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Ven Chin, Co-Founder of GD Group Pte Ltd

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Ven Chin was determined to be financially free. Starting his own business would enable him this.

What’s your story?
I have wanted to start my own business since I was a teen. Perhaps, I was subconsciously influenced by my parents who owned a small retail business. I was also an avid reader and enjoyed reading management books on how companies like Starbucks and McDonalds made it big. Robert Kiyosaki’s book “Rich Dad Poor Dad”, made a huge impression on my young mind. It taught me the importance of financial freedom – the ability to lead the lifestyle I wanted with passive income. I was determined to own my own business and be financially free one day.

I did not have capital. I did not have a ‘rich dad’ who was willing to fund a business venture. All I had was my education and a strong resolve that I wanted to build a successful business

After spending some years in a consulting firm, it became clear to me that a good and viable starting point to start a business was in the food and beverage industry. The barriers to entry were considerably low for a beginner, I did not need a huge capital outlay to start a business in this industry. The cash flow output from F&B businesses was typically high, it was a scalable business, and most importantly, I felt that there was always a demand for good food.

I took the plunge and left a well-paying consultancy job (to my parents’ dismay and consternation) to work as a restaurant manager. The stint allowed me to gain vital hands-on experience in managing a restaurant. It also provided insights to the challenges that came with running a business. To cut a long story short, I spent a few years gaining experience from different roles in food and beverage companies before opening my first restaurant in 2010. It was no turning back from there.
 
What excites you most about your industry?
It’s limitless! People will always need to eat, and in Singapore, many people live to eat. The challenge to constantly innovate and find the next concept or food that will keep customers coming back keeps me on my toes.

Witnessing the growth of our outlets and brands in Singapore gives me lots of satisfaction. I cannot wait to see our outlets overseas!
 
What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and educated in Malaysian but spent most of my working life in Singapore. So you can say that I have been born bred in the ‘food capitals’ of Asia. I have travelled and lived in many other countries but to me, the best cuisine in the world is still Singapore/Malaysian hawker food.

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Gurney Drive Signatures Logo
 
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hands down – Singapore. There is rule of law. The system is fair, transparent and the environment is pro-business. There are also lots of investors here.
 
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
From my mum – She told me, “I have no money for you to start a business. Go and get the relevant experience and find the money yourself!”
 
Who inspires you?
Robert Kiyosaki! It was where I first learnt the concept of “passive income”. He made it sound easier than it is, but I do believe it is achievable.
 
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Meditation! It helps relieve my back pain and fatigue almost immediately.
 
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. Even through the tough times, I believed that whatever obstacles and unhappiness we faced during the start up period was an essential learning experience. I am a firm believer of the adage “What doesn’t kill you can only make you stronger.”
 
How do you unwind?
I am a simple man with simple pleasures. Listening to Acoustic and Jazz music, drinking a cup of coffee or tea whilst reading my favourite books.
 
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
My all time favourite – Bangkok. The food and massages are great and so reasonably priced! I must confess that whenever I am there with my wife, we spoil ourselves with daily massages.
 
Everyone in business should read this book:
A Monk who sold his Ferrari. It really begs the question, what do you really want in life? I know it sounds rather like a mid-life crisis kind of question, but it reminds me to put things in perspective and to focus on what is truly important to me.
 
Shameless plug for your business:
GD Group started out with one focus – to make good food accessible to all. Accessibility in terms of price and, or value, in terms of location, and in terms of target segments (e.g. halal certification to reach out to the Muslim community.) Today, GD Group operates a total of 8 outlets and 4 different concepts. The different dining concepts aim to offer customers a spectrum of options catering to different budgets for different occasions. For example, Penang St. Buffet, is popular with customers who want to celebrate special occasions. Penang Culture & Gurney Drive Signatures cater to customers who prefer a la carte style dining. Whilst Mamak Culture, is a cafe concept serving popular Malaysian dishes like roti-canai and nasi briyani. The constant in all restaurant concepts is the same value proposition of authentic, quality food at affordable prices.

In five years, GD Group has come a long way from its early days of fifteen employees and one outlet. However, the company is not resting on its laurels. We are constantly looking forward to introducing more dining concepts and F&B solutions in Singapore and overseas.
 
How can people connect with you?
Website: www.GDGroup.com.sg
Facebook: www.Facebook.com/VenChee
Email: [email protected]

This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:

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Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia.  He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries.  He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence.  A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.

Take the ‘Key Person of Influence’ scorecard <http://www.keypersonofinfluence.com/scorecard/>

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Get his free ‘Asia Snapshot’ report from 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]om.sg 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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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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