It’s a useful shorthand to talk about ‘Asia’, but as this interview with the amazing Ren Ho illustrates there is so much more going on beneath the surface of ‘Asia’

What is your business?

MATTER works with rural textile artisans to create travel wear that is comfortable, versatile and has stories to tell. Our dream is to connect designers and artisans to make textile artisanship sustainable. Right now we make awesomely comfortable pants to see the world in! Check them out on matterprints.com. Did I mention free shipping worldwide?

What’s your story?

I grew up on a little island that was so small it cultivated the endless curiosity of wanting to see the rest of the world. I was fortunate to be able to do that from a young age, and knew then that what I wanted to do in life was see the world, work towards celebrating our universal humanity and draw connections between people and values. In my working life as varied as it has been (journalism, hospitality, coworking, crowdfunding, and now, e-commerce) it’s always been about connecting the dots and creating a platform of opportunity for creativity to shine.

What excites you most about your industry?

That consumer trends are pointing to a more enlightened one driven by provenance and impact rather than just price and speed, and that technology is evening out information inequalities and enabling production and consumption patterns to be influenced by smaller players as well.

What’s your connection to Asia?

I was born here, (almost) my whole family is here, and my childhood was lived in this region. I was educated here until 18. I feel connected intimately to all its cultures and get mistaken for being Thai, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Tibetan, Laotian, Indonesian, Chinese, even Indian ( of the Darjeeling variety) and Nepalese when I travel. I wish I could speak all these languages; its the door to every culture, but at the same time a genuine smile and body language goes a long way in building bridges.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?

Tough call. Depends on what kind of business, and what you’re looking for; every place will have its own code of conduct and explicit/unspoken rules. I rarely have favorite anythings – no favourite books, colours, movies, songs, or places to travel to. Everything is what it is.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?

Lighten up and move on.

Who inspires you?

Eight out of the ten people I meet every week. There’s something to learn from everyone and we’re all going through the same things most of the time.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?

That the young generation of Gen-Y give me hope for a better world to come and for positive change rather than slow degeneration.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?

I would write consistently, either letters or in my journal. As you grow older time moves faster, and you don’t realise how you’ve changed and what you’ve learnt. Writing puts that all down even though sometimes when I read my journal I cringe a little at my past self.

How do you unwind?

Reading, photography, sport, running, yoga.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?

Sri Lanka, also known as the island of Serendib. It’s a small island but has everything that you could want and experiences all seasons depending on where you are. I describe it as a cross between India and Maldives. The people are wonderfully hospitable and the food is spicy, light and fragrant, like a cross between India and Thailand.

Everyone in business should read this book:

Business Model Generation. Simplifies everything.

How can people connect with you?

My email is [email protected]; I’m on it all the time. Otherwise, @matterprints on Instagram and Twitter.

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

CallumConnects

Callum Laing has started, built, bought and sold half a dozen businesses in a range of industries across two continents. He is the owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 11 countries and he is also the CEO of Entrevo Asia, a company that runs 40 week Growth Accelerator programs.

Connect with Callum here:

twitter.com/laingcallum

linkedin.com/in/callumlaing

Get his free ‘Asia Snapshot’ report from www.callumlaing.com

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