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Positivity, the Determinant of Success?



Datuk (Dr) Kelvin Tan spent his childhood days in the small township of Bagan Datoh, in the state of Perak, where the main economic activity was fishing and the cultivation of coconut. It was a simple life where one could easily slip into contentment but Kelvin’s drive for a better life kept him less than satisfied.

In 1986, at the age of 28, he took the bold step of uprooting himself from Bagan Datoh in Peninsular Malaysia to Tawau, Sabah. Here he began the establishment of TSH Resources as a key local commodity player. Over the years, Kelvin transformed the company into a leading efficient regional oil palm plantation player with both upstream and downstream activities. Today, Kelvin has 28 years’ experience in the industry and TSH Resources is a multi-billion ringgit corporation.

The Group has achieved a total oil palm landbank in Malaysia and Indonesia of approximately 125,000ha with many palm oil mills as well as refineries. Since 15 years ago, due to Kelvin’s desire to grow the business and also scarcity of available land in Sabah, he ventured into another uncharted territory, Indonesia, to expand TSH’s business in oil palm plantation. Many would have argued for caution but his desire to expand drove him ahead. The landbank is located in different parts of Kalimantan and Sumatera of Indonesia. Despite headwinds and great challenges, the young Kelvin was unfazed. His early acquisitions of good and strategic lands have proven to be wise and successful investments. To sustain long-term growth, he realized the necessity of creating a good and systematic management platform. Starting a training school was the first step and he went on to develop a management team to sustain his aspirations of increasing TSH’s plantation footprint in the region. With his steely determination, TSH has achieved great success in its regional expansion. In 2013, Maybank stamped its recognition and approval when it ranked TSH as having ‘The Best Crude Palm Oil (CPO) Yield in 2013’.

Kelvin’s leadership and astute business acumen paved the growth of The Group to current overall staff strength of approximately 14,500 employees, top line growth to RM1 billion and established the foundation for further growth.

Owing to Kelvin’s leadership and stewardship, the group has one of the youngest age profile of oil palm plantation in Malaysia, setting the stage for continuity of growth in years to come. In year 2013, TSH was awarded the Best Performing Stock by The Edge Billion Ringgit Club Awards and this was followed by the Highest Profit Growth Company award in 2014. These awards are again a testament to Kelvin’s farsighted business model.

It was upon the success in Sabah and Indonesia that he was tasked with the job of turning around Innoprise Plantations Berhad. He was made the Managing Director in year 2006. Innoprise was once a struggling enterprise and today it is completely well planted and a profitable outfit.

Kelvin’s business experience is not only limited to regional but also international. He was instrumental in the listing of Ekowood International Berhad on Malaysia’s Main Board in 2004. Ekowood has offices in Luxembourg, Spain, China and USA today. The brand name is well-recognized internationally despite its Malaysian origins. Kelvin believes in creating value and branding; being awarded the best Engineered Hardwood Floor in UK in 2002 showed he was on the right path. Other accolades include Superbrand Status 2005, Best Brands Hardwood Flooring 2007- 2008 and Consumer Hardwood Flooring 2013-2014 from The BrandLaureate. His local, regional and international success has won him The Brand Icon Leadership Award by The BrandLaureate Premier, 2014.

Today, Kelvin is the Chairman of two public companies – TSH Resources Berhad, Ekowood International Berhad and Managing Director of Innoprise Plantations Berhad.

Kelvin has done his fair share of service to the industry and nation. At the age of 40, he was appointed by the Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities as Chairman of the Malaysia Cocoa Board, a federal statutory research and development agency, for eight years from 1997 to 2004. During his tenure, the cocoa industry made a great shift from a plantation-based to an industrial-based. He encouraged further downstream processing to create more economic spinoffs, employment and value to the industry.

While Kelvin has grown his business, he has never forgotten the importance of making a positive difference in employees’ lives – be it through the provision of housing, medical, education or social facilities. Moreover, he has always believed in enabling his employees to tap as well as grow their potential. Kelvin is always grateful to the people who have played a role in his success, and encourages his staff to grow professionally as well as personally. Kelvin believes in channeling his employees’ productivity and passion by engaging his team’s energy and skills. As the business expands, he believes that the combination of sound business relationships and technical skills will set the platform for continuity of growth for TSH.

A similar balance can be seen in the Group’s business activities too – Kelvin believes that the environment and bio-diversity can always be improved while still maintaining a strong economic performance. The Group’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities focus on developing the local communities in which it operates. It funds social and educational infrastructure in these areas while also providing business opportunities. Kelvin’s emphasis is on the sustainability of communities.

Recently, he has also worked with Sabah State Forestry to regazette 100,000 acres out of 300,000 acres in its Forest Management Unit to be permanently conserved for biodiversity and research purposes. He was conferred an Honorary Doctorate in Philosophy (Agroforestry) by the University of Malaysia Sabah in year 2006 as recognition of his contribution in this often-neglected area.

He has a chair in University of Malaysia Sabah Forestry Faculty to carry out biodiversity and environmental studies and research. Many of his valuable inputs have contributed to success of various projects.

Staying positive is an important attribute for one’s well being and success, according to Kelvin. Being constantly optimistic and having a positive attitude will allow us to become more devoted to our goals. Not forgetting that staying positive is good for our mental and physical health and the good vibes will be passed to those around us.

With a positive attitude, one will develop strong self-esteem which is an important attribute that leads to peak performance. He further adds that liking and respecting oneself are fundamental principles of success and happiness and it is vital to feel fully alive, as it will automatically allow us to determine our values, strive for mastery and know what you want.

Having spent nearly three decades in building the business, Kelvin is grateful to the people who have played a role in his success. They have shed light on a path that he acknowledges he would not have been able to walk alone. Even though he has achieved certain important milestones in his life, success for Kelvin is always a constant journey.

Leadership is not just about what you do, but how you inspire, encourage and empower others to do with trust. Therefore, it is always important for a leader to take ownership of what they say and practice what they preach.

Datuk (Dr) Kelvin Tan is a winner of the Asia Pacific Entrepreneurship Awards 2015 Malaysia – Special Achievement Award. The Awards were held on 27th August 2015 at InterContinental Hotel, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Callum Connects

Jason Feng, Co-Founder of Pillpresso



Mr. Jason Feng is re-engineering the healthcare industry.

What’s your story?
I am an engineer at heart. I enjoy the process of problem solving and have been actively developing innovative solutions to existing problems. Me and my co-founder settled on the problem of poor medication adherence among the elderly. This was a problem which struck a chord with us because we all have loved ones who have to take multiple medications on a daily basis. The complex medication regimen, coupled with declining cognitive abilities of the elderly tend to exacerbate the lack of medication adherence, which may lead to disease relapse and hospital readmissions, ultimately increasing the burden to caregivers and the society.

What excites you most about your industry?
The problem of medication adherence is not a new one in the healthcare industry. In fact, lack of medication adherence is a well-researched problem in many countries. Solutions which have been developed to address this problem face three major issues:

  • Entrenched mindset within the healthcare system, many of which are used to and unwilling to change from the legacy systems which were implemented decades ago.
  • Complex nuances in healthcare delivery across different countries, making it hard to “copy” and “paste” solutions which have worked well in other areas.
  • Because poor medication adherence is multifactorial, and many solutions focus solely on a few aspects, and do not employ a holistic approach.

Nevertheless, entering this industry at this time excites me because we are in the midst of a global shift in healthcare models; one where the industry is moving away from a service-based model, towards a more value-based model. This shift means that traditional players such as insurance companies and pharmaceuticals are under increasing pressure from patients and payers to demonstrate the value of their products under real-world use. Medication adherence data is one crucial missing link in this puzzle to deliver better care to patients. Being able to build a business around these incumbents and pioneer a new way of care is something which I look forward to.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I am a Singaporean. Most of my experiences throughout my life have been in Asia.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I have not worked in other Asian countries outside of Singapore, so I can’t comment on other Asian countries too much. Singapore has a relatively low barrier for starting a business, and all business rules and regulations are clear and transparent. The startup ecosystem is also rather comprehensive and easily accessible. Being a small country, Singapore has a very limited market for products and services. However, due to its size and efficiency, it serves as an excellent test bed for new ideas. Being a travel hub, travelling to other Asian countries is cheap and easy.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Fail fast, fail often. The greatest lessons are never learnt through success.

Who inspires you?
Elon Musk

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Successful launch of Falcon Heavy and the recovery of the 2 side cores. The way the 2 cores landed was like something you’d only see in CGI. Very well calculated.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Applied for NOC (NUS Overseas College)

How do you unwind?
Go rock climbing.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Nepal. I’m an outdoors guy. Being able to trek around the Himalayas is probably the best form of relaxation for me.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Creative confidence, by the Kelly Brothers

Shameless plug for your business:
Pillpresso is an award-winning health-tech startup that aims to improve medication adherence. We’re developing a medication management system that empowers seniors to manage their medicines independently and deliver proactive healthcare in the community through technology. Comprising individuals with complementary skills across business, engineering and medicine, our team is driven by a desire to improve healthcare and the human condition.

Grand Prize Winner of the 2017 Tech Factor Challenge

Grand Prize Winner of the 2015 Modern Aging

How can people connect with you?
[email protected]

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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Will Financial Liberalisation Trigger a Crisis in China?



The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has been liberalizing its financial system for nearly 4 decades. While it now has a comprehensive financial system with a large number of financial institutions and large financial assets, its financial policies are still highly repressive. These repressive financial policies are now a major hindrance to the PRC’s economic growth.

The PRC is at the beginning of a new wave of financial liberalization that is necessary for supporting the country’s strong economic growth. The country’s leaders have already unveiled a comprehensive program of financial reform, which includes 11 specific reform measures in three broad areas: creating a level-playing field (such as allowing private banks and developing inclusive finance), freeing the market mechanism (such as reforming interest rate and exchange rate regimes and achieving capital account convertibility), and improving regulation.

But could financial liberalization lead to a major financial crisis in the PRC? What would be the consequences for financial stability as the PRC moves to further liberalize its financial system? If the PRC repeats the painful experiences of Mexico, Indonesia, and Thailand, then it might not be able to achieve its original goal of overcoming the middle-income trap.

International experiences of financial liberalization, especially those of middle-income economies, should offer important lessons for the PRC. In our new research, based on cross-country data analysis, we find that financial liberalization, in general, reduces, not increases, financial instability. This powerful conclusion is valid whether financial instability is measured by crisis occurrence or by fragility indicators, such as impaired loans and net charge-offs. The only exception is that financial liberalization does not appear to significantly lower the probability of systemic banking crises, although it does lower the risk indicators for banks. These results have higher statistical significance and are greater in magnitude for the middle-income group than for the entire sample.

The insignificant impact on banking crises, however, should be interpreted with caution. One of the possible explanations is that under the repressed financial regime, the government supports banks with an implicit or explicit blanket guarantee. This reduces the probability of an explicit banking crisis, although the banking risks may be even greater because of the moral hazard problem. In fact, government protection of banks could also increase the probability of a sovereign debt crisis or even a currency crisis before financial liberalization.

If financial liberalization significantly reduces the likelihood of financial crises, especially in middle-income economies, then why did some middle-income economies experience financial crises following liberalization? We further investigate whether the pace of liberalization, the supervisory structure, and the institutional environment matter for outcomes of financial liberalization.

We obtain three main findings. First, an excessively rapid pace of financial liberalization may increase financial risks. The net impact on financial instability depends on the relative importance of the “liberalization effect” and the “pace effect.” In essence, what the “pace effect” captures could simply be the prerequisite conditions and reform sequencing that are well discussed in the literature. Second, the quality of institutions, such as investor protection and law and order, also matter. International experiences indicate that investor protection can significantly reduce the probability of financial crises. Third, the central bank’s participation in financial regulation is helpful for reducing financial risks during financial liberalization. This is probably because central banks always play central roles in financial liberalization, especially in the liberalization of interest rates, exchange rates, and the capital account. If a central bank is responsible for financial regulation, its liberalization policies might be more cautious and prudent.

Our research findings offer important policy implications for the PRC. (1) Further financial liberalization is necessary not only for sustaining strong economic growth but also for containing or reducing financial risks. (2) Gradual reform may still work better than the “big bang” approach, and sequencing is very important for avoiding the painful financial volatilities that many other middle-income countries have seen. (3) The government should also focus more on improving the quality of other institutions, especially market discipline, to contain financial risks. (4) It is better for the central bank to participate in financial regulation. The new regulatory system should focus exclusively on financial stability and shift from regulating institutions toward regulating functions. It should also become relatively independent to increase accountability.


About the Author 

This submitted article was written by  and  of Asia Pathways, the blog of The Asian Development Bank Institute was established in 1997 in Tokyo, Japan, to help build capacity, skills, and knowledge related to poverty reduction and other areas that support long-term growth and competitiveness in developing economies in the Asia-Pacific region.

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