The Professional Singapore v. The Real Singapore

January 22, 2011

The Professional Singapore aka Allen & Gledhill

On Jan 21 the law students visited the law firm of Allen & Gledhill (A&G) – Advocates & Solicitors. Our speaker was Low Pei Lin, a partner in the in the Intellectual Property and Technology Division. Tan Guat Ling gave us a tour of the facilities after our meeting.

Although they work at the largest law firm in Singapore, Ms. Low and Ms. Tan were very hospitable and “down to earth.” We were able to see a side of Singapore, that most locals would rarely see. During our tour we witnessed the Singaporean work environment and work ethic. For example, most of the lawyers shared offices, and they were all intently WORKING! 😀

We did not see the employees standing at the water cooler talking, making jokes, Googling, nor Facebooking. This was not like the TV show, “The Office.”

After a short day of our professional business, we had some free time to tour the city. Our first stop was Chinatown. It was unbelievable, this was not the beautiful side of Singapore that we had become accustomed to.

While eating duck in an underground food court, we saw a hungry, homeless man walking up to a table, searching for leftovers. Interestingly, the man did not ask anyone for money. This area also had garbage on the ground, unlike the immaculate areas that most tourists frequent.

We left Chinatown and took the subway (Singapore Mass Rapid Transit or SMRT), think New York subway but much cleaner and safer. The SMRT was unbelievably crowded, locals were everywhere; it felt like we were the only tourists on the SMRT.

We stopped in an area called Bugis, we learned from a native Singaporean Elon alumnus. She told us that that the young locals “hang out” here. Bugis was AWESOME, it was what we were looking for, some authentic Singaporean culture. This wasn’t the casinoes, not Universal Studios, or the Disney Land-like atmosphere that we saw earlier in our trip. This was crowded streets, hustle and bustle, real life!

What did we do in Bugis? We walked, walked, and walked………… One of our themes for our trip has been “food culture,” and this day was no different. We were determined to find a local dessert restaurant, recommended by the alumnus . On the way we ate local fruit and drank Hainan Kaifei (coffee). The coffee was cold, because the humidity is too strong for hot coffee, even at night. How do we describe the coffee? Great, Authentic, Awesome!

After walking what seemed like a half marathon, we found our dessert restaurant, Ah Chew Desserts. The desserts there are undescribable, imagine a spoonful of heaven. If you are ever there, we definitely recommend the mango sago with vanilla ice cream. For the extremely adventurous, add some durian fruit, but you may not want this to be your first time eating durian. Saying that durian is an acquired taste is an understatement.

Our last visit for the night was the “New Year Market.” According to our Singaporean friend, it is only open two months before the Chinese New Year. Once again, this was AWESOME! Bona fide Singaporean culture, this is what we traveled nearly ten thousand miles to experience! And everything is cheap, compared to the tourist areas of Singapore!

We ended our day with a couple of Tiger beers, tapioca, and some meat cooked in a deli-like place. We celebrated our discovery of The Real Singapore!

Alex Pham & Reggie Williams


3M and ESPN

January 22, 2011

Today (January 21, 2011), our trip continued with a visit to a company you may have heard of, 3M. We visited the facility of a wholly-owned subsidiary, 3M Singapore. Our visit began with a presentation by Daniel Asto, who works in the Track & Trace and Library Systems departments. His presentation discussed 3M’s history and vision for innovation.
3M began as Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing and a century later has developed over 55,000 products. The company was grown through giving employees the freedom to develop products without a fear of failure; this autonomy has created a culture of innovation and creativity.
One example Daniel shared with us that Post-It Notes came about because a 3M employee developed an adhesive that would not dry in the typical manner. However, it took five years after the development of the adhesive for someone to discover a use for it, which became Post-It Notes. Even after discovering the use, the company could not convince customers through marketing and advertising, so the Ceo started giving them away; with the belief that this would lead them to purchases in the future. This story provided a relevant example of the company’s commitment to innovation and not dismissing an idea prematurely.
One clever idea to foster innovation was 3M’s “Innovation Day” that challenged and required employees to spend the entire day working on new ideas for products. The model encourages collaboration within 3M and thinking outside the box.
After the presentation, we were able to see the display room with many of the cutting-edge products 3M is developing. It was fascinating to see what is coming, and to learn about the products 3M develops. There were many ingenious ideas and designs, some that are already in use and others that are coming soon.

After viewing 3M’s Singapore campus it was clear that innovation is the key to the companies past, present and future. As future leaders we could take away this example of innovation and vision and utilize those very same values in our organization.

Later in the evening, Professor Hicks took some of the students to ESPN Star Sports, which is the site of ESPN and Star Sports throughout much of Southeast Asia. ESPN Star Sports is a joint venture between ESPN and Star Sports to cover events and present programming. The station broadcasts to 17 different countries, and because of local tastes, languages, and programming rights, the station has to tailor each station for the local market. Most of the region loves to watch the English Premier League, but in India, cricket is the most popular sport. ESPN Star Sports has to balance these preferences with the ability to broadcast what are potentially 17 different programs. One program while we were there went out in 3 languages (English, Cantonese, and Mandarin).
We watched a live SportsCenter, both from the control room and the studio. Having never experienced a TV studio before, I was fascinated by the inner workings at SportsCenter. While we were there, Venus Williams pulled out of the Australian Open and we got to see the video guy cut the video and run “Breaking News” on the primetime SportsCenter. We also really enjoyed going into the studio, which was a giant green room with two men behind a desk. Through the magic of television, the background is put into the broadcast, even adding a printer to the desk. It was a thrill to meet the anchors and be able to take a picture with them.
We also learned about some of the behind the scenes action at ESPN Star Sports. I was interested to find out that the ESPN News program is produced entirely by one person. That person creates the graphics, writes the script, and announces the highlights. The program is faceless, and each employee is responsible for about 6 hours of the program. The experience at ESPN Star Sports was very exciting and a thrill to witness a live SportsCenter.

Advance Canvas – January 21, 2011

January 21, 2011

We left this morning at 9:30 to our forth location in Singapore, Advance Canvas which is a manufacturer of canopies, awnings, and other fabric shades for commercial locations throughout Singapore (and as we learned later increasing throughout greater South Asia). Upon arriving we found that this was a much smaller operation than the garment manufacture Gilimex we visited in Vietnam. After removing our shoes, we were ushered into the board room were seated around a small projector screen that our hosts Eric and an Tracy used to show a collage of products designed and produced by Advance’s two companies Advance Canvas and Advance Membrane. These products ranged from as simple as umbrellas for Starbucks all the way to giant public “sail shades”. The provide further detail on the actual fabric used Simon Gatliff with GlenRaven, presented on the cutting edge acrylic product being used in Advance’s creations. Simon’s product, mainly produced in Indonesia, only represents 10% to 20% of the all the fabrics used by Advance however they are superior due to their fade and sag resistant characteristics.
Some of the interesting facts about the products are as follows:
• Seams are heat welded together to provide a more watertight seam. (See Photo 2 – Heat Seam Machine)
• The cost for many of the canopies is actually picked up by third party companies in exchange for ads placed on the canopy (Visa, American Express, Mastercard all engage in this)
• Typically their products last between 5 and 10 years. Fading is generally not an issue with Sunbella as the fabric is fade resistant. With the humidity, the product is prone to sagging however as soon as the sun returns; the fabric regains its shape.
• Advance has the capability to produce both in-house designs as well as third party (architect) designs. These designs range from a simple as residential shades to temporary permanent air plane hangars. Particularly unique are their retractable awnings which actually allow businesses along Clarke Quay to claim tax breaks when their awnings are retracted
• Singaporean’s do not clean their awnings or canopies. Simon thought this was probably due to the fact they replace them every five years however Liz Lappen is developing a business plan to start the first All-Awning Cleaning Co..
Probably the most interest thing about the entire operation was brought up by Simon at the facility tour. When asked what exactly Eric (who had kept a very soft spoken, none assuming presence) did, Simon reveal that he actually owned Advance Canvas and personally developed many of the rectacled systems Advance used. All this with no formal education! This only goes to prove that in Singapore anyone can take a good idea to the bank.
– Jordan & Chuck

Fusionopolis– January 20, 2011

January 21, 2011

Put on your 3-D glasses, sit back, and enjoy a movie showing all the digital media ventures started or supported by Singapore’s Media Development Authority.

The Media Development Authority (MDA), an agency of the Singapore government, is located in a multi-use community called Fusionopolis. MDA was formed and generously funded upon merger of three formerly separate government agencies– the Singapore Broadcasting Authority, the Films and Publications Department and the Singapore Film Commission. The MDA was created to better serve and foment a vibrant media sector in Singapore: one that both fosters the genesis of media enterprises by Singaporeans and invites direct foreign investment for economic growth.

After the movie presentation, one of the executives gave more detailed information about specific schemes to track development, progress, and usage in media development. Following the presentation, we toured the demonstration rooms, which boasted a display device best described as a tabletop I-pad with the screen being the size of the top of the table. From this device, we viewed clips of media produced in cooperation with the MDA including clips of critically acclaimed movies, clips of one of Singapore tv viewers’ favorite tv shows, clips children’s animation cartoon shows which are popular both here and in America.

Next, we proceeded to another demonstration room where MDA representatives exhibited several digital children’s games and books. These games and books brought back the little kid in us and made us wish we had such cool toys when we were kids.

Singapore 19 Jan 2011 – From a Legal Perspective

January 21, 2011

Our first day in Singapore proved to be an interesting one. It was especially appealing from a law student’s perspective as we had the opportunity to hear from Singaporean international arbitrators, mediatators, law professors, and local attorneys. Casey was the international arbitrator who provided an insightful overview of international arbitration in Singapore. In a nutshell, arbitration is an alternative to “traditional” courtroom litigation . Parties entering into an agreement or contract can mutually agree to handle or settle any legal disputes outside the courtroom by providing for a neutral arbitrator who can essentially serve as both judge and jury. The major benefit of international arbitration is allowing for parties of dissimilar countries and legal systems to conduct business in an efficient manner, thus, streamlining international commerce. Globally, Singapore ranks 5th in terms of the number of international arbitrations that are conducted in any given country. Singapore, a country that has largely succeeded by providing services as opposed to tangible goods, is striving to become a mecca of international arbitration and Casey explained that Singapore is well suited to do so because of its’ extremely stable economy and government.

Our next speaker was Bernie, a partner in a Singaporean law firm. Bernie gave a great and interesting overview of the Singaporean legal system. The requirements to become a lawyer were unlike that of the US. In Singapore, a prospective attorney must obtain a 4 year legal degree from Singapore or the UK and then pass a licensing exam.. The hierarchy of the judicial branch, from highest to lowest is as follows: Court of Appeals, the equivalent of our Supreme Court; High Court; and Subordinate Court, . Bernie also spoke of Singapore’s Constitutional Law where certain “fundamental” rights are granted, but certain rights that the US enjoys, such as right to a jury trial and free speech, are not granted to Singapore citizens. As are most aspects of Singaporean government, the judicial system is extremely efficient. Litigating parties are literally given their “day” in court, but must actually pay to utilize the courtroom should litigation extend past a day. And unlike the US, where the appeals process in death penalty cases can last years, a Singaporean murderer is executed within 2 years from date of the crime. Bernie also explained some of the harsh criminal laws: death penalty for drug trafficking. Also, gum chewers beware: the sale of gum is illegal.

James Knox

Clark Quay Boat Tour

January 21, 2011

Hello, this is Chris Anglin checking in from Singapore for January 19. After several speakers earlier in the afternoon, we went on a night cruise down Clark Quay. The area had been used since the 19th century for shipping purposes and was what led Singapore to become an important hub for trade in Southeast Asia. The Singaporean skyline can only be described as spectacular because of the varying architectural styles and the wide array of buildings that can be seen from the boat. The cruise lasted around thirty minutes and then we went to the casino area. The casino had opened within the last two years and it was built to appeal to foreign businessman and tourists. This has been a previously untapped market for the economy and has proved to be wildly successful. It is expected that the firms that invested in the casino will make back their original investment within five years. For Singaporean residents, the cost to enter the casino is a hundred dollar while it is free for foreigners. The cost to enter the casino is meant to deter residents but many are happy to pay it.

At the casino, I played blackjack and was quickly down around $200 Singaporean but luckily the exchange rate is in our favor so it was only $160 American. The casino was very nice and had the feeling of a Las Vegas casino. There was also a Universal Studios next to the casino. After the casino, we went to the hotel that had invented the world famous Singapore Sling. The drink is known around the world and is also the name of a local professional basketball team. Overall, I was struck by how nice Singapore was and how there is a friendly atmosphere for businessmen and tourists. Our time so far in Singapore has been in stark contrast to Vietnam, with the major differences being the cleanliness of the city and the lack of motorbikes. Singapore has been a great place to visit and I am looking forward to the next two days before we return to North Carolina.

Chris Anglin

Hello Singapore…Wednesday January 19th 2011

January 20, 2011

Think about the following puzzle for a minute: What do you sit on, put your clothes in and brush your teeth with?

Andrew Shields, Idea Creator of A2 Partners, welcomed the group to Singapore at Singapore Management University (SMU). Starting off the to be heated discussion with the above question, we all sat uncomfortably in the room until he gave us the answer.

A Chair. A Wardrobe. A Toothbrush.

Simple. We all may have been thinking of the three basic answers but were over complicating it because it couldn’t have been that easy, we’re MBA and Law students! But as Andrew further explained, our answer was typical for western culture but a Singaporean child would have had it in nanosecond. Our discussion continued as we compared the differences between America and Singapore’s culture & value systems.

We were given the task of identifying the top five American values. We created the following: Justice, Democratic, Freedom, Self Serving and Un-trustworthy. Next we focused on Singapore. Efficiency, Clean, Safety, Intelligent and Multi-Cultural. Understanding values is important when doing business on an international level. Due to the fact, it’s vital to understand what drives your business partner on the other side of the table.

On a brighter note, we enjoyed delicious McDonalds, Starbucks, Wendy’s (a.k.a. western food) and even found a 7-11 where some of our cohorts enjoyed a Big Gulp and Grass Jelly. First impressions of Singapore included, driving on the left side of the road, spotless streets, modern architecture, a cozy beach bar (with delicious Long Island Ice Teas), expensive prices and Vegas-style cameras everywhere!

The Park Hotel at Clarke Quay is fantastically modern, classy and comfortable. A room with a pool view is refreshing and we look forward to enjoying it immensely.

Thanks for reading,

Nicole & Liz