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Mr Viswa Sadasivan of The Right Angle Group Pte Ltd
||Lu Yong An (Andy)
||The Right Angle Group Pte Ltd
108 Robinson Road #11-00, GMG Building, Singapore 068900
|Date of Interview
||15 April 2003, 3pm - 4.30pm
Mr Viswa was born in Singapore in 1959. He grew up in a poor setting but he has a lot of respect for his father because of his resilience and self-pride. His father was a tailor and during his days tailors did not make much money, but he still managed to send almost all of his 6 children to university on his own savings, i.e. without borrowing a single cent from the bank. That kind of pride and self-belief are the things Mr Viswa holds close to his heart.
Mr Viswa went to Raffles Institution for 6 years' study and then completed his degree in political science from National University of Singapore (NUS). After that he took his first job to work with the then Singapore Broadcast Corporation (SBC) in its Current Affairs Division as a producer, who specialized in doing political and social documentaries. He was also a TV presenter anchoring popular programmes like Feedback, Talking Point and Today in Parliament before he was promoted to become Senior Controller of the Current Affairs Division. He served 12 years in SBC and during that period he was awarded an SBC Scholarship and completed his Master of Public Administration degree from the Harvard University. After that, he was required to serve the 5-year-bond with SBC. After two and a half years of serving the bond, SPH Holdings bought over the bond. So he joined SPH Holdings for a year as Senior Manager for Corporate Planning and Business Development. Then he moved to join a Canadian television company called UTV International as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). At the age of 37, he decided to become an entrepreneur, so he founded The Right Angle Group with two of his best friends and former SBC colleagues in 1997.
The Right Angle (TRA) was incorporated in March 1997 as a TV production company and due to its rapid expansion, in April 2000 it was restructured into 3 companies, namely The Right Angle Media, The Right Angle Communications and The Right Angle Ventures. They came under The Right Angle Group as the holding company. The Right Angle Media is possibly the largest independent production company in Singapore, which produces TV programmes for all the local TV channels as well as for regional and international channels, like Discovery Channel and National Geographic. It is also a leading producer of corporate documentaries/videos. The Right Angle Communications specializes in strategic communications consultancy and training for CEOs and top management on how to communicate strategically to the media as well as in crisis management. TRA Communications possesses a very high reputation for providing training as they have had over 125 corporate clients, like HP, Oracle, Roche, Levi's, Standard Chartered Bank, EDB and MINDEF. They have trained more than 1400 top management people in the region. It also expanded its scope to organize events. The Right Angle Ventures intends, in its operational ventures and collaborations, to focus on broadband applications, content aggregation, film features, and content management for the internet and emerging media. The reason why The Right Angle Group was founded, Mr Viswa said, was that they wanted to produce good quality programmes with the right quality in content. Hence the name "The Right Angle". The logo they chose is the Chinese Character "shang" because on one hand, it geometrically looks like the right angle, and on the other hand, it has the meaning of "Up", which means forward looking and positive.
Mr Viswa also mentioned to me that he constantly reminds himself of one thing his father taught him, which was "Learn to walk before you run". That is also the reason why Mr Viswa spent 17 years in the industry and built up a very strong foundation before becoming an entrepreneur. Besides that, in order to ensure the success of his business, Mr Viswa also did a lot of preparation before he started up. Firstly, he did market research and found that the media industry was one of the fastest growing industries in the world; secondly, that there would become a convergence of media content, telecom and the IT industries; thirdly, as the then TCS (Television Corporation of Singapore) expands its scope it would need to outsource more especially as it streamlines its operations more; fourthly, he also noticed that the SBA (Singapore Broadcast Authority) had planned to push Singapore to become a media hub which meant greater support and impetus for home grown companies; fifthly, as Singapore strives to become a media hub, many international companies would come in so he saw a strong growth potential for local companies in tie-ups and collaborations. Besides that, in order to ensure there would be enough supply of talent, Mr Viswa was reassured by the expansion of the NTU School of Communications as well as Film and TV department in Ngee Ann Polytechnic. All this preparation had enabled The Right Angle to reduce to difficulty in starting up. In fact, it grew and succeeded a lot faster than expected. The key issue when starting was the management of cash flow.
Mr Viswa then shared with me his experience in overcoming the initial cash flow problem. Mr Viswa and his partners started the company with an investment of S$100,000. After they started-up, within weeks they got business deals from which they'd get only 20% advance, which was hardly enough to cover the overheads and variable expenses. They faced a very serious cash flow problem which if not tackled they run out of cash in 3 months' time. Mr Viswa and his partners came out with the strategic solution - training, as it is one of the few businesses with payment upfront! Mr Viswa still remembered the joy when they got their first client for training, Singapore Police Force, and got their first pay cheque upfront. That was also how the training and communication business was born - almost by chance. Mr Viswa's hope is that the local banking and financial sector would become more proactive in catering to the specific needs of SMEs. Perhaps there could be banks that specialize in funding SMEs. "This is critical if we want more and more entrepreneurs." Other than cash flow, another challenge Mr Viswa encountered was how to "manage success". When they first started, the company was hit by the recession, but Mr Viswa managed to grab that opportunity to upscale and grew from 6 employees to 80 over 3 years. The company was profitable from year one. But they did not expect the recession to continue like this. Then, the problem was overcapacity - too many employees, too much overheads. They tried to cut cost in many areas, but fixed costs were difficult to reduce fast enough. So at the end they had to let go 6 staff members. In fact, it was more of a new working arrangement where these 6 staff members were assured of freelance work, and quite a few of them ended up getting paid more than they were getting as full-time staff. This was possibly one of the most painful decisions for Mr Viswa and his partners since they formed the company 6 years ago.
While Mr Viswa was talking about the early days of his own business, he also recalled the strong support his wife gave to him. He could not have done it without her. The first time Mr Viswa brought up the idea of setting up his own business, most of his friends weren't exactly encouraging; his parents also did not quite understand why their son would want to give up all the benefits, comfort and security of a salaried management job to take all the risks to do business on his own. But there was one person who stood by his side and gave him the confidence and drive. That was his wife. His wife kept reminding him of why he became an entrepreneur every time Mr Viswa was faced with self doubt or when he was confronted with the painful effects of recession and cash flow woes. So Mr Viswa took this opportunity to express his gratitude to his wife.
When being asked, what are the important characteristics a successful entrepreneur should have, Mr Viswa said adversity quotient (AQ) was the key. He said AQ would contribute 70% to the success of an entrepreneur, while IQ (intelligence quotient) and EQ (emotion quotient) would equally share the remaining 30%. His reason was that no entrepreneur could succeed without encountering failures, but the most important thing was whether he/she would be able to pick up and go every time he slips or falls. Besides that he also mentioned that a successful entrepreneur should have the passion and drive as well as a healthy balance of pride and humility. An entrepreneur needs to have passion and drive to sustain in his/her business. In order to have that, the entrepreneur should have the pride and belief in what he/she is doing, while at the same time being humble enough to acknowledge his setbacks and limitations and be willing to listen to others. Mr Viswa also advised the younger generation to think carefully before they decide to become entrepreneurs because they must have a very clear notion of their own strengths, their objectives and their vision before they make that critical decision.
Mr Viswa is also very involved in public and social work, for example, he was a member of Economic Review Committee's; working committee on entrepreneurship and also the Chairman for Political Development in the Feedback unit. He also likes to meet young people, especially youth with passion and dreams, because when he was growing up, his cohort or even those before him did not have much guidance or mentorship on what lay ahead. So they needed to learn everything the hard way. Therefore, one of the things Mr Viswa is very committed to is whenever he has the opportunity to give talks or to be a mentor for young people, he will make time for it.
Interview With VISWA SADASIVAN
The interview was held at the office of The Right Angle Media Pte. Ltd. (No 2 Trengganu Street), at 3pm on 15 April 2003. The interview lasted for about 90 minutes. The following is a detailed record of the interview/dialogue.
Part I About the Entrepreneur
Can you tell me more about yourself, like your educational background and working experience?
Sure. I went to Raffles Institution for 6 years study, because during that time there was no Raffles Junior College, and then I went to NUS and completed my first degree in political science. After that I took my first job to work for SBC (Singapore Broadcast Corporation) as a producer at the Current Affairs Division. Current Affairs Division focused in doing information programmes and I specialized in doing political and social documentaries. I was also a TV presenter and anchored programmes like Feedback, Talking Point and Today in Parliament. My last position there was Senior Controller of Current Affairs Division. I served 12 years in SBC and during that period I was awarded an SBC scholarship and got a Master of Public Administration degree from Harvard University. After that I needed to serve a bond for 5 years. But just after two and half years with SBC, SPH bought over the bond. So I joined SPH Holdings as Senior Manager for Corporate Planning and Business Development. I served them for a year and after which I moved to join a Canadian television company called UTV International as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). And then after that I decided that I should go and do what I always wanted to do which is to be an entrepreneur. So I became an entrepreneur when I was 37 years old and I felt that it was quite right. Although I had spent almost 10 years for the preparation, I eventually decided to do it when I was ready. I am also very involved in the public and social work. For example, I am in the Economic Review Committee's; working committee on entrepreneurship and also the chairman of Political Development in the Feedback Unit. I believe I am a passionate person who likes to meet people and talk to people. I like people with passion, people with dreams and I like young people, because I feel very much that when I was growing up, my batch or even the people before our batch did not have much guidance. We did not have people to mentor us and show us the way so we had to learn everything the hard way. It need not have to been like that but we really did not have the culture for that. So one of the things I am very committed to is when I have the opportunity to give talks or to be a mentor especially with young people and people with passion, I will make time for it.
About my personal life, I am married with a 3 and half years old daughter. I grew up in a poor setting but I have a lot respect for my father because he is driven and has a lot of self-pride. I have a lot of appreciation for people who go through financial hardship. So some of these things I am mentioning to you are the key elements an entrepreneur must have. Having an MBA degree or being able to manage financials has not much to do directly with dealing with entrepreneurship. They might be helpful but not sufficient to make a person an entrepreneur.
As you mentioned about your father, what business he is in?
My father was a tailor and during those days tailor did not make much money. However, my father still managed to send almost all of his 6 children to university using his own money without borrowing a single cent from the bank. That kind of pride and self-belief are the things I really cherish and respect.
What guidance he gave to you on your way to become an entrepreneur?
Well. My father taught me one thing which is "Learn to walk before you run" and I never forget that. In our society today, everybody says things are moving in a rapid pace but I personally feel that people should not forget who they are because we all can lose our identity. As I know and believe that people who succeed are the ones who retain their own identities, for example, Mr Sim Wong Hoo (CEO of Creative Technology) as well Mr Ron Sim (CEO of Osim International), who are the persons I admire tremendously. These people can continue to succeed in the new economy because they continue to hold on to their own values and do it their way. Today many people are copycats and we tend to use other people's ideas or even financial jargon. Let me give you another example. When you are the parent, one of the joys of parenthood is learning through experience and through trial and error and that is exactly how we grew up. But today many parents have a whole series of books on parenting which are telling them how to be a parent and they are taking away the joy of parenthood. That is what exactly the new world, the knowledge economy can do wrong to us if we don't watch out.
How about your immediate family? What is the role your wife plays in your business?
My wife is one of the greatest support for me. We have been together for 23 years since we met in the university. I am a risk-taker by nature and I would like to do things based on my instincts and feeling. Because I trust my wife so much, she sometimes asks me a simple question that makes me realize where I belong; puts things in perspective. When you are in business, there is always the temptation for you to cut corners and that is why you need good friends and good family who are there to tell you when you stray!
Would you tell how your wife or your family, your friends react when the first time you brought out the idea of starting up your own business?
This is a very good question. Before I went for entrepreneurship I was a fairly successful person outside. If I stayed in the corporate life I would probably be earning many times more than what I am paying money now, as entrepreneurs can't get paid very well especially in the starting stage. It was even worse for me that when we just started Singapore got into a recession and we had been in a recession right through. From 1997 to 1999 was the first recession followed by the second recession from 2000, we have been in recession for 6 years! But we are still able to survive and grow. When the first time I decided to give up my well-paid job and go for entrepreneurship, almost all of my friends who are mostly professionals were not quite encouraging. My parents thought I was silly as they could not understand why I gave up the privileges and security of my previous job and put in my own money and took all the risks. But there was still one person who stood by me and kept telling me that it was fine and to go for my dream and that person is my wife. I always remember what she said to me and really touched me. She said, "you crash, then you pick up, you crash again, then you pick up again. We can sell the house and downgrade to HDB flat, and if there is still not enough money for financing, as far as we still have our water and our food we sell the car. Most important is to have dignity." That kind of confidence is very important and it has given me a lot of courage to deal with the challenges that lay ahead. When I was CEO in the company I worked for previously, when I went on business trips, I travelled first class and stayed in 5-star hotels. When I started up my company which only had 6 people, we even needed to count the pencils we bought, took turns to fill up water and clean the office. I still clearly remember my first business trip with The Right Angle: When my secretary asked me I just told her to book me into the cheapest economy class flight. You start at economy class then move to first class and enjoy the airport pickup or 5-star hotel and then to suddenly go back to economy class, that will really hit you. Recently when I talked to one CEO of an MNC, he mentioned to me that he really did not understand what was so difficult to start a company because all the entrepreneur needed to know was just how to manage cash flow. Then I asked him whether he had experienced the stress of payroll because in an MNC, you would usually have a vault full of money as backup. However, when we first started, the recession came. Many companies tried to cut cost and downsize. But we used this opportunity to upscale so we grew from 6 employees to 80 over the 3-year recession period. We were profitable from year one. But then we did not expect the recession would continue and get worse. We had too many employees and we had a policy of avoiding retrenchments. But we had to resort to it at the end - where we let 6 staff go but assured them of freelance work with the company. It was a painful experience.
Part II About the entrepreneurship business
How can you describe your business?
We are in the media and communications business. There are 3 companies in the Right Angle Group, namely The Right Angle Media, The Right Angle Communications and The Right Angle Ventures. The Right Angle Media is probably the largest independent production company in Singapore. We produce TV programmes which are mainly information programmes for all the TV channels in Singapore and in four languages. We also produce for international channels like Discovery and National Geographic. We are also one of the leading producers who provide corporate documentaries and videos. The second company, The Right Angle Communications, mainly provides training for CEOs or top management on how to communicate strategically to the media. We also have specialist trainers on crisis and risk management scenario based training. We have gained a strong reputation in this area in the region. Clients include HP, Oracle, Roche, Levi's, Standard Chartered Bank, MINDEF and EDB. About 125 client organizations in all, and we have trained more than 1400 top management in the region. We also expanded job scope to plan and coordinate events for government and other clients. We also organize novel art events. We do events because we enjoy doing it and that is a key belief system in the company. The third company, The Right Angle Ventures, is mainly setup to deal with strategic investments and joint projects and collaboration in new areas of business. Currently, we're working on a couple of big projects and if they come through it could mean a boost in income in the tens of millions of dollars.
How about your business partners? How are you related? Why you choose them to be your partners?
I always remember what my father told me that "learn to walk before you run" so that whenever I feel I have gone too far or too fast, I would hold it back and take it at a slower pace. However, I am a person by nature who likes to take risk and just go ahead. So in that respect, I am fortunate to have two partners who are more balanced. We make a good team. We got to know each other when I worked at SBC and we were colleagues and best friends. The reason why we decided to come out to start a business was that we wanted to produce good quality programmes and that is also the reason why we came out with the name of The Right Angle. Then we had our logo as the Chinese character "shang" because on one hand, it geometrically looks like the right angle, and on the other hand, it has the meaning of "UP", which connotes forward thinking and positivity. It is interesting that the 3 of us have very different personalities. Before we started up our company, a lot of our friends warned me not to mix friendship with business. But we have enough faith and confidence in our friendship to put it through the test. We had some difficult patches when we had disagreements or financial pressure, but at the end of the day, I can say with confidence that we are still very good friends because we have come to learn each other better. In fact, as friends - we have grown.
Could you tell at the very beginning, what inspire you to set up this business? When was the first moment you realize that the business would work and support you throughout the way?
First of all I must say that this is a business I have expertise in, but that alone does not mean you could start up a business. When we started up the business, we looked at the situation in the region and we realized that the media industry had lots a strong upside for growth. Based on our research and study, the media industry was one of the fastest growing industries. Secondly, the media industry was going to become the key component is the convergence of content, telecoms and IT. We realized that the then TCS would run out of capacity for the increasing market demand for content, so it was better for us to entrench for the outsource potential. Fourthly, we also noticed that the Singapore Broadcasting Authority (SBA) was planning to push Singapore to become a media hub which meant that there would be funding and incentives. Fifthly, as Singapore was growing to be a media hub, many international companies would come in and this meant more prospects for us. A lot of people out there have the ability to produce drama or entertainment programmes, but very few of them then had the expertise to produce high quality current affairs and information programmes. These all require people who have content and research knowledge which is what we have as we had 12 years of experience in current affairs. But there was still one concern as to whether we would have enough qualified talent to expand. Based on discussions with the School of Communications, NTU and also Ngee Ann Polytechnic, we realized more and more talent would become available and we should have not much of a problem on talent supply. The most important thing which prompted us to start up the business was that we wanted to take the lead and capture the first mover advantage in the market. Finally, market reputation-at that time I had already had a fairly established market reputation and a strong network of contacts because I was a known person. All these things are important before you can build your business successfully.
How about the drawbacks of it?
The drawback would be banking. This would be one of the biggest drawbacks to Singapore's entrepreneur development, because for a very long time the local banks here had been protected and therefore become risk averse. For many banks SMEs don't fit their risk profile, especially since many don't have the desired "track record". But in my point of view if I have the track record and am financially sufficient I will not need the loan and I am coming to you because I am building the track record. So I found this is an anomaly compared to most of the developed countries as they normally have banks that are even specializing in the SME business. I think in the last two and a half years there have been some developments in the local banking and financial sector for SMEs but I must say we still have a long way to go if we want to have more entrepreneurs. When we started the company, we put aside 200,000 dollars but I said to my partners we should only spend the 100,000 dollars and leave the other 100,000 as the safety deposit. Our income for the first year was 1 million dollars and we made a profit of 36,000 in year one while many companies could only break-even in year 3. We had to be diligent and inventive. When we started the business in April we straight a way got business but only 20% of the commission were given to us upfront, which meant that as a fresh company we would not see any income during the first 3 months' time when we were doing that business while we still needed to pay all the fixed expenses and overheads. If we did not get cash within the 3 months we would run out of cash. Then we came out with the idea of training because it was one of the few businesses with cash coming upfront. Since we have had so many years of experience in media and communications and I had interviewed many top people we thought that I am qualified to give training on how to deal with media communications. I finished writing the manual almost overnight. I still remembered the time when we got our first client who was the Singapore Police Force and the joy of getting our first cheque upfront was really fantastic. That was also how the training and communications business came about. So what we could learn from this is as an entrepreneur you need not just look at your skills but also your total experience and ability. For example, Andy, today if we just look at your skill set then you can only be a civil engineer, but if we look beyond that we may find what you are doing now is already beyond your skill set. This is because when you are learning the content of civil engineering, you would also learn other skills like asking questions in different way or think laterally then that would lead you to the area outside the narrow focus of civil engineering. Most of the time we can only do a million dollar movie or event, then my question is why not a 25 million one or even 50 million one! One of the things we need to learn here is to dream big, as one of the sayings goes "reach for the stars while keeping your feet on the ground". It makes you believe in yourself, believe in your partners and your colleagues and everybody comes together and holds the common vision and the drive. If you fail, you pick up and go again.
Would you like to describe the different stages in your business, like the hardship when starting from scratching and your current business status as well as your future expectations?
We had a very unique situation where we did not have much difficulty in starting up and in fact we grew and succeeded very fast. So if you asked the problem in starting, the only thing I would like to say is managing success because when you succeed too fast you can't quite foresee unexpected circumstances ahead, like the SARS, the war. Normally people will just plan and invest based on the projection of the current trend but when things like recession or war happen, then you will face new, unprecedented challenges. The problem we had when starting was that we grew too fast so we needed to be very careful on choosing the right company to invest in, especially when it comes to dot-com companies. At that time we did not expect there would be a dot-com industry crash and we lost quite a lot of money there because that company we invested in collapsed just months before it was to be listed. Another difficulty concerned an aborted acquisition, as we had put in a lot of money and effort to acquire a company. Due to cultural differences we decided to abort the deal just 2 weeks before we were going to sign the legal documents. This happened almost at the same time as the dot-com industry crashed, resulting in a significant cash drain. From what I know, many companies collapsed due to similar reasons but we managed to pull through sheer determination. Those were really difficult times - but we became more hardy, resilient. To me, it is not a bad thing because it made us to build our characters and it also made us to realize what our true strength is. If all these have not happened, we would probably not be as prepared to face adversity. I am sure that every true entrepreneur would have experienced such a baptism of fire! But that was one period when I was completely down and asked myself why I chose to have all this pain when I could have been comfortable working for someone else. Then I met this friend, who is an executive director for one of the largest banks in the region, and after he told me his story I felt I saw pain in perspective! Eight years ago, just after his MBA in the USA, he and his partners decided to setup a company in China, but times were bad and they lost all their money and were "chased" by many angry creditors. During that period, he just went on one or two meals everyday for 8 months and basically the meal was porridge which was the only thing he could afford. He had to sell his apartment and even sleep on the streets at times. This was all after having lived a very comfortable life in the USA and an MBA from one of the best universities. Finally through sheer determination and self-belief he managed to get a fresh investor to come in so that his business survived. After getting his company on track, he resigned to join a bank. He needed to prove to himself he was not a failure. He retained 10% of the shares in the company. That story from a friend really inspired me; it spurred me on. If you look at him today, you will never imagine how much he struggled 8 years ago. When you look at Mr Ron Sim, you cannot imagine the struggles he had to go through, and you look at Mr Sim Wong Hoo, you can never imagine he went door to door when starting. But today they are all very successful people. Behind every one of them, there are stories of struggles and disappointments and of determination. But the key thing is honesty. When I am talking to you right now, I am not ashamed to tell you that it is still a struggle for us. I remember, when I was a kid, I sometimes complained why I did not have this or that like the other kids, then one day a Hindu guru put me on his lap and told me "boy, the next time you feel this way, just remind yourself of this man who complained he did not have shoes until he saw a man without feet". I try and remind myself of that quite often, even till today.
Would you like to tell me when your worst day was since you started your business as well as your best day?
The worst day for me was when I had to actually tell 6 of my colleagues they had to go. Do you remember just now I did mention to you that we have always maintained a strong policy that we do not retrench staff? At that time, the situation was really bad so we had to do that for the survival of the company and it was not really retrenchment instead it was more like a new arrangement because we still gave them freelance assignments. It was really a painful day that we had to let go these colleagues who were very committed and had been with us for years. We had never imagined that would happen and I cannot forget the look in their eyes! For the best day, there are a lot of them while one of them in my mind now was the first day we got our first pay cheque upfront as I told you just now.
So, how do you define the market competition right now?
The competition in the market is pretty rife, and we think we have a few advantages like we believe that we have got a very strong brand name as most people inside the industry or even outside the industry have heard about The Right Angle. The second thing is that by and large, we've managed to demonstrate good quality. Thirdly, we have slowly started building experience and track record in the more premier and specialized productions. We also aim to do more international programmes and slowly shift our focus to the global scale - through collaborations. If we continue to just operate in Singapore, it is going to be very difficult. This is also one of the things I hope to see change as a member of the Media Development Authority's Board. It is not healthy for the industry in the long run if there is no market consolidation where you have a proliferation of companies. The result would drop in quality, and price under-cutting. A lose-lose scenario. Let me give you an example. If you produce a half an hour programme, Discovery Channel would pay you something like 80 to 100 thousand US dollars, while in Singapore a half-an-hour programme can just pay you around 16,000 to 20,000 sing-dollars. And especially in a recession, every one is looking for cheaper productions, and then you have companies coming in with little overheads and quality control offering to do it for just half the price. In the end, if they successfully get the tender due to their cheaper price, and deliver quality, there is no problem. But if there is no quality - we all lose, i.e. the consumer, the producers, the industry! That is why I think we should have market consolidation and that is what we are trying to do now, because if we really want to become a media hub, some of these things must be corrected and there must be more respect for IP, as right now there is not much respect for IP. For example, a VCD contains 3 components: the VCD itself, the technology to make it, and the content. I think the content carries the most value but it is also the hardest to value/quantify. That is the problem we are facing in the market. Let's look at The Right Angle. We do not have much fixed assets like in the manufacturing industry but normally the local traditional financial evaluators would just evaluate the company based on their balance sheet, which means how much fixed assets you have. But if you look at developed country like USA increasingly you will notice they have a special valuation protocol for IP companies such as law confirms and media and communications companies, and a key component would be their IP value. We need to move in that direction; otherwise we can never become a media hub. I can imagine once we get there, companies in the media and creative industries will actually benefit from the IP value and will be even more attractive to big suitors from developed countries interested in investing or in strategic collaborations.
Part III About the young generation
Who are your role model and mentor?
I do not have mentors, but I have good friends who give me a lot of help, support and guidance. I do not have specific people in mind now, but these are all people I respect, as entrepreneurs, like Mr Ron Sim, Mr Kenny Yap and Mr Ong Peng Tsin. I would say as entrepreneurs we talk to each other and share our experiences and to me this is different from mentorship.
In your opinion, what are those important elements a successful entrepreneur should have?
Well. You know people have IQ, EQ and AQ. To me, AQ is the most important one. If you ask me to do a percentage analysis of these 3 Qs' contribution to success, I would say AQ takes 70% of it, while the other two share equal percentage. The reason is that there is no entrepreneur who has not or will not encounter failures. There must be something wrong otherwise. You definitely do have failures, either big or small, but you must be able to pick up and go. You also need to have a good balance of pride and humanity. I do not think an entrepreneur without pride can succeed, but pride is different from being proud. You need to have pride in what you are doing. You know the biggest difference between many Singaporean entrepreneurs and the Taiwanese entrepreneur is that Singaporean entrepreneur tends to look for handouts because they believe in making it on their own. So, you know, you must have that kind of pride to do your business. But at the same time, you need to be humble and willing to listen to others. Besides that, passion is another important element. You must believe in something enough. Then you have half a chance of succeeding.
What would you advice the young people today for starting up a business?
First of all, it is to think very carefully before you become an entrepreneur. One of the things I am concerned about is that people today tend to say that if you cannot get a job, just become an entrepreneur. But I would say not everybody is made to be an entrepreneur. If you do not have that passion, that drive and that determination, you will never succeed in entrepreneurship simply because you do not have the heart for it and you will definitely drop out when you are under pressure. I think before you decide to become an entrepreneur, ask yourself 3 questions: firstly, are you the entrepreneur type of person; secondly, why do you want to be an entrepreneur; thirdly, what do you want to achieve as an entrepreneur.
Part IV To our SOE award
If you are chosen as one of the 38 winners, will you come to the ceremony to be honoured?
Sure. I would be happy to and one of the things I hope is to help to inspire the people with potential, especially young people with the passion. I also hope the people whom you select would be willing to make time to share and mentor.
Will you be comfortable with the press and TV asking you many of the same questions if you are a winner?
Do you have any objection to this interview being posted on the community website or published in the newspaper prior to being chosen?
If part of the Spirit of Enterprise is a scholarship given in your name directed to any school you would like to give it to: any idea now where that would be?
When the interview is written I will show you a copy for accuracy and for your signature before we post it on the website.
Basically, that is all for today's conversation. Thank you very much Mr Viswa. It is so nice to talk with you. Thanks for taking so much of your precious time with me and I have really learned a lot from you.