The changing face of our business leaders

The changing face of our business leaders- Mai ChenMai Chen

Top Indian New Zealand leaders now have an organisation led by Asians to profile their talents and to help them contribute to ‘NZ Inc’ and ‘New Zealand Asian Leaders’ (NZAL).  Many including Vino Ramayah (Executive Chairman, Medtech Global Limited), Dr Sohail Choudhry (Executive General Manager, the NZ Post Group), Shamubeel Eaqub (Principal Economist at the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research) Mervin Singham (Deputy Chief Executive, Department of Internal Affairs) and Jai Basrur (Founding Director, CGB Consulting Limited).

This not-for profit-organization is a professional body for top Asian New Zealanders who are Chief Executives and leaders, and for high achieving Asians in New Zealand who aspire to become top leaders.

Indian leaders

Our vision is to maximise the country’s successful business interface with Asia by drawing on the considerable expertise and knowledge of top Asian New Zealanders about Asia. There are many in the Indian community who can make that contribution, and we want them as our members.

We provide a place for New Zealand Asian leaders who are CEOs or leaders to enjoy peer-to- peer support and to have visibility with New Zealand companies doing business with Asia or wanting to do so.

It also allows Asian New Zealander CEOs to be opinion leaders on current and future focused Asian business issues where they have expertise and learning due to their business and cultural experience. The role of NZ Asian Leaders is to provide confidence building and offer expertise to help NZ Inc and to help them understand that they have important expertise to contribute.

Current scenario

Currently, leadership and governance structures in New Zealand companies do not always reflect New Zealand’s commitment to doing business with Asia.

There is a lack of Asians in top leadership positions in New Zealand companies.

Some New Zealand companies are also finding it difficult to identify and recruit Asian leaders to Boards and senior management.

Given the super diversity of Auckland, New Zealand’s only international city where 50% of the population is already Maori, Pasifika or Asian, and the diversity of the country, it makes good business sense to have Asian established business leaders as well as emerging Asian leaders as CEOS/Directors of New Zealand business.

Future growth, focused on joint venture partnerships between Asian and New Zealand business and its success, requires unique understanding of cultural environments.

Some challenges

At the launch of NZ Asian Leaders on 4th November 2013, former Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand said, “The significance of this event is that of another step, due to the determination and entrepreneurship of Mai Chen and her colleagues to set up a linkage or network support group of business leaders of Asian origin. Its arrival is a new and significant milestone.  My contribution, which is essentially to add congratulations, is also to pose a series of modest challenges.

“The first is to have you make a decision that this new group will carry on the progression and develop momentum for support and mentoring that will be helpful particularly for younger people making their way. The second challenge is to remain aware of complacency – amicable relations among and between various ethnic groups cannot ever be taken for granted.  The third and final challenge is to recognise that Aotearoa New Zealand is a fine country in which to work and prosper and for our children to do likewise. Let me express the challenge that for it to remain so requires the commitment of everyone here this evening.”

Some milestones

Following are the key achievements of NZAL during its first year:

  • NZ Asian Leaders is now the Number 1 place for businesses and non-profit organisations to connect with top and emerging Asian leaders and for potential board and senior management appointments
  • A range of 100 top established, emerging, young and international Asian leaders connecting and developing peer-to-peer relationships
  • NZAL has facilitated top established and emerging Asian leaders to share unique expertise and insights to assist public agencies and businesses in New Zealand
  • NZAL forums have helped New Zealand businesses build connections with top Asian leaders to explore business opportunities together
  • Successful seminars including Asian Investment, Entrepreneurs, Food and Safety attended by Ministers and top leaders

My aim for NZAL 2015 is to have top leader members representing each Asian country in the world. The Indian community is a key focus and I welcome interested individuals and businesses to view our website ( and contact General Manager Karinia Lee in the first instance to learn more about joining us and our schedule for 2015.

Mai Chen is Managing Partner at Chen Palmer Public and Employment Law Specialists and the Founder and Inaugural Chair of ‘New Zealand Asian Leaders.’ She is the Managing Partner of Chen Palmer Public & Employment Law Specialists and Adjunct Professor of the University of Auckland Business School.

Please read our Editorial, ‘Asian Leaders must step forward’ under Viewlink.

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