Riding the Digital Infrastructure Wave: Insights from the Tech Finance Forum Asia Pacific Summit December 2023

Recently, I took the stage as the opening keynote speaker at the inaugural Tech Finance Forum's Asia summit in Jakarta. The focal point of discussion? The pulsating heart of digital infrastructure. Little did I know how tightly woven the finance community is in this realm until I immersed myself in this event.

Delving into the financial challenges besieging telcos, I shed light on the golden opportunity for digital infrastructure players. Their chance to be the backbone of growth—whether by amplifying rural connectivity, unlocking capital, or riding the surge in internet demand. We dissected the current state of digital data center maturity across the region, spotlighting India's colossal build-out, the emergence of hubs like Johor, and the occasional challenges of overcapacity in select markets.

A Peek Into the Minds of Digital Infrastructure Trailblazers: The CEO Panel

The apex of the summit for me? A candid CEO panel featuring the luminaries of digital infrastructure, particularly the data center maestros. Here are the key nuggets I gathered from their insightful perspectives:  

  • Region-Wide Growth Dynamics: The growth landscape has evolved, spreading its wings far more evenly across the region compared to five years ago.
  • Hyperscaler Metamorphosis: The appetite of hyperscalers has undergone a seismic shift, ballooning from 5MW to significantly more.
  • Chinese Hyperscaler Resurgence: After a perceived slowdown, Chinese hyperscalers are making a comeback on a grander scale.
  • Deal Velocity Deceleration: The pace of deals has perceptibly slackened in the past 12 months.
  • Cloud Dominance: Cloud reigns supreme today; AI demand, while nascent, holds immense potential for reshaping the data center landscape.
  • AI's Future Impact: Anticipating AI demand, we brace for a need for distinct engineering capabilities and novel capital models, transforming the dynamics of data center markets.
  • Malaysian Government's Initiatives: Kudos to the Malaysian government for proactively spearheading initiatives and expediting investments. One of the fastest growing in last 12 months.
  • Singapore-Plus Strategy: A strategic approach adopted by numerous players, benefiting both Malaysia and Indonesia (BATAM).
  • Jakarta's Immediate Demand vs. Long-Term Potential: While Jakarta's immediate demand might be subdued, the long-term potential presents an expansive growth canvas.  
  • Vietnam's Stealthy Rise: An often-overlooked yet thriving market that holds great promise.
  • Energy Conundrum: Energy remains a critical challenge across developed and developing markets, with discussions primarily focusing on energy production rather than transmission hurdles.
  • Green Power Void in ASEAN: Despite progress, ASEAN green power remains elusive, posing sustainability and reliability challenges.  
  • Capital Cost Surge: The escalating cost of capital looms large, poised to significantly reshape operational strategies.

In the midst of stimulating discussions, I had the pleasure of reconnecting with industry leaders after a hiatus of over five years. Great to see you Devashish Gupta, Manish Prakash, Kok-Chye Ong, Joao Marques Lima.  A heartfelt thanks to Tech Capital for orchestrating this convergence. Here's to the anticipation of reconvening in 2024—a rendezvous with the future of digital infrastructure.