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6 Dec 2022

A Conversation With Storm5’s Kai Man

November marked a big step for Storm5: Led by Kai Man, Storm5 Singapore was launched earlier this month. There is no denying that E-commerce will…

November marked a big step for Storm5: Led by Kai Man, Storm5 Singapore was launched earlier this month. There is no denying that E-commerce will continue to grow worldwide, with some projections estimating that by 2023 retail sales will exceed 29.7 trillion dollars. Leading the charge, Southeast Asia has had 20% Year-Over-Year growth and the Asia Pacific Region is currently generating about ¾ of global retail growth and about ⅔ of growth online.

With these exciting figures in mind, and as we approach the end of 2022, we sat down to chat with Kai about Storm5’s mission and the trends and challenges RetailTech in APAC will face in 2023.

1. Tell Us A Little About Yourself And Your Background.

My name is Kai, and I am from the UK. I started my career as a cybersecurity head-hunter for a business called Adeptis Group. In 2019, I moved to Singapore to continue my journey with NextWave Partners for three years. After which I joined Storm3 and around six months later I was asked to launch Storm5 in Singapore so, as you can imagine I couldn’t be happier to be in this position right now!

2. What Are You Most Proud Of Professionally?

I would have to say being asked by Candy Choong-Orlowski, CEO of Asia Pacific at Levin, and Manjit Kaur, our CRO, to launch Storm5 APAC is one of the proudest moments of my career. I genuinely believe Storm5 is going to be one of the biggest brands under Levin. It’s a huge responsibility for me to undertake but I am excited about what the future holds and to see this business prosper.

3. What Is Storm5’s Mission? And What Is Your Mission As Head Of Storm5 APAC?

Storm5’s mission is to become the go-to RetailTech and E-Commerce talent ecosystem worldwide. I am obviously based in Singapore, so my mission is to ensure that Storm5 is on the lips of every E-commerce and RetailTech company when they are looking to hire the best talent and to scale up.

4. Are There Any Particular Areas Of RetailTech That Excite You the Most?

The RetailTech space is so large and continuously evolving that it is hard to single out one area. In APAC, E-commerce is thriving, accompanied by MarTech and AdTech, which are also huge sectors. Loyalty and Reward programs are on the rise, and we will absolutely need to watch out for that!

5. Are There Any Retail Technologies Or Apps You Use Yourself That You Recommend?

Yes! Because I live in Singapore, naturally the ones I use the most are Lazada and Shopee. Those are my go-to ones. For resellers, I use Carousell a lot. I love snooping around the app for good deals. As travel has opened up now in Singapore, I have also been on travel apps a lot. In fact, I redownloaded some recently and was just on Scoot looking for holiday deals!

6. What’s The Biggest Challenge For RetailTechs Currently In APAC?

The biggest challenge for RetailTech now is a lack of tech talent and trying to fill in that demand, however, I think this is a problem that is prevalent across all businesses worldwide. With the Tech Industry expanding and evolving so quickly, and with talent needed at increasing rates, it has been hard for companies to fill those positions fast. It is my view that a lack of programs and incentives to push young people into tech education is a contributing factor.

In Singapore, businesses have not been keen on hiring international movers, partially because of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Available talents are sourced from other tech businesses which means that positions are not being filled with new candidates. There is a constant reshuffling of candidates with not much new influx of talent from abroad.

7. Are Companies Actively Hiring?

Yes, absolutely! Of course, the media tends to focus on mass layoffs, but businesses are always looking to hire.

8. What’s Your Advice For RetailTechs On Attracting And Retaining Top Talent?

Where to begin? Do not underestimate the value of company culture, people will stay at a job because of the culture and environment, especially if they believe in the people that they work with. Building an organization that fosters collaboration between teams is essential.

Competitive compensation is my next big piece of advice. I know that is easier said than done. However, the Tech Industry is so fiercely competitive there will always be another company willing to compensate talent more. My advice is to come up with a competitive package, and if it is within your means and business structure, include a share scheme for your employees.

Finally, for two years people worked from home and experienced the benefits of it. Now, people are being asked to come back to the office and they aren’t that used to it anymore. An effective hybrid working policy is key to retaining talent in 2023.

9. What Do You See As The Growth Areas Or Trends For 2023?

Loyalty and Rewards Programs are a massive trend and a huge area for growth in 2023. In the past three weeks, I have spoken to multiple clients within the Loyalty and Rewards space. Additionally, MarTech is here to stay. I would even say that this sector is so extensive that it could eventually become another brand on its own, and not just a sub-sector of RetailTech. This isn’t much of a surprise when you think about the capital businesses spend on marketing.

Finally, mastering the last-mile delivery is a huge area of opportunity for businesses next year. Getting the product to consumers as quickly as possible would only make them stand out more in a field as saturated as E-commerce.

10. Do You Think The Impact Of Covid-19 On the RetailTech Sector Can Still Be Felt Or Have We Moved Past The Effects Of The Pandemic?

Unfortunately, businesses are still feeling a pinch. With China being one of the biggest markets in E-Commerce and Retail in the world, the country closing has had a big effect on the global market but particularly for APAC. The effect that was felt was huge, but we are coming to the end of this.

11. What Do You Think Are The Main Differences Between The RetailTech Marketplace In APAC VS Europe Or North America?

Growth in APAC is significantly faster than in Europe and North America, especially when it comes to tech adoption rate. The last-mile delivery topic also comes to mind here. Some regions of SEA do not have the same infrastructure that exists in Singapore or Europe. For companies to really make an impact here, particularly for E-commerce organizations, they need to ensure their last-mile delivery is effective. This means growing their fleet sizes and exploring all routes and options to get their products to consumers quickly.

12. Concerning Diversity In RetailTech, How Are We Doing? Is There A Gap, And If So, How Can It Be Bridged?

Tech has always been a very male-dominated environment. At Storm5, we are DE&I driven and we want to be catalysts for positive change. We keep this in mind every time we make a placement. It is also important that businesses focus on hiring from a wider and more diverse talent pool. Fostering an international and diverse company culture and embracing different cultures within an organization allows more space for creativity and for the exchange of ideas which will only stand to help the growth of a company.

13. What Makes Storm5 Different From Other Retail Tech Recruiters?

We are specialists: RetailTech is the only thing that we do which means we understand the unique challenges that our clients within this space face and how to find quality and relevant talent quickly. We focus on four verticals that are aligned with growing RetailTech businesses: Data & Analytics, DevOps & Engineering, Sales & Marketing, and Product Management.

We’ve helped some of the most successful RetailTech startups grow.

— now it’s your turn.