FII2018: Company chiefs urged to embrace technological revolution

Top CEOs at the opening ceremony of the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh. (AFP)
Updated 24 October 2018

FII2018: Company chiefs urged to embrace technological revolution

  • If companies do not transform with clear strategies, they will be left behind, just like many companies that have failed

RIYADH: Company chief executives must embrace the technological revolution, delegates to the Future Investment Initiative conference were told.

Leaders need to come out of their traditional offices and engage with the community, said Yousef Al-Benyan, vice chairman and chief executive of Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC), the Saudi petrochemicals giant.

“I don’t look at it wholly from a regional point of view, but I look at it globally,” he said. “Transformation and the technology evolution are going to be very crucial. At the same time, it is going to create challenges for business.”

Companies should keep in mind that if they do not transform themselves with different platforms and clear strategies, they will be left behind, like many companies that had failed, Al-Benyan said.

“I’m not looking at incremental transformation but it has to be a complete transformation otherwise the companies will not be able to truly satisfy their shareholders.”

Al-Benayan also discussed the digital transformation that is changing the petrochemical industry, and how it will drive future growth.

The petrochemical industry is important for the growth of prosperity, Al-Benayan said. “The petrochemical industry is now everywhere in every individual’s life,” he said. 

SABIC is competitive, he said. “We have more than 21 centers globally, supported by more than 2,000 scientists and researchers to make sure that we have up-to- speed positions in our competitive environment.”  

Al-Benayan expressed concern about the future of job creation. The speed of technological innovation was greater than the speed of the transformation of Saudi Arabia’s education system, he said, which would create challenges for Saudi youth.


Japan’s Uniqlo pulls ad after South Korean fury

Updated 21 October 2019

Japan’s Uniqlo pulls ad after South Korean fury

  • South Korean and Japanese relationship is deeply strained by the legacy of Tokyo’s 20th-century expansionism
  • Seoul and Tokyo are currently locked in a bitter trade and diplomatic row stemming from historical disputes
SEOUL: Japanese retail giant Uniqlo has pulled a commercial featuring a 98-year-old US fashion figure from South Korean screens, it said Monday after it was accused of whitewashing colonial history.
South Korea and Japan are both US allies, democracies and market economies faced with an overbearing China and nuclear-armed North Korea, but their relationship is deeply strained by the legacy of Tokyo’s 20th-century expansionism.
The latest example is an advert for Uniqlo fleeces showing elderly fashion celebrity Iris Apfel chatting with designer Kheris Rogers, 85 years her junior.
The last line has the white-haired Apfel, asked how she used to dress as a teenager, innocuously responding: “Oh my God. I can’t remember that far back.”
But Uniqlo’s Korean arm subtitled its version of the ad slightly differently, reading: “I can’t remember things that happened more than 80 years ago.”
That would put the moment as 1939, toward the end of Japan’s brutal colonial rule over the Korean peninsula, where the period is still bitterly resented, and some South Koreans reacted furiously.
“A nation that forgets history has no future. We can’t forget what happened 80 years ago that Uniqlo made fun of,” commented one Internet user on Naver, the country’s largest portal.
The phrase “Uniqlo, comfort women,” in reference to women forced to become sex slaves to Japanese troops during the Second World War, was among the most searched terms on Naver at the weekend, and demonstrators protested outside Uniqlo shops on Monday.
Seoul and Tokyo are currently locked in a bitter trade and diplomatic row stemming from historical disputes, and South Korean consumers have mounted boycotts of Japanese products.
Uniqlo — which has 186 stores in South Korea — has itself been one of the highest-profile targets, while Japanese carmakers’ sales dropped nearly 60 percent year-on-year in September.
The company denied the allegations in a statement, saying the text was altered to highlight the age gap between the individuals and show that its fleeces were for people “across generations.”
“The ad had no intention whatsoever to imply anything” about colonial rule, a Uniqlo representative said on Monday, adding the firm had withdrawn the ad in an effort at damage control.
Analysts said the controversy demonstrated the politicization of the neighbors’ complex history.
The reaction was excessive, said Kim Sung-han, a former foreign affairs vice minister who teaches at Korea University, involving a “jump in logic” that “assumes everything Uniqlo does is political as a Japanese company.”
“I don’t see how her remark could be linked to the comfort women issue,” he added. “This is overly sensitive.”