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Self-made Success Story: Hon Kwok Lung of Citychamp

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Mr. Hon Kwok Lung was born in 1955 in Fuqing, a city located in the north-central part of Fujian’s seacoast. He is the Chairman of Citichamp (Holdings) Limited, the Chairman of Citychamp Watch & Jewellery Group Limited (00256.HK), and the Chairman of Citychamp Dartong Co., Ltd, (600067.SH). He is currently the Committee Member of the 12th National Committee of The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the Committee Member of All-China Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese, the Executive Vice President of China Federation of Overseas Chinese Entrepreneurs, and the Honorary Forever President of the Hong Kong Federation Overseas Chinese Associations.

Since his hometown was no more than a poor and backward village, he left his hometown for Southeast Asia soon after he finished high school. Under the supervision of Mr Liem Sioe Liong, one of the greatest Asian business leaders, he quickly demonstrated his talent in business and investment. His hardworking attitude and keen business sense helped him gain more responsibilities within a short time period. In 1988, he returned to his hometown, and brought along his greatest business dream and investments. Within a few years, he developed multiple landmark grade properties in Fuzhou, Fujian provincial capital.

He has never been satisfied with his achievements. It is simply impossible for him to live today just the same as yesterday. In 1993, he laid the foundation of his business empire by founding his own property development corporation. But this time, his new project has moved from provincial capital to national capital – Beijing. His urban redevelopment business model proved successful in the Madian project of Beijing and helped all stakeholders, from local government to residents and investors reach a win-win solution. His first development in Beijing, the CITICHAMP PALACE and the CITICHAMP COMMERCIAL BUILDING, were regarded as elite properties standing in the heart of Beisanhuan with the Madian Bridge, which is unambiguously a landmark property. Later on, his project SUN STAR CITY, a 1.5 million square meter development, became one of the largest property developments in Beijing. In 2002, he brought his property development business to public on Shanghai Stock Exchange, which is Citychamp Dartong Co. Ltd. Citychamp Dartong is also one of the top suppliers of copper wire in China.

He believes “Dream, Passion, Innovation” are the most important competencies for an entrepreneur. The fast growing consumer market in China has fueled his passion of watchmaking. Starting from EBOHR in 2004, he won a tough bid war of ROSSINI in 2008 and therefore established his reputation in China domestic watch business. Since then, ROSSINI and EBOHR have built up outstanding brand image in China. ROSSINI has been ranking 1st in overall market share in the watch category for the year 2013 by China General Chamber of Commerce and China National Commercial Information Centre. It was also ranked 1st in sales volume in the watch category for the 12 consecutive years since 2002. ROSSINI and EBOHR were both awarded “China’s 500 Most Valuable Brands of the Year 2014” by the World Brand  Laboratory. ROSSINI was awarded the “Asia’s 500 Most Influential Brands in 2014” by the World Brand Laboratory, and it was the only domestic watch brand in Mainland China that has received this award for seven consecutive years. ROSSINI has been recognized as “High and New Tech Enterprise” and was honored “Government Quality Award of Guangdong Province”.

Of course his dream of watch and jewellery won’t be limited to only domestic brands, which sell a few million watches through a few thousand points of sales already. “I have been to Europe to observe and study for many times. In small suburban town of Switzerland, I have witnessed local watchmakers devoting their life to fine watchmaking. Their persistency and pursuance of perfect craftsmanship impressed me. This is exactly what we need in China,” he said to a journalist one time. In 2011, his watch and jewellery investment vehicle — Hong Kong listed company China Haidian Group (“CHG”; name changed to Citychamp Watch & Jewellery Group Limited “CWJ” in July of 2014) acquired ETERNA, a Swiss brand founded in 1856 who has a long and unambiguously reputation in mechanical watch movement development. In 2013, CHG acquired CORUM, one of the top Swiss brands. Due to the elite status of the brand, this transaction has a pervasive influence in not only watch industry but also China-Switzerland business world. The Swiss Chinese Chamber of Commerce in China honored the company with “the Most Successful Deal in Switzerland 2013 Special Recognition” later of the year. Only one year later, CHG acquired The Dreyfuse Group, which added three more brands – Rotary, JT Windmill and Dreyfuse, to the brand portfolio of the group. Now CWJ has become a market leader in watch design, development, manufacture and distribution, who owns several proprietary brands — both domestic well-known and world class, as well as a vertically integrated supply chain and distribution system. With the recent name change, it is fairly clear that Mr Hon Kwok Lung’s dream and passion are growing.

“The bigger the enterprise becomes, the bigger social responsibility it takes; this is what I learned from the growth of my enterprises.” He has always been passionate in contributing to the society. He is the Honorary Chairman of Hong Kong Fortunate Community Charitable Foundation. He is the Vice Chairman of New Home Association, a charitable association which is committed to promoting a caring prospective Hong Kong society by joining hands together with new arrivals, ethnic minorities and local sectors. In his hometown, he has a long history of contributing to the society. He was honored with “Public Spirited Award of Fuzhou City”, “Outstanding Contribution to the Public Good of Fujian Province”, “2012 Most Social Responsible Chairman” by Directors & Boards magazine, and “Star for Respecting the Aged of Fuqing City”. He specifically believes that education can make a difference thus set up “Hon Kwok Lung Scholarship” in Shanghai Tongji University Education Development Foundation. He funded the “Hon Kwok Lung Academic Building” of Fujian Minjiang College, as well as the “Kwok Lung Science Building” of Fuqing Third Middle School. His enterprises have been title sponsor of many important events, for example, “2nd Silk Road International Film Festival”, “Fuzhou – Yongtai International Road Cycling Race”.

His business achievements have been very well respected and recognized. He was honored “2006 Ten Chinese with Fortune and Intelligence”, “2011 Leader of the Year” by All Asian Leaders magazine, “2012 Forbes 25 Influential Chinese in Global Fashion”, “Ten Outstanding Chinese” by 2013 International Chinese Media Award, and “2013 Charming People” by Southern People Weekly.

Mr Hon Kwok Lung is a winner of the Asia Pacific Entrepreneurship Awards 2015 Hong Kongn, receiving the Special Achievement Award. The Awards were held on 14 October 2015 at Island Shangri-La Hotel, Hong Kong.

Entrepreneurship

Science is the Next Big Thing in Startups

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From pharmaceuticals to petrochemical processes: Newcomer companies and investors and investors alike are setting their sights on science. How the start-up scene moves beyond the mobile apps bubble…

For the last two years Silicon Valley analysts and venture capitalists are anticipating the burst of yet another bubble. This time, under the risk are the mobile start-ups which constitute the biggest share of the market. Out of 50 companies listed in Forbes’ “the hottest startup of 2015” (by valuation) only six companies are based on innovations in other-than-mobile area, one company provide cleaning services, while the rest are diverse mobile apps.

Meanwhile many products listed can be barely called innovative. A significant proportion of the listed start-ups are texting apps, apps for people search (starting from business partners to life partners) or delivery services. While those services can definitely facilitate one’s life, in general they differ from their predecessors by only a narrower audience.

Many venture investors expect stagnation if not decrease on the markets, which is why they start to transfer their capitals from start-ups offering customers software to start-ups offering specific solutions for existing businesses. Such companies are expected to demonstrate more stability in the near future.

The Market for Mobile Apps Might be Saturated

Back in 2012 a talented entrepreneur could walk into a venture capitalist’s office, say his startup was a mobile-first solution for pretty much any problem (payments! photos! blogging!), and walk out with a good-size seed investment. “That pitch was enough to get going,” says Roelof Botha, a partner with VC firm Sequoia Capital. “It’s not enough anymore.”

“I think investors are bored with investing in another messaging app. And our idea is crazy enough that it might just work. ”, has declared in 2014 Nadir Bagaveyev a founder of a start-up using 3-D printers to make rocket engines. By 2016 the company attracted investors funding sufficient to launch its first rocket.

Pharma and Biotech Start-Ups in High Demand

Currently the most successful science-based start-ups are the companies offering innovative solutions in the field of pharmaceuticals and biotechnologies. It’s noteworthy that despite the previous revelations and even judicial proceedings the list of the most expensive start-ups still includes Theranos, blood analyzing laboratory, whose story did not descend from the main pages of the global leading media from 2014.

It first amazed the audience with its fantastic take-off and then with its collapse. One of the crucial parts of the success story of this start-up is its fundamental difference from the majority of the services produced in the Silicon Valley. Unlike the others, it was not a story of yet another beautiful gadget for communication or mobile app, but the story of the scientific idea which intended to conquer the world.

The great success stories in other scientific areas are now happening on occasional basis. However certain facts allow to predict that the situation is to change soon. One of such factors is growing interest among the big corporations to attract innovative solutions from outside to develop their businesses.

Given the accelerating pace of scientific and technological development of the world, the activities of internal R & D departments are often turn to be insufficient to ensure stable development of innovative business. Outsourcing of the R&D may become the efficient mechanism to stimulate the growth of the company. And high-tech start-up can certainly benefit from it.

Start-Up Technology for the Petro-Business

In December, 2016 world leading companies in the field of gas processing, petrochemicals and chemicals announced their intentions to enforce their R&D capacities by attracting start-ups. 3M, AkzoNobel, BASF, The Dow Chemical Company, DuPont, Henkel, Honeywell UOP, LG Chem, Linde, Sibur, Solvay and Technip together created a global stage for startups and investors.

“The petrochemicals industry can and must rely on the potential of open innovations to facilitate further inventions and implementation of new solutions in all major application areas, from construction and medicine to packaging and 3D printing. Thanks to the participation of international partners, IQ-CHem is now the largest global project within the industry which attracts innovative solutions and provides for their implementation into practice,” said Vasily Nomokonov, Executive Director of Sibur, a company which coordinates the project.

Positive Experience in Chemicals and Beyond

Some of the listed companies have already gained positive experience in working with start-ups which may have driven them to elaborate a systemic approach to attract innovative companies.

At the beginning of 2016, SIBUR and RRT Global start-up reached an agreement to build a pilot plant for isomerization based on RRT Global technologies in Sibur’s Industrial Park SIBUR “Tolyattisintez”. According to Oleg Giyazov, co-founder and CEO of RRT Global cooperation with a large corporation bring significant advantages to his company.

“By cooperation with Sibur we get a huge industrial experience that enables us to develop technologies and solutions better fitted to the market demand. This advantage is often not given due attention, but we, on the contrary, see significant opportunities in it. Currently, RRT Global cooperates with several companies around the world” he said.

Another petrochemical leader BASF enjoys successful cooperation with Genomatica start-up. In 2013 BASF started the production of 1,4-butanediol based on renewable feedstock (renewable BDO) using Genomatica’s patented process and in 2015 the license was expanded to the Asian market.

Unlike traditional forms of cooperation between a start-up and a venture capitalist, a cooperation between start-up and a relevant corporation allows to minimize the risks associated with investing in a potentially promising idea where the key word is “potential” (but not “guaranteed”). While delivering services in the same field as the start-up the corporation gets an opportunity to more effectively and accurately estimate the market value of an innovative idea and to support its implementation.

Structural Changes Ahead: Outlines of A Coming Market

In the short term prospective, possibly in 2017, the global start-up market will face structural changes – both in terms of start-ups professional orientation and of funding mechanism. In the future science-based start-ups will dominate the market and will change our lives at a deeper level than the way of sending a text message or searching the restaurant for an evening meal. To be more concise this is already happening in the pharmaceutical industry, and the other scientific areas are to follow.

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About the Author

This article was written by Dominik Stephan of Process Worldwide. See more.

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Callum Connects

Norman Tien, Founder of Neuromath and Early Math Matters

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From a young age, Norman Tien, found his passion helping students as a math tutor and went on to translate that into a successful business.

What’s your story?
From the age of 14, I knew I would be in business for myself and started designing my company logo.

Growing up in a poor family, I worked part time while I was in school. That’s when I started tutoring and realised I had a gift to help students “see” mathematics. I delivered good results, and my students started to love math as well.

A turning point was when I was down with dengue fever and I realised I had to grow my business to the next level. I started a learning centre and that was the beginning of Neuromath. The initial years were tough as costs went up while my personal income took a dive. I almost gave up, but I pushed through.

Today, we have 3 specialty math enrichment centres managed and delivered by my dedicated team of teachers.

What excites you most about your industry?
“How to win” has always influenced how I position myself in the industry. I researched the psychology of learning, why some students are so naturally good at math, while others struggled. I managed to find the connection, and have always sought out niches to position myself so I can win.

In the beginning, I fused academic delivery with psychology to differentiate my services. Now I have a good team of teachers fully equipped with a psychological skillset.

In the next evolution of our business, we will incorporate technology into education in order to customise each student’s learning experience based on his or her needs.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and educated in Singapore. One key driver why I started a business was, as a youth, I witnessed how my dad struggled daily as a taxi driver trying to make ends meet.

That said, I am very blessed to be in Singapore and to be given the right education. I see this as a very important factor to my success today.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore – well, for one, most of my businesses are here. Singapore is convenient for business and is very well governed. There are rules and systems that make the entire entrepreneurial journey more secure here. One big plus is the location: Singapore is a hub that allows us to connect to the world.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
船到桥头自然直 –
There is a Chinese saying that when a boat goes near the pier, it will automatically align itself (with the current). It means we don’t have to worry too much, that things will take care of themselves.

A mentor once challenged me: “But who can guarantee you can even reach the pier?”

It is such a highly competitive world we are in, who can guarantee success? This is the ONE question that has been etched in my mind for decades. The Chinese saying always comes to mind when I am positioning, designing and strategizing for my business.

Who inspires you?
Mr. Lee Kuan Yew – The fact that he started ruling the country just like a startup. With limited resources, he was able to find a strong positioning to differentiate his country from the rest of the of Asia. With hardwork and proper planning, he transformed Singapore from a fishing village to a prominent financial hub in Asia.

Because Mr. Lee Kuan Yew positioned Singapore so well, government owned companies, such as Singapore Airlines, have emerged as the best in the world.

His story inspires me, spurs me to understand that success is not by chance but by design – every little step, all the strategies are all planned out. Not at all by chance.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
My business coach, Marshall Thurber, shared with me the power of the “Trim Tab” – a small part of the rudder system in a ship. This Trim Tab, despite its small size, is able to influence the entire ship’s direction by turning it.

This metaphor helped me see that a man can influence the entire world if the right effort is applied. We are now living in an entirely new world, the way we commute with an app on the phone – that’s the power of the Trim Tab at work.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would embark on the same journey but I would seek a mentor at a very early age.

I have been through many hard knocks along the way, and I definitely could have shortened the learning curve if I had a mentor to advise me on the many aspects of entrepreneurship.

How do you unwind?
Driving down long highways helps me unwind, that’s when I let my mind relax and wander.

I love long distance driving and riding. My wife gave me a Harley Davidson Tourer for my 50th birthday and we intend to embark on riding holidays together in Asia.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Hong Kong – I love the fast pace and the vibrance of the city. I love the cars there and it’s a very unique and exciting experience for me. And of course, I love the food there too!

Everyone in business should read this book:
One Minute Millionaire – this book highlights the mindset of an individual that is the key determinant for success in whatever we embark on. As long as we know we have a very strong reason why we need to do it, we can do it!

Shameless plug for your business:
I am the CEO and Founder of 2 Math enrichment brands:
Neuromath is a Specialist Math Learning Centre that helps students from Primary 1 to Junior College, empowering them with strategies, skills and a strong desire to learn and problem solve. We use technology to train students to avoid careless mistakes reclaiming 30 marks or more in Math exams and achieve their full potential in math.
www.neuromath.com.sg

Early Math Matters is a premier Mathematics and Cognitive Development enrichment centre for preschool children aged 3-6 years old. Through purposeful play and our renowned EMM approach, we help learners build a strong foundation for problem solving at an early age, and instil in them a passion & love for math that will stay with them for life.
www.earlymathmatters.com

We are actively seeking passionate teachers, entrepreneurs and investors who are keen to grow the education business with us.

How can people connect with you?
I speak regularly at workshops for schools, parents and platforms demonstrating the use of technology for peak performance in education.

Do contact me at
www.NormanTien.com

Alternatively, you can connect with me:
www.NormanTien.com/facebook
www.NormanTien.com/linkedin

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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