Sunday, June 17, 2012

Singapore Isn't About Growth Or Slowing Down. We've Not Looked At The Other Side Of The Issue

I was reading the Sunday Times today of the musing between growth and slowing down.  While the points thrown out were valid yet debatable, I'm more concerned at the lack of parallel thinking.

* Am not sure if the term "parallel thinking" is totally apt, but lets move on.

Singapore has a dire lack of local companies that has grown to MNC level.  MNC level that brings back good foreign currency, provide a base to groom local people/talents to be culturally adaptive and geographically mobile, and last but not least, boost the Singapore name.

Why is the Singapore name so important?  A local lady was house hunting in Boston very recently and 1 of the local agent asked if Singapore is part of....wait for it....Bulgaria.  At this age of year 2012, Singapore isn't a sovereign country still?

Pick up your jaw/glasses, or whatever you'd just dropped now, my friend.

We've been a hotbed for foreign MNCs to invest for the last, say, 40 years?  Haven't we learnt enough from them (through the levels of management) in terms of "world-view"?  What have we got now?

Breadtalk in Hong Kong, Malaysia etc.
Crystal Jade, ditto above.
SIA flies almost everywhere.
Hyflux.  This is a good one.
Capitaland.  Ok.
And some others.

Maybe I didn't read enough to know more of our local enterprises that has made good in foreign soil, but that's all?  That's all we managed to create so far?  Why aren't we hungry enough?

In my experience travelling overseas, when the foreigners talk about Singapore, they talked about Lee Kuan Yew and Lee Hsien Loong.  They don't talk about our business (IBM!  Shell!  Coke!  Nokia!  Ogilvy & Mather!) or soft culture (Disney!  Journey To The West!  J-Pop!  K-Pop!  Lady Gaga!), they talk about our government?

So what we've exported successfully so far, for name, is the fame of our government.  And we're not reaping royalties from it.  In some sense, this is a losing business for Singapore.

When I talked to my investor about running our impending business, we agreed to keep everything small and boutique.  We agreed to be happy earning $20K a month, each.  We agreed if we set up another business, we're happy expecting $10K of profits each a month for that one.

After I go back home, lay on my bed, I started to think this is bad for Singapore.

I've friends in business too, they're also happy earning some ten-thousands a month and go travelling in style when they're free.

And when I see our local young people trying to start-up, most have no vision to the far horizon.  They're more concerned to get angel money to pay themselves salaries, or hiring consultants to round up their initial idea instead.

This worries me.

Why aren't our stable-country citizens hungry enough to build a local brand big enough?
Why are we just happy to earn good enough money without the vision to make it a big name?

Now these cannot, and will never be stimulated by government funding to make it happen.  It's not about the money, it's about our attitude towards business-doing and/or money-making.

In the long run, without a mixed basket of big local businesses for our national coffer, are we missing out the good money that's flowing out there?

Please don't start on GIC or Temasek Holdings.  This isn't on sovereign funds.

While US is in the doldrums at this very moment, there're still lots of rich businessmen keen to go over to start a business.  Scientists too.  Musicians too.  Alot of people who have what it takes to make a difference mostly think of US.

What US needs to overhaul is their government policies, it will not sink if it wills to.

But Singapore?

We're not hungry to make a difference, the rich coming here to be citizens treat our soil as a playground, a resort.  This is worrying.

Yes, we have limited space and talent here, so this is exactly the reason why we should go forth and multiply (in money + name) overseas.  Just so our folks have the exposure, we spread our eggs out in case the foreign investors decide to make money elsewhere.

** Though in reality, I know it's not really possible (for the BFSI especially) as long as we're politically stable.

To make all these happen, do we need to re-invent the wheel?  No.
Do we need to make a walking umbrella?  No.

Then why ain't anyone starting anything and work on it to make it big?

And I think, 1 of the more worrying bit is, our local thinkers (journalists?) doesn't seem to have inclination to think in this direction because (I think) all of them have been airing their view on slowing or accelerating growth.

*** Why I say "I think" because I mostly read overseas news (Bloomberg + Yahoo!) + I hardly flip Straits Times, so I may have left out some who think the same line as I do.

If these thinkers have no feel for growth in this direction, isn't it worse for the rest of us about?

I think, on the side of a country's survival, this is very dangerous for our future growth and sustainability.  I'm guilty as-charged as we said, I'm not greedy and/or ambitious enough for our country's future good too.  I'm not keen to take my business to the SGD$500-million level + 50 offices worldwide.

And please don't compare ourselves with HK, they're China.

P/S:  Most of the MNC big brands took 100 years to be where they are now, with some exceptions (e.g Apple).  Lets hope in another 50-80 years later, we've our big homegrown MNC brands.


Anonymous said...

Actually HDB could have been a global brand. Not many countries did it on such a scale as Spore since the 1950s. Unfortunately, there was this mindset to contruct them like pigeon holes at inflated prices and turtle-pace improvements. Reflecting back, what else to expect with people like TehCW, MahBT at the helm. HDB can only become too crummy, too expensive for the Europeans, Japs and Koreans.

For the time being SIA is the only global brand but for some reason they lack the ambition to emulate FEDEX or UPS in the cargo business, which surprisingly made more money. Instead of looking upon Tony Fernandez as small time when he first started out, SIA chaps should have gone ahead with a low cost carrier and try to make it into a global brand. SCOOTS is likely to become a poor attempt and it is becoming more evident Tony's secret to success is picking the right people and having commonsense for alliances.

PS: Even a low cost watch like CASIO is a global brand.

Fresh Fry aka 福星 said...

govt agencies cannot be global brand e.g HDB.

diversifying an airline business into a new business = wrong = too much risk. and no logistics company in the world would go into airline business and vice versa without a good understanding. loading humans + goods are totally different

and Casio isn't cheap, cheap watches = SGD$20-$50 a piece

i'm sorry to say your matrix is wrong.

Anonymous said...

HDB could have been privatised, no?

Loading humans and goods are totally different, but the medium of transport is still the airplane. Big planes have up to 5 cargo holds, other than pax bags, they load a lot of other stuff and charge for it. Are you aware of SIA Cargo? It is operated differently from Singapore Airlines.

Do you own a Casio watch or clock ? You can get one for $30 to $50 and by the way, anything under a $100 is not 'low cost' than you and I are living on different planets. LOL
I am talking about Casio being a low cost watch in Europe, USA, Japan, Australia, Hong Kong, SinCity, etc and not whether it is considered cheap in Nepal, Cambodia, Laos, Congo, Peru, Tibet, etc.

Anonymous said...

Brotherhood is ten thousand times bigger than banyan tree and bread talk put together, these ppl r big like general foods, but for some strange reason they don't want to be associated with sg, there r the ones that most r looking at. The rest don't even come any where close, not even near.