Article by Tatiana Ho
Asia Society hosted their second annual Asian Game Changer Award ceremony at the United Nations, October 13, 2015. Along with featured award winner Manny Pacquiao, actors, educators, Nobel Peace Prize winners, and Dancers came to join alongside him on the stage to accept their awards. After giving their acceptance speeches on stage, the honored guests were gestured to a private room where a Q&A was hosted with a select few of the winners.
First was Indian CEO Chanda Kochnar, who is known for “breaking the glass ceiling” when it comes to women coming to positions of power in the professional field. Being the first woman to become the boss of Indian bank ICICI, she was honored as one of the Game Changer’s of 2015 for showing nothing is impossible.
You are a role model for young women around the World. What message would you like for your young supporters to hear?
CK: A woman’s focus should really be at excelling in whatever one does. So, it’s not about what you are doing, but you doing whatever you are doing in the best way possible; doing this in a manner that has never been done before and doing it better than anything that’s ever been done before. Specifically for young girls and women, I think that when everyone talks about the “glass ceiling” it is really in the minds of the young girls and women themselves. I think we all have to free ourselves up of that inhibition, and if we believe that we can have it all, we will have a great family life and a successful career. I think we really need to believe that, and if we believe that, anything can happen.
How does it feel being voted 2015 World’s Top 100 Most Influential Women?
CK: I feel honored by being given this honor of recognition, because I think it’s a recognition of the entire power of the impact that my organization creates; whether it’s in banking, whether it’s in financial inclusion and so forth. So, I accept this recognition on behalf of my entire team.
What did you do to achieve you goals?
CK: I believe there is more substance in hard work. So, first you need to dream big, but you need to back up these dreams with a lot of focus and hard work. And I have continued to move step-by-step and look at the next big dream to back it up with enough work, to back it up with enough passion, to excel. I think this is how I have achieved my goals in life.
Next was Lei Jun, founder of the company Xiaomi and CEO of the Kingsoft Corporation at 28.
Do you have any plans to move to the US market, and if so, what do you think will be changed in regards to quality?
LJ: Let me tell you why I founded Xiaomi five years ago. Number one, China is not only the manufacturing capital in the world, but China also has the capability to to design really really amazing high quality products. Using the internet way of thinking, we were able to produce, as well as design, very high quality products and allow everyone to enjoy the fun and the benefits that technology brings. When we founded Xiaomi five and a half years ago, we only launched our products four years ago. So, we have grown tremendously in the past few years. Xiaomi will definitely consider entry into the US, but it will not be in the next couple of years. Mainly because we still need some time to build up our foundation. Our revenue last year was about 12 billion US dollars. Xiaomi is the fastest company in the world to reach such a high revenue, so we need a little more time so we can fix and improve on our products, as well as, improve on the company.
How do you see Xiaomi advancing in the future?
LJ: Xiaomi is not a traditional customer appliance company, we use the internet plus model in order to build a very unique and diverse company. Therefore at Xiaomi, we not only have hardware culture, we have software culture, we have internet culture. Xiaomi focuses on building very high quality products so the industry can move forward in technology. So that one day, Xiaomi can reach the quality it deserves.
How does Xiaomi include its customers when it comes to manufacturing products for the masses?
LJ: So when it come to products, Xiaomi works very hard to make our users fans as well as friends. We want to make friends with our users, that way our users will continuously give us feedback. We listen to them and improve with their feedback. The internet provided us with a platform to make millions of users into friends, and they give us the feedback and reviews in order to continue advancing our products.
In one sentence, how would you describe the goal of Xiaomi as a company?
LJ: So in one sentence… In one sentence, it’s all about quickly integrating based on user feedback. In older products, it is impossible for us to integrate to quickly. So, it is the internet way of thinking that enables us to do that. It’s sort of like going with the crowd.
Professional dancer Li Cunxin arrived into the room with a graceful presence. Cunxin was recruited as a ballet dancer under the rule of Mao Zedong. He prides himself in being dedicated to his craft and hardworking. Later in life, Cunxin moved to Australia to teach in the Queensland Ballet. Cunxin wants to bridge the gap between the Chinese and Western world.
How has learning ballet impacted you as a person and how do you use this art to bridge the gap between the West and China?
LC: In a twist of fate, I was granted the opportunity to study ballet– an artform I didn’t know anything about. In fact, I hated it with a passion the first few years. But then, along the way, I fell in love with this beautiful artform, and it became a star that was recognized by others. And again, a chance for me to make a difference through this artform I love so much. A chance to bridging the gaps between West, Indian, and Asian culture and to make a difference. I will continue to strive to make a difference in ballet.
What made you settle in Australia?
LC: My first marriage broke up. So for my second marriage, actually, she was my dance partner. When I was dancing in London, I met this beautiful ballerina. Then she eventually danced with me in the Houston ballet in America, so she came to America with me. So we were paired together as dance partners and eventually we fell in love. She’s from Australia, so she’s the reason I eventually went to finish my dancing career as a principle dancer in Queensland.
Throughout all of your accomplishments, who would you say impacted you the most?
LC: I think to be recognized, to be somebody as an Asian person. To shatter the “glass ceiling”, to break expectations of there’s no ballet-Asia, because ballet is a Western artform. So, to be able to stand tall on international stages- whether it be London, Moscow, or New York, as an Asian face. To be able to do Prince in Swan Lake or Romeo in Romeo and Juliet – if you remember, when I came out to do Prince in Swan Lake, you hear this hush in the audience. They go, “Huh, an Asian person dancing the Prince?” But of course, art united people, art is breaking boundaries and transcends the background that you come from.
Last was Kiran Bir Sethi, and educator and most importantly a mother. Kiran Bir Sethi decided to start up a school in India called the “Riverside School”. Her goals include abolishment of child labor and encouraging youth volunteerism.
What is the most important aspect of your school?
KBS: The most important thing is that every teacher wants to be there when educating a child. That is the greatest challenge, not every teacher wants to be there.
How do you emphasize the idea of being a “good human being” for the children?
KBS: Feel, imagine, do, care- it’s a superpower. It’s really saying that you start with empathy, then you do “imagine” which is the ethics, responsibility. The “do” which is the execution, and the fourth step is the “care” which is when you look at a child and go, “I can do the same thing.”
What is the most important aspect when teaching children?
KBS: Every child has to believe in the “I can” superpower. I think the reason the Design for Care motto reached so quickly is, because somewhere every school and teacher believes that every child was the reason school was created. Every child need to succeed, not be defeated, and I think what Design for Change did was give the simplicity of how.
The Asian Game Changer Awards was a huge success, providing light to projects all around Asia that are making a difference in the world little by little. Congratulations to all the 2015 Game Changer Award winners, keep changing the world!