Saturday, October 31, 2015

Nature and Places

Thanks for the CD, Ravi!
Music maker CA Ravi’s second album "Nature and Places – Instrumental Conversations". Here's one sample:

Ravi, thank you for the music!
When I listened to it in my car, it makes me feel like I’m on cloud nine. Music that drowns the orchestra of snarling traffic sounds. Music that reminds me of gentle waves lapping at my feet. Music that subdues, soothes and salves. That's what I feel. That's why I feel. That's the magic of Ravi's music.
On Wednesday, I was back in KL – Wisma MPL in Jalan Raja Chulan – to attend the BIB Toastmasters meeting. I was Humor Master and Table Topics Evaluator and I also delivered a CC #10 speech titled “Pay Attention’. I was evaluated by Lim Yi Kang. This completes my 28th round of the Competent Communication manual.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Mass Pardon of Crooked Politicians

Vanuatu's parliamentary speaker Marcellino Pipite (left) used his interim executive powers while the country’s President was abroad to pardon himself and thirteen other MPs, including Deputy Prime Minister, Moana Carcasses.
Note that under Vanuatu law, the speaker acts as president when the latter is travelling overseas and has the powers of pardoning, commutation and reduction of sentences.
Justice Mary Sey had ruled on October 09, 2015 that payments amounting to 35 million vat ($452,000) were corruptly made by the deputy prime minister, corruptly received, and designed to influence MPs in their capacity as public officials. The fourteen crooked politicians were due to be sentenced on October 22. They faced a maximum of 10 years in jail along with the loss of their seats in parliament.
When Baldwin Lonsdale returned, he said Pipite had acted unlawfully and promised action. He has since then overturned those pardons, citing constitutional obligations on leaders to conduct themselves in such a way that avoided conflicts of interest, compromising official duties, demeaning the office, allowing their integrity to be called into question, or endangering or diminishing respect for - or confidence in – the integrity of Vanuatu's government.
We know that Malaysia is no different. Money and corruption are already ruining the country.
There is no compromise when it comes to corruption. You have to fight it. And win.
On Tuesday, I was at the TMIKL Toastmasters meeting where I was given a speaking a lot. I presented CC speech #3 and the title was given by club member Rhoda Omar. This meeting witnessed seven speakers including yours truly.



Thursday, October 29, 2015

O2O Commerce in China

Online to Offline commerce or O2O is being heralded as the next big thing in China’s e-commerce landscape. In simple words, O2O is about directing online users to physical stores.
The term O2O was first coined by Alex Rampell, CEO and founder of TrialPay, in a 2000 TechCrunch article – he wrote: “The key to O2O is that it finds consumers online and brings them into real-world stores. It is a combination of payment model and foot traffic generator for merchants (as well as a ‘discovery’ mechanism for consumers) that creates offline purchases”.
O2O has also given rise to businesses like Groupon and LivingSocial. Brick and mortar retailers like Nordstrom and Walmart have also evolved O2O models to help combat the ill-effects of ‘showrooming’ – wherein customers come to the store to just look at the product and then go back home and buy it online, or what is referred to as reverse O2O.
As mobile apps and online transactions gain currency, it is fueling the rise of O2O.

O2O helps marketers to close the loop between product ‘discovery’ and the actual transaction. I had read this China Daily article “Fast food gets even faster” (October 2-8, 2015, p 22) that in China alone, in 2Q15, the online-to-offline catering industry transactions hit 8.2 billion yuan, up by 89 percent from last quarter, according to Beijing-based Internet consultancy Analysys International.
In case you get the wrong idea that the bulk of this O2O business relates to fast food, the fact is online food ordering accounts only for a small (unspecified) proportion.
Still, as more people turn to mobile apps and websites for food delivery services, its market volume is expected to hit 40 billion yuan in 2017, iResearch Consulting Group forecasts in one report.
It is interesting to read that this surging growth is fueled by a price war led by the Internet companies. Obviously big players like Baidu and Alibaba wield considerable power to win business but lest we forget, these online platforms are offering similar services in terms of partnered restaurants and delivery qualities. Even if companies have deep pockets, there will come a time when they must look for profits.
A business is still a business, after all.
I have always said this in my Marketing class, winning an increased market share purely through burning cash is not a sustainable strategy.
Anyway, Liu Xuwei, an analyst with Analysys International said: “Customers have no loyalty. They just choose platforms that offer the biggest discounts. When subsidies disappear, consumers are also likely to return to the traditional way of eating at brick-and-mortar restaurants”. 
Competition is one thing. But businesses have to be profitable. That's the business of business.
Last Sunday, Celtic bounce back from their midweek Europa League disappointment to put five past bottom of the table Dundee United in the Scottish Premiership. It was clearly a one-sided contest.
And in an EPL match on the same day, Reds striker Christian Benteke headed in against Southampton at Anfield in the seventy-seventh minute but Saints forward Sadio Mane made it 1-1 when he levelled in the eighty-sixth minute.
Yesterday, Celtic continued their winning ways when they reached the Scottish League Cup semi-finals with a 2-1 victory yesterday. Leigh Griffiths opened scoring in the seventy-first minute and then quickly created the second for Tom Rogic in the eighty-second minute.
And Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp finally tasted victory at the fourth attempt as his side edged Bournemouth 1-0 in the League Cup fourth round. Thanks to Nathaniel Clyne's maiden Reds goal in the seventeenth minute.
The Reds, who have won the League Cup on a record eight occasions, move into the quarter-finals for the second successive season.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Orangutans Under Grave Threat

Photos from Center for Great Apes
The tragedy is that forests have been deliberately set alight for agriculture. And the smog that ensued, cloak countries like Malaysia and Singapore.
But it is not just us who are suffering – wildlife too have come under grave threat, with orangutan sanctuaries reporting a rise in the number of rescued animals, left stranded and without food by fires.
Alarmingly, 358 fire “hotspots” have been detected inside the Sabangau Forest in Kalimantan which has the world’s largest population of nearly 7,000 wild orangutans. Elsewhere, fires are on a burning frenzy in the Tanjung Puting national park, home to 6,000 wild apes, the Katingan forest with 3,000 and the Mawas reserve where there are an estimated 3,500.
Organizations such as International Animal Rescue are sending out "human-orangutan conflict" teams to try and save the orangutans from the devastating effects of the raging fires. They will need more manpower, equipment and funds – so if you can make a donation, please help!

Last Wednesday, my August 2015 batch of DMK1013 Introduction to Business students showed their videos that they did as part of their term project.

The marketing offer is “nasi lemak”  (left) – the one dish that probably represents Malaysia best!
For non-Malaysians who may not be familiar with this meal – the simple version is just coconut-flavored rice, served with sambal, fried crispy anchovies, toasted peanuts and cucumber.
My heartfelt appreciation to the four individuals who took time off to be with me and sit on my judging panel. Thank you, Annyza Tumar (English Department, Sunway University);  Chrristine Ngiam (Karya Infiniti); Kenneth Lee (Dreamland Corporation); and Evelyn Toh (SUBS, Sunway University)!

Not only did they sit through all nineteen videos but made the selection of the Top 6 videos as featured below:

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Budget 2016: Whither Are We Bound?

Malaysians have described Budget 2016 as a Robin Hood budget; others have called it a populist budget.

Those labels are partially true but looking at it overall, I prefer to call it an election budget – there are enough sweeteners to appease targeted constituents who form the critical vote banks for Najib Razak (left). The budget, in my opinion, is designed as if an election is on the horizon. 
One of the biggest beneficiaries are the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak.
Budget 2016 proposed to allocate RM29.2 billion for development in Sarawak and Sabah. This represents 10.96 % of the total budget. Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi in an immediate reaction to Najib’s budget speech on Friday had said the Sarawak allocation was meant to win over the electorate in the state polls, expected to be called next year. You cannot be more honest than that!
Please don’t get me wrong. I do not begrudge Sarawak and Sabah getting more money – they should have received the said funds all along. Why only now?
Another beneficiary is the Prime Minister Department which is taking a larger proportion from national coffers, from RM19 billion this year to RM20.3 billion in 2016. It just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Unbelievable.
It is interesting to note that prior to Najib becoming prime minister, the said department only took up very modest federal resources. In 2006, it was 2.67 % of the total budgeted expenditure; in 2007, it was 3.81 %; and in 2008, it was 3.40 %.
But when Najib assumed office on April 03, 2009, the PM’s Department began to throw its Rosmah’s weight around and began receiving allocations of nearly 7% of the annual federal budget – a figure that has continued to climb over the years until now (with only a dip for two years in 2012 and 2013).
In 2009, the percentage ballooned to 6.71 %; in 2010, it was 6.37%; in 2011, it was 6.74 %; before it retreated a little in 2012 and 2013 with allocations of only 5.38% and 5.24 % respectively; and then it shot up again – 6.23 % in 2014; and 6.96 % in 2015.
Budget 2016's allocation for the Prime Minister's Department is 7.6% of total expenditure, the highest ever for the department. What this means is that even more resources are being diverted to the Prime Minister’s Department for Najib to consolidate his power base within UMNO and also to counter the nasty opposition. As Kluang MP Liew Chin Tong correctly said it is indeed a budget of Najib, by Najib and for Najib! I couldn’t have put it better.
Of course, there are small goodies for very many groups – and they are bound to generate goodwill amongst these recipients. Friday’s budget included cash handouts for 7.4 million households and individuals, higher pay and bonuses for 1.6 million civil servants, and a one-time payment to 700,000 pensioners, not to mention bigger subsidies for rubber planters and rice farmers.

Undoubtedly, there is also pain. Hefty trimmings on education, welfare and social spending only show that the prime minister has got his priorities wrong. But Najib doesn't care, does he? 
Najib had opted for a budget that is going to resonate with his primary core supporters – the lower-income Malays. When you really scrutinize Budget 2016, you realize that it is not addressing the challenging environment that we have now. He has missed the opportunity for broader economic and fiscal reforms.
Budget 2016 allocates a total RM267.2 billion, an increase from a revised allocation of 260.7 billion for 2015. [Note: The initial allocation for 2015 was 273.9 billion]. And the figures below speak for themselves.
Current account surplus in 2016 to be down more than half to RM11.3 billion from RM23.4 billion this year and RM47.3 billion in 2014. Economic growth forecasts at 4.0-5.0 % for 2016, compared with 4.5-5.0 % this year. Fiscal deficit for 2016 reduced slightly to 3.1 % of gross domestic product, down from 3.2 % in 2015 and 3.4 % last year. Government debt limit to remain at 55 % of GDP in 2016, forecasting a ratio of 54.0 % but it is still higher than the 52.7 % in 2014. Inflation seen at 2.0-3.0 % in 2016, against 2.0-2.5 % this year.
Budget 2016 is nothing more than endless disappointments. Therefore, I must expect Malaysia’s current malaise to persist. The country is already standing on the precipice. 

Yesterday, I participated in the University Malaya Toastmasters meeting – the venue was the Chemical Engineering Department in Block V of the Engineering Faculty. I did an Advanced speech from Specialty Speeches – "Speak Off the Cuff". 
But there was a twist to this. Based on the manual, I was to provide my Evaluator 5 possible topics and he was to pick one at random – after which, I will then speak on that selected topic. However, the club president Jacky Wong decided to get his (non-Toastmaster) lecturer Dr. Jega, who had come to the meeting, to suggest a topic out of the blue. The title given was “The Economic Crisis and Its Impact on Malaysians”.
Thankfully, I believe I did justice to the topic. Anyway, I was evaluated by Mathew Philippose from Money Mastery Toastmasters Club, who was also the General Evaluator at the said meeting.
It had been a good meeting in all respects and I enjoyed myself. An 8 over 10 score for this meeting.
And thanks to Jacky for the Coke!