CROSSING BOUNDARIES

Rita Zahara

CHAIRMAN & FOUNDER

RETA PTE LTD

(Pulsar Category Winner 2017)

"In business, you have to start right. Otherwise, you’ll always be playing catch-up. If you don’t disrupt yourself, someone else will! If you don’t keep up with change and technology, someone will disrupt you and steal your lunch"

Rita Zahara is a name many are familiar with — the media personality is a former journalist at Channel NewsAsia (CNA) and an ex-newscaster at ESPN Star Sports. The 41-year old had previously spent seven years at Mediacorp News before leaving in 2008 for Nanyang Technological University, where she pursued a PhD, researching crisis management and counter-terrorism.

A self-proclaimed “student of life”, Zahara has a deep passion for learning, re-learning, creating and disrupting. “I am always on the look-out for great talents to join me in my passion to change the world, to reach for the stars and create new experiences. If you’re playing it small, you’re settling for a life that is less than what you’re capable of,” she says.

After founding the Reta Transmedia group of companies in 2012, she moved from media-tech to food-tech three years later by launching Li Da Foods, which manages Li Da Kitchen, CZ Bakery and AMGD, short for Ahhmahgawd, referring to delicious, healthy food, delivered conveniently to your doorstep. It provides nutritious bento sets tailored for various dietary needs through a pre-paid subscription plans.

Healthy eating has been gaining traction in recent years and AMGD is making huge splashes in the food-tech industry. With an ever-expanding menu that currently boasts over 80 recipes, AMGD is fast becoming a household name and a go-to healthy and delicious food brand.

AMGD’s vision is to provide one healthy meal a day to as many people as possible in cities around the world. Less than a year into its inception, AMGD is opening its first international branch in Hong Kong in April 2017.

“A healthy lifestyle is not just about workouts, but good nutrition and adequate rest. AMGD is a delicious, healthy food service enabled by technology. Because it is hassle-free and convenient, it aims to help sustain healthy eating habits in the long run,” says Zahara.

Unlike Foodpanda, Deliveroo and UberEats – all of them international players – AMGD uses Li Da Foods’ full-stack capabilities. Rather than partnering with restaurants that make the food, AMGD prepares its own food. This allows it to be in control of the entire process – from making the food to delivering the food – ensuring that customers get top quality meals.

The company’s commitment to using technology to reach out to its customers has also expanded to healthy, delicious bakes. CZ Bakery is named after Zahara’s late grandmother, Che Zahara Noor Mohamed, an inductee in the Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame who founded the Malay Women’s Welfare Association (MWWA) in 1947. A dedicated champion of the rights of women and children, Che Zahara spent her life striving to improve the lives of the poor and needy.

Like AMGD, CZ Bakery is also enabled by technology. There are no physical shops. They are both restaurants and bakeries in the clouds. Customers shop online and get their food delivered. It is that simple.

Beyond online delivery services, Ms Rita has put strong emphasis on digital marketing and brand differentiation for the connected age. AMGD has created an emotional connection with its customers, attracting nearly 20,000 followers on its Facebook page in just a few months.

“We believe in powerful storytelling. People don’t just buy products and services. They buy benefits. They relate to stories. We focus on marketing the benefits to engage our audiences. We promote aspirations. We want people to believe in themselves and make that switch to adopt a healthier lifestyle,” adds Zahara.

Zahara’s penchant for digital transformation is not new. She started as an entrepreneur in 2012. In her first 4 years, she established companies in the field she grew up in –– one that encompassed various media platforms which she calls “transmedia.”

What made her enter the world of transmedia? Zahara’s time as a journalist and newscaster brought her face-to-face with the growing popularity of citizen journalism and social media platforms. She understood that conventional reporting had to change. Something new – a hybrid model combining various forms of media such as print, radio and digital – was to take its place. So when Zahara left the newsroom in 2008 to enrol in NTU and emerged from her studies in 2012, it was a natural step for her to establish Reta Transmedia.

Reta is one of a kind. Unlike other firms that are mostly production houses, Reta is a one-stop B2B media-tech agency that not only conceptualises and delivers compelling content, but is also knee-deep in the creation of films, TV programmes, corporate videos, ads and transmedia clips. Reta also manages clients’ marketing campaigns, social media engagement, graphic design capabilities and digital transformation needs.

When asked what drove her to pursue the founding of Reta, Zahara answers that it was not something she actively chose to do. “When you are pursuing a career, you are chasing a dream. But one day, you’ll find that the dream has chosen you instead. Doing business is an opportunity to do good. You create employment. You sustain families. You bring people together towards a shared vision. The companies and brands you create are actually an extension of your values,” she adds.

Zahara not only creates creative opportunities through Reta for full-time staff but also makes room for freelance writers, producers and directors.

To ensure that Reta stays ahead of the game, Zahara leverages on the power of technology and information. “Whatever you are working on, find a way to make technology your enabler. Singaporean enterprises are investing in omni-channel features. We have to be ready for the impending e-commerce revolution,” she says.

Today, Zahara also has to her name Reta Social Enterprise and Beehive Transmedia Incubator.

It was Reta’s ability to tell stories through multiple digital platforms that provided Zahara with the tools to delve into the world of food e-commerce and build restaurants and bakeries in the clouds. Her foresight on the evolution of the digital marketplace and her focus on technology is in part why AMGD and CZ Bakery are successful today.

Of course, it is not all about the food. Zahara’s late grandmother dedicated most of her life to taking care of the needy, orphans and women. It is therefore no surprise that Zahara wants to give back to society and help the disadvantaged. “A lot of my work today is not only to continue my grandmother’s legacy but to also honour my parents, my family, staff and friends who have always believed in me. Helping people is our hobby. It’s embedded in our DNA,” she says.

Zahara dedicates her entrepreneurial journey to her 76-year-old dad, Mohamed Nazeer, who is battling 4th stage cancer. “Be someone who has heart in her business and have business in her heart. The distance between you and your goals is a straight line,” he reminds her.

Through Reta Social Enterprise, the company hires the disadvantaged and affords employment opportunities for single mothers, older workers, marginalised groups and the handicapped. AMGD and CZ Bakery also undertake projects targeted at helping youths and ex-offenders working with VWOs and NGOs.

Zahara’s journey in digital transformation has not always been smooth, but she is not one to be daunted by challenges and difficulties. “If there are challenges, there are opportunities, and if there are opportunities, there are ways to make things better.”

AWARD JUDGE

BG (NS) Chan Wing Kai

Director

Seed Global Investment

BG (NS) Chan Wing Kai spent 29 years in the Singapore Armed Forces as a military officer. He rose up to the Army’s top leadership and held numerous key appointments.

The years in the Armed Forces provided him a strong foundation in leadership, human capital management, operational planning, training development and critical diplomatic skills.

He retired from active military service in 2016 and is currently a Director with SEED Global Investment, a real estate investment firm. He oversees the company’s portfolio and business development in the US and UK. He holds a MSc in Applied Finance from the Singapore Management University, and is no stranger to corporate finance, portfolio management, equities, bonds and derivatives.

AWARD JUDGE

TIN PEI LING

Member of Parliament
CEO

Business China

Ms Tin Pei Ling is the Chief Executive Officer of Business China, a non-profit organisation that harnesses the support of the public sector & private enterprises to strengthen the ties between Singapore and China. Prior to joining Business China, Pei Ling was the Group Director of Corporate Strategy for Jing King Group.

Pei Ling is an elected Member of Parliament in Singapore since 2011 and currently serves on the Public Accounts Committee. She also serves on the Government Parliamentary Committee for Communications & Information (from 2018, Dy Chairperson) and Health (2011 – present) and previously for Law/Home Affairs (2011-2015) and Social & Family Development (2015 – 2018, Dy Chairperson).

AWARD JUDGE

RYAN CHIOH

Managing Director

Faseastflora.com

Mr Ryan Chioh joined FEF.com in 1998 as Executive Director of Far East Flora Holdings Pte Ltd.

Always a firm advocator for technology, Ryan identified the direction for e-commerce development and saw a business opportunity to offer FEF.com’s extensive range of flowers and gifts online in 2001. Ryan blended his IT savviness and prudent business sense to steer the company’s website to become the leading portal for flowers and gifts. Ryan also brought the company to another level by spearheading the development of a CRM and ERP business solution, integrating the front-end and back-end operations so that there would be easier identification of customer base.

AWARD JUDGE

NEO SING HWEE

Asia Pacific, Asean and Singapore Internal Audit Leader, Risk Advisory Services

Ernst & Young

Mr Neo Sing Hwee sits in the EY Asean Partner Governance Council and leads the Advisory (Risk) Internal Audit Practice in Ernst & Young Asia Pacific, Asean and Singapore.

He has more than 20 years of experience in providing risk management, performance improvement, internal controls and business advisory services to clients in various industries, including organisations in the government and public sector such as ministries and statutory boards. He provides advice to Boards and Management on leading practices, insights as well as issues relating to corporate governance, risk management and internal controls.

AWARD JUDGE

DR LIM WEE KIAK, PBM

Member of Parliament
CEO

Eagle Eye Centre

Dr Lim Wee Kiak, is an elected Member of Parliament for Sembawang GRC since 2015 and serves as chairman of Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Ministry of Community, Culture and Youth. An Ophthalmologist, Dr Lim is currently the Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Eagle Eye Centre.

Dr Lim joined the Singapore Armed Forces as a medical officer in 1994 and completed subspecialty training in Ophthalmology in 1998, with a Master’s degree in Medicine and two post-graduate specialist qualifications in Ophthalmology. During his service in SAF, he led numerous humanitarian missions to neighbouring countries. He joined Singapore National Eye Centre and was awarded the MOH HMDP fellowship in 2003, doing one year of clinical and research Fellowship at the National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health.

Dr Lim had been an active grassroots leader since 1998 before joining politics in 2006. For his active community involvement, he was awarded the Young Executive of the Year in 2000 and Public Service Medal (PBM) in 2003.

AWARD JUDGE

Chew Mok Lee

Assistant Chief Executive
ICM & Digitalisation
Enterprise Services & New Industries

Enterprise Singapore

Ms Chew Mok Lee is the Assistant Chief Executive in charge of ICM & Digitalisation, Enterprise Services & New Industries in Enterprise Singapore, a government agency spearheading enterprise and industry development, reporting to the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Singapore. Enterprise Singapore is also the national Standards body in Singapore.

Prior to Enterprise Singapore, Mok Lee was with National Productivity Board (NPB), PSB and SPRING Singapore. She graduated from National University of Singapore, majoring in Economics and Statistics. She has a double Masters and is well versed in the area of enterprise promotion, industry development and partnership building, having been involved in various aspects of capability development, support for local enterprises, enabling a viable enterprise eco-system and entrepreneurship for 29 years. She also served as Secretariat to the Action Community for Entrepreneurship and was responsible for working with the Minister in Charge of Entrepreneurship and private sector members to foster entrepreneurship and support start-ups in Singapore.

AWARD JUDGE

CHIA KIM HUAT

Regional Head
Corporate and Transactional Practice

Rajah & Tann Singapore

Mr Chia Kim Huat has extensive experience in capital market, public and private mergers and acquisitions, cross-border joint ventures and private equity investments, both in Singapore and the region. He travels regularly in the Asia-Pacific region advising clients on a wide range of matters, including direct investments and infrastructure projects in China, major acquisitions in Korea, joint ventures in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan and cross-border mergers and acquisitions transactions. Kim Huat also advises foreign investors on their investments in Singapore, including listings on the Singapore Exchange, privatisations, secondary and dual listings.

He has been recognised as a leading lawyer in his field by International Financial Law Review 1000, Chambers Global “Leaders in their Field”, Asia Pacific Legal 500, “Eminent Practitioner” in Chambers Asia Pacific, Who’s Who Legal: Corporate – Merger & Acquisition/Capital Markets – Debt and Equity and Merger & Acquisition, ‘Leading Lawyer’ in Asialaw Profiles and Best Lawyers, 2017 Edition.

AWARD JUDGE

TAN WEE BENG

Deputy Chief Executive (Operations)
SkillsFuture Singapore

Wee Beng is the Deputy Chief Executive (Operations) of SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG). He leads the Business Technology Group (Operations Planning Division, Capability Development Division, Operations & Support Division, Security & Infrastructure Division), the Training, Manpower & Infrastructure Group (Manpower & Infrastructure Planning Division, Office of Lifelong Learning, and Institute of Adult Learning which comprises Learning and Professional Development Division, Research and Innovation Division, Learning Services and Support Division ) as well as the Business Services Group (Shared Services Management, Integrated Business Services Division &, Corporate Services Division).

Prior to joining SSG, Wee Beng was an officer with the Singapore Armed Forces, leading both large and small teams. His last appointment was Chief-of-Staff, Republic of Singapore Navy, overseeing a range of staff departments and ground commands. Other key appointments held were Head Naval Operations, Commander of Maritime Security Task Force and Commander, Naval Diving Unit. Wee Beng holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts in Physics from Oxford University, UK, and a Master of Science in Management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA.