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Anna Haotanto, Managing Director of The New Savvy

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Anna Haotanto is the Managing Director of The New Savvy and Director at Tera Capital, a private investment firm. Anna is the President of the Singapore Management University Women Alumni. She is passionate about finance, education, women empowerment, and children’s issues.

Previously, Anna has been featured in CNBC, Fast Company, Business Insider, The Straits Times, Business Insider and Idealist Careers among others.  She was nominated and selected for FORTUNE Most Powerful Women conference in 2016 (Asia) and 2015 (San Francisco, Next Gen).

Anna regularly conducts workshops on personal finance and had given talks on finance, women issues and empowerment for organisations – Singapore Exchange (SGX), Female Entrepreneurs Worldwide (FEW), SG50 Singapore Female Leaders, Singapore Women Network, etc. She regularly teaches and mentors children and adults on financial prudence and investments, facilitating their ability to be better informed when making financial decisions.

On a personal level, Anna is involved in various charities supporting women and children causes. She was one of the main donors in the building of a library for underprivileged female students.

Prior to The New Savvy, Anna has spent 10 years in the financial sector including wealth management, private equity, research as well as corporate and investment banking. Her previous work experience includes positions at Citigroup, United Overseas Bank, a regional role in Business Monitor and a boutique private equity firm based in Shanghai.

She attended and graduated from Singapore Management University (Finance and Quantitative Finance), Hwa Chong Junior College. In her academic year, it was clear that Anna possessed great determination and drive, she was awarded Top Student (Salutatorian) for UOB-SMU Private Banking course.

Anna earned her financial independence at age 28. However, she seeks meaning in focusing her entrepreneurial career on financial literacy as she firmly believes that continuous learning empowers people. This has ultimately led Anna to The New Savvy.

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In your own words what is The New Savvy?

THENEWSAVVY.COM is an online platform that focuses financial and career issues for women in Asia. Despite advancing in our career and earning more, women lack confidence in financial matters. 41% do not invest or manage their money. There is a lack of media outlets that engages women financially.

The New Savvy uses simplified, relevant language to help women make smarter decisions. We cover 35 topics ranging from investments vehicles, savings, buying property, marriage, fashion and health. We want to make money fun and promote better financial habits among women.

The New Savvy is a fast-growing women-focused site, and we have worked with many financial institutions and organisations namely Fast company, Singapore Exchange (SGX), MayBank Securities and others.

We are content partners with Yahoo!, AsiaOne and CPF.

Here are a list of our press and partners.

How did you come up with the idea of The New Savvy?

There are 2 major inspirations for The New Savvy.

First, due to my family financial situation, I have always been fascinated with the intricacies behind the working of money.  I understood that I have to take care of myself and my family and that realization sparked off my wealth-building path. The idea of making my money work harder for me really fascinated me, and I felt that was a way out for me from living pay cheque to pay cheque and feeling very stressed every month.

As a result, I started learning to invest by reading Security Analysis by Benjamin Graham while in Junior College. I also read a lot of other finance books.

I am lucky to have the opportunity to study and work in Finance. I learnt financial management skills, picked up economic ideas and started investing since I was 21. While I am no expert, I am familiar with financial products and managed to build a comfortable portfolio for myself.

Second, when I was in Hwa Chong Junior College, I did some volunteer work and noticed how many women were stuck in unhappy situations or marriages as they were not working or have any earning capabilities. That motivated me always to protect myself financially and to prevent myself from being in similar situations.

If proper financial knowledge and planning worked for me,  it would work for many women too – which was why I started The New Savvy.

Could you walk us through the process of starting up The New Savvy?

In the beginning, I struggled a lot. My background was pure Finance and Banking. I was clueless on developing a website, producing content, digital marketing, and publishing. But I knew it was something I wanted to do and HAD to do. It was a desire that couldn’t be ignored any longer.

I did everything from scratch myself. I looked around for website developers and researched on websites. I learnt about how websites are arranged and how they worked. I did a short market survey on what is lacking regarding women financial education and what women will like to learn more.

I took up a Digital Marketing course and learnt how to utilise tools like Google Analytics, Seach console and understood the terms.

We focused on having original content that are engaging, fun and relevant. I was very sure that we didn’t want to be another financial site which teaches you to make 20x in a week. I wanted The New Savvy to be relatable to women, so they won’t be intimidated by Finance.

We have also produced our own Retirement and Mortgage calculators that are fun and easy to use.

Did you encounter any particular difficulties during startup?

There were a few difficulties:

One, when I shared the idea with people, most of them dismissed me thinking that it’s just another blog. Or, they think that I am limiting myself by focusing only on women. Many told me not to make it as broad to ensure that we get more website hits.

Second, coming from a finance background with very decent earning power, it’s difficult to turn into an entrepreneur. I was giving up a good five-figure income and some people told me not to be naïve and “get a real job”. That affected my morale.

For a long time, I was wondering if I am just impetuous or silly. Should I just continue earning money and be in banking? There’s a societal pressure, especially when you don’t know what’s going to happen and I am doing this mostly to help other women.

Third, I wasn’t trained for this. It was an uphill struggle for me. I ended up working till 4 am every day. Most of my close ones were concerned and told me not to overwork. I think I made every mistake that shouldn’t be made. But that’s life, isn’t it? You falter, but you pick yourself up.

Last, a good product is useless if there are no users. How do I get the word out? How do I market TheNewSavvy.com to ensure that more women are aware that my product exists?

Most importantly, this difficulty had been in my mind non-stop since I embarked on this journey – How do I make women more interested in financial literacy?

How have you been developing The New Savvy since startup?

In terms of the content, we have 35 categories in 3 areas of focus: technical articles, lifestyle pieces, and inspirational stories.

– Technical articles are informative, must-know Finance concepts in bite-sized to make it more palatable to readers.
Eg: What’s the difference between ETFs and mutual funds, Bonds 101, Which Real Estate in Singapore Should You Purchase?

– Lifestyle pieces are fun articles that discuss issues plaguing the modern women. All of them include a finance or female empowerment angle to them.
Eg: When Women Earn More Than Men In a Marriage, 10 Financial Questions You Should Ask Your Date, How to measure your cost per wear for clothes…

– Inspirational stories include stories of individuals breaking barriers, speaking up, living authentic lives. We also have interviews sections where we question our subjects on their occupations or businesses, financial planning and thoughts on women issues.

We are also developing bite-sized financial online courses and looking at holding workshops for financial education every two months.

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What kind of feedback did you get for The New Savvy so far?

Over the years, my female friends have approached me to share with them on how to invest, how to open a securities account, which loan makes sense, the difference between a bond and a bond fund. Truth be told, even as someone trained in Finance, I don’t want to read yet another stock picks or technical analysis.

As a woman, I want to know how smart financial management can impact my life and how relevant it is to my needs. I want something I can relate to, something that can inspire and motivate me.

That’s what The New Savvy has been to many women. I’ve met many strangers at different events who told me that they read and LOVE The New Savvy. Many women wrote to me, sharing with me their lives and financial situations. Most women I knew always tell me that they know financial knowledge is important and they have wanted to learn but kept procrastinating. So when they know about The New Savvy, they are more motivated to be in charge of their finances.

Every of this feedback and sharing is precious to me as they are my motivation when I am thinking of giving up. I hope to keep empowering women financially.

Do you face a lot of competition in this industry especially from companies?

To be honest, I don’t believe there is a competitor for me. The New Savvy is a women-focused financial website – a cross between a women publication and a financial blog. There is no one else doing this unless you consider women or finance publications/websites as competition. Even then, our offerings are different.

Second, I don’t view anyone as competition or believe in competing. We can all co-exist and improve together. Ultimately, all of us wants to provide a service that benefits the users. The more, the merrier!

My strategy, from day one, has always been: To provide value, focus on users’ needs, learn and keep improving.

What can you tell us about the industry?

I don’t think The New Savvy falls squarely into ONE industry. We are a mixture of new media, finance, publishing, education, advertising and soon, events.

I guess the one overarching theme is that you have to keep growing your audience. The audience is king. If you want advertising revenue, companies still prefer the bigger audience to smaller ones. But I always try to convince them that The New Savvy taps into a niche, hard to reach audience – which I believe is valuable in itself.

Second, if you are talking about new media, you still need to focus on valuable content and insights. The New Savvy doesn’t do trending topics as we feel that there are others that do it better. We focus on our expertise: finance, women, and empowerment.

The only true insights I can share is…I find that the other site owners to be really welcoming and friendly. I’m friends with some finance websites owners, and we motivate each other to be better. We discuss topics and even collaborate. Even if it’s business, I don’t think we focus on making money and ousting each other. All of us started to help others be financially savvy.

I am friends with other women-focused websites owners, and likewise, they are smart women who want to do good. We try to work together and learn from each other.

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What is the future of the industry?

The future of new media, to me, is endless. In today’s era, every one can be and IS already a publisher.

People are increasingly consuming content through their devices such as laptops, iPads and the biggest growth area, mobile phones. We are slowly moving away from print (newspaper, magazines), and while I think that’s a big pity, it’s happening.

In fact, most of us consume content from Facebook. We used to go into the browser and go directly to websites. Now, we see what is shared by our friends.

To stay relevant, you need to produce content that is mobile-friendly.

Similarly, advertising dollar is going to move more into mobile space. There are 2 questions that we have to answer – 1) how do we ensure ethical advertising and placements? 2) How do we present these advertisements in a way that’s most pleasing to our readers?

Were there anything that disappointed you initially?

I don’t dwell on unpleasant things. My mind is inundated with things to do, tasks to complete and I’m constantly thinking on how to improve The New Savvy. I don’t have the time to think of unhappy incidents or disappointments.

I just can’t afford it; I don’t allow myself to be mired in unconstructive thoughts.

What do you think about being an entrepreneur in Asia?

As opposed to …where? United States? United Kingdom? Even in Asia, I don’t think it’s parallel for each country. I believe being an entrepreneur in Singapore is very different than being one in Malaysia or Indonesia.

I can only speak about being based in Singapore – there are definite advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages include recent support from government and corporations, stable business environment, structured and efficient. Singapore is a pleasant and easy place to start a business.

On the flip side, I find that Singapore still lacks an entrepreneurial environment and spirit as we are very comfortable. Singapore is also a small market compared to the other Asian cities.

What is your opinion on Asian entrepreneurship vs Western entrepreneurship?

Again, depending on your definition on Western.

I don’t think there’s a lot of difference between Asian or Western entrepreneurship. For me, it’s more of culture and market needs.

For example, United States is a big market and is mostly domestic driven. So is China and Indonesia. These are the most populous countries, and you are talking about big numbers. Mostly, if you develop a product, you can cater it to most of the country. A bank account can work for most of the cities in those countries.

In contrast, Singapore is a smaller market, so most businesses have the ambitions to expand to the region. But each country are different – they have different needs, different products, and different cultures. So that’s our big challenge.

Going back to Western vs. Asian entrepreneurship, I think the biggest differences for me is; I personally feel that we Asians have to learn to embrace failure more. There is still a stigma to failure here, and maybe, that’s stopping people from stepping out.

We did an article on The Worst And Best Countries To Be Female Entrepreneurs.

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What is your definition of success?

I define success loosely in 3 areas – personal, interpersonal and financial.
Personal – to live authentically and lead a balanced life.
Interpersonal – relationships are very important to me so I always ask myself, if I am giving enough to my loved ones and how I can help others.
Financial – Being financially successful to me is having the choice and security to live the life I seek meaning in. And by extension, giving the people I love the lives they desire.

Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?

There are a few reasons –
I couldn’t ignore the desire to do this. I’ve wanted to do it since 2010. It’s an itch that can’t be ignored.
I’ve always wanted to help people and finance is the best way I know how to. Women and children are my pet causes.
I’m passionate about financial literacy and how it can transform lives. This feeds my soul, and the rewards are probably intangible, I am happier than before.

In your opinion, what are the keys to entrepreneurial success?

A clear focus and direction on what you want to achieve. A detailed plan on how you are going to achieve those goals. Focus on important objectives instead of glorified achievements. Don’t compare yourself with others. Only do it to improve your offering.

Be very tight on finances, spend lesser than you budgeted because you always need more money.

Sometimes, you also have to depend on timing and luck.

Any parting words of wisdom for entrepreneurs out there from your personal experience?

Have resilience and grit to keep going when the world crashes. Always be humble and be willing to learn. Receive criticisms openly, constantly improve and pivot.

Don’t dwell on unconstructive thoughts or wallow in self-pity. Exercise often and take care of yourself. Be kind and have lots of fun!

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Connect

Website: http://thenewsavvy.com/anna-haotanto/
LinkedIn:  https://sg.linkedin.com/in/annahaotanto
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/annahaotanto/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/annahaotanto/

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Jonathan Oh, CEO & Co-founder of Supplycart

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Jonathan Oh’s enquiring mind and love for learning has led him on an entrepreneurial journey, with him starting Supplycart which helps businesses manage their offices better.

What’s your story?
I am a person that just can’t sit still. I was always intrigued by how the world spins and how people connect. Spending a lot of time outdoors, I had an affinity with exploring new paths, thus leading me to become a serial entrepreneur with experience in creating, operating and building new companies. I am a firm believer there is so much to learn in the world and I love talking to people about ideas, what they are passionate about and what drives them.
Starting off my career in the medical industry, I realised I had a flare to create something that mattered, something that impacted other people’s lives. After exiting my first company in 2014, I continued my journey with two other ventures with a purpose to look towards impacting businesses in the region together with like minded individuals, and here I am.

What excites you most about your industry?
Being able to part of the SME tech industry and seeing how technology is moving SMEs to go digital to improve workflows and efficiencies is an exciting space to be in. Users are consumers. More and more, they are familiarising themselves with using technology in their everyday lives. We foresee the SME space to be the next area where adopting new technology would become vital for any organisation to remain relevant. As I have dabbled in this industry for close to nine years now, I am really looking forward to working with more people in the business community to make a change.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Born in Malaysia, I had the opportunity to go abroad and I realised there was so much to do back home. Spending time in Melbourne, Australia for a couple of years and recently Silicon Valley, it has provided me with experiences and insights into the difference a multicultural community can make. It also made me aware that Asia is still a very culture driven economy, as each country has its unique differences. I believe that the time is right to be in Asia now. We are a growing economy and a lot of exciting stuff is happening in this region.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Malaysia. I believe Malaysia is still a very attractive destination for business as it’s close to other neighbouring countries within the region and travelling between the countries is easy. There is also proper infrastructure in place, an affordable cost of living and a sizeable pool of talent. The government also has numerous initiatives for technology companies to apply for MSC status that permits companies to hire foreign companies without restrictions. Malaysia is the perfect launchpad to start growing businesses regionally. From a culture perspective, we are multicultural, which promotes diversity in business and language is never a barrier here.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“The difference between a businessman and an entrepreneur; one does a markup and the other creates value.”

Who inspires you?
I would say the people around me inspire me. I wouldn’t narrow it down to a particular person but lump it up with family, workmates, entrepreneurs and friends. From my eyes, everyone has a certain drive, a certain glow and strengths that sometimes they do not see, and that inspires me. I believe the journey to success is never alone, it’s with people.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Something recently that blew me away, made me realise, visually about how much time I have left. I was reading and stumbled upon the writer doing this. This might sound morbid but I drew a horizontal line and started plotting the year I was born all the way up to when I think I might go. It showed me that I have spent 25% of my life growing up, I am going to spend another 55% of my life working and the final 20%, maybe retirement. It got me remembering all the milestones I have achieved and to be thankful for and above all, how I want to spend the 55% of my life doing what matters the most.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I believe that I am exactly where I need to be because of the experiences I have had before. Thank god for the journey so far. It has been filled with ups and downs, new experiences and people along the way these have moulded me. I guess a small thing, if I had my time again, would be to pick up playing a musical instrument which I think still possible now. You are never too old to learn anything.

How do you unwind?
Unwinding for me would be spending time with my family and my two little boys. The little ones are such a bundle of joy. Reminding myself to have balance in terms of not missing the early years with them. Other than that, having coffee with other entrepreneurs, sharing ideas and learning from them is also another way I unwind.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
A term I would use would be “cuti cuti Malaysia.” This means heading to a local destination for some R&R to save on the cost of going on overseas to travel. Top of my the list would be heading to a farm or the jungle with clear river waters and a waterfall all to myself. Staying the night, out in the open under the stars, with a campfire and heading back to nature. The other option would be taking a boat to one of the furthest islands in Malaysia, just before the border of Indonesia, to get away from civilization.

Everyone in business should read this book:
I would actually recommend two books that everyone in business in the early years should read. ‘Founder’s Dilemma’ and ‘Start with Why.’ After being in a couple of businesses and many mistakes later, I came to realise the importance of starting it right. Both these books address the whole mind-set on what founders need to have from selecting who is it we start a business with to why are we starting the business. The business foundation is built from the founders and moving forward everything is built from there. Sometimes we are so into the business that we forget we need to be on the business as well. I would have definitely avoided a couple of bumps if I came across these much earlier on.

Shameless plug for your business:
Manage your office better, that’s our motto. We are always on the lookout to work with organisations, suppliers and partners in this field for partnerships and collaborations.
Supplycart is a B2B procurement platform addressing a need for a change in the way companies manage their office supplies, products and services. We enable suppliers and companies to adopt digital technology when selling and procuring for their business, resulting in a more efficient and productive workforce.
Supplycart provides an easy to use, convenient platform that streamlines the whole procurement process by allowing users to quickly order and reorder, receive instant quotations, obtain quick approvals from necessary approvers and fulfilment items are coordinated/planned to ensure a timely a speedy delivery.
Businesses can now focus on the more important matters in growing and sustaining their business while leaving managing the office to Supplycart. Our vision is to be the number 1 office platform for businesses across South East Asia. “Your office will never be the same again.”

How can people connect with you?
https://www.linkedin.com/in/ohjonathan/
e : [email protected]
w : www.supplycart.my

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

Trung Nguyen, Founder & Managing Director of Advertising Vietnam

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Having initial success with his first start up in the ad industry, Trung Nguyen went on to start other ventures in the ad world in Vietnam. He now has the largest agency community in Vietnam.

What’s your story?
Three years ago I got my first job in the advertising industry. I worked for a local agency in town, and I fell in love with the creative industry. In June 2015, I founded Agency Life Community in Vietnam. It quickly became the most engaging community in the ad industry. The main content focuses on entertainment. After six months we had over 30,000 organic followers, now we have 120,000 followers.

Because the industry had been good to me, I decided I had to something for the industry to help the industry be better. So, I opened http://AdvertisingVietnam.com – a creative industry ad site which keeps advertising informative, creative and inspiring.

After more than a year in the ads industry in Vietnam, I figured the industry needed a better solution for the recruitment of good staff. Given I own the largest advertising community platform, why don’t I utilise Agency Life to help connect talent with ad agencies. So, I founded job site, AdJob.Asia in January 2017.

What excites you most about your industry?
The ad industry is a creative one with very passionate people who are always challenging themselves. The exciting part for creatives, in the morning they might be working on a baby brand and in the afternoon they are answering a beer brief. There is so much diversity. Every day is the new journey.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I am Vietnamese.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Thailand. The Thais are the kings of the creative industry in SEA. Thai ads are very smart and creative.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Do what you love.

Who inspires you?
My friend, mentor and partner Mr Nghi Nguyen, founder of BrandsVietnam.com. We started our businesses at a similar time. He doesn’t see us as a competitor but rather, he believes that we share the same passion and we are working to provide better knowledge for the ad community.
Mr Nghi also guided me a lot when I first opened the business. I am inspired by his vision to make our marketing industry better.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Our business is a startup company and as a founder I do everything from operations, business development, planning and strategy. However, this is not the good way grow our business. You have to share the workload – find a co-founder or hire a great employee to help share the workload. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Quit my full time job sooner.
During the first year of running my business, I was still working as an ad manager for an agency. However I lacked focus at work due to the overload of work and it affected the company I used to work for. I strongly recommend people who have an idea to start their own business, quit their job early on and focus 100% on it from the get go!

How do you unwind?
Play with my cat.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I love to travel throughout all of Asia. I enjoy new places and meeting new people.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The Carpenter: A story about the greatest success strategies of all.

Shameless plug for your business:
AdvertisingVietnam.com is a site where you can quickly update yourself on the advertising news in Vietnam. We have 15,000 unique monthly readers who are professional people in the advertising and communications industries.

The Agency Life, https://www.facebook.com/agencylife is largest agency community in Vietnam. This is the right place for ad agencies to share their creative work.

AdJob.Asia now has more than 160 agencies in Vietnam who use our services. We are a leading recruitment service for the advertising industry in Vietnam.

How can people connect with you?
You can connect with me:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/trungnx26
Email: [email protected]
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/trungnx26/

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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