Friday, 21 September 2012

Imperialism Hangover After 55 Years of Independence??

"Until that day, our minds are still being colonized and yet to be a truly "independent""....that was my last sentence in my article titled "Malaysia's Look East Policy-30 Years Already?".

Over the past 1 month, I've been overdosed with stories, input, information, songs and you name it...everything about how lucky we are being and independent country and how those in the past had sacrificed their  heart, soul and even life fighting for this independent state.

We have just celebrated our 55th year of independence and Malaysia Day. I guess it is timely for me to write something about it as well. I'm not a historian neither am I political science practitioner, but I personally feel that, despite we are physically independent, our minds are still been colonized. Read on to appreciate what i mean...

The Imperialism Hangover

Since the time of the Malay Empire of Malacca, Tanah Melayu and now Malaysia, we have been colonized and occupied by foreigners for more than 450 years. Since the Portuguese invaded Malacca in 1511, we have been continuously occupied by foreign powers:-
Occupants Years
Years Occupied
Portugese 1511-1641
130
Dutch  1641-1824
183
English 1824-1942
131
Japan 1942-1945
3
English 1945 -1957
12
Total Number of Years been Colonized
459

So much we have achieved over the past 55 years, but 450 years of history of being occupied is not something that can be easily forgotten. Although the generations X and Y don't really have direct contact with the past, somehow the inferiority of being colonized by their ancestors and grandparents do still have some impact on their behaviour, attitude and values today.


Despite the British had left in 1957, the hangover effect of their presence were still there many years after that. The photo above was taken in 1967, on a wedding of Malayan British captain in Terendak Camp Malacca. That was 10 years after our independence.

I still remember when I was a kid and my younger years where any "Mat Salleh" was considered much more superior, more knowledgeable, more intelligent and smart people. It was not until sometime in 1982 when my dad came back from his 3 months course in London, which was also his first experience out of the country then, and shared with us his experience and what he saw in London......"Mat Salleh pakai coat kerja sapu sampah tepi jalan aje"..."tak semua Mat Salleh dalam class Abah yang pandai pun..". Although we've seen it on TV then, but the way my dad explained with his body and facial expression, I was convinced that there were "dumb" Mat Salleh too...

How long did this Imperialism Hangover last? Personally, i think it is still there even now. It may not be as bad as it was then. More Malaysians traveled and lived abroad nowadays, and they too have learned what my dad had learned about 30 years ago.

Test of Imperialism Hangover

I believe there are some would agree and some would not agree with me that despite we are no longer physically been colonized, the fact remains that our minds are still being colonized...which means we still in the state of Imperialism Hangover...

In my previous article I mentioned "I truly believe Malaysia has huge potential to be the next super power". I received some personal messages commenting this statement is far fetch and close to impossible. Of course there were also messages that supported this statement. To me, it is merely a test whether or not we are still in the hangover state of minds or colonized minds or not. Until we all  or most of us believe we can, we have yet to attain a true independent state or an independent nation.

Vision 2020 and Colonization of the Minds

This brought me to check out Malaysia's divine vision of Vision 2020. Going through the challenges outlined by Tun Mahathir's in 1991, I find it interesting that among the challenges do relate to the elimination of this Imperialism Hangover....although not explicitly mentioned.

He laid out nine (9) challenges, but here I just wanna discuss four (4) of those challenges only, namely:-
    1. Create a psychologically liberated, secure and developed Malaysian society with faith and confidence in itself, justifiably proud of what it is, of what it has accomplished, robust enough to face all manner of adversity.
    2. Establish a scientific and progressive society, a society that is innovative and forward-looking one that is not only the consumer of technology, but also a contributor to the scientific and technological civilisation of the future.
    3. Establish a united Malaysian nation with a sense of common and shared destiny
    4. Establish a mature, liberal and tolerant society in which Malaysians of all colours and creeds are free to practise and profess their customs, cultures and religious beliefs, and yet feel that they feel that they belong to one nation.
      Create a Psychologically Liberated, Secure and Developed Malaysian Society

      The keywords here are "confidence in itself" and "justifiably proud of what it is". I totally agree with this. In order to achieve certain destination, one must have full confidence in driving or be part of it...perhaps my philosophy speaks by itself.

      Do a quick survey on whether anyone in Malaysia believe we can and will be next super power...I bet we will get more excuses of why it is still far fetch than positively believe coming up with plans to achieve it. Among the excuses I got:-

      (i)  We are too small to be super power - my take: the Dutch which today has less than 20 million population, the Portuguese which is slightly more than 10 million population were not that big either 300-400 years ago.

      (ii)   The westerners are just too advanced to catch up - my take: read our history again. About 1000 years ago, the westerners were in the dark ages. Most of them can't even read, barbaric like the Vikings and generally didn't even take daily bath. It was close to impossible and unimaginable for the western world to catch up the super modern and technologically advanced people of Andalusia during the era of Caliph of Cordoba.The Andalusia then was the centre of knowledge, science and arts. People came from around the world to Andalusia to learn algebra, astronomy, economics, medical, science and arts, which predominantly originated from islamic scholars then such as, Al-Khawarizmi,  Ibnu Sina, Ibnu Khaldun etc.....
           
      Many more excuses I received but the above should be sufficient to prove my point.

      Establish a Scientific and Progressive Society

      The objective is to make Malaysia the contributor of science and technology rather than consumer of technology through promotion of innovation.

      The Malaysian Government has done a lot to promote the growth of technology and promote innovation. It came out with national initiatives and at same time make available grants and fundings to facilitate the growth. Just to name a few:-

      (i)  Initiatives
      (ii)  Funds Available - Grants

      • Technology Acquisition ( upto RM2 million)
      • Commercialization of R&D Fund - CRDF (upto RM4 million)
      • Techno Fund (upto RM3 mill)
      • Inno Fund  ( upto RM500k)
      • Cradle CIP- (upto RM500k)
      All these initiatives combined, we would probably be looking at a solid 20 years of struggle to establish a scientific and progressive society...If we include specific funds injected into Government  linked organisations or companies like MIMOS, SIRIM, etc, we probably be looking at billions of ringgit have been spent over the last decade.

      Apart from government funded initiatives, there were and are also a lot of privately funded initiatives by local entrepreneurs who were unable to get funding/grant or merely unaware of funds available.

      Question is, how many of these, perhaps thousands of initiatives have been successfully commercialized hence contribute to the innovation of technology?? How many local heros have we produced since then??

      A simple test perhaps can be done by merely asking any Ministry's Secretary General, CEO's of top Government Link Companies/Corporations ( GLC ) such as Khazanah Nasional Berhad, Petronas, Tenaga Nasional, Permodalan Nasional Berhad, Tabung Haji, Malaysia Airlines etc. to name 5 local technology products they use in their organization....OK...perhaps ask 2 local technology products instead. If they can't still do that, perhaps ask if they even know any 5 that even exists instead...

      Do the same to top Government officers and CEOs of GLCs in the United States, Japan, Korea, Taiwan or perhaps even our neighboring country Singapore...You'll be surprise with the answers. Believe me, this is not guessing job..

      What about government or privately funded multi billion mega projects or concessions undertook by private, public sectors or GLCs such as the MRT by Mass Rapid Transit Sdn. Bhd., Bestari.net by YTL, KLIA2 by Malaysia Airports etc? How much local innovative contents or products and services have been used in those development?

      I do find some of these amazing for example, Bestari.net uses FROGTRADE as its platform, where YTL bought more than 57% shareholding in this United Kingdom based company for more than RM30 mill. A company that could only sell to 600 schools in its own country in UK and here we bought them for more than RM30 mill and implement it in 10,000 schools in Malaysia?? What about Malaysia owned locally developed learning platform that comes with content such as Cikgu2u.com which has been struggling and manage to pilot more than 100 schools in Malaysia through own initiatives? What about the multi million ringgit MIMOS Interactive Learning and Management??

      The above are just tip of the iceberg. The damage of mismatch of aspiration against action is much bigger than this. I personally know many local entrepreneurs who were once so passionate with Malaysia's Vision  of becoming technology provider through innovation but they end up became traders of foreign technology themselves.

      I believe our NATIONAL PROCUREMENT POLICY need to be seriously reviewed to eliminate the gap of mismatch of aspiration and action. There are already such policy in place, so I was told, on a "best effort basis"....whatever that means.

      The government do realize this issue (I believe so), thus in the recent draft National Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (NSTIP), this issue was raised though no clear affirmative action has been introduced as yet. 


      As for the private parties, it is true that the government can't force them but the government could entice them by giving incentives for having Malaysia's local innovations in their procurement activities.

      I realize it is not easy to get ourselves out of this Imperialism Hangover. But we have to be bold, willing to make and allow mistakes and learn. We cannot continue to hold this old saying, "IF IT AIN'T BROKE, DON'T FIX IT"

      Wow!!! Seems I got a bit carried away this time writing this blog. Two more challenges of Vision 2020 have yet to be discussed. I tell what....I'll stop here for now but promise to touch those challenges in my upcoming blog titled "1Malaysia, What it Really Needs - My Thoughts". Check out my On The Way.

      I believe, for Vision 2020 to be realized, we need to get out of the cocoon of colonized minds, the minds in the state of Imperialism Hangover. And back to my earlier points, it is about time for us to look at those who are currently fighting today for Freedom from Colonized Minds.......Sorait. 

      Wednesday, 8 August 2012

      Job Seeker vs Career Seeker

      When it comes to issues on employability, we probably have heard both sides of the stories. Job seekers complain there is no job in the market. Employers grumble they can't get people. At same time, employers continue to lay off employees. Some even find it difficult to confirm employees they recently took in who are under probation.

      My Personal Experience
      I was speaking on "Career Opportunities" at a local private college sometime early this year. During the Q & A session, a final year student asked me this - "Why is it so difficult to get a job? Employers looking for staffs and we are looking for a job...as easy as that". I was utter less for a while. My straight answer was "Boy,you gotta win the heart of a girl if you want her,..and, haven't you been listening to my talk? If you want a job, dish washing is a job. I'm very sure many restaurants would be happy to take you in",

      I stop doing job interview unless for senior post in Skali but many occasions that I did then, end up with me lecturing the interviewees instead. My favourite first three questions then were:-

      (ii)  Tell me what you know about Skali?
      (iii)  How can Skali help you?

      I find it amazing when someone came to an interview not knowing exactly what they want from the company neither they know about the company itself. I always tell them the "those days" stories where, during "my time", I had to go to libraries and look for some journals, annual reports and press releases to know more about the company I was about to go for an interview. I would have got myself prepared with information about the company as much as I could before going for any interview.
      Information is Just A Click Away
      Today, is the new age of digital world where all these information is just a click away and yet one came to and interview with naked mind other than looking for a job??

      Correlation between Grades and Employability

      Given a common denominator where everyone came from the same university or college. Everybody got different results when they graduated. Some with high and some with low grades.

      Five (5) year from now, some will make it and some will not make it
      I like to somehow start my career talk with this statement - "Guys, look at all your friends around you today. Five (5) years from now, some will hold high executive posts in private or public companies, some will not even get a promotion for 5 years, some become successful entrepreneurs, some will probably be bankrupts, some become market influencers and many more. And there will be lots of surprises...the unexpected. One thing for sure, the grades you gonna get won't dictate where you gonna be."....Huh??? That seems to the general respond every time.

      So Why Can't Get Employed
      There are reasons which are beyond and within one's control.
      (i)  Beyond One's Control
      • Employers seeking only for experienced people
      • Irrelevant experience
      • Mismatch between industry requirements and courses undertook by graduates
      (ii)  Within One's Control
      • Not seeking for employment themselves
      • Choosy
      • Opt to be entrepreneur before time…
      • Unemployable
      Here I would only focus on those factors which are within one's control.

      Not Even Seeking for Employment
      Weird but it is true...there are graduates who are not even looking for employments. I've encountered and spoken to some of them and these what I found:-

      a) Prefer to depend on parents - Beats me...and I always thought this would be applicable only to "well to-do" families. Apparently IT IS NOT !!! I don't really know why is this happening but I believe it has something to do with how the "nowadays" parents bring up their children. Which perhaps I would probably one of those to be blamed too.....God help me.

      b) Influence from friends and partners - the people around other than the parents do play an important role in influencing their attitude towards employment. 

      c) Afraid of challenges and the unknown - some feel employment would change their lifestyle and will no longer enjoy freedom. There are also certain level of inferiority attached to these group where dealing with new people and other "what if" factors freak them out.

      Choosy
      Despite unable to be employed, there are some who are choosy and would only consider if location is near, remuneration is good, normal working hours instead of odd hours or extended hours

      To be choosy is some times ok. There is a saying .."One who choose makes it from one who let fate decides". However choose only when:-
      You know where you are going and, when
      You know your capability and values

      Opt to be Entrepreneurs

      Today there are many types of "money makes money" scheme which somehow many people mistakenly associate it with entrepreneurship. Going into business too is always mistakenly being associated with entrepreneurship.

      Kaya Kaya Kaya!!!!!!
      Images of man or woman flashing money seems to be common marketing gimmic for such schemes...Since doing business is more often been associated with high financial returns and freedom, some newly graduates incline in embarking into becoming entrepreneur or such scheme instead. 

      But the truth remains:-

      (i)   More than 70% didn't make it in the 2nd year. Believe me, been there, done that!!!
      (ii)  It takes more than just courage to be an entrepreneur. One needs to have strong  PASSION, PATIENCE and PERSEVERANCE. Apart from that, a fundamental business knowledge including accounting and finance would help too..

      Unemployable

      Strong word but what it actually means? One could not make any sense when a person went for say 5 interviews and all of them offered him while another went to 10 interviews and none offered. Even more astonishing is that the one who has been offered had a much lower grades than the one who has not been offered. The person who continuously failed to be offered an employment after series of interviews is "UNEMPLOYABLE". Why?

       A good grade doesn't guarantee good placement or employment. It would open up doors to be called for interview. Ultimately, employers look at the whole package of the interviewee as a person. And these they don't teach in colleges and universities.

      (i)    Self promote or self selling
      (ii)   Problem solving
      (ii)   Handling pressure
      (iii)  Communication skill
      (iv)  Relationship management
      (v)   Other soft skills or ancillary values..

      Often than ever, colleges and universities encourages students to prolong their studies, from diploma to first degree then second degree, then masters or even PHD. Some event paint and glorify the certificates with guaranteed employment with high remuneration etc..... for obvious commercial reasons.

      Anyway, if universities and colleges don't teach these soft skills at all, why then there are still quite a number of them who are EMPLOYABLE? To  me the answer is:-

      "Those Unemployable are JOB seekers while those Employable are CAREER seekers."

      Delivery Boy - My First JOB some 25 Years Ago. Emm...wonder if the tight jeans still fits me?

      A job seeker is what I was perhaps about 25 years ago...A merely job seeker's primary motivator would be remuneration. If remuneration something that could sustain his/her monthly expenses or more, next would be the working conditions, working hours, type of commitment etc. A kitchen hand cum delivery boy paid quite well in Australia then....A$300 a week, free food, driving instead motorcycling, how could I complain  :-)

      More often a job seeker has no medium or long term plan or no plan at all other than getting a job to pay off expenses. Any opening in the newspaper or online, he/or she would apply for and  very much at random too without knowing the nature of work, the company's background or have any idea how long he/she gonna be or wanna be working in that company.

      Some would take a shorter cut by registering their names at various employment agencies. And this is where the issue of Underemployment came about.  More readings on this at "Underemployment - Capabilities vs Certifications".

      Because of this, most of job seekers don't even get themselves prepared for interviews. On the other hand, a CAREER seekers would typically have the following values and attitude towards employment. They:-

      (i)    have short, medium and long term objectives
      (ii)   have short, medium and long term plan of what they want to be at each stage of their lives
      (iii)  know the kind of experiences they need to gain in order to achieve their objectives
      (iv)  have a target organisation or companies they want to be associated with
      (v)   know roughly how long they gonna stay at each organisation
      (vi)  know roughly what they can contribute to each organisation

      Because of these attitude, naturally they will come prepared in any interview and have done extensive research before hand.

      To sum up, what it takes for someone to be employable?

      (i)   One has to do more than just getting certificates
      • Need to develop interpersonal skill. This perhaps can be done by joining various college activities and clubs. A pure bookworm won't generally acquire this skill.
      • Communication skill is too important to ignore. A good command in English is a must in today's working environment, be it private or public sectors.
      • General knowledge is another area often neglected. In today's information based economy and lifestyle, this requirement becoming more needed than before.
      (ii)   Plan one's career while still in university

      One must visualize who, what and where about themselves over the next 5 years. Hence list down targeted companies etc. 
      Preparing for interview will come naturally and consequential if one manage to develop and acquire the above skills.

      As for me, writing blogs, which is Never too Late, too is  part of my medium to long term plan :-).....Sorait.

      More articles coming up...click here to see On The Way.


      Tuesday, 22 May 2012

      Malaysia's Look East Policy - 30 Years Already?

      The History

      I was still in my high school when this policy was first mooted in 1982 by our Prime Minister then, Tun Dr. Mahathir. I couldn't really understand or even bother about it then as it did not have any impact on me. The impression given some thirty (30) years ago was that, we must follow the Japanese, Taiwanese and Koreans. They had succeeded economically because of their positive attitude towards hard work, discipline and excellent ethics.

      I was also given the impression then that the west had lost their ability and capacity in the economy. They prioritized quality and comfort of life rather than capability to work.
      Morning Exercise and Punch Card - The Japanese Ways
      I remembered everybody seems to be talking about it. My Dad too, who was a government officer talked about morning exercise, punch card and name tags being implemented in all government offices. All these I believe to instill the personal values and work culture of the Japanese.  We even got a song titled Punch Card by Sudirman.

      Little that I knew that this policy was also part of  the nation building exercise which suppose to be translated it into Malaysia's development plan.  We've seen co-operative projects were in place to ensure a "transfer of technology and knowledge" to Malaysians. Our national car project, Proton and the Korean Hyundai Engineering technology in constructing the Penang bridge were some of these projects.

      There are many literature that talks about the Look East Policy which outline the various objectives and action plans took by the Government to realize this policy. However, I sum up the objectives to only two, namely:- 
      1. To increase productivity and quality of work through instillation of positive values and work culture
      2. To speed up in becoming net producing country through knowledge and technology transfer 

      The East and West After 30 Years

      Now after 30 years, I wonder if some of the statements made still stand? First, is about the Japanese, Taiwanese and Koreans...Over the past 30 years, we've seen economic domination by these countries. I don't want to go into detail economic figures but merely observation where Japanese, Koreans and Taiwanese products had dominated the household brand itself is a world economic domination.

      Prior to mid 80's, Japanese cars and electronic products were still perceived as sub standards. The body of a Toyota car for example was perceived to be of poor quality, soft and being equated with "tin Milo". Japanese electronic products were not household brands then. Brands like Electrolux and Philips among those popular middle upper class household brands instead. Today we have the Toyota, Kia, Hyundai, Panasonic, Samsung etc. Even the Samsung Android is making its way replacing the Iphone....Is it?? :-)

      Shift of Household Brands over 30 Years
      Another form of domination by the east are the massive corporate mergers and acquisition ( M&A) in the 80's and 90's by Japanese corporations into USA based companies. Although these M&A spree had been debated for its success and failure, they are still phenomenal to me. Phenomenal because I simply could not imagine how can a bunch of people who can't even speak English could negotiate multi millions or even billion dollar deal or merger and yet manage to acquire these English speaking dominated companies..Among those I can recall - Sony/Columbia Picture/TriStar, Matsushita/MCA, Mitsubishi/Rockfeller, Minoru/Pebble Beach Golf and many others...

      Yes, the east did expanded and spread its wing globally. However, not much of new invention or innovation in any of these expansion activities. Basically the east too took what's already in the west, improvise and market them better. On another front, the east bought the west....

      Now, what about the west over the past 30 years? Despite their focus in quality of life rather than hard work, there have been quite a number phenomenal development too in the west. Again, I don't wanna go into the detail economic cycle, numbers and drivers, among the obvious ones - world domination by Microsoft in the 90s, Yahoo in late 90s early 2000  and later Google, Nokia and today we have Iphone, Ipads and the social media spree namely Facebook, Bloggers, Twitters and many others... 

      Unlike the east, the west domination were predominantly through creation and innovation.

      Malaysia after 30 Years? 

      I don't really know how was the work culture in the public and private sectors 30 years ago, but I can vouch that there are many Malaysians today who are hardworking, committal to their job and are willing to work really long hours. Some floors in Putrajaya offices too are "lights on" till late night. However I could not really link it to the Look East Policy. Having said that, long hour and hard work do not correlate with productivity which is debatable.

      What about the second objective of becoming a net producing country through knowledge and technology transfer? Over the past 30 years, we have seen various cooperative projects, expanded bilateral relationship, exchange visits between public and private companies, student sponsorship to Japan, student exchange program and many others...

      Question is how much knowledge and technology had really been transferred to Malaysian so that we could independently create, innovate and produce our own? After 30 years we still predominantly rely on foreign technology, knowledge and know-how even in building some of our major infrastructure. 

      I'm not denying that we have tremendously progressed since then..perhaps 10 or even 20 times but looking at Japan, Korea, Taiwan and the westerns, we are still perhaps 5 to 10 times behind these countries. I guess as we move 2 steps forward, they too move another 5  steps forward...

      Corporations and Brands During Look East Policy
      Malaysia Airlines, Petronas and Proton are among the corporations prior or during the time of Look East Policy. How far has Malaysia Airlines really fly since? In oil exploration, we predominantly rely on foreign technology still. Proton, our first "made in Malaysia" car until today will have to very much rely on Mitsubishi's technology. Mitsubishi Japan had already commercialized its hybrid and full electric car but Proton has yet to realized its almost RM300 mill R&D on "green technology" car announced some 2 years ago...

      If technology and knowledge are just too far fetch for us, what about market domination?

      MSC a Gift to the World
      I believe that would probably the reason why the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) was established in the mid 90s. Knowing the fact it was not easy for us to create, innovate, produce and compete on existing sectors of the economy, MSC was to prepare a totally new platform where Malaysian could dominate the world through level playing field with the rest of the world, hence innovate, create, produce and compete internationally. This platform was known as the Multimedia and ICT which fit into the service industry where there were still vacuum to be filled.

      MSC has been around for more than 15 years now. Although we have yet to produce ICT or technology local hero in the international arena, we do have brand like Upin Ipin that has gone international through Disney Channel and become a household brand in countries like Indonesia..

      Upin Ipin - A Household Brand in Indonesia
      Nowadays, despite various sensational issues being raised, whenever I traveled and landed in most Asian countries, I would still feel proud to be a Malaysia when I look out the window of the landing plane and saw Malaysian brands all over the plane parking bays - the Air Asia. As I walked through the airport of these countries, more Malaysian brands be seen at the airport itself. Brands like CIMB and Axiata are quite common that sometimes we forgot that those are Malaysian brands..

      Glocal Brands - Corporations 20 Decade after Look East Policy
      So, what really makes the Ipin Upin, Air Asia, CIMB and Axiata different?  I don't have the right answer but i believe leadership is definitely one of the reason. I also believe instillation of some form of entrepreneurial values and culture which blend passion, vision and action into the organization do play some role too in this.

      Anyway,  question goes back to whether does the Look East Policy has anything to do with how AirAsia, CIMB, Axiata, UpinIpin or even Giant Hypermarket manage to spread its market internationally? Personally, I don't think so. My wild guess, leaders of these companies had only minimal exposure to the Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese work culture and values...But that's just my guess...

      Cosplay of Japan and K-Pop of Korea seems to be getting its place in the heart of the new generation
      Teenagers today on the other hand are exposed to different sort of eastern influence and values. These are the generations of tomorrow. The generation of red and green hair and K-pops. Would it do any harm? Nobody knows really. I wasn't a perfect teenager myself then...or perfect man now either...:-)
      Me in my Own version of K-Pops
      I truly believe Malaysia has huge potential to be the next super power like the once upon a time, the Rome Empire, Otoman Empire, the Great Britain (that is no longer great) and the existing Israel state through its alliance with the United States of America, UK, Australia, the Emirate, Saudi's, Japan and others...
       
      Perhaps it's not even the east or the west we should be looking at. What about looking around instead? What about looking at ourselves instead?...less the K-Pop look of course..:-)...

      The Japanese, Koreans and Taiwanese or even the Westerners are very proud people. They believe in themselves. They believe what they invented, innovated and produced are the best and gifts to the world. They speak of great passion of their nations, their companies, their people, their tradition and everything they do...Until we as ONE nation called Malaysia and Malaysians carry the same passion and pride, we will continue to be a follower not a leader, a buyer not a seller, a user not an inventor and a developing nation and not a fully developed nation. Until that day, our minds are still being colonized and yet to be a truly "independence"..My 2 cents thoughts....sorait..

      Sunday, 8 April 2012

      The Arts of Selling - Convince, Confuse or Scare The.....

      I was at The Curve recently and made a quick tour at the exhibition area. A typical sight there was, where bunch of salesman and ladies talking to some potential customers which i presume trying to convince them to buy some overprice massage seat, vacuum cleaner and other stuff which can be bought elsewhere at perhaps only 10-30% of the selling price.

      Amazing!!....Three (3) to ten (10) times more expensive and yet many still subscribe to them. I guess no matter how expensive a product is, there are always some suckers out there.....and I'm probably one of them too....in some isolated cases of course.:-)...

      A typical sight at the Mall
      I've always wanted to share this thoughts which I've somehow done in brief in some of my seminar talks. Very brief because I'm not really a known Sales or Marketing guru. Therefore, most of the topics of seminar /forum that I spoke were not directly related to Sales or Marketing. 

      Anyway, Marketing and sales are two different things which require different set of strategies, different set of disciplines and skills. Marketing is the act to reach and persuade your prospects that you are the company or product for them. Sales on the other hand is the act of persuading your marketed prospects to engage directly by purchasing or subscribing to your products or services. Marketing is cost while sales is revenue.

      If we ask any marketing people or students graduated in marketing degrees, they will know the 3 Ps in marketing : Price, Product and Place. Peter Drucker added another P - "Promotion". However, when we talk about Sales or Selling strategy, there are various versions. I learned some of these in 2 weeks intensive sales course by Dale Carnegie Training Malaysia.

      Even then, nobody talks about the C C S art of selling..which stands for CONVINCE, CONFUSE AND SCARE them. This too I believe you won't get in any text books or sales literature in colleges and universities..or perhaps if any, would come in different terminology instead.

      Basically in selling one would typically try to CONVINCE, failing which will then try to CONFUSE the potential customers, and if still fail to sell will SCARE them instead. Of course these strategies or arts of selling can come in  combination, sequel or just merely one or any combination of two strategies.

      CONVINCE

      This is standard...every salesman will normally start with this strategy. Coming up with convincing statement persuading one to purchase. Statement like..."our products are made out of quality IMPORTED materials" or "ORGANIC product that can reduce your WEIGHT in 30 days" and many more...

      However the Convince strategy will work effectively only if it touches the potential customers' emotional believe and behavior. For example, word like IMPORTED works on people who are brand conscious or with high society status ego. Word like ORGANIC would work on environmentalist, health conscious or green fundamentalist.

      A good salesman would be able to read his/her potential customers emotional believe through quick observation of the person, combine with few words of conversations. A bad salesman on the other hand, will read through their standard sales pitch on everyone they meet hoping some will strike or convert to sales..

      CONFUSE

      Failing to convince...try to confuse them instead. It works most of the time too. Statement like "This product consists ZPT3 elements with extra Mucostilacatic that could...." or " during market EQUILIBRIUM, HYBRID life insurance provides returns..."

      These sort of statements make the salesman looks smart or the potential customers feel like an idiot. And in this idiotic feeling that most of the time one would purchase because customers feel the salesman knows better what he's talking about.

      Ignorance is the reason why one can easily be manipulated. However, if this strategy is used on potential customers who are knowledgeable, it could turn out making the salesman feels like an idiot instead. Having said that too, I've seen too many times even a subject matter expert would fall into a SUPER SALESMAN.

      There's a saying, a good salesman could even sell block of ice to the Eskimo. See illustrated cartoon I extracted from Mc Humor.com by Mc Cracken

      SCARE THEM

      Have you seen this kinda weird ugly looking giant creature dummy or model at shops or exhibition area that sell some RM3,000 to RM10,000 vacuum cleaner?? It normally comes in at least  3 to 4 feet length and height. In actual fact it is model of a dust mite that is so small that can only be seen using a magnifying glass.

      A Magnified Dust Mite
      How else to convince one to buy a RM10,000 vacuum? Tell the customers that this is how a dust mite looks like that goes into our body system through our respiratory process. When I first heard that and at the same time look at the giant dust mite model, my nose starts to feel itchy and suddenly water start running out of eyes. Awesome!!!! But I didn't buy the vacuum cleaner because don't have that much money to spare for a vacuum cleaner...:-)

      To scare, one must understand what are the things that fear the customers most. Illness, death, security, being poor, undermined dignity or even going to hell are some of the common fears.

      That is why you would probably have heard this before from an insurance agent who says "Sir, if you DIE tomorrow...." or food supplement salesman would say " Sir, the daily cost in a hospital ICU is more than buying this RM1000 of 60 days program food supplement..."  and in some cases, salesman do play God too like "Sir, you don't want to go to Hell by using conventional banking. At least Islamic banking is Halal..."

      All being said, we are all salesman at some stage of our daily life anyway. Just that we don't realize it. Any act of persuasion to engage another to subscribe to your desire is already an act of selling as far as I'm concern. A child is a salesman to their parents and vice versa, husband to wife and vice versa, employee to employers or even a baby to his/her mother....a simple scare strategy by a baby crying would make a mother or a daddy wake up in the middle of the night to prepare milk...

      So no one can really say they can't sell when they were born a salesman anyway....Sorait.

      Monday, 2 April 2012

      Being a Practicing Accountant - the Road I Didn't Take.

      Although this question never really strikes me but my recent experience speaking at the Accountants in Business Symposium 2012 organized by the Malaysian Institute of Accountants (MIA) somehow trigger some flashbacks. An accountant and a banker I was once upon a time, had I not took the path of being an entrepreneur, I would have been one of the participants in the Symposium, perhaps attending merely to fulfill my Continuing Professional Development (CPD) points, listening to some "IT Guy" explaining about "Cloud Computing.


      As usual, to warm up my delivery, i would normally crack some jokes at the very beginning, during and perhaps just before I wrap up. I've spoken in many seminars, forums and symposium as such in front of various walks of life and professions, such  as lawyers, bankers, CEOs of multi-nationals, governments, international trade delegates, insurance agents, media professionals, university students etc. and this was my FIRST TIME experiencing almost total silent from the participants when i crack a joke, except for some gigglings and small laughs from the secretariats staffs sitting at the rights hand side of the hall....AMAZING!!!

      Flashback!!! Come to think of it, that's how I was too  once upon a time ago. Focusing on key points to be delivered by the speaker and eliminate all irrelevant information, data and points delivered by the speaker...and JOKES are IRRELEVANT info..

      This concept of eliminating irrelevant info is similar to how our brain generally works, except it works more on accountants I guess :-)...Anyway check out some of these Awareness Test to know what i mean..:-)


      Then it came to the question and answer session. Again, there were only two questions asked but got nothing really to do with my presentation....Something like - "Our country's internet broadband still pretty bad even in major cities...when do you think our country would be fully wired?". Emmm...hard question to answer because that's just simply beyond me.....

      I was confused...first they eliminated my jokes, presuming they listened to the facts of my presentation and eliminated the rest, then they asked out of topic questions. Now I wasn't so sure if they actually understood my presentation or not...:-) ??  However, when I look through the list of topics and speakers during that two days seminar, I realized that it was my presentation that was out of topic :-). Most others are pretty much accounting stuffs ie. reporting, taxes, standards etc.

      Anyway, that's not the reason why I'm writing this time. Being together with a good crowd of accountants do bring back some memories. It just triggers how much different we are in almost everything that we do, talk and think

      While we talk about business intelligence (BI) that could provide management with almost real time operational and performance data that support decision making, accountants on the other hand, talk about "Standards" in historical reporting. While we talk about sales, business development and marketing, accountants talks about prudent accounting treatment. While we talk about strategic planning, accountants talk cost accounting. While we talk about business growth, accountants talks about profits and taxes. While we talk about strategic planning, accountants talk about budgeting.

      Even then, no organization could live without one. If you don't hire them as an employee, you will still need to outsource the book keeping and accounting stuff to third party accounting firms.

      I could not imagine the kind of accountant I would be had I not accepted the offer of my ex-boss in Arthur Andersen, Azmi Ahmad to join CIMB and later join him as an entrepreneur. As much as I could permute various possibilities for being an accountant, the truth remains....I WILL NEVER KNOW THE ROAD I NEVER TAKE. Sorait....

      Sunday, 18 March 2012

      James Bond Gadgets, Today's Accessories and Toys

      Who doesn't know Mr. Bond? I grew up admiring him. In fact once upon a time many many years ago, my ambition was to be a spy like James Bond. Can't really remember exactly why, but I'm very sure it has something to do with saving the world, he's the good side, charm, cool, ladies' man perhaps :-) and most of all GADGETS...

      The James Bond gadgets strikes me when I watched "Die Another Day" last night which brings me back to good old days of The Man With the Golden Gun, Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only as well even the earlier James Bond in Diamonds are Forever, Goldfinger and Thunderball.

      At the same time somehow it reminds me my last visit to China and my last week visit to Low Yatt Plaza in Bukit Bintang. Some of these gadgets in James Bond are no longer gadgets. They are our day to day tools and accessories or even toys to some. In fact many of those spies gadgets are now sold at Low Yatt. Just to name a few:-

      In 1963 James Bond movie From Russia with Love, a pager was used by James Bond to provide him a way to make life-saving contact with MI6. In early ninety's, pagers are widely used by many till almost the end of the 1990's itself before the handphone tookover as the main tool or device to communicate when one is mobile. Now I can't imagine life without handphones. The paging technology on the other hand still being used, but not so much as a man to man form of communication but as a tool to communicate with devices instead.


      Fingerprint Recognition Device
      In Diamonds are Forever this device was used by diamond smuggler Tiffany Case (Jill St. John) to open up the case filled with diamond. Today, this is used everywhere and we call it some BIOMETRIC device. It is used in offices to access doors, in the banks as personal identification tools with our My Card, at the airport used together with our Malaysian Passport to access the gate, and many others.

      Spy Pen
      My wife bought this device in China. It is not just an ordinary pen but a pen with mini camera and MP3 voice recording device that can later be uploaded to your laptops via USB...Cool!!! Can't recall a camera pen in James Bond movie but definitely mini camera (still and motion) and mini voice recording devices are being used in some of these James Bond movies and other spies movies.



      Come to think of it, most of these devices that we took for granted were in most spies or sci-fi movies in the past - the cellphone, GPS devices, Maping devices, laptops, mini cameras, tablet computers etc. I guess it all started with dreams of how man imagined and wanted life to be in the future and portrait them in the movies..


      My point is, what's in the movies in the past are today's reality. With that I believe it would also be safe for me to conclude that what's in the movies today that are not currently available will be our future's reality. No matter what, I'm still waiting the day when I can travel around the world by just saying.."BEAM ME TO...."...Sorait.

      Monday, 12 March 2012

      Underemployment - Capabilities vs Certifications?

      We've heard this word before and I've personally used this in some of my presentations, seminar papers and press interviews. I experienced something interesting today which somehow triggers me to rethink if what I've been saying all these while were accurate and comprehensive or not.

      Check out the Wiki and found this  UnderEmployment by Wiki and this UnderEmployed Investopedia at Investopedia. Seems quite consistent with my previous thoughts which centres around those keywords.....overqualified, overeducate, skill underutilization, economic capacity underuse etc. Long and short, the individual is working but isn't working at their full capability.But again, the common denominator for all these is, capability is equaled to "certificate qualification". Whether one is a member of a professional body, degree holder, diploma or even college drop outs...CAPABILITIES ARE MEASURED BASED ON ONE'S EDUCATION LEVEL.

      Is this how we suppose to measure capabilities hence tag one as underemployed or not?? Check this out..
      Sheila the Caddy
      Got this from a friend's facebook Eddie Putra - Sheila the Caddy. I find it interesting when he put the following remark - "The next time you wanna complain about your job, think about Sheila who has to lug a heavy golf bag around, get scolded, get sworn at, rake the bunker, repair divots and entertain tantrums from her boss". Now..WHAT IF Sheila went to university and had an accounting degree and later work for 2 years in an accounting firm before she found out her true talent and passion was actually in golf... and thought it would "never be too late" for her to take golf seriously instead? 

      She plays golf since she was 6 years old and at 25 she carries handicap 6 in golf. Since she doesn't think she would go any further in professional golf, she decided to take up serious caddying and make a profession out of it. She joins the Professional Caddies Association and became a professional caddy. Caddying actually goes beyond carrying bags and bunker raking. A professional caddy is just like an advisor and consultant to the golfer..course management, club management, reading the lines, providing second opinions to the golfer etc..

      Today, she earns perhaps US$150,000, partly tax free with almost fully sponsored daily expenses, as she'll be on tour following her boss most of the time...with lots of time playing golf in between tour. That's more than what a typical accountant at her age would make and time of her own could spend. In the United States a non tour caddies working at top clubs earning around US$1000 a week or US$4000 a month...check this out Top Earning Caddies

      Shilla the Tol Attendant
      Now, what about this Tol attendant. I saw her name tag. Her name is Shilla (same pronunciation but different spelling)...Interesting...many Sheela's in a day...and I arrived late evening in the office and my Personal Assistant, Sheila too, forgot to bring me my coffee...ouch!!! But she's not our subject of discussion here..:-)

      Going back to Shilla the tol attendant...I don't know her but in that 8 1/2 seconds giving tickets and paying my tol, I manage to get the following info from her - she's 19 years old, from Sentul and finishes her SPM and worked for slightly more than a year at the tol...Amazing and don't ask me how I did it...:-)

      And my last "bonus" question or "soalan cepumas" to her.."Kenape kerja kat tol aje? ( Why do you work at the tol?) ". She smiled and answered, "Kerja ni senang aje Pakcik. Duduk pakai tangan aje. ( It is an easy job Uncle. I just need to seat and only use my hand)".

      Two parts of her answer I didn't expect. First she called me Pakcik or Uncle, then the using her hand thingy. I got at least another 3 seconds to ask her another question while she's getting my change but I was just too shock to do so..

      I kept on thinking after that....8 hours seating, WHOLE right hand in, HALF right hand out, some twiggling here and there, perhaps some simple maths at the end of the day to count the money and that's it!!! For someone who is young, healthy, strong, all limbs working I presume and smart though she's study until SPM, merely doing what she's doing seems "UNDEREMPLOYED" to me. What's she doing could be done by a midget except a midget need to get his/her WHOLE hand out instead. Or someone on wheel chairs or deaf perhaps. These group of people are classified as "In Need of Special Assistance" group and in most occasions they won't be able to get a job even as tol attendance.

      I believe if the entire system recognized capabilities as what a person REALLY capable of doing as a person in his/her entirety, we probably be able to maximize human capital in what I call "true sense" in building up our nation.

      Based on Wiki and some other definitions, Sheila would be Underemployed and Shilla is Employed. My take is otherwise. Sheila is Employed and Shilla is Underemployed....Sorait.