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Thandar Soe, Director of Camford International College

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Thandar Soe’s humble beginning lead her to running her own school in Singapore.

What’s your story?
I am a teacher, an educational management leader and a change catalyst. Despite my humble beginnings, I managed to get an education and a job as an English teacher in Singapore in 2009. With my hard work and dedication, I was promoted to Principal in 2010. In 2012, I took over the school. While the risk was high and the opportunity was full of uncertainties, I perceived it as a significant step to build my dream school, where I could re-establish the school system to foster innovation, and raise the bar in educational, operational efficiency.

What excites you most about your industry?
As an education entrepreneur, I make a difference in the lives of hundreds of students. Being a foreigner myself, in a multicultural city, I relate to how they think and feel and understand their unique cultures. I give them the gift of education, skill and knowledge without the burden of high cost through flexible payment plans. It is not about granting certifications, but about creating a platform for them to grow, become resilient, and build the right mindset to face life. The values I instill in my students give them the courage to succeed beyond grads and thrive beyond education and become lifelong learners.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Myanmar the land of the extensive coastline, culture and ancient dynasties. I value the Asian values, exceptionally hard work, respect and harmony. I am also fascinated by our history as a continent. There is no significant event in history; we did not have a vital role in. I am connected to the heritage and spirituality as well as the modern day economic system. Through my school in Singapore, I learned about the business, the education system and all applicable laws and regulations and I have built my professional network of like-minded entrepreneurs.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore and Myanmar are great cities to establish a business.
The government in Singapore created a welcoming atmosphere for businesses to thrive with the flexible administration and regulations. Also, companies have access to great talent and a highly qualified workforce.

In Myanmar there is an excellent opportunity for growth. Despite the underdeveloped infrastructure, the need to revamp the business environment is increasing, giving entrepreneurs the chance to build innovative businesses.

As I am interested in starting a business focusing on moving existing businesses/corporations to the digital world, converting traditional processes to software-based processes, I see both cities as welcoming grounds for my ideas.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
The best advice I received was from my mother: “to give it all.” She encouraged me to pour my heart and soul into whatever I am doing and never look back. To succeed, I learned that I needed to gather all my strength and emotional power and never look back. When things move slowly, I ask myself, “is there anything else I need to do?”, and when things move fast, and I doubt my ability to manage, so I pause and think of all the hard work I did and I only allow myself to feel grateful.

Who inspires you?
Chong Phit Lian inspires me. She is one of the wealthiest and most successful women in Asia. Despite her early struggles in life growing up in her small city in Malaysia, and her labour work as a child in a rubber plantation, she managed to turn her life around. I appreciate the fact that we both share harsh beginnings, she insisted on getting an education. The support she received was limited, especially after her father died and later when her brothers died. Chong achieved her success with the hard work and determination and goal-orientation. I believe she is a great role-model.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The power of global education and how it can make people understand each other and live in harmony. I was recently introduced to the principles of global education and creating global education opportunities for students all over the world through innovative educational technology and methods. The initiative received considerable interest and recognition in many countries such as Canada, Egypt, New Zealand and other countries. With the complexity and inter-connectivity of our world, we need to teach students to learn from and interact with different groups around the world, to equip students with new skills to fit the changing job market and the shifting economies due to globalization.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I believe that things happen for a reason, and I did everything I could. I am a firm believer in taking risks, and this is what I did, I seized every opportunity that came to me. I maintained my resilience as much as I could. However, if I had the chance to live my life again, I wouldn’t have stressed so much at those times when money was scarce. I would have told the people I love that I loved them, and expressed my feelings more often. I would have felt more joyful and enjoy the little pleasures in life.

How do you unwind?
With all the stress in my daily life, I learned different ways and methods to unwind and maintain internal peacefulness. It depends. Sometimes, by simply staying at home, preparing my favourite tea and decompressing by watching some funny show on the TV. I also love to cook and experiment with new flavours. I believe the delicious aroma of feed ignite our emotional memory and makes our minds wander to happy places from the past. Swimming is another activity I love. It does not only pump blood through my veins, but it also keeps me healthy and strong.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bali is by far my favourite destination. I believe Bali is a heaven, with fabulous beaches, golden sands, and endless beauty. I love the unique bamboo houses and hotels that make you part of nature. Food also is another thing I like about Bali. I like to enjoy the many flavours and the romantic atmosphere in restaurants.

Everyone in business should read this book:
I recommend the book “Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work,” by Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal. I recently read the book, and I am amazed by the idea of building a “flow state” in teams, using positive psychology.

I am trying to apply some of what I learned in this book, especially experiencing consciousness and mindfulness in my everyday life and stepping beyond oneself. I believe any entrepreneur needs to maintain his/her mental, emotional and physical wellbeing and this book is full of stories and examples of ways to do so.

Shameless plug for your business:
At the school I run, we have the vision to become the best school in Singapore and my team, and I work hard diligently day-in and day-out to achieve our vision. We instill a great value-system in our students’ hearts and ignite their courage to succeed in life by becoming lifelong learners. We challenge poor performance by empowering students and provide them with flexible financial plans.
I also focus on operational efficiency as well as the quality of education, because at the end of the day I run a business and carry a considerable responsibility towards my students as well as my business partners.

How can people connect with you?
I value the power of social media. Social media opened new global platforms for all business people from all over the world. Professional networks, especially LinkedIn is an excellent platform for professionals to connect. As a universal education enthusiastic leader, I am convinced that the internet has revolutionized the work.

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

Callum Connects

Clairine Runtung, Investment Manager of Convergence Ventures

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Early-stage venture capitalist, Clairine Runtung, shares her story and passion for helping build Indonesia’s technology ecosystem. In her role, she helps local entrepreneurs looking to grow their business, while also finding time to coach and mentor young women in venture capital through an organisation she co-founded in early 2017.

What’s your story?
Having lived in 4 different cities within 3 different countries throughout my career working in finance, I had always been drawn to not only numbers but also diversity, people and their stories. When an opportunity came about for me to join a tech VC firm in Jakarta, I jumped at the chance, after working for a number of years in a boutique investment consulting firm, a global asset management firm and a non-profit foundation.

I currently lead the investment team at Convergence Ventures, an Indonesia-based early-stage venture capital fund. My work includes sourcing deals, conducting due diligence, reviewing legal documents and most importantly, working with my colleagues in Investment, HR and Business Development teams to support our founders. My job requires relentless intellectual curiosity, analytical and communication skills, and ultimately passion to help the shaping and building of Indonesia’s tech ecosystem.

Early in 2017, I co-founded a Young Women in VC (renamed SheVC Indonesia in September 2017, as part of the global Pan-Asian SheVC network), focused on networking, mentoring and building a community for junior to mid-level female VCs. Our local membership grew to over 20 people within 6 months, and I personally mentored 3 young women just joining the industry. Aside from tech VC, I am also involved in being a Council for Yayasan Cinta Anak Bangsa, a non-profit organization focusing on youth and education, as well as being a mentor and a judge to a number of local tech startup events and competition. Beginning September, I will be attending Yale School of Management to pursue a 2-year MBA program.

What excites you most about your industry?
The never-ending learning, rapid progress, and people attempting to solve real problems through technology. I cannot wait to see what will unfold within tech-VC space in Indonesia in the next 5-10 years. My team and I think we are following China’s growth trajectory though to get there we need major support from the Government and foreign investors.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia. I worked for 2.5 years in Singapore. I was educated in the United States and lived there but I am still very much deeply-rooted in Asia. After grad school, I plan on moving back to Asia for sure.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Jakarta and Singapore for two extremely different reasons.
Jakarta, because the city’s urban challenge actually shapes you to become a resilient hustler. Not to mention the fact that the city has a dynamic tech VC landscape that’s rapidly evolving year by year.
Singapore, because I take pleasure in how efficient, effective and structured the city state is!

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“The only way out is through”
“Leave your mark, build a legacy, no matter how tiny you think it is.”

Who inspires you?
My dad and everyone around me who was not born with silver spoons in their mouth.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
It’s amazing how your body can truly adjust to the power of your mind. I have recently increased the frequency of my Intermittent Fasting routine, from only once a week to twice a week. Essentially, twice in a week I’d fast between 22-24 hours. Though skeptical and challenging at first, after a month, I rarely feel hungry/starving on those two scheduled fasting days. Interestingly, I also feel the most productive at work on days that I am fasting.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. If there is anything I’d like to tell myself over and over again, is to never regret and to look only forward.

How do you unwind?
Take a hot shower, drink a cup of tea and read a book (I alternate between fiction and non-fiction) or watch videos (I also alternate between entertaining and educating videos). On some days, you can find me winding down over a nice dinner with friends or family.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bali, Jogjakarta and Manado. All cities are in Indonesia.
Bali for its beaches, sunshine and the feeling of being surrounded by carefree people. Jogjakarta for its Javanese cultural and heritage. Manado because it’s where my dad was born and where my grandparents live. In my opinion, each city has something different to offer that contributes to my way of relaxing.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The Golden Passport – Duff McDonald

Shameless plug for your business:
Instagram Story and straight up telling friends, acquaintances and even strangers about how awesome the work that I do is.

How can people connect with you?
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/clairineruntung/
Personal email: [email protected]

Twitter handle?
@clairineruntung though I have been inactive for years. I am much more active on LinkedIn these days. Find me on IG @clairineruntung as well.

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

Rishabh Singhvi & Varun Saraf, Co-Founders of Why Q

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Surprised by the lack of delivery services available for local Singaporean hawker stall foods, Rishabh and Varun started their own delivery service.

What’s your story?
Varun and I moved to Singapore in 2008 and soon turned into foodies. After completing our studies at SMU, we worked in corporate offices in the Singapore CBD for 4 years. Here, we faced the problem of long queues and found it hard to find feasible delivery options on a day to day basis. We made it our goal to help others like us, so they don’t face the same problem of finding affordable yet tasty options to eat their daily meal. The name asks all those queuing up at food courts and hawker centres a simple question – Why Queue … when we can bring Singapore’s favorite hawker food to you?

What excites you most about your industry?
The Hawker culture is the most exciting and intriguing part of the food industry in Singapore. It is deep-rooted in the local Singapore culture. There is rich variety of cuisines available under one roof, food is delicious and very affordable. We were very surprised how this part of the food industry was completely ignored by other food deliveries.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and brought up in India and have been staying in Singapore for the past 10 years.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
The ease of running a start-up and the professionalism makes Singapore my favourite city for business. It has the most business-friendly regulations, low start-up costs and takes only a week to register and get your business going.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful.” – Jeff Bezos

Who inspires you?
Hawker Uncle and Aunties are our Hawker Heroes. Most of the stalls are family-run businesses. The dedication and hard-work that they put in is commendable. They come to the hawker centre at 3am to start preparing food for the day and leave only in the evening after cleaning and washing everything.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
We are leaning so much about our hawker partners through our #HawkersOfSG series, inspired by #HumansOfNewYork. For example, one of our hawker partners was into advertising (until the 2008 recession started, after which he started one of the most popular hawker stalls in the country) while the other used to sell and ride Harley Davidson bikes (and now sells black pepper rice bowls). Their stories and how they turned into our Hawker Heroes continues to inspire us and blow us away.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I think I haven’t reached that stage in life yet where I look back and want to do things differently.

How do you unwind?
Watching and playing football 🙂

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bali, definitely. One of the most beautiful and chill places.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Zero to One by Peter Thiel

Shameless plug for your business:
Cheapest and largest Hawker Food delivery in Singapore.

How can people connect with you?
On whatsapp at 90268776 or email at [email protected]

Twitter handle?
We’re on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/whyqsg/ and Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/whyqsg/

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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