Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Finding Opportunities in Singapore

I spent a great weekend in Singapore last week. I was speaking at the Global Brand Forum with Al Gore, who is certainly making a splash around the world on his sustainability tour. He certainly carries gravitas as a former US Vice President, and his message content is conceptually spot on. I thought the delivery was somewhat over-rehearsed and overly packaged. He’s not too comfortable with provocative Q&A either, and no photos allowed! I had a blast though, and one of the results was great media coverage from the BBC, CNBC and local newspapers/magazines.

Singaporeans are hot for learning and are searching for answers on how to make brands, Asian brands in particular, more successful. The key, of course, is learning to let go. This is not totally compatible with life in Singapore, where brands are managed and marketed by command and control, with emotional connectivity and risk frowned upon. A little more play, a touch of randomness, and some fun needs to be injected into most brands and companies. The locals seem to live to shop and eat, and there’s plenty of mystery, sensuality and intimacy as far as cuisine is concerned. There’s a terrific fusion of Indian/Asian, Western and Arabic going on at every level and the shellfish and seafood are amongst the best in the world. Local Tiger Beer can't be beaten either and is not to be missed. But none of this passion morphs into their Management Philosophy.

While I was in the city, I had breakfast with a bunch of Kiwis who are thriving there. It struck me that Singapore is the perfect headquarters for New Zealand business. It’s got great infrastructure, terrific history, and a size and scale that makes it possible for New Zealand companies and businesses to compete in and win. So while everyone is focusing on China and its market size, smaller Kiwi entrepreneurs and businesses should look to start in Singapore and work outwards. The scale alone makes it a much lower risk/good reward proposition.

I stayed in the Valley Wing at the Shangri-La, which is old school decadent with a new school casual restaurant called The Line. It has echoes of Philippe Starck design and a cool 24th floor bar and French restaurant called BLU. Not dissimilar to Felix in The Peninsula, Hong Kong, and a great place for a night out.

Of course, Singapore boasts the Lovemark airline, Singapore Airlines, and the Lovemark airport, Changi. Now that’s an experience that reminds you of what air travel used to be before it turned into a European/US cattle movement. All in all, a great place to stop over en route to/from New Zealand or Australia.