Essilor: a global digital transformation
Essilor, the world’s leading manufacturer and distributor of ophthalmic lenses, has a history stretching back some 170 years.
The group was born in 1972 from a merger of two illustrious and inventive French companies – Essel and Silor, both of which were operating independently for many decades. Since the merger, Essilor has grown steadily through innovations and partnerships. It has developed many innovative ideas and is recognised for progressive lenses, photochromic lenses, antireflective coatings, and many other categories in the industry. Today, more than one billion people wear Essilor lenses globally.
One of the fastest growing regions for Essilor is AMERA (Asia-Pacific, Middle East, Russia and Africa) where the population is very large and economies growing fast. In this region there are many unmet visual needs for the consumers, and Essilor is uniquely positioned to offer products and services to meet those needs. To deliver these products and services faster and in a cost effective way to the vast population of this region, Essilor is undergoing a digital transformation of its business processes under the guidance of its AMERA Chief Information Officer, Sekhar Ray, and supported by all the business and functional teams.
The scope of the venture is vast, and as such, naturally challenging, with a mixture of developed and emerging markets. The challenge is in ensuring that the solutions have the right balance for scalability and cost. “One solution doesn’t fit for all, but if every entity has a different solution, then cost could be very high” Ray states. “In some countries, orders are hand-delivered by someone on a moped bringing it to one of the labs, while in Japan we get very high percentage of our orders electronically. Essilor is deploying solutions that are fit for a small entity in Africa, but can also be scaled up for a large entity in Australia. The company is focused on reusability.”
Ray previously led a similar initiative as the CIO of Essilor America. During his five years there, Essilor underwent a transformation program to simplify and modernise its analytics, manufacturing, back-office, and customer ordering systems.
He is in the third year of a multi-year road map, and plans to apply some of the same synergies to his new territories, bringing them up-to-date and strengthening the company’s position as the global leader.
Business Chief Legend: Ho Ching, CEO of Temasek
Ask Singaporeans who Ho Ching is, and the majority will answer the ‘wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’. And that’s certainly true. However, she’s also the CEO of Temasek Holdings, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, and one of the world’s largest investment companies.
Well, she is until October 1, 2021, as she recently announced she would be retiring following 16 years as CEO of the investment giant.
Since taking the reins in 2004, two years after joining Temasek as Executive Director, Ho has gradually transformed what was an investment firm wholly owned by Singapore’s Government into an active investor worldwide, splashing out on sectors like life sciences and tech, expanding its physical footprint with 11 offices worldwide (from London to Mumbai to San Francisco) and delivering growth of US$120 billion between 2010-2020.
Described by Temasek chairman Lim Boon Heng as having taken “bold steps to open new pathways in finding the character of the organisations”, Ho is credited with building Temasek’s international portfolio, with China recently surpassing Singapore for the first time.
As global a footprint as Ho may have however, she has her feet firmly planted on Singapore soil and is committed to this tiny city-state where she was not only educated (excluding a year at Stanford) but has remained throughout her long and illustrious career – first as an engineer at the Ministry of Defence in 1976, where she met her husband, and most notably as CEO of Singapore Technologies, where she spent a decade, and where she is credited with repositioning and growing the group into the largest listed defence engineering company in Asia.
It’s little wonder Ho has featured on Forbes’ annual World’s Most Powerful Women list for the past 16 years, in 2007 as the third most powerful woman in business outside the US, and in 2020 at #30 worldwide.
But it’s not all business. Ho has a strong track record in Singapore public service, serving as chairman of the Singapore Institute of Standards and Industrial Research and as deputy chairman of the Economic Development Board; and is a committed philanthropist with a focus on learning difficulties and healthcare.
As the pandemic kicked off, she not only led active investments in technology and life sciences, with German COVID-19 vaccine developer BioNTech among the most recent additions to Temasek’s portfolio, but through the Temasek Foundation – the firm’s philanthropic arm which supports vulnerable groups close to Ho’s heart, handed out hand sanitiser and face masks.
So, you would be forgiven for thinking that at age 68, Ho might simply relax. But in March 2021, just as she announced her retirement from Temasek, Ho joined the Board of Directors of Wellcome Leap, a US-based non-profit organisation that’s dedicated to accelerating innovations in global health. Not ready to put her firmly grounded feet up yet it seems.