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The 7 Excellences of Global Innovators

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They are Innovative, Integrative, Intelligent, Imaginative, Multi-Cultural, Multi National and Multi Lingual. The dreams of tomorrow beckon, the world holds abundant opportunities for those who keep moving forward. World class “Hepta Entrepreneurs” never stand still.

They have the innate ability to move with speed and agility, vision and desire, and the will to get the job done. These young, and sometimes not so young disruptors, innovators and entrepreneurs represent the best of our and the next generation.

Heptas are engaging bright stars, creative and hardworking, impatient to change the world. They bring their passion, smarts and energy to startups and family businesses by making their mark and gaining credibility across diverse sectors.

As progression is vital for enduring success, risks and obstacles may abound. Change can often be disruptive, yet the future belongs to those who keep striving towards the next horizon- the iGeneration of Hepta Entrepreneurs. There are many ways to move forward, but only one way to standstill.The future is partly influenced by the past, but more importantly, it is shaped by the actions of today. As Albert Einstein once said that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.

Well, today’s “Hepta Entrepreneurs”as I call them, will never have to worry about such stagnation. They are innovative, integrative, intelligent, imaginative, multi-cultural, multi-national and multi-lingual; they have it all. Type A personality is usually an understatement for this population; Type AAA, the energizer bunny on steroids with the attention span of a flickering light bulb, is a much more fitting description. They spend almost all their time in front of the computer attending to concurrent conversations on Google chat in multiple languages, answering 10 incoming emails with attachments needing immediate attention, they answer their Blackberry while texting and ordering pizza on the IPhone. Oh, let’s not forget, they still manage to follow BBC’s breaking world news on the large screen TV while keeping an eye on the stock market picture in picture, all while listening to the latest Shakira CD and chewing gum. Welcome to the world of todays’ multitasking hepta innovators!

Hepta entrepreneurs are behind some of the world’s best companies, big or small, as they can pioneer new industries, disrupt others, design superior products and services, and bring them to market faster and at lower cost. As CEOs and entrepreneurs they have to propel their companies from one stage of growth to another, from startup to profit, or small enterprise to big business, create opportunities out of their imagination and realize their dreams through tenacity and hard work..They have to lead with clarity and vision to achieve enduring success and take their companies from one stage of growth to another, expand across borders and diversify into new business lines. Some CEOs adopt the entrepreneurial attitude of being a ‘perennial startup’ to stay ever nimble, agile and poised for growth. They know how to keep customers and employees happy, raise funding, manage capital and keep their investors satisfied.

Today’s hot hepta entrepreneurs can be identified by “7” distinct characteristics essential to a companies future success. And, oddly enough, since Ancient times, in Greek mythology, the number seven “hepta” held a very special meaning. There were Seven Wise Men, Seven Sages, Seven Against Thebes, the Pleiades were Seven Sisters, there are Seven Liberal Arts and Seven Wonders of the World denoting beauty and prosperity. Christianity mentions the number Seven countless times in the Bible, Rome was built on Seven Hills, the Seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, Seven Sacraments, Seventh day of rest, Noah’s 7 laws, Geneses 7:2 , Jericho, Seventh year, Seven years for love and Seven Days to solve a Riddle. Judaism has the Seven branched Menorah, Seven days of Sukkot, Seven Hakafot, Seven weeks Shavuot, sitting Shiva Seven days and there are Seven Blessings being recited at a Jewish wedding. In Islam there are 7 verses in the first sura, the book of Revelations talks about Seven Stars and Seven lampstands, Seven spirits of God, Seven thunders, Seventh angel of the Apocalypse.

Hepta entrepreneurs evolve from one success to the next helping policymakers to keep raising their countries’ global competitiveness. Their attitudes energize companies, recalibrate their growth engines to create new value, revitalize their culture and performance. These people move at the speed of light, are highly educated, intelligent, culturally savvy, flexible, innovative world citizen forming the backbone of successful global companies. They transcend international borders, master cultural norms and easily overcome language barriers as most of them have been raised at least in a bi-lingual environment.

This iGeneration is emerged in the technological revolution, driven by ambition, fierce competitiveness and search for Uber-prosperity. They easily establish cross-functional working relationships, maintain long distance communication, overcome stranger anxiety as their main modus operandi is behind an impersonal computer screen allowing for and encouraging unconventional language use. They thrive on task complexity, excel under pressure, perform at their peak in stressful situations and experience an endorphin rush only parallel to that of a climber conquering a high mountain peak during stormy weather. For the most part these emerging leaders were brought up in heterogeneous cultures, are multi -lingual which facilitated the development of a filter by which to view and understand the world around them. The hepta’s core is a multifaceted, filled with contradictions, built around their experiences with conflict, alternate belief systems and new ways of behaving in foreign environments.

Hepta entrepreneurs will never relate to bygone phenomena such as typewriters, doing research using a library and microfiche, listen to LPs, making phone calls using an airport payphones, waiting for the mailman to deliver hand written letters or using a floppy disk. Elephant size computers housed in big underground basements, hotels offered courtesy type writers in their small business centers and satellite phones could be seen when Captain Kirk communicated with Mr. Spock in Star Trek are viewed in a rather nostalgic light by this generation. For them “Beam me up Scotty” is occurring in the present, yesterday’s utopia has become today’s reality.

This population excels by breaking the rules over and over again and causing disruption in order to achieve measurable results essential to meeting management challenges faced by today’s global leaders: transition, change, difference and adaptation. What’s more, hepta entrepreneurs develop these abilities so subtly and naturally that many don’t even know they have them.Significantly, none of these qualities described below requires an international context in which to use them.

These seven characteristics combine to yield the “iGeneration”, the hepta’s identity, pivotal to your organizational success:

Innovation – Heptas see change as normal. They combine the scientific, positivistic, rationalistic, technocratic world of the industrial paradigm and get into the intuitive, creative, open, diverse, global world of the postindustrial paradigm. Example: “The Internet of Things” which is a way of saying that more of the world will become part of their network. They are able to assimilate the world into the computer. It’s just more and more computers. Product companies compete by building ever bigger factories to turn out ever cheaper widgets. But a very different sort of economics comes into play when those widgets start to communicate. It’s called the network effect—when each new user of a product makes its value higher. Let’s take Cisco Systems as an example. According to the MIT Review ( July/August 2014) Cisco Systems has been enthusiastically predicting that 50 billion “things” could be connected to communications networks within six years, up from around 10 billion mobile phones and PCs today . Or think of the telephone a century ago. The greater the number of people who used Bell’s invention, the more valuable it became to all of them. The telephone became a platform for countless new businesses its inventor never imagined.” For heptas connecting, adapting and expanding the Internet of Things comes naturally as they leave behind the clockwork, mechanical, piecemeal, linear, quantitative world of Newton and get into the fluid, ambiguous, androgynous, qualitative world of the 21st century.

Integration & Invention – As outsiders to fixed cultural rules, hepta innovators rely on creative thinking as they reinvent themselves and experiment with new identities. Chaos and complexity theories, quantum physics, and open systems are in ; strategic management, Newtonian physics, and closed systems are out. These may seem queer, but get used to them. Example: In many cases they work with models which have not been established, taking for guaranteed that computers the size of a pinhead which collect data inside the brain and transmit it through the skull will join the internet network, brining healthcare to whole different level.

Intelligence ( Contextual and Emotional IQ) -Heptas are experts at the subtle and emotional aspects of transition, adjusting mental models, learning to differentiate between universal principles and their specific embodiments, and being open to new ideas. They influence multidirectional relationships, using persuasion, rational strategies, political analysis, creating metaphors and using myths and rituals. They are apt at appealing to emotional attachments, friendships, connectedness, relationships, to the higher ground–ethical/moral stands and to communitarian ideas, the commons, public good, organizational culture. imagination- Heptas entrepreneurs easily learn and use new ways of thinking. They are the ones who come up with a smart coffee pot, a refrigerator with a Web browser or a $78 digital “egg minder” that reports to a smartphone which egg in a refrigerator is oldest. So many gray hairs avoided by never having to worry about my eggs again!

Multi /Lingual, Multi/Cultural, Multi/ National, Multi Tasking. Heptas are at least bi-lingual or tri-lingual, multi- cultural & multi-national and multi taskig. They have lived in different countries and are familiar with many cultures. Because globalization enables breakthrough ideas to come from every corner of the world, they are able to change where and how the world does business. While until now they might have been a source of low-cost skilled labor in emerging markets is moderating.

Multilingualism at the workplace constitutes a major asset for companies and supports their international competitiveness. Even though it can be a Janus-faced phenomenon, entailing several problematic points, it is up to management commitment and involvement to prevent and counter these problems. Language skills and cultures might differ in multilingual work environments, however mutual respect and shared values can overcome linguistic and intercultural differences.

I predict that connecting ordinary objects like ovens to the Internet will trigger new platforms and that hepta entrepreneurs will be the leaders of tomorrow forming and transforming this platform, necessary for cutting edge performance to each company. Due to the fact that they are born to question, break rules and used to paradigm shifts, they will not simply rest at the standards, the connections. Instead they will also address add value, allowing for a recombination of features in ways that the original designer cannot anticipate. Heptas will be instrumental in developing tomorrow’s Internet of things which is similar to the functions of the iPhone encompassing hundreds of thousands of apps that Apple never even conceived of as they do not have a difficult time with new mental models. They will help companies compete and add incredible value by introducing new features to products, add new communities or network effects. In turn, organizations must learn how to hire and augment their workforce with efficient hepta innovators.

Emerging countries are creating their own rising stars and these fast-growing companies are changing the competitive landscape. Global and multinational companies have to assess the promise of emerging markets in current economic cycles, changes in the marketplace and policy environments. So, without a doubt, organizations will be challenged and potentially leap frogged if they do not hire hepta innovators and entrepreneurs.

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Economy

The Waning Supremacy of the Petrodollar Economy

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Since the 1970s, the US dollar has been the undisputed reserve currency around the globe. Agreements with Saudi Arabia (and many other Middle Eastern countries) cemented the global oil trade in the greenback currency. Trading oil and gas futures denominated in the US dollar solidified the position of the United States as the hegemon of Global trade – a shift from the traditional gold standard. While the Euro surfaced as a strong contender in the 90s, the dollar-denominated finance still flourished. And economies like China and Russia had no choice but to hold US Treasury securities and accumulate massive dollar reserves. However, multiple geopolitical and economic factors are now turning the tide against the supremacy of the US dollar. Rapid globalization was already a ticking bomb situation for the greenback. But now, China’s rise as the next potential powerhouse and Russia’s exclusion from the dollar-embedded SWIFT system is catalyzing this historic transition.

The tread towards de-dollarisation is not exactly a novel phenomenon. The infamous drift to exclude the US dollar originally spurred in Latin America in the 90s. In response to US sanctions, Venezuela attempted to shift away from the status quo by opting for oil payments in yuan over the US dollar. Chile resorted to Consumer Price Index (CPI) indexation to attract foreign investments in local securities over US Treasuries in the secondary market. However, due to weak supplementary monetary policies and crippling economic crises, the trend of de-dollarisation steeply reversed during the 2008 financial crisis. Since then, no significant development has threatened to derail the dominance of the US dollar. Yet, the booming Asian markets and the implicit rift between the United States and Saudi Arabia could be the next bad omen.

Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest Crude exporter, amounting to about 17.2% of the Global Crude oil exports (by value). Over decades, Saudi Arabia has been one of the core allies of the United States in the Middle East. Economically, the kingdom has served as the largest Crude supplier to the United States. Moreover, as Saudi Arabia leads the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the United States has enjoyed a sway over Global oil prices. Since the oil trade is denominated in the US dollar, it has allowed successive US governments to run massive trade deficits without any budgetary concern. Geopolitically, the Saudi kingdom has been a US proxy in the Middle East to counter its arch-rival Iran. After the landmark Iranian revolution in 1979, Saudi Arabia further climbed the ladder of US preference in the region. However, with a shift from Republicans to Democrats, the two allies have inched apart to a certain extent.

Over the years, the United States has relented its dependence on imported oil by building its own strategic reserves. For example, the US imported an estimated 2 million barrels per day of Saudi Crude in the 1990s. That figure fell to mere 500,000 barrels per day in 2021 – a drop of 75% in a couple of decades. On the political front, the Saudi royalty has been particularly dissatisfied with Biden’s policy in the Middle East. Biden’s decision to unilaterally withdraw support for Saudi Arabia in the Yemen war distanced the kingdom from the US administration. A subsequent spree of Houthi attacks on Saudi oil facilities has further incensed the royalty. To add oil to the fire, Biden’s desperation to salvage the outdated Nuclear Deal with Iran has virtually alienated the kingdom to the point of indifference.

The implications are not complex to spot. Since Russia launched its onslaught against Ukraine in February, Saudi Arabia has actively refused to pay heed to Biden’s calls to expand Crude supply quotas and suppress Global oil prices. Instead, the OPEC+ alliance – OPEC members, Russia, and other allied producers – stuck to its original plan to modestly raise the June output target by 432,000 barrels per day. The brutal indifference to the Western calls has an underlying reason besides the concurrent row with the United States. The reason is the growing China-Saudi cooperation. Over the past few years, Saudi’s structure of the international oil trade has undergone a fundamental change. That is predominantly due to increasing cooperation of China which is not just limited to the energy sector. Under the hood of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China has also objectively expanded its potential presence in the kingdom through bilateral cooperation in infrastructure, trade, and investment.

According to the American Enterprise Institute’s China Global Investment Tracker, cumulative Chinese investments in Saudi Arabia reached $43.47 billion in 2021. According to data released by the Chinese General Administration of Customs (GACC), China imported an estimated 542.39 million tons of Crude oil in 2020 – comprising more than 25% of the kingdom’s total Global oil exports. Sources from Saudi Arabia’s top securities regulator suggest that the kingdom’s Sovereign Wealth Fund may soon start investing in Chinese companies after years of limiting its overseas holdings in the US and Europe. Official sources suggest that Saudi oil giant Aramco is in talks to strike a partnership with the Chinese petrochemical consortium. Recently Aramco also finalized a $10 billion deal with Chinese petroleum companies. All the factors unambiguously point in a single direction – Saudi Arabia is leaning away from the US to China. Naturally, the de-dollarisation of trade and investments would facilitate bilateral relations with China.

There are, however, some drawbacks to the petroyuan when compared to its counterpart. While China’s financial markets have exponentially grown over the past few decades, they are still relatively illiquid compared to the US capital markets. Moreover, the massive $13.4 trillion eurodollar market extensively facilitates trade in European markets. Meanwhile, trades in yuan would be limited to China and subject to manipulation from the People’s Bank of China. Thus, trades settled in yuan would be an inconvenience to the smooth operation of trade and short-term deposits. However, these problems could be resolved if petroyuan is used as a barter for investments in China.

Like Saudi Arabia, economies like Russia and Iran have also inched closer to Asia. Russia, for instance, has consistently voiced its propensity to shift toward the Cross-Border Interbank Payment System (CIPS) – a transaction system clearing international settlements and trade in the Renminbi – to trade its oil in Asia under western sanctions. India has openly defied the US pressure by purchasing roughly 15 million barrels of oil from Russia since the invasion of Ukraine. The Russian Crude now accounts for about 17% of Indian imports – up from less than 1% before invasion. The rudimentary reason is cheaper oil in Roubles, especially when Europe is still weighing an embargo on Russian oil. Even Iran has notoriously traded Crude with China under US sanctions by abandoning the US dollar for settlements.

Some economists may argue that even combined, the effect of de-dollarisation would be gradual and uneconomical. But we need to understand that the historical context is skewed, and ground realities today are comparatively different. Firstly, the economies in Asia are significantly less dollarised than the emerging economies of Latin America discussed in the existing literature. Secondly, the Asian economies – particularly China and India – are much more significant in terms of size and monetary policy. Even a shift towards semi-dollarisation could upend the clout of the United States and significantly reduce the power of US sanctions.

The US lawmakers are understandably irked by the defiance of the OPEC+ alliance. Recently, a US Senate Judiciary Committee passed the No Oil Producing or Exporting Cartels (NOPEC) bill to amend the US antitrust law. If passed by the full Senate and House, the US Attorney General would gain the authority to expose OPEC+ countries to lawsuits for possible collusion, bypassing the sovereign immunity guaranteed to OPEC+ nations. While similar motions have been filed and failed over the past two decades, the notable highlight is the US desperation in the face of helplessness. Saudi Arabia already warned the US lawmakers in 2019 that such a bill, if passed, would force its move to trade oil in different currencies. Today, with Europe’s belated timeline to phase away from Russian Crude to China’s expanding influence in Eurasia, it seems the inevitable transition from the petrodollar may strike sooner than initially expected – if expected at all!

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Chinese Maritime Strategy: Further Expansion and Progress

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The Belt and Road Initiative represents a shift in China’s global perspective as well as an update to its role and status in the international system, as announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping. Reviving the Silk Road as a means of connecting China with the rest of the globe was the biggest initiative so far. This initiative will connect China with the Arab Gulf states and the Mediterranean through Central Asia. The maritime silk road will connect China’s coast with Europe by way of the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean. It will also connect China’s coast with the South Pacific by way of the South China Sea.

The “string of pearls” strategy, which refers to a network of Chinese military and commercial facilities and relations on the length of the sea lines of communication, which extend from the Chinese mainland to the Horn of Africa, was used to secure Beijing’s global vision of military protection, diplomatic networking, and economic cooperation.

Some scholars believe that this would be a major threat to Britain which relies on the Commonwealth, China is gaining more influence in South Asia through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and the loan diplomacy, which weakens British influence in the Indian ocean. It also challenges Britain in the strategically important Malacca channel.

Experts mention that a state may only be considered powerful when it completely dominates its geographical surroundings. Aside from its strategic location on the international trade route, where 40 percent of all trade passes through the South China Sea and 30 percent of all oil traded globally. Beijing places a high value on the security of China’s regional environment.

China has overtaken the United States to become the world’s largest naval force – but experts believe that the mere comparison of the number of ships neglects many crucial elements that define the efficacy of any naval power.

The United States maintains, so far at least, a huge edge in many naval capabilities, as it has 11 aircraft carriers compared to China’s two. It also excels in the numbers of submarines, destroyers, cruisers, and huge nuclear-powered vessels. But it is projected to considerably enhance the size of the Chinese fleet.

Former Chinese People’s Liberation Army colonel Zhou Bo, currently at Tsinghua University in Beijing, says it is “extremely necessary” for China to build its navy in order to confront the maritime dangers it faces. He particularly says that “the largest challenge we are experiencing is what we regard as US provocations in Chinese territorial seas.” The US Navy expects that the total number of warships owned by the Chinese Navy would expand by 40 percent between 2020 and 2040.

Controlling waterways is a priority for Beijing. Attempts will be made to broaden its maritime presence outside the Indian Ocean, if possible. It is clear from this that China is interested in building strategic fulcrums around the world, such as huge ports equipped with sea cables and digital networks, as well as superior logistics services that might be used for military purposes if necessary.

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China and the Indo Pacific Economic Framework

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Image: Twitter@POTUS

The Indo Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) signed by a total of 13 countries, on May 23, 2022, in Tokyo is being dubbed by many as a means of checking China’s economic clout in Asia and sending out a message that the US is keen to bolster economic ties with its allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific.

Many Chinese analysts themselves have referred to the IPEF as ‘Economic NATO’. China has also been uncomfortable with the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) which consists of US, Australia, Japan and India , and has referred to Quad as an ‘Asian NATO’ – though members of the grouping have categorically denied that Quad is an ‘Asian NATO’

Countries which joined the US led IPEF are Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. These countries together account for 40% of the global GDP. The four key pillars of the IPEF framework are;  supply-chain resilience; clean energy, decarbonisation and infrastructure; taxation and anti-corruption; and fair and resilient trade.

While launching the plan, US President, Joe Biden said:

‘We’re here today for one simple purpose: the future of the 21st Century economy is going to be largely written in the Indo-Pacific. Our region,’

US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo while commenting on the IPEF said that it was important because it provided Asian countries an alternative to China’s economic model.

A few points need to be borne in mind. First, many of the countries — Australia, Brunei, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam – which have signed the IPEF are also part of the 15 nation Region Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade agreement of which China is a key driver (Indonesia, Phillipines and Myanmar have not ratified RCEP). RCEP accounts for 30% of the world’s GDP. Trade between China and other member countries has witnessed a significant rise, year on year in Q1 of 2022.

Second, many of the countries, which are part of the IPEF, have repeatedly said that they would not like to choose between China and US. The Singapore PM, Lee Hsien Loong  who was amongst the first to hail the IPEF, has emphatically stated this point on a number of occasions. In an interview to Nikkei Asian Review on May 20, 2022, Lee Hsien Loong reiterated this point. In fact, Lee Hsien Loong even pitched for making China a part of the Comprehensive and Progressive Partnership for Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) (TPP the precursor to the CPTPP was a brain child of the US). Said the Singapore PM:

‘We welcome China to join the CPTPP,’.

Here it would be pertinent to point out, that China had submitted an application for joining the CPTPPIN September 2021. In the interview, Lee Hsieng Loong did state that countries in Asia needed to have good relations with US, Japan and Europe.

 Indonesia’s Trade Minister Muhammad Lutfi who attended the signing of the IPEF on behalf of the President Joko Widodo stated that he did not want to see IPEF as a tool to contain other countries.

One of the reasons why many countries are skeptical about the IPEF is the fact that it does not have any trade component. A number of ASEAN member states have pointed to the IPEF making no mention of tariffs and market access as one of its major draw backs. At the US-ASEAN Summit, held earlier this month Malaysian Foreign Minister, Ismail Sabri Yaakob had referred to this point. Like many other countries, Malaysia has welcomed the IPEF, but in the immediate future sees RCEP as a far greater opportunity.

US President Joe Biden has not deviated significantly from the policies of his predecessor, Donald Trump, with regard to trade and the US is unlikely to return to the CPTPP at least in the immediate future.  Biden and Senior officials in his administration have spoken about the need to check China’s growing economic influence, specifically in Asia, and to provide an alternative model. While the US along with some of its Indo Pacific partners has taken some steps in this direction (only recently, leaders of Quad countries during their meeting at Tokyo announced that they would spend USD 50 billion, in infrastructural aid and investment, in the Indo Pacific.

 Given his low approval ratings, and diminishing political capital it is unlikely that he is likely to change his approach towards trade significantly. US Trade Representative Katherine Tai said the TPP was ‘fragile’, and that there was no domestic support for the same.

 In conclusion, while the IPEF does have symbolic importance it is important to bear in mind that many signatories themselves have close economic relations with China and would not like to get trapped in competition between US and China. Unless the US re-examines its approach towards trade, which is highly unlikely, and unless countries which are part of the Indo-Pacific vision are able to strengthen economic cooperation, China is likely to dominate Asia’s economic landscape – even though there is growing skepticism with regard to the same.

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