Creating a Global Brand – Opportunities in Emerging Markets
Summary of Speech
How we started
I had been disenchanted with the west, the potholes and sluggishness. I came back and Asia right in the middle of the Asian economic crisis in 97. Hong Kong was being handed over to China. Things were looking bad. What we did, was recognise crisis as an opportunity and turned that into an advantage. The trick is to keep thinking out of the box. We married 2 diff levels of the industry and merged it into one. We recognised the Asian work ethic and built upon that.
I am not here to give you a Magic Bullet for success. Success is individually tailored. A suit made for me would look bad on someone else. We are all made similar but none of us are like. Success in broad strokes can be seen or assimilated, but can never be cloned. Apply a way of thinking, a mindset.
When someone tells u that it cannot be done, it merely means no one has done it yet. And that it probably needs to be done.
Building a Global Brand
We see ourselves as an International Company. HK as a country has an international brand appeal and people in HK are global in their thinking. So, HK being what it was, we didn’t see ourselves as Asian but as global. This was our strength.
Our branding has always been global. Internet was our modality so there were no barriers – currency, language, economic, legal, no borders. Branding for us became our service.
Whether or not legal trade agreements ever come into place, whether or not ASEAN works or doesn’t, whether a body like the European Union is ever formed in Asia, we are already there, in a sense. It does not need any government impetus to bring Indians to Malaysia or Malaysians to India, or Singaporeans to China and Chinese to Singapore. If the restrictions were taken off, the flow would be that much faster. The only issues preventing Asia from working together arise from political and social economic differences, which have created artificial barriers. If not, I believe, we would very subtly, silently, but surely, merge to one. And that strength is generally what one does not see from the outside.
We are the most popular continent of the planet and we have 2/3rds of the planet living here. And that is our strength which we should turn to our greatest advantage. The skills we need are simple – Adapt, Adjust, Accommodate. Having an MBA will help you work in US or EU but has its limitations here. Business giants in our end of the world like Robert Qwek here and Vincent Tan in Malaysia to name a few, utilise the strengths that they found here in Asia as opposed to imbibing western cultures and applying it. We become westernised and forget the strength that we have.
A great example is someone I consider to be an icon for my own company – Mahatma Gandhi. He lived and died a simple life. When he passed away he held no official position. No president, PM, no party affiliation, nothing. He was not a wealthy man by any standards. But when he died, millions of people came by foot, by bullock cart , anything they could find, to attend the largest and the greatest funeral of its time. And they did it simply due to reverence and adulation for a man they venerated.
Back in his time, radios were rare, papers were rarer. So how did he communicate his ideas to 300 million people and then halfway across the world to people like Tolstoy and Einstein and Emerson and so on?
The power of the written word still remains the single most powerful force on the planet and Gandhi used it well. He networked. He did what Asians do best. He talked a lot and his thoughts and ideas and concepts travelled all across the planet. He remains India’s greatest export ever. Net result- People like Martin Luther King say that we ignore Gandhi at our own peril. Other examples – Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi to name a few. So, talking is our greatest asset. The next would be service.
The world is today service oriented and the service industry is going to shape the face of the planet. The Asian ethos is best suited for it because of its disciplined work ethic. ‘Service’ is most fundamentally an Eastern or Asian concept than it ever has been Western. The concept of ‘service’ is something that is ingrained in our culture and traditions. It is the heritage of the Asian continent.
The reason that Asia is best suited for the service industry is because we are a people oriented culture. Asian culture and ethos is more people-driven than comparative cultures in the West, which tend to be more individualistic. Team work, communal efforts, working with others, and deriving benefit from it, is intrinsic to the Asian culture.
The changes in the service industries, from call centres to outsourcing, which today has created the multimillion dollar BPO industry, with decentralisation as the key word, Asia will evolve into a service hub and that will be the new theme of the new millennium.
As far as I am concerned, CSR is just another new jargon that our PR and Management crowd came up with. CSR should not be used as a cosmetic camouflage to show that we are responsible corporate citizens.
It should be the inherent purpose of our being. As a businessman, I definitely agree that profit should be our driving force. But our primary purpose should be above and beyond profit. To build a better place, a better environment, a better future for our children.
This may sound corny to most of you, and maybe very Gandhian and archaic in today’s world of chasing a fast buck. But RYTHM or Raise Yourself to Help Mankind is the primary purpose I chose to build this company with my partners.
By building this company, I would have a vehicle to help build a better world. So, RYTHM Foundation is not just a cosmetic tool to make us look better. It is to us an ultimate part of why we are in business at all. And eventually we hope RYTHM Foundation will supersede and become our flagship.