Top 12 rising female business leaders in Asia

By Kate Birch
From education to engineering, pharma to hospitality, these 12 rising businesswoman in Asia have been chosen for EY’s Entrepreneurial 2021 program

EY has announced its 14 female business leaders across Asia-Pacific (12 across Asia) that have been selected for the 2021 EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women, a program that targets high-potential women entrepreneurs and established businesses who are ready to scale globally and helps them to scale their businesses to reach full potential and break down barriers.

Representing China, Japan, Korea, Singapore and Sri Lanka countries in Asia, and also Australia, each of the women bring an innovative mindset, while some bring deep technological experience, which has led to breakthrough solutions in areas such as biopharma, developing sharing economies and reducing skills shortages with easy-to-use software tools.

All demonstrating “tremendous potential for ground-breaking innovations at a time when societies need them most”, according to Kath Carter, EY Global Talent Leader, the women all run high-growth businesses across a wide variety of sectors including education, architecture and engineering, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, consumer and hospitality.

The EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women program will build on the 14 business leaders’ successes by providing them with strategic support, training and access to the EY entrepreneurial ecosystem across the globe.

Here, we highlight the top 12 women across Asia.

12: Yukiko Ito, CEO, Zest

Who: Yukiko Ito
Position: Founder, Representative Director, CEO
Company: Zest, Inc. (Japan)
Industry: Software
Location: Japan

Yukiko Ito is the founder and CEO of Zest, a software company that automates schedule creation for busy medical care providers who make home visits to deliver patient care. Via the automated schedule creation software, Ito aims to optimise the medical care providers’ time for home visits, reducing the human resource shortage she sees in the health care sector.

Beginning her career as a programmer, Ito was the first Japanese female programmer at the software firm she joined, where she focused on ‘solving problems no one else could,’ and where she wanted to be actively involved in customer experience. However, at the time, in the 1980s, women weren’t allowed to speak with customers directly. Subsequently, she decided to set up Zest in 1988.

Ito landed the Grand Prize & Aflac Award in the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) & Health 2.0 Japan 2019 pitch competition. While the company has secured a number of awards: Healthcare Venture Knot 2019, and The Japan Startup Support Association (JSSA) Tokyo Award.



11: Mo Lv, founder, CEO, YANGZI

Who: Mo Lv
Position: Founder, CEO
Company: YANGZI
Industry: Ecommerce
Location: China

Mo Lv is the founder and CEO of YANGZI, a home furnishing brand that provides affordable products with good-looking design and consistent quality, focusing on the youth’s way of life.

The brand has shown significant growth since its founding in 2018, with 2,800 pieces of its first-ever product sold within 14 days of launch.

Inspired by her parents who were in the furniture industry for 25 years, Lv recognised the lack of aesthetically beautiful high-quality homeware products at an affordable price and so set out to create a brand to create just that. And so while working for furnishing firm Mexarts, she founded the YANGZI brand, which is now a subsidiary of Mexarts.

With a bachelor's degree in International Business Management from the University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC) and a master's in Advanced Business Management and Design Management from the University of Bath, UK, Lv previously worked as an IKEA management trainee in Birmingham and then in various roles with Mexarts.

10: Yoko Nagai, CTO, Varinos

Who: Yoko Nagai
Position: Co-founder and CTO
Company: Varinos, Inc.
Industry: Biotech
Location: Japan

Yoko Nagai is the co-founder and chief technology officer of Varinos Inc., a biotechnology company that rapidly develops and commercialises clinical tests based on genomic analysis technology to solve issues revolving around infertility and declining birthrate.

The company’s unique strategy of using the endometrial microbiome test dramatically increased the success rate of pregnancy. Yoko considers pregnancy and childcare to be a top priority and has devoted her knowledge and experience in the field of advanced reproductive health.

After landing her PhD in developmental genetics from Tokyo University, Nagai entered into bioinformatics programming, building a database of disease-related genes with the aim of applying scientific knowledge to medicine.

She started working at Illumina as a sequencing specialist in order to contribute to the launch of genomic medicine business in Japan, where she subsequently discovered innovative services had been launched worldwide. And that’s when, in 2017, she and a colleague launched Varinos, to facilitate genomic testing from Japan.

She was named one of the 10 Young and Inspiring Businesswomen to Watch in 2020 by CIO Look.

09: Rieko Muramoto, Representative Director, Peace Tec Lab

Who: Rieko Muramoto
Position: Representative Director
Company: Peace Tec Lab, Inc.
Industry: Consumer
Location: Japan

Rieko Muramoto is the Representative Director of Peace Tec Lab, Inc., a company that promotes the practice of lending and borrowing, offering both C2C and B2B rental services for home appliances and travel goods through online platform Alice Style. The aim is to expand the product range to cater to the needs of families.

In setting up the online sharing platform in 2016, Muramoto’s aim was to provide a service that enriched the consumer experience.

A graduate of the University of Tokyo, Muramoto previously worked as a professor at Senshu University, at Jiji Press and at Avex, where she launched a mobile video distribution business and grew it into a business of JPY30b. She was named the Woman of the Year 2021 by Nikkei WOMAN.

Peace Tec Lab secured the Judge's Award at the Venture Company Championship 2020 final and the Impact Award of the 1st Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Venture Awards (2020).

08: Haruna Morikawa, CEO, ON GRIT ENGINEERING

Who: Haruna Morikawa
Position: CEO
Industry: Engineering
Location: Japan

Haruna Morikawa is the CEO of ON GRIT ENGINEERING, Inc., a company that leverages AI, robots and vibration sensors to provide diagnostic results for infrastructures (like bridges and concrete structures). The firm conduct surveys, inspections and tests of infrastructure projects and creates a simplified system that enables non-engineers to do computer-aided design (CAD).

Leveraging technology, ON GRIT ENGINEERING’s system helps rectify human error and the industry’s labour-shortage issues, improving the efficiency of civil engineers and alleviating their workload.

A homemaker prior to starting her business, Morikawa learned of the human resource shortage in the engineering industry from her engineer husband and this inspired her startup. And so in 2018, she created a system using AI and robots that enabled an inexperienced individual to do CAD.

The company has secured a number of accolades, including Yunus & You (YY) Social Business Design Contest 2018, challenge IoT award 2018, 4th Japan Entrepreneur Award, Fukuoka City Step-up Grant Program.

07: Ayako Ishikawa, Founder, CEO, MeetsMore

Who: Ayako Ishikawa
Position: Founder, CEO
Company: MeetsMore, Inc.
Industry: Tech
Location: Japan

Ayako Ishikawa is the founder and CEO of MeetsMore, an automated service platform that matches local service professionals (such as photographers, house remodelers, accountants and cleaners) with the right customers and sends customized estimate quotations.

Prior to setting up MeetsMore in 2017, and following graduation, Ishikawa worked as a business intelligence analyst at Zazzle and then as a consultant at Bain & Company, where she acquired deep domain knowledge in a variety of fields, most importantly, with a regional bank in Japan.

It was during this time she discovered that banks’ customers, mostly SMBs, were struggling to operate their businesses and grow their customer bases. It was this realisation, that small businesses often lack sophisticated processes for sourcing customers and closing deals, that led her to launching a platform designed to aid the growth of SMBs.

She has a Bachelor of Laws from The University of Tokyo and an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania under her belt, and has also been awarded the Joseph Wharton Fellowship.

06: Shiromal Cooray, Chairman and MD, Jetwing Travels and Jetwing Hotels

Who: Shiromal Cooray
Position: Chairman, MD
Company: Jetwing Travels (Pvt.) Ltd. and Jetwing Hotels (Pvt) Ltd.
Industry: Travel
Location: Sri Lanka

A leading brand that offers authentic Sri Lankan hospitality, taking care of every tourists’ needs, while enriching the lives of local communities.

Shiromal Cooray is the chairman and managing director of Jetwing Travels (Pvt.) Ltd., one of the leading inbound/outbound travel management companies in Sri Lanka. She is also the chairman of Jetwing Hotels (Pvt) Ltd., a premier hospitality brand that owns and manages 30 hotels and 10 villas in Sri Lanka.

Inspired by her entrepreneur father, Cooray joined the family business to help the world experience the best of Sri Lanka’s authentic hospitality, while enriching the lives of local communities.

While Cooray was heir to the legacy of her father Herbert Cooray, the founder and late chairman of Jetwing, she instead chose to start her career life as an accountant with JWT and she quickly became finance director, before move to a similar role with JWT Hong Kong. She returned to Sri Lanka after some time taking over the reins of the Jetwing family business and with her brother steered the company to the success it enjoys today.

With an MBA from the University of Colombo and as an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (UK), Cooray is also the newly elected Chairperson of the Sri Lanka Institute of Directors (SLID), a director of Capital Alliance and Ceylon Tea Brokers, and an independent non-executive director at Commercial Bank and Allianz Insurance.

Jetwing Hotels has been honoured with Gold and Silver Trophy of Commendation in the Hotel category at The Presidential Environment Awards 2019 and the Hotel Investment Conference Asia Pacific (HICAP) Award for sustainable operations (2016).

05: Hae-Yeon Yi, CEO, HLSCIENCE

Who: Hae-Yeon Yi
Position: CEO
Industry: Biohealth
Location: Korea

Hae-Yeon Yi is CEO of HLSCIENCE, an R&D-intensive company that focuses on new materials and new technology in the bio health industry, and focuses on products from pharmaceutical cosmetics, and inner beauty products, to health functional foods and sanitary aids. The company, which was established by Yi in 2000, offers some 40 specialised branded products in both B2C and B2B.

A graduate of Chung-Ang University, Yi is also the VC of the Korea Health Functional Food Association and the Korea Women Inventors Association. She has been honoured by the government and civil sector including Korea’s Decoration Order by the Korean Government.

04: Gim Choo Ng, Group MD, EtonHouse International Education Group

Who: Gim Choo Ng
Position: Founder, Group Managing Director
Company: EtonHouse International Education Group
Industry: Education
Location: Singapore

Gim Choo Ng is the founder and group MD of EtonHouse International Education Group, an education group that runs preschools and international K-12 schools, offering high-quality education. Set up in 1995, it now has a footprint in 12 countries.

It was Ng’s experience living in the UK and seeing how her children were engaged and stimulated at school that motivated her to start a similar enriching educational environment focused on the child's interests and competencies.

Prior to this, Ng worked as an audit manager at EY and as a partner in an audit firm. Her achievements include securing the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year award back in 2019 in the Education category, the Honorary Citizen of Suzhou award (2011) for her contributions to the local community. And in 2009, she became the first Singaporean woman to receive the Freedom of the City of London, one of the oldest awards in the UK, for her contribution to international education.

EtonHouse has been awarded in numerous ways including achieving Singapore Quality Class (SQC) accreditation (2020).

03: Karen Jiang, Co-CEO,

Who: Karen Jiang
Position: Co-founder and Co-CEO
Industry: Healthcare
Location: China

Karen Jiang is the co-founder and co-CEO of, a company that provides enterprises with professional and flexible one-stop incentive and digital benefits management solutions in China, from healthcare benefits to employee incentive benefits. The company now has branches across 19 cities in China.

Karen launched in 2016. Under Karen’s leadership, has grown significantly, serving more than 40,000 companies and their employees across the country.

Jiang, who holds an MBA from China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) previously worked at Focus Media and Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEX).

The company has secured a number of achievements, including being listed in 2020 Ernst & Young Fudan China Most Potential Enterprise Award, HRTechChina Influencers of 2020 Award.


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