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5 Branding Lessons I Learnt From Singapore



Spend a short amount of time in Singapore and it’s easy to assume that Singaporeans don’t place much emphasis on Personal Branding.

But, that’s not strictly true. It very much depends on how you define personal branding.

Talk to Singaporeans about “brand statements”, “Reach assessments” and their “online brand” and you’re likely to receive a limited response from some people.

But when you spend time living and working on this island state, you realize that Singaporeans (in their very own way) are actually very focused on managing their reputations.

Here are 5 personal branding lessons you can learn for Singapore:

1. Have a unique voice

Coming from London, one of the great advantages of moving to Singapore for me was the fact that everyone speaks English here.

Or rather – they speak “Singlish” – Singapore’s very own version of English with some choice phrases and dialects thrown in.

Most notably – adding the word “La” to the end of an English sentence. “La” doesn’t actually mean anything – it’s just a way to make a sentence less formal and to be friendly. The Singaporean authorities try to distance them themselves from Singlish and encourage people to speak ‘clear English.’

But having your own unique voice and style of communication (Singlish or otherwise) helps individuals, businesses Singaporean society to be unique – whilst maintaining their authenticity (i.e. the very essence of Personal Branding).

How about you?
Do your words, language and online profile reflect your authentic self? Or do you just sound like everyone else?

2. Watch your ‘Face’

Singapore is a melting pot of different cultures and races – Chinese, Indians, Malays along with expatriate workers (like myself) making up the population.

Around 75% of that population come from Chinese heritage. And as anyone who has done business in China will know, the concept of ‘face’ or “Mian Zi” (in Mandarin) is of fundamental importance to people with Chinese heritage.

In Chinese culture, ‘face’ represents an individual’s reputation and standing in the eyes of others – be that in the workplace or society at large.

Chinese Singaporeans are consequently very mindful of the actions and activities which may cause them to ‘lose face’ in the eyes of others. Similarly ‘gaining face’ is equally important. Seeking opportunities and accolades which will enhance your reputation is seen as highly desirable.

How about you?
To what extent are you mindful and protective of your reputation? How proactive are you about seeking opportunities which will help you ‘gain face’?

3. Practice excellence

As a visitor, the moment you arrive into Singapore, you recognize the high standards the country sets for itself.  Singapore’s Changi Airport has consistently been ranked the “Best Airport in the World” and really is a joy to travel through.

But this focus on excellence doesn’t apply just to the airport. The fabric of modern Singapore life is driven by achieving high standards – from the drive to achieve high grades at school and finding jobs in the most prestigious companies and professions, through to Singapore’s obsession with the “tallest”, the “biggest” and the “best.”

The “best health care system in Asia’, the “largest Aquariam in the world”, the “highest al fresco bar in the world”, “the best street food in the world”

The list goes on.

Visitors to Singapore may smile at some of these ‘accolades’ – but at the same time, it’s difficult not to admire the amazing success story of Singapore. A success that is driven by the focus on excellence and high standards in everything you do.

How about you?
The easiest way to be referred for a new job or be referred to new clients is to do an excellent job in your existing role and to impress your existing clients. What are you doing to practice excellence and set the highest standards in everything you do?

4. Be consistent

Singapore is driven by efficient systematic processes. Things ‘just works’ here. Be that transport systems, communication systems or the businesses built around robust processes – which then help deliver consistent results and experiences.

How about you?
The process of managing your brand is not a ‘one off activity’ when job searching or rebranding your business. It’s the consistent set of actions and messages you send out. How can you become more systematic in the way you manage your personal brand?

5. Speak up

Historically, Singaporeans have not always been known for speaking up. Singapore’s success in recent times has been built on the adherence to systems and rules. Which have then translated into the systematic and process-driven environments mentioned above.

So “speaking up” is not a natural Singaporean trait.

Work inside a multi-national company in Singapore, and you’ll often see western expatriates (rather than the Singaporeans) to be the more assertive ones. The ones that challenge and question the status quo.

Talk to a Singaporean doctor, banker or management consultant and you’ll often see a hidden artist, designer or entrepreneur who couldn’t challenge their parent’s desire for them to follow a traditional career path to a prestigious and well paid profession.

But things are changing. I’m increasingly noticing the rise of the Singaporean voice. People willing to challenge the status quo, to have an opinion and speak their mind. People willing to follow the passions rather than simply choosing careers down the beaten path.

How about you?
In the past – fitting in, complying and not ‘rocking the boat’ was the path to career success. In today’s workplace it’s the worst thing you can do. Are you speaking up and standing out – or are you still keeping your head down and fitting in?

The Future

As the economies of Asia expand, Singapore will continue to be a vibrant, modern economic success at the heart of Asia’s future growth. And will continue to attract talent and businesses who seek to benefit from that growth.

The challenge for the people of Singapore is to maintain their authenticity, their history and uniqueness as they compete for business and career opportunities in an increasingly competitive market.

In that respect, Singapore is no different to any of the other countries discussed in this Blogathon series.

In an increasingly noisy and competitive world, YOU and your personal brand are the biggest lever in your future success. So review these 5 lessons and decide which ONE area you need to focus on next to strengthen your brand and stand out….La!


About the Author

This article was produced by Peter Stelacci and was authored by Sital Rupaleria. Having spent the majority of his career in London, Sital is currently based in Singapore working with the recruitment team of a global technology firm. He shares his observations on the modern work place, careers and his adventures across Asia at his personal blog. Visit Peter Stelacci for more information and insights on Personal branding.


Women on Top in Tech – Tara Velis, Growth Hacker and Digital Innovation Strategist



(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

I am talking to Tara Velis, Growth Hacker and freelance Digital Innovation Strategist. Tara was selected and recognized by as one of the 500 most talented young people in the Dutch digital scene during the 2017 TNW edition. Tara is known for her creative, entrepreneurial spirit, which she is using to her advantage in leading the change in SMEs and corporates around the globe.

What makes you do what you do?

I tend to see life as a big, complex puzzle. Because of my curious nature, I am in constant development, looking for new angles and new approaches to business problems. Innovation through technology is exploring ideas and pushing boundaries. The most radical technological advances have not come from linear improvements within one area of expertise. Instead, they arise from the combination of seemingly disparate inventions. This is, in fact, the core of innovation. I love going beyond conventional thinking practices. Mashing up different thoughts and components, connecting the dots, and transforming that into something useful to businesses.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?

I consistently chose to follow my curiosity, which has led me to where I am today. If you want to succeed in the digital industry, you need to have a growth mindset. Seen the fact that the industry is evolving in an astoundingly quick rate, it’s crucial to stay current with the trends and forces in order to spot business opportunities. I believe taking responsibility for your own learning and development is key to success.

Why did you take on the role of Digital Innovation Strategist?

The reason for this is twofold. On the one hand, I got frustrated with businesses operating in the exact same way they did a couple of decades ago. Right now we are in the midst of a technology revolution, and the latest possibilities and limitations of cutting-edge technologies are evolving every single day. This means that companies need to stay current and act lean if they want to survive. On a more personal level, I noticed that I felt the need to use my creativity and problem-solving skills to their maximum capacity. In transforming businesses at scale, I change the rules of the game. I love breaking out of traditional, old-fashioned patterns by nurturing innovative ideas. This involves design thinking, extensive collaboration and feedback, the implementation of various strategies and tactics, validated learning, and so on. I get a lot of energy from my work because it is aligned with my personal interests.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries?

Yes, I look up to Drew Boyd. He is a global leader in creativity and innovation. He taught me how to evaluate ideas in order to select the best ones to proceed with. This is crucial because otherwise,you run the risk of ideas creating the criteria for you because of various biases and unrelated factors. He also taught me a great deal on facilitation of creativity workshops.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I tend to have the characteristics of a transformational leader. People have told me that my enthusiasm and positive energy is motivating and even inspiring to them. Even though I take these comments as a huge compliment, I am not sure how I feel about referring to myself as a leader. To me, it still has a somewhat negative connotation. I guess I associate the concept with being a boss who’s throwing around commands. But if a leader means listening to others and igniting intrinsic motivation in people, then yes, I guess I’m a charismatic leader.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?

Yes, one hundred percent. I believe that creativity and innovation flourish when a highly diverse group of people bounces ideas off each other. Diversity in terms of function, gender,and culture is extremely valuable, especially in the ideation phase of a project, as it can help to see more possibilities and come up with better ideas.

Do you have any advice for others?

Yes, I have some pieces of advice I’d like to share.
First of all: Develop self-awareness. You can do so by actively seeking feedback from the people around you. This will help you understand how others see you, align your intentions with your actions, and eventually enhance your communication- and leadership skills.

Surround yourself with knowledgeable and inspiring people. They might be able to support you in reaching your goals, and help you grow both personally and professionally.

Ask “why?” a couple of times. This simple and powerful method is useful for getting to the core of a problem or challenge. Make sure to often remind yourself and your team of the outcome of this exercise to have a clear sense of direction and focus.

Data is your friend. Whether it’s extensive quantitative market research or a sufficient amount of in-depth consumer interviews (or both!), your data levels all arguments. However, always be aware of biases and limitations of research.

Say “Yes, and…” instead of “No”. Don’t be an idea killer. Forget about the feasibility and budget, at least in the ideation phase. Instead, encourage your team to generate ideas without restrictions. You can compromise certain aspects later.

Prioritization is key. There is just no way you can execute all your ideas, and, quite frankly, there is no point in trying to do so. Identify the high potential ideas and start executing those first.

Encourage rapid prototyping. Don’t wait too long to experiment, launch, and iterate your product or service. Fail fast and fail often. Adopt an Agile mindset.

If you’d like to get in touch with Tara Velis, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn:

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Callum Connects

Marek Danyluk, CEO of Space Ventures



Marek Danyluk has a talent for assessing the competencies of management teams for other businesses and pulling together exceptional teams for his own businesses!

What’s your story?
I am the CEO of a venture capital business, Space Ventures, which invests in seed and pre-series A businesses. I also own and run Space Executive, a recruitment business focused on senior to executive hires across sales, marketing, finance, legal and change.

My career started as a trainee underwriter in the Lloyds market but quickly moved into recruitment where I set-up my first business in 2002. The business grew to around 100 people. I moved to Asia in 2009 as a board member of a multinational recruitment business with the mandate to help them scale their Asian entities, which helped contribute to their sale this year, in 2017.

My main talent is assessing the competencies of management teams as well as building high performing recruitment boutiques and putting together exceptional management teams for my own businesses.

What excites you most about your industry?
Building the business is very much about attracting the best talent and being able to build a culture which people find invigorating and unique. It’s an exciting proposition to be able to define a culture in that regard and salespeople are a fun bunch, so when you get it right it’s tremendous.

From a VC point of view there is just so much happening. South East Asia is a melting pot of innovation so the ideas and quality of people you have exposure to, is truly phenomenal. The exposure in the VC has taken me away from a career in recruitment. Doing something completely different has given me a new level of focus.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Whilst I came here with work, both my boys were born in Singapore and to them this very much is home. That said, my father in law spent many years in the East so coming and settling here was met with a good degree of support and familiarity.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Possibly Hong Kong. It’s the closest I’ve been to working in London. Whilst there are massive Asian influences people will work with you on the basis you are good at what you do and work hard. I find that approach very honest and straightforward.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Always treat people well on the way up!”

Who inspires you?
I like reading about people who have excelled in business such as Jack Ma, James Kahn, Phil Knight, Sir Richard Branson, Elon Musk, all have great stories to tell and they are all inspirational. No-one has inspired me more than my parents and they are well aware as to why…

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Pretty much any technology innovation blows me away.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Whilst it is important not to have regrets I do continually wake up thinking I’m still doing my A’ Levels. So, I’d have probably tried a little harder in 6th form.

How do you unwind?
I like the odd glass of red wine and watching sport

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Japan skiing. I love skiing and Japanese food and it’s a time when I can really enjoy time with the wife and kids. I recently tried the Margaret River which was divine, although not technically Asia.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Barbarians at the Gate

Shameless plug for your business:
Space Executive is the fastest growing recruitment business in Singapore focused on the mid to senior market across legal, compliance, finance, sales and marketing and change and transformation. Multi-award winning with exceptional growth plans into Hong Kong and London this year, and the US, Japan and Europe by the end of 2022. We are building a truly global brand.

Space Ventures is interested in any businesses that require capital or management and financial guidance or any or all of the above. We have, to date, invested in on-line training, food and beverages, peer to peer lending platforms, credit scoring as well as other tech and fintech start-ups. We are always interested in hearing about potential deals.

How can people connect with you?
[email protected]

Twitter handle?

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
Download free copies of his books here:

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