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Faisal Amin, Co-Founder of Fruitbowl Digital

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Faisal Amin lives, breathes and dreams digital marketing. His agency Fruitbowl Digital has a “knack of creating international buzz.”

What’s your story?
I am the co-founder of Fruitbowl Digital. I have been central to the advertising and marketing industry for over 7 years, working with brands such as BMW, Zodiac, Reliance, Murugappa Group, IDFC Bank, Society Tea and the Karvy Group. As the Strategy and Marketing Head for Fruitbowl Digital, I lead a full service marketing agency that creates creative communications for companies and brands around the world, with a team of 60 plus people in three countries. As a Founder, Business Development Director, IT Turk, Head Talker, Ideator, Twitter Influencer and award-winning Campaign Creator, I live, breathe, dream and walk Fruitbowl. Other businesses that I have been involved in are; Kira, a retail ERP solution, driven through a mobile application and Co.lab.oratory, which is a 220 seating capacity, co-working space in the heart of Mumbai city.

What excites you most about your industry?
As a serial digital entrepreneur, I started my career humbly. I pursued a management degree from the finest and the oldest institute in India and saw a future in integrated e-commerce when people were not even aware of it. Realising, the decision-making processes in big places were often tedious, I became a decision-maker myself. Cutting out the time wasted on unnecessary discussions and meetings, I focused on making results oriented decisions with low time wastage. This is exactly what excites me about the industry.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in the most integrated country for global business opportunities, India. I feel deeply connected to India as the place of my birth and as a global business destination. I was born and raised in one of India’s greenest cities; Bhopal. To everyone’s knowledge, India is as diverse as the whole of Asia, especially when it comes to growth potential and the dynamics of people interaction. While growing up, I not only studied but also celebrated each and every culture, language and the lifestyle. To enhance my sense of belonging, I have been to most parts of India and a couple of places in Asia as well. I see an immense scope for growth from within Asia, branching out to the rest of the world and I strongly believe that Asia is where my true calling is.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Mumbai, without a doubt. It is my first preference for building businesses within Asia. With the resources, investment interest and potential for development that are higher than most other cities, Mumbai is where I chose to initiate three major businesses. With the ever-growing and extremely dynamic Indian markets evolving to digital platforms and the business people always hungry for better and more opportunities, cities like Mumbai, are the centre for economic collaborations and the best source of business opportunities that could potentially take the world by storm.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Always think of what’s next.” This is something a professor once told me when I was just starting. He always had one firm belief during all his years as an investor and entrepreneur, which was that ‘the next step is even more important than the current one.’ To this day, I resonate with and practice that very thought. For any endeavour to always be efficient, there has be a Plan B ready before Plan A can even be considered for implementation. When you put your idea into effect, uncertainty is a definite, unless you already know exactly what is going to happen. In a market as dynamic as ours, investing in any potential business venture, although risky, is incredibly rewarding if done right. Knowing where my decisions will lead me, and always having a strategy to tackle every possible contingency, has made me the man I am today, and has allowed me to make the majority of the financial decisions I have made in the past.

Who inspires you?
There are two words that the man I look up to constantly talks about, and has used to inspire a generation of entrepreneurs and decision-makers. The words I refer to are “dream bigger” and the man in question is none other than Steve Jobs. These two words, coming from the man who asked “how” more often than “what,” contained the wisdom that pushed me to do things differently. He always spoke of reinventing and pushed the people he worked and interacted with, to see things differently and create what others thought impossible. There is a difference between walking into an Apple retail store and any other store, and that reason is Steve Jobs giving his team the freedom and motivation to think outside the limits of regular retail to create a sensation that is unlike any other. The man who always strived to do things differently has, without a shred of doubt, single-handedly put me on the path of doing different things, my way. He has motivated me to work with my team towards bigger, unimaginable, but definitely possible things.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Blockchain is a technology that has been known about and in-use for sometime now. But, I recently read about some of the additional applications of the technology and the potential power it can give regular people. Blockchain is a digital method of record-keeping, which means there is no central authority required to keep track of all the stages of transactions. Because the network of computers involved in that transaction all maintain copies of the full blockchain, every participant has the complete and transparent history of what’s going on — which, in theory, should make that transaction more secure (especially because it’s really hard to break off a block due to the sophisticated encryption). Blockchain has the potential to be used for almost any type of transaction, especially financial, such as trading stocks or other assets that require middlemen. Blockchain could help make these processes more efficient, while eliminating the middleman, and could also help businesses keep track of the supply chain, while also helping the average person purchase services without having to go through an agency.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
In the 7 years that I have been running my business, I have seen quite a prominent learning curve. If I could do it all over again, I would do exactly the same things we did, with the same people involved, but at a much faster rate. Using the knowledge we have acquired over the years, we could potentially bring our business to the same place it is at, or even further in less than half the time. Such is the boom and curse of knowledge; more often than not being acquired only after the need for it has passed, but at the same time enabling you to learn from mistakes, and optimize future outcomes.

How do you unwind?
A fresh brew of black luwak jolts me out of bed followed by a game of squash. After an energising run, I get ready for a challenging but interesting day at work filled with meetings and commitments. Between balancing my schedule among FruitBowl, Kira and Co.Lab.Oratory and going through a heap of approvals, a tantalising cup of green tea keeps me energised. Following a fun but chaotic day at work, I let loose by meeting new people and listening to some Frank Sinatra on my way home.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
If I had to pick one destination, it would have to be the Gili Islands of Indonesia. The white sands coupled with the pristine waters, really appeal to me. These islands are paradise for me.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Jeffrey Gitomer’s magnum opus ‘The Sales Bible’ is a must read for anybody looking for guidance in the sales and marketing industry. In his book, Gitomer uses his decades of sales experience to show us just how one can make the most of their own skills, and hone them to potentially close a sale. Gitomer says,“Don’t blame yourself. Take responsibility for it. Learn from it and then do something about it!” He teaches people, the perfect attitude to have in the sales industry, and talks about what’s necessary to confidently and effectively make a sale.

Shameless plug for your business:
Fruitbowl Digital is one of the top 10 digital marketing agencies in the country, catering to over 200 clients, with the knack of creating international buzz.

How can people connect with you
Email: [email protected]
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/aimfaisal/

Twitter handle?
@BakarAmplifier

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:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

Callum Connects

Jace Koh, Founder of U Ventures

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Jace Koh believes cash flow is the lifeblood of your business. Understanding it will enhance your ability to run and manage your business.

What’s your story?
My name is Jace Koh and I am the Founder of U Ventures. I’ve always been inclined towards investment and entrepreneurship. I’ve played a hand in starting businesses across these industries – professional services, cloud integration, software and music. I believe that succeeding in business is tough, but that’s what makes the rewards even sweeter.

What excites you most about your industry?
Everything excites me. These are my beliefs:

  • Why is accounting important?
    The accounting department is the heart. Cash flow is like blood stream, it pumps blood to various parts of the body like cash flow is pumped to various departments and/or functions in a business. It is vital to the life and death of the business.
  • Is accounting boring?
    Accountants are artists too. They paint the numbers the way they want them to be.
  • What makes a good accountant?
    A good accountant can tell you a story about the business by looking at the numbers.
  • Why is budgeting and projection important?
    Accountants are like fortune tellers, they can predict the numbers and if you wish to understand your business and make informed decisions, feel free to speak to our friendly consultants to secure a meeting.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore, and here’s where I want to be.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore is my favourite city. We have great legal systems in place, good security and people with integrity. Most importantly, we have a government that fosters a good environment for doing business. I recently went for a cultural exchange programme in Hong Kong to learn more about their startups. I found out that the Hong Kong government generally only supports local business owners in terms of grants. They’ve recently been more lenient and changed the eligibility to include all businesses that have at least 50% local shareholding. But comparing that to Singapore, the government only requires a 30% local shareholding to obtain government support. In the early days of starting a business, all the support you can get is precious. It’s great that we have a government that understands that.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
The best time ever to plant a tree was 10 years ago as the tree would have grown so big to provide you with shelter and all. When is the next best time to plant a tree? It is today. Because in 10 years time, the tree would have grown big enough to provide you shelter and all.

Who inspires you?
Jack Ma. His journey to success is one of the most inspiring as it proves that with determination and great foresight, even the poorest can turn their lives around. I personally relate to his story a lot, and this is my favourite quote from him, “If you don’t give up, you still have a chance. Giving up is the greatest failure.”

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I’ve faced multiple rejections throughout my business journey, and recently came across a fact on Jack Ma about how he was once rejected for 32 different jobs. It resonated very deeply and taught me the importance of tenacity, especially during tough times.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. I live a life with no regrets. Everything I do, regardless of whether it is right or wrong, happy or sad, and regardless of outcome, it’s a lesson with something to take away.

How do you unwind?
I love to pamper myself through retail therapy and going for spas. I also make a conscious effort to take time off work to have a break outside to unwind as well as to uncloud my mind. This moment of reflection from time to time helps me see more clearly on how I can improve myself.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Taiwan! Good food with no language barriers and the people are great!

Everyone in business should read this book:
I don’t really read books. Mostly, I learn from my daily life and interactions with hundreds of other business owners. To me, people tell the most interesting stories.

Shameless plug for your business:
We’re not just corporate secretaries, we’re “business doctors.”
U Ventures is a Xero certified advisory firm that goes beyond traditional accounting services to provide solutions for your business. You can reach us on our website: http://uventures.com.sg/

How can people connect with you?
Converse to connect. You can reach me via email at [email protected] or alternatively, on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jacekoh/

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:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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Callum Connects

Ray Ferguson, Founder of Caber Partners

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Ray Ferguson left the banking world and returned to Asia to explore exciting fintech opportunities.

What’s your story?
I am the Founder of Caber Partners, a Singapore based MAS Licensed Fund Manager and Financial Advisor investing and working with companies focused exclusively on the intersection of finance and technology. I work specifically in the areas of payments, insurance, wealth management, alternative lending and blockchain.

I am also Chairman of Singapore Life which was founded last year. It is the first new local life company in Singapore. Concurrently, I chair Youtap a business which is creating a cashless e-money processing backbone providing real-time interoperable settlements of all consumer e-money payments to the merchants, e-money providers, retail and FMCG distribution groups, and banks across emerging markets.

My 30 year journey as a banker had its main leg with Standard Chartered Bank, where I held multiple country chief executive and regional leadership roles across four continents. I spent 6 years as Regional CEO, South East Asia and Chief Executive, Singapore. After Standard Chartered, I moved to Bank ABC, Bahrain and assumed the role of Group Chief Banking Officer where I took care of the group’s banking businesses worldwide.
Last year, I decided to step down after 3 years from my role with Bank ABC to return to Asia to pursue interesting and exciting opportunities that fintech disruption was providing.

What excites you most about your industry?
The sheer pace of technological innovation in the financial sector, and how it is up-ending the traditional models and traditional players. There are huge implications and benefits for efficiency, transparency and importantly financial inclusion which will drive growth in emerging markets.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I have lived in and worked in Asia for more than 30 years. I first came to Singapore in 1994 and today I am a proud Singapore citizen, and to me Singapore is home.

Its an invigorating environment. Asia is in the middle of an historic transformation. If it continues to follow its recent trajectory, by 2050 its per capita income could rise sixfold in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms to reach Europe’s levels today. It would make some 3 billion additional Asians affluent by current standards. By nearly doubling its share of global gross domestic product (GDP) to 52 percent by 2050, Asia would regain the dominant economic position it held some 300 years ago, before the industrial revolution. This is a big deal and I’m excited to be part of it!

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Definitely Singapore! Singapore is known for being a business-friendly country and it was crowned the best country in World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business List” and ranks as the top 3 in the World Economic Forum’s “Global Competitive Index.” Singapore is an attractive hub, for both businesses and has a great community to live in.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Listen intently and you will know what you don’t know.

Who inspires you?
Nelson Mandela

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
That the global mobile wallet market was valued at approximately USD 594 billion in 2016 and is expected to reach approximately USD 3,100 billion by 2022, growing at a CAGR of around 32% between 2017 and 2022.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have learnt to code.

How do you unwind?
Exercise, golf and sailing large catamarans.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Phuket. Easy to reach, Thai people and service, breadth of choice of locations/accomodation and great sailing weather.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Good to Great – Jim Collins. It’s about how companies transition from being good companies to great companies, and how and why most companies fail to make the transition.

Shameless plug for your business:
Caber Partners team is uniquely connected with our networks and experience in fintech markets, investing and banking and business growth solutions throughout Asia and across the emerging world.

How can people connect with you?
Come connect with me through my LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/rayfergusonscb

Twitter handle?
Rayferguson888

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:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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