and nine years ahead of schedule. And we’re not stopping either. We continue to help countries across ASEAN upskill their workforce and open pathways to jobs through our Salesforce ecosystem. 

All of this would not be possible without our amazing team at Salesforce, who put customers at the heart of everything we do. Our Salesforce team is dedicated to bringing the power of our #1 AI CRM to more businesses in the region, and I couldn’t be prouder to work alongside them to fulfill this important mission. 

In the new year, I look forward to working more closely with our customers, partners, and ecosystem, to support more ASEAN businesses as they embark on their digital journeys.

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Sujith Abraham

As Senior Vice President and General Manager, ASEAN, Sujith's primary responsibility is to ensure the success of our customers, our partners, our employees and our community across ASEAN. Sujith brings with him a wealth of experience in enterprise technology and has a passion for transforming good ideas and people into impactful businesses built on strong culture and high levels of engagement. Prior to Salesforce, Sujith spent over 20 years with Oracle both in the US and in Asia. Most recently he was SVP of MarTech. Outside of work, Sujith enjoys portrait and studio photography, camping and hiking, and of course, spending time with his family. Sujith is passionate about giving back to the community and contributes to efforts spearheaded by Union Church in Hong Kong as well as the local Boy Scouts of America chapter. Sujith holds an MBA from Cornell University and a BS in Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University.

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