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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

Is There A Coworking Space Bubble?

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An annual growth rate of nearly 100%, almost five years in a row? More than 60 coworking spaces in a city like Berlin? Are these the characteristics of a bubble? Nope, these are characteristics of a lasting change in our world of work, which has been further catalyzed by the recent economic crises in many countries. But what makes this change different to a bubble? We’ve summarized some arguments of why the coworking movement is based on a sustainable change. However, that doesn’t mean it’s an easy job to open a good working coworking space.

Five reasons why the growth of coworking spaces is based on organic and sustainable growth: 

1. Coworking spaces invest their own money and create real wealth

Already, there is a convincing argument supporting why coworking spaces are not developing in a bubble: the fact that they create real wealth.

Whether referring to the dotcom bubble a decade ago or the real estate crisis in Spain or the United States, the crisis originated in a glut of cheap money, in an environment in which the sender and the recipient were unacquainted. From funds and banks, money flowed in steady streams to investments which offered little resistance and the most promising returns – which only a little while later turned into delusions and ruined investments.

Redistributed risks create illusions. Those people who distributed the money rarely wore the risk of investment decisions. The risk was mainly taken by small shareholders or people who bought parts of those investments. This was because either both parties’ (better) judgement was drowned out by the noise of the market, or because shareholders were unaware of the risk, and were at the mercy of banks and funds for reliable information.

Another fundamental condition for the creation of bubbles are the sheer amounts of money that flow from various locations globally and are concentrated, by comparison, in much fewer places.

Most coworking spaces, however, receive their funding from local or nearby sources and do not operate within this financial system. In fact, the founders mainly inject the bulk of the required investment, and turn to friends or relatives for additional support. They wear the full brunt of the risks that are involved in small-time investment.

They have access to much more information, because it is their own project, rather than a foreign one thousands of miles away. This also includes failures and mistakes that are encountered along the way, but the risk is less redistributed, thereby decreasing the probability of failures.

2. Labor market changes demand on certain office types lastingly

Most users of coworking spaces are self-employed. The proportion of employees is also on the rise, in many cases simply because they work for small companies that increasingly opt to conduct their business in coworking spaces rather than in traditional offices. The industry of almost all coworkers fall within the Internet-based creative industries.

With flexibilisation of work markets, new mobile technologies that are changing work patterns, and the increase of external services purchasing from large and medium-sized enterprises (outsourcing), the labor market has changed radically in many parts of the world.

The long-term financial and emotional security of becoming an employee no longer exists, especially for younger generations of workers. Bigger companies are quicker to fire than hire, and precarious short-term contracts are on the rise. Promising options on the labor market are more often recuded to freelancer careers and starting your own company.

And that’s possible with less money to invest. All you need is a laptop, a brain and a good network. For years, the number of independent workers and small businesses has been growing worldwide – particularly in internet-based creative industries. Anyone who has sufficient specialized skills and the willingness to take risks may adapt more quickly to market conditions if they own a small business or are self employed; more so than if they were to work in a dependent position in an equally volatile market.

Coworking spaces provide an environment in which to do this. Once they have joined a (suitable) coworking space, these factors become apparent to coworkers, who will remain in their space for years to come.

Furthermore, independent workers rarely fire themselves in crises, and even small companies are less likely to give their employees the boot – compared to their large counterparts. This combination enables more sustainable business models – and less business models à la Groupon.

3. Coworking spaces don’t live on crises

Global economic growth is waning while the number of coworking spaces is continually growing. Do coworking spaces thus benefit from this crisis?

The current crises accelerate the formation and growth of coworking spaces, because they offer solutions and space for the resulting problems. Coworking spaces are therefore not a result of a crisis, but the product of change that pre-dates their existence. A crisis is simply the most visible expression of change.

The first coworking spaces emerged in the late 1990s; the movement’s strong growth started six years ago – before the onset of economic downturns in many countries.

4. Coworking spaces depend on the needs of their members

Most coworking spaces are rarely full. Does this mean they are unsuccessful? On average, only half of all desks are occupied. But the average occupancy rate of 50% refers only to a specific date.

In fact, coworking spaces generally serve more members than they can seat at any given time, since members do not use the spaces simultaneously. Coworking spaces are places for independents who want to work on flexible terms. Smaller spaces rely more on permanent members. Larger spaces can respond more flexibilty to the working hours of its members, and, can rent desks several times over.

If a coworking space is always overcrowded or totally empty, the purpose of said space would be defeated. Firstly, it is rather impossible to work in an overcrowded room. Second, it’s impossible to cowork in an empty room. Given the nature of flexible memberships, a coworking space only can survive if they fit the needs of their members. Members would otherwise be quick to leave, and membership would be much more transient.

5. The coworking market is far from saturation

Less than 2% of all self-employed – and even fewer employees – currently work in coworking spaces. Reporting on coworking may increase, but inflated reporting on the coworking movement in the mainstream media is still far away.

Coverage of coworking space are most likely to be found in the career or local sections in larger publications – front cover coverage remains the dream of many space operators. This is because the whole coworking movement can’t be photographed in one picture. What appears to be a disadvantage, however, is actually a beneficial truth: niche coverage allows the industry to grow organically, and avoid over inflation.

Conclusion

Coworking spaces don’t operate in parallel universes – like the financial market. Demand and supply are almost exclusively organic and operate in the real world economy.

For the same reason, there is no guarantee that opening a coworking spaces will be automaticly successful. Anyone who fails to learn how to deal with potential customers in their market, or is unfamiliar with how coworking communities function, will have a difficult time of making one work. In the same way that business people in other industries will fail if they do not understand their market.

Those who simply tack on the word ‘coworking’ to their space’s facade will need to work harder. The structure of most coworking spaces is based on real work, calculated risk, and real-world supply and demand.

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About the Author

This article was produced by Deskmag. Deskmag is the magazine about the new type of work and their places, how they look, how they function, how they could be improved and how we work in them. They especially focus on coworking spaces which are home to the new breed of independent workers and small companies. see more.

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Callum Connects

Dextre Teh, Founder of Rebirth Academy

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Dextre Teh is a consultant and marketing guru, helping F&B businesses to tighten their operations and grow their businesses.

What’s your story?
I help frustrated F&B business owners stuck in day to day operation transform from a glorified operator into a real business owner. I’m a 27 year old Singaporean second generation restaurant owner and a F&B business consultant. Entering the industry at 13 years old, I have always been obsessed with operations and systemisation. At the age of 25, I joined the insurance industry and earned a six figure yearly income. However, I left the high pay behind because it was not my passion and returned to the F&B industry. Now I help other F&B companies to tighten operations and grow their businesses with my consulting and marketing services.

What excites you most about your industry?
The food. I’m a big lover of food and even have a YouTube show on food in development. But that aside, it is really about impacting people through food. Creating moments and memories for people, be it a dating couple or families or friends. Providing that refuge from the daily grind of life. So in educating my consulting clients and training their staff to provide a better experience for their customers, I aim to shift the industry in the direction of creating memories instead of just selling food.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and bred in Singapore. I love the culture, the food and travelling in Asia.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore hands down. The environment here is built for businesses to thrive. The government is pro business and the infrastructure is built around supporting business growth. Not to mention the numerous amount of grants available in helping people start and even grow business. If I’m not mistaken, the Singaporean government is the only government in the world that offers grants to home grown businesses for overseas expansion.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Learning to do things you do not intend to master is a BIG mistake in business. Focus on what you are good at and pay others to do the rest.

Many business owners including myself are so overwhelmed by the 10,000 things that they feel they need to do everyday. We try to do everything ourselves because we think it saves us money. The only thing that, that does for us is overload our schedules and give us mediocre results. Instead we should focus on what we do best and bring in support for the rest.

Who inspires you?
Christopher M Duncan.

At 29, Chris has built multiple 7 figure businesses. He opened me to the possibility of building a business on the thing that I loved and gave me a blueprint of how to do it. He also showed me that being young doesn’t mean you cannot do great things.

Imran Mohammad and Fazil Musa
They are my mentors and inspire me every single day to pursue my dreams, to focus on celebrating life and enjoying the process of getting to where I want to be.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Time is always more expensive than money. Money, you can earn over and over again but time, once you spend it, will never come back.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I am a firm believer that your experiences shape who you are. I am grateful for every single moment of my life be it the highs or the lows, the successes and the failures because all these experiences have led me to become the person I am and brought me to the place that I’m at so I will probably do things the same way as everything was perfect in its time.

How do you unwind?
Chilling out in a live music bar with a drink in hand, listening to my favourite live band, 53A. Other than that I’m big on retail therapy, buying cool and geeky stuff.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bangkok. It feels like a home away from home where the cost of living is relatively low, the food is good and the people are friendly.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Everything you know about business is wrong by Alastair Dryburgh. It is a book that challenges commonly accepted business “truths” and inspires you to go against the grain, think different, take risks and stand your ground in the face of the challenges that will come your way as a business owner.

Shameless plug for your business:
I’m the creator of the world’s first Chilli Crab Challenge. It gained viral celebrity earlier this year with 3 major newspaper features and more than a dozen blog and online publications featuring it in the span of two weeks. In the span of the two weeks, the campaign reached well over a million people in exposure without a single cent spent in ads.

Now I help F&B companies to tighten operations, increase profits and grow their businesses with my consulting and marketing services. Chilli Crab Challenge (https://www.chillicrab.com/nationalday)

How can people connect with you?
You can connect with me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/djtehkh) or visit www.rebirthacademy.sg for more information or book a 10 minute call with me @ www.tinyurl.com/dexclar

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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