February-March 2017

India's housing shortage is massive. 43 million units are needed in rural areas alone — a number that is expected to double by 2022.

Participants on the 2017 India Global Leaders Programme — GIFT's 50th since the GLP started in 2008 — travelled to Tamil Nadu to conduct a programme in affordable housing finance, helping to provide financing for rural Indians trying to build and improve their homes. Working with Swarna Pragati Housing Microfinance, a pioneer in the use of social collateral in housing loans, global executives developed recommendations that strengthen and expand housing finance across India.

Read More



November-December 2016

Cambodia’s agricultural industry faces a number of pressing challenges. The rice sector is no exception.

Cambodia’s rice has gained international recognition in recent years, but the sector still needs to overcome several problems to realise its full potential and ensure its long-term growth. With challenges come tremendous opportunities: there is a pressing need for a scalable approach to sustainable agriculture that strengthens the rice sector and improves the livelihoods of farmers. 

Participants on GIFT's Global Leaders Programme proposed strategic recommendations on how to strengthen Cambodia's rice value chain through a the developing of a "farmer-centric" contract farming business.

Read More



September 2016

Following the success of its inaugural Young Leaders Programme in Hong Kong in 2015, GIFT ran the second edition of the programme in collaboration with the Hong Kong Countryside Foundation.

Twenty one young professionals and managers from business, government and civil society took part in the YLP, GIFT’s professional platform for tri-partite engagement and collaboration around some of Hong Kong’s most topical issues, i.e. land use, culture and heritage, and connections between urban and rural Hong Kong.

Read More



July 2016

With the world's population expected to exceed 9.1 billion by 2050, massive strain will be put on the global food supply chain. Feeding a growing global population will require a multi-faceted approach which takes into account ecological and natural resource limits, safety and quality of produce, social challenges and rural livelihoods.

GIFT’s 47th Global Leaders Programme (GLP) included a field project in Changchun, Jilin Province, China. Twenty business executives from nine different countries took part in GIFT’s flagship two-week programme to apply their leadership skills towards a project focused on community based Natural Farming, a socially and ecologically sound alternative to large-scale industrial farming operations.

Read More



April 2016

Globally, close to 2.4 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation facilities and close to 80% of diseases in developing countries are caused by unsafe water sources. The provision of clean water and adequate sanitation is a key factor in the reduction of sickness and poverty. The UN estimates that inadequate sanitation costs the world close to US$260 billion in economic losses and that every US$1 spent on sanitation brings a US$5.5 return by keeping people healthy and productive.

GIFT partnered with HappyTap company, a Vietnamese social enterprise spun off from WaterSHED NGO and committed to providing market-based solutions to widespread challenges associated to poor water and sanitation. The company’s flagship product – the Labobo – is a dedicated handwashing station that is affordable, portable and easy to use. Participants were tasked to provide HappyTap with strategic recommendations to support the large-scale sale and distribution of the handwashing device in Vietnam and the region.

Read More


January 2016

One major gap in India’s healthcare sector, in spite of its rapid growth, is the lack of a centralised emergency response system: there is no national emergency number, nor a national dispatch system. High traffic, poor-quality roads, stressed public hospitals and a lack of community awareness all contribute to slow response rates and delayed stabilisation and treatment. Emergency response can be poor even in places with relatively developed and high-quality healthcare sectors, such as the Indian state of Kerala.

GIFT partnered with MUrgency Global Services, Inc., a mobile platform that connects patients in emergency situations with nearby medical professionals. The goal of this programme was to help MUrgency launch its operations in Kerala and eventually nationwide. MUrgency’s founders include Shaffi Mather and Sweta Mangal, the co-founders of Ziqitza Health Care Limited, the developing world’s largest for-profit emergency ambulance company whose fleet of 1300+ ambulances has facilitated over four million emergency transportations.

Read More


October 2015

Myanmar is one of the most exciting development stories in Southeast Asia. With its re-opening to the regional and global economy, there are vast opportunities for new and innovative business models to cater to this population. But Myanmar's re-opening comes with risks: open and liberalise too fast, and the economy may become too unstable.

GIFT has conducted two programmes in Myanmar in two very different sectors: dairy farming and agriculture, and its budding financial sector. 

Read More



October 2015

Economic sanctions haveseverely impacted Iran’seconomy including its agricultural sector in terms of infrastructure, technology and access to markets. The most vulnerable in Iranian societyhave been the hardest hit and Iran’s smallholder farmers are no exception.

GIFT’s first Global Leaders programme in the Middle East included a field project in Iran which saw global executives from a dozen countries apply their leadership skills in an experiential context and produce a business plan to help agricultural communities take advantage of international expertise and the opportunities presented by theimminent lifting of sanctions.

At the invitation of local government including the Esfahan Mayor’s office and Chamber of Commerce, participants on the GLP travelled to Esfahan city and the nearby Semirom region which is famed for its apples, widely considered to be the best tasting in the Middle East. Working in close collaboration with the Semirom Farmers Union and the Esfahan Union of Agricultural Producers and Exporters the group proposed recommendations for improving the lot of the farmers and the creation of a new company which would create social as well as financial returns and improve livelihoods among Semirom’s apple farming communities.

Read More


August 2015

The Hong Kong Young Leaders Programme (YLP), the first of its kind, is an initiative supported by the HKSAR Government’s Efficiency Unit and the Hong Kong Jockey Club. The YLP provided 22 young local professionals from the government, forward-thinking companies and civil society an opportunity to put their leadership skills to the test and play a pioneering role in the creation of vibrant communities in the city through sustainable sports hubs.

The programme has been designed as a platform to inspire a new precedent of constructive dialogue and ideas, and to promote cooperation and collaboration across sectors. During the programme the participants met with various stakeholders including government departments, district offices, sports clubs and associations, potential operators and others. The business model proposal was presented at a public forum to a cohort of more than 200 audience at the end of the programme.

Read More


Hong Kong and Sri Lanka | 16 - 27 March, 2015

2015 - LOLC - Sri Lanka (28).JPG

In March 2015, GIFT travelled to its first programme in the South Asian country of Sri Lanka to work on a project in an exciting field: microinsurance.Working with the LOLC Group, one of Sri Lanka’s leading conglomerates, and their fledgling micro-credit department, GLP participants developed a business plan to support the expansion of their micro-insurance business, and better serve Sri Lanka’s poorer populations by providing affordable coverage.


LOLC Insurance is a wing of the Lanka Orix Leasing Company, a leading Sri Lankan conglomerate. Established in 2011 to serve the needs of LOLC, it has since expanded its services to provide general and life insurance to the general public.

Having attended many a leadership program, I can say the GLP’s unique format in content, setting and delivery made a lasting impact.


Jagdish Khanna | Senior Vice President, Commercial Banking  | HSBC (India)

The Global Leadership Programme offers a unique combination of 'learning by doing', high quality speakers, an unconventional setting and an intense collaboration with participants from many different backgrounds and beliefs.

Carola van Lamoen | Head of Governance and Active Ownership | Robeco (Indonesia)

What makes the GLP most noteworthy is that participants are encouraged to think deeply about the issues because the ultimate goal is not just raising awareness but producing a profitable and socially impactful business plan for the local partner company.

Shintaro Yamaji | Vice President, Global Business Department and Investment  | ORIX (Japan)



Located off India's southern tip, the tropical island of Sri Lanka has attracted visitors for centuries. The island boasts eight UNESCO World Heritage sites, fifteen national parks, and 250 acres of botanical gardens, and a culture that goes back to over 2,500 years. From the 4th Century BCE to the 11th Century AD, the Buddhist capital of Anuradhapura was one of the most stable and cosmopolitan cities in South Asia. Known as Ceylon during the colonial period (as part of the Portuguese, Dutch, and then British empires), the island gained independence in 1948.

Although predominantly Buddhist, Sri Lanka is also home to a number of other faiths - including Hindu Tamils, Muslims and Christians. Tea, rubber, cashew and spices are the mainstay of the economy, which has bounced back and is growing at 7.9% annually on average. Healthy exports of textiles and tea, a burgeoning tourism industry and heavy investments in infrastructure are fuelling strong economic growth. 

Sri Lanka's nominal GDP per capita stands at US$3,889 (equivalent to countries like Indonesia, Mongolia and Georgia), yet has performed well on many social indicators, such as a life expectancy of 74 and literacy rates of 98%. It is the only South Asia countries to rank "High" on the Human Development Index. Sri Lanka provides basic healthcare and primary, secondary and tertiary level education to its population for free.

Despite its successes, Sri Lanka still has approximately 10-13 million people that live at the "bottom of the pyramid." This group has yet to benefit from the island's economic development and its social safety nets, and are at risk when illness or natural disaster strikes. 


Zoher Abdoolcarim
Asia Editor, TIME

David Eldon
Former Chairman, HSBC Asia Pacific
Non-Executive Chairman, HSBC Bank Middle East Ltd

Graham Barkus
Partner & Head of Leadership Advisory, Hofer Tan & Partners


According to the IFC and the World Resources Institute, low-income consumers in developing countries have a global purchasing power of about US$5 trillion. An estimated one billion people currently cannot afford any health services. 

Micro-insurance is the “protection of low-income people against specific perils in exchange for regular premium payments proportionate to the livelihood and cost of the risk involved.” Micro-insurance is usually understood to be insurance coverage whose premiums do not exceed US$2.5 per month, and whose products are designed to meet the needs of the poorest members of society. 

It is estimated that the global market for micro-insurance covers 2.5 billion people and will net US$40 billion in potential premiums each year—a figure equivalent to the insurance market for insuring "emblems of wealth".

Low-income households prioritize protection against poor health and crop failure over other potential scenarios. However—like many products designed for the "base of the pyramid"—these products can be more difficult to design, market and administer. The trade-off is between complexity and benefits: a simpler product may better suit what poor consumers can afford, but may offer limited benefits. 

The loss ratio—the ratio between total losses incurred in claims and the total earnings from premiums—hovers around 70%. Administrative, acquisition and sales costs comes out of the remaining 30% margin. Unlike neighbouring India, which has one of the world's most dynamic micro-insurance sectors and dedicated micro-insurance regulation, Sri Lanka's micro-insurance industry is just starting. Product variety is lacking, and the regulatory framework is underdeveloped. Access to formal insurance remains limited in Sri Lanka. In 2013, only 1.2% of a total population of 21 million people was covered by insurance, of which 0.35% (or less than 100,000 people) came under formal micro-insurance schemes.


The GLP uses real-world field projects to hone the practical skills needed to manage diverse teams in unfamiliar situations. Through meetings partners, investors, community and business leaders, and through frank and open discussions, participants are invited to question their assumptions, learn to navigate conflicting and contradictory views, and to transform concepts and theories into realities on the ground. 

Participants were hosted in Digana by the LOLC branch office which offers a range of financial services such as leasing and micro credit and has strong ties with the local community. 

Participants met with owners and employees of local small and medium enterprises, all clients of LOLC Group. 

A local primary school was the hub for meetings between participants and important stakeholders, including LOMC customers, community-based organisations, leaders of the agricultural union, local government officials, and the school principal himself.


Participants created a set of recommendations focused on new products & services, distribution & partnerships, and supportive policies to support LOIC's efforts to reach more low-income groups with microinsurance solutions in Sri Lanka.

Participants suggested creating a "freemium" model for micro-insurance. Free insurance accounts with capped payments would be bundled with savings accounts, financing, and other services. Users could increase the caps on payouts by becoming paid subscribers. This bundling would make poorer consumers more comfortable with the idea of insurance. Participants developed a business plan that outlined their strategic recommendations for LOLC.

Below are a few slides from the full business plan developed by participants.

The programme culminated in a forum where participants on the GLP presented their recommendations to an audience of LOLC senior management and other key stakeholders, including the LOLC Group Managing Director and the Director General of the Insurance Board of Sri Lanka. 

I was impressed by the depth, breadth, and practicality of this program. It allowed us to challenge ourselves and to critically address high-impact global topics. In doing so we were practicing the true essence of leadership. I strongly recommend the GLP as a once in a lifetime experience which can unlock one’s leadership potential.

Charles Kho | Senior Vice President Multinationals - Banking | HSBC (Indonesia)

The GLP  tests one’s leadership in a diverse environment and among a host of unpredictable issues. The field work was extensive and the knowledge and insights gained can be really useful in my work.


Jaya Balan Kathiravalu | Head, Business Development - SME Banking | Maybank (Malaysia)

I'm amazed with the quality and the depth of these commercial projects which are compact enough to finish in a short period of time, and yet significant enough to bring positive economic and social value to many people in need of support. Highly recommended for those who are sick and tired of conventional classroom trainings where leadership is only taught on paper.

Patrick Zhu | Country Head of Sales | HSBC (China)

For more information about the 2017 India Global Leaders Programme, or about the Global Leaders Programme in general, please write to us at