Excited about permeation of artificial intelligence in SE Asia: Rina Lee, 33 Talent

33 Talent's Rina Lee
Rina Lee (front row, centre) with her 33 Talent colleagues

This interview is part of a co-branded series with Collective Works. 33 Talent is located at Collective Works, 100 Cecil Street, Singapore. 

Ask any startup or investor in Southeast Asia about their top gripe in the region and it is more likely than not to be talent, or the paucity thereof. Complex regulations regarding hiring in the different markets of the region further complicate matters.

However, there is acknowledgement among the region’s various governments that the talent crunch is real and that has led to concerted efforts to promote innovation and skill development, says talent acquisition and management consultancy 33 Talent’s director Rina Lee.

“We are getting there, slowly but surely,” Lee said.

Singapore-based 33 Talent, which also has offices in Sydney and London, is particularly bullish about the region’s focus on leveraging AI across platforms and solutions.  

“I’ve seen companies starting to take machine learning algorithms and incorporating them into a diverse range of applications whether it’s an app, platform, device and across various industries, so there will be a lot of AI experience in the next year,” Lee said.



Edited excerpts of an interview:

What opportunity does Southeast Asia present to 33 Talent?

Southeast Asia has lots to offer at this stage to our business. As a recruitment and talent consultancy, we’ve seen companies moving their regional offices into Singapore, thus creating a lot of job opportunities in the region. With the Asian economy still booming, there are a lot of companies from Europe or US that are setting up their operations in Asia. Lastly, there’s been a lot of investments going into startups in the region so there are a lot of opportunities within the startup ecosystem everywhere in Southeast Asia.

What trend or upcoming technology are you most excited about in SE Asia? 

I am particularly excited about the permeation of artificial intelligence. I’ve seen companies starting to take machine learning algorithms and incorporating them into a diverse range of applications whether it’s an app, platform, device and across various industries, so there will be a lot of AI experience in the next year.

What challenges do you think could hinder the potential of this region?

Cost and talent. Good talent is very hard to come by, and the best talent is very sought after and so they come at a hefty cost. Another big challenge is complex regulations in some of the markets in Southeast Asia where it makes setting up or running a business more complicated than it should be.

What role could governments or regulators play in speeding up growth in SE Asia? 

We are starting to see a lot of investment from the Singapore government in terms of building innovation hubs, funding centres of excellence in areas where there’s a shortage of talent and also partnering with global leaders to provide hands-on training to build and grow talent in the market.

Governments are also encouraging investments into the country by giving grants to build R&D centres and tech hubs in markets like Indonesia and Vietnam. In my opinion, we are getting there, slowly but surely.

What is the most hyped area or sector in this region?

ICO- it’s a very hot topic at the moment with lots of investment and cash at play

What is the most underrated opportunity?

Industrial sectors which haven’t really been touched or revolutionized by digital/ tech yet. I see there’s a lot of potential in that space in the near future.