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Nominee
Mr Andrew Chow
2008

Andrew's extensive experience in the MICE industry enabled him to have huge networks
from people of all industries which helped him when he entered the dating and
matchmaking industry. In 2005, he was appointed the role of Managing Agent for
Romancing Singapore by SDU, to lead a new era of private-led initiative in this industry.

Company: IDEAMART (S) PTE LTD


Address: 140 Robinson Road, #06-06 Chow House
Website: http://www.romancingsingapore.com/

Interview with Mr Andrew Chow


by Victor Tan Suan Howe on 21-May-2008. Student can be reached at
VICT0003@ntu.edu.sg

Business Profile:
Since 1994, IdeaMart(S) has been the leading exhibition service provider for exhibition
project management services, from conceptualization to installation using portable
architecture and technology. In 2005, IdeaMart won the first ever tender to manage
Romancing Singapore as a lifestyle platform solely embraced by the private sector.

Interviewer's Comments:
Andrew strikes me as a passionate, visionary and philosophical entrepreneur, who is
dead-set to create a new thrilling era for the dating industry, which has been a taboo
subject for a long time. I could feel his excitement and sincerity as he shares his vision
and mission and charts a roadmap of true love for any single that looks for him.

1. What is the nature of your business?


The name of my company is Ideamart Pte Ltd, and my business started 14 years
ago(1994) and I was then in the MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Exhibition)
industry. The company was founded by my partner, Mr Andy Lai whom I regarded as
my mentor and me. We created a platform, a business marketplace, where we facilitated
business transaction and business networking. In Feb 2005, I started to spin off into
other areas, to dating and social networking. In a sense, my dating and matchmaking
business is similar to my MICE business, as we can be regarded as a corporate
facilitator and matchmaker.. Today, I am more involved in my dating and matchmaking
business, and spend 85% of my time in my dating and matchmaking business, and 15%
in my MICE business

2. When and why did you decide to become an entrepreneur / take over your
family business? NOTE: If it is not a family business, ask: Do your parents have
their own businesses too? Have they inspired you in one way or another? (Select
appropriate question according to the entrepreneur being interviewed.)
I decided to become one when I was 26, finishing my first term as an army regular. My
parents own a small shoe business. They have taught me some good values in doing
business like integrity and on-time delivery.

3. What are your reasons for choosing to do business in this particular industry?
MICE is a very interesting industry which can link to all industries. The networking
opportunities are plentiful and experiences that I have accumulated are very diverse
and complete. In 2005, we venture into dating industry business using our lessons
learned from "corporate match-making" in our MICE industry. The concept is about the
same, but the approach will have to be more of a personal human touch. We were
awarded to manage Romancing Singapore as a private sector initiative which created
originally as a government campaign. We have successfully transformed the campaign
into a private-sector brand which singles at large can identify our unique service with.
In my dating and matchmaking business, you can say it was initially an unintentional
foray, as I initially took a project in the dating and matchmaking industry in my MICE
business, but when I saw such huge potential and excitement in this industry, I decided
to spin off to this industry and I never look back since then. In fact, I have a huge calling
for this sector, and I also believe that the market potential is still largely untapped. As
long as you are single and available, preferentially of age group 21-55, if you are
earnest about looking for a partner, you can be my customer

4. How did you put together all the resources needed to start your business? For
example: getting the start-up capital, hiring staff, doing sales and marketing,
advertising, etc.
I take over the business from my first business mentor where I work as a staff and later
promoted to become a director. It was already an on-going business and I simply take it
to the next level. I use my family saving to buy out my mentor's shares. For my dating
business, I do not need a lot of staff. The actual running of the event itself is not very
resource straining. One people can handle 40-50 customers The actual work is little
compared to the marketing and preparation you need to do. For example, in your
wedding, you can plan for one year for only one day for your wedding. Most
importantly, we had to bring in the right people.

5. You mentioned earlier you were in the MICE industry, and later you penetrated
into the Dating and Romance industry. Are they related?
In my MICE business, we deal with corporate clients, as corporate facilitators and
matchmakers. In my dating and matchmaking business, I am now dealing with singles,
retail clients as a retail facilitator and matchmaker. In fact, I would say that being in
the dating and matchmaking business is more challenging as now I have to deal with
personal expectation and emotions. In the past, in MICE, I deal with relations with
vendors, suppliers, and partners. Now, in the dating and matchmaking industry, I have
to deal with human emotions as well as media. Dealing with the media is a huge
challenge, as you cannot control them. However, media is a very powerful tool to
business if you can manage carefully. The mileage gained from the media is stretched
further than any advertising dollar can give you. In addition, in my dating and
matchmaking business, I place more emphasis on branding and managing Public
Relations, especially when the media is involved, whereas for MICE, the equivalent
emphasis is more towards marketing. When I mean branding, I mean creating brands,
or services mainly targeted at the various types of groups, such as Good Looking
singles, Religious singles, etc where these brands are only for their respective niches. In
fact, today I am better known as a matchmaker than a MICE businessman. Although I
am still well known in the MICE industry, people do not care how you start well but
rather how well you are doing now.

6. What are some interesting stories you have about your first few customers/first
few years in business?
When Ideamart first started, although I am one of the founders, I actually look upon my
partner, Mr Andy Lai as my mentor, and I always seen myself "working for him". I was
still green then, and Mr Andy gave me a lot of valuable information and lessons on
being an Entrepreneur. I learnt a lot from him, and we went through hard times
together, for example the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis in my 3rd year. And at the end of
1998, when the economy is recovering and we are also improving, Mr Andy wanted to
focus on his other businesses. That was then I decided to buy over his share. Therefore,
you can take it as I am taking over a company I was working for. Around year 2000
when China joined the WTO, everybody started to look into China for cheaper goods.
This was then I made one of my biggest decision in life without my mentor participation.
I wanted to address the premium market, people who prefer premium quality goods with
more QC and standards. Therefore, I went for the top 20% of the market, while leaving
the rest of the 80% to my competitors. As a result, I had a better margin but a lower
turnover. I learnt then that in my line of business, margin is more important than
volume.

7. What was your childhood dream? When did you decide that you would strike
out on your own instead of working for someone else?
I actually dreamed to become a doctor when I was very young. I find that saving lives
and making a difference in the society is something very satisfying. I decided to become
an Entrepreneur after finishing my regular term in the army at 26.

8. How different is it being your own boss compared to working in the army or a
company
In the army, I learnt basic rigid structure, learnt to obey ranks and files. The system in
army is a good training for me. However, I recognized some of the fundamental
weakness of the army system. For example, when I started out, avoid making mistakes
like blind obedience to orders, etc. Therefore, one of the major difference being your
own boss, is you have to be very flexible, but in the army, you have to be very
regimented and obedient. In a big company, you have all the policies in place, for
example staff policies, sales, production, distribution channels. All the system
administration and policies are in place. You are just one of the people in the company
that makes these systems work. However as an Entrepreneur, you have to start from
scratch, and create these systems. This is one of the greatest challenges of
Entrepreneurship. You need to be visionary, to start from scratch. You also need to be
hands on. That is why many people after working for a long time for people, who come
out on their own to be their own boss, thought that since they are able to earn $300,000
a year in their company, they should have no problems earning enough to support
themselves. However, many of them are shocked that they could not even make $30,000.
This is because none of the proper infrastructure are in place yet.
9. What are some of the challenges you faced when you first went into business?
The challenges was not to have my mentor to guide me anymore, I am on my own since
1998.There are a lot of decisions in the past where I can seek an opinion or consensus.
Now it is all up to me. In my dating business, the first huge challenge is to break the
social stigma of singles social events. People had negative mindsets about singles, and
the phrase towards these social events organized by SDU and SDS are for "single and
desperate" people. In fact, it is a taboo for many people, and even they attended such
events, no one likes to talk about them.

10. How did you overcome these challenges? Please share some specific examples of
the action you took to overcome the challenges.
Credit (MICE). In my MICE business, credit line from the bank was an issue as
previously the bank has granted credit facilities to the company based on goodwill of
my mentor. After I took over the company, I had to use my personal saving to back up
the credit facilities, By doing so, that seriously affected my company's cash flow. I had
to shorten my terms to my customers and negotiate suppliers and vendors for a longer
credit term. Social Stigma (Dating Biz). To overcome the social stigma in my dating and
matchmaking business initially, I introduced creative dating angles for media stories.
The media is always very interested in new and unusual concepts. When the media and
press talk about it often, my comments through the interviews will serve as an
encouragement to many singles who are seeking for the one but are just too shy to come
out of their comfort zone of meeting new people

11. You mentioned that you faced considerable challenges during the Asian
Financial Crisis. What about the 911 incident in 2001 and the SARS period in
2003? What are the challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?
Asian Financial crisis was my first big hit. My partner and I just had to scale down our
operations. Fortunately, we did not do export business so the crisis was still
manageable for us although we did had some losses. In 2000, I concentrated instead in
importing premium supplies for customers who want quality. That strategy works well
for me to handle 911. A lot of business then suffered in their business volume and
turnover. Fortunately for me, i was still managing about the same as i chose to go for
small turnover with higher margin In 2003, my MICE business is again affected and I
made considerable financial losses. However, after I rode through SARS, I realized
diversification of business is very important. Therefore in 2005, I chose to spin off a
project by the government into the dating business.

12. Can you remember your worst day in business or a time when you felt like
giving up? What happened that made you feel that way and how did you triumph
over it?
There are always down periods which any entrepreneur will feel discouraged. I learn to
move away from the problem and stop engaging it continuously in order to gain a fresh
perspective on the solution. Sometimes doing something totally different when you have
a crisis can give you a 2nd wind.

13. Can you share some of the lessons you learnt from overcoming your own
business challenges that you think will help other businesses?
Always know your core competencies and your strength, assess the market environment
especially the competitors and the changing demand of the customers. Then decide on
the more appropriate to differentiate yourself The process of doing business is always
full of ups and downs. A good Entrepreneur is one who can adjust appropriately to fit to
the current market situation and condition.

14. What do you think about the education of Entrepreneurs? Can


Entrepreneurship be taught?
I think the whole education of Entrepreneurship consist of the element of coaching and
learning. You must know things in theory. This is where formal education and schools
come in. You learn in business schools the fundamentals of business. Of course, there
are people who argue Entrepreneurship cannot be taught and "You either have it or you
don't". To me, I feel Entrepreneurship can be taught, provided you have a good mentor.
However, even with books and good mentors, they can only teach you 20%. The rest of
the 80% you have to learn through yourself and that is through managing a real
business.

15. How important does the role of Mentors play in a successful Entrepreneur?
A mentor is someone who has probably went through the path that you are currently in
now, and have great knowledge and experience in what you are facing now. Therefore,
he can give you great advice, which is very important for young starters. He can also
impart the basics of doing business, and also share his mistakes he made then to the
young starters. More importantly, over the course of time, the mentor is able to tell you
how well you are progressing, and objectively tell you the mistakes you are making, and
advise accordingly. This is very important, as if you make a mistake, and do not correct
it, over time it could be ingrained and etched in you and it would be very hard to
change. Many aspiring Entrepreneurs or even amateur business people, who although
have the financial resources and networks, could not succeed because they lack a very
important ingredient. They are short of a mentor, a coach to coach them to help them
whip up the successful dish. As you move on to different phases, you probably need
different mentors, as not all mentors had walked totally the same path as you as you
grow your business. In fact, I would like to bring in this concept of mentorship, and
would want to build a community, sustainable self-help groups However, there will not
be "forever coach". In my case, my mentor was with me for the first 5 years, and after
that, I went on my own. Indeed, although I have other mentors, however, there are many
I could not publicly acknowledge. Why would anyone mentor you if he does not know
you well? Therefore, I actually secretly acknowledge these mentors secretly, and tried
to absorb as much as possible from them. This is a 2 way thing. You want to learn, you
also have to give. Therefore, this is where networking and partnership comes.
Entrepreneurs can ride through business networks to give and learn from each other
successes and failures.

16. When was the moment you realised the business would work and support you?
I think every businessman will set out to think the business will be self-sufficient and
supporting. I never allow myself to have any safety net.

17. What are some of your proudest business achievements to date? And why are
they so important and meaningful to you?
In 2000, my MICE company was ranked worldwide as the 5th best due to our excellent
services, networks and track records. In my Dating and Matchmaking business, I was
also proud that in 2005 when the Government wanted to give up ownership and
responsibility in their industry to the private sector, I was awarded the tender to
manage Romancing Singapore and the private sector pioneer to drive and lead this
falling industry to greater heights. We went to create milestones events such as
Dating@Sea, a 3-day event which included speed dating, treasure hunts, seminar on
relationship management for the singles. We also had other popular dating concept
such as Love in a Capsule, First Impression, Table For Six (T46), and Night Around
Singapore Car Rally (NASCAR)that changed many Singaporeans mindsets towards
social networking events. I am also very proud that NLB have identified
RomancingSingapore websites, information and events to archive in their database.
This shows that what I do has a place towards Singapore history, culture and future.

18. How do you differentiate your business from your competitors? Please provide
specific examples.
As I mentioned earlier, for my MICE business, I focus on importing premium supplies
for customers who want quality, concentrating on margin instead of volume. For my
dating business, I created various brands for the various target groups. I can have a
supermarket-type service that anybody can come in, for example by registering in our
website, www.romancingsingapore.com. I also have boutique services for more
specialised group of people, people who can better afford. I also have brands such as
Table For Six (T46), Loveboat.sg, First Impression, Beulah, Goodlooks.sg,
Highfliers.sg, couples.sg, Two To Tango to target the niche areas. For people who are
less-networking savvy, I can arrange a table for six for you. I can also be flexible
enough, such that I can have up to 3 tables, and the guys can swap tables. At the end of
the day, 9 guys get to know 9 ladies and vice-versa. For the more networking savvy, I
can arrange huge events like Night Around Singapore Car Rally (NASCAR), of 5-6
hours for say 150 people. However for such big events, there is a huge tendency
whereby although people get to know each other quantitatively, but there is no quality.
This resulted many guys forgetting the names of the ladies they met, and also vice-versa
for the ladies on the guys names. Therefore, I can arrange for events stretching over a
longer period, such as Dating@Sea, where we combine travel with social networking
for 2 full days or more. People will have the chance to meet 120 other like-minded
singles. There will be ample time for quality interaction, and bonding, which require
some warm-up time. If you do not want too big or too small a crowd, and would want
some excitement and personal feedback, I can introduce First impression, which
combine speed dating concept with feedback elements. You will be able to talk to each
participant of the opposite sex, and at the end of the day, not only everybody get to know
everyone, each will also receive a personalised private feedback report, which would
not be easy to get from the participants. For really niche customer base, I have brands
that cater only to Christians or brands that cater only to "good-looking" people. Most
Christians would want to marry someone who is the same faith as him/her. Similarly,
most good-looking people would also like to meet people who are good-looking. In my
line of business, I have to think long and future steps as I actually met with competitors
"copying" my products and services. Therefore I always need to be able to come out
with new innovate methods continually. In fact when people copy me, I am happy as this
shows that what I am doing is right. I also ensured that I continually do new things,
innovate to meet customer demands and create unidentified needs in my range of
products and services. By doing so, my customer base will continue to follow me. I like
to stress that continuity is very important, especially in my line of business.

19. What are some business ideas you have implemented that created great results
in your business?
We have many well documented events, such as Cruises, First Impression, Love in a
Capsule, Car rallies in the day and night, that generated huge media interest as well as
helped people to open up to themselves and others. For example, our Dating@Sea event
was a huge success. Not only there was huge media coverage, it is also one of the most
important milestones in Singapore dating and matchmaking industry. This event is made
happen by 4 competing agencies! Everybody got their fair share of media coverage
which improves their business, and most importantly, we are encouraged by the
overwhelming response and mindset change by Singaporeans. Another good example is
"Love in a Capsule", where we brought in a refreshing idea of meeting people, and to
create a unique dating experience. This event is jointly organized by us and Cliquewise,
participants paid $199 each for a ride on the Singapore Flyer, followed by a Chinese-
Western dinner at Labrador Villa. Therefore who says a "blind date" should be boring?
This not only provides a refreshing approach to meeting new people of the opposite sex,
but also allows the participants to take scenic pictures, and clink champagne glasses
while enjoying the glittering night view from the 42-storey high observation wheel, the
world's tallest, and Singapore's pride! Our recent "survivor-style" dating competition,
First Impression, received much publicity and compliments too, by the public, media
and even my competitors! We had overwhelming demands for more of such
competitions in future. Instead of personally marketing my services, getting my
participants as spokeman is also a great idea. For example , Ms Joyce Tia, a Chief
Financial Officer to speak to the media; she was the rated Most Popular lady along the
guys for 2 consecutive rounds. This hugely helps in building trust and awareness in my
business. In fact, in Joyce's case, this is a 4 parties win-win case, because it benefited
Joyce, my business, media, as well as Joyce makeup-artist's company. Of course with
branding, you need to screen, to bring the "right people".For example, I set a standard
for clients interested in my "Good-looking" brand.

20. I have read much about the success of 2 of your events, "Ready Steady Shop",
"First Impressions". In fact, there was a interesting debate , both in the media as
well as in the internet. Can you elaborate on the events and the rationale in them?
Ready, Steady, Shop is an event organized by us and supported by the Social
Development Unit (SDU) and Singapore Tourism Board (STB) to create platforms for
social interaction opportunities for the fun-loving and adventurous. This event is
targeted to add a new dimension to late night shopping, by incorporating a
quintessentially unique component of a team shopping race spanning 5 shopping malls
in Orchard Road. Ready, Steady, Shop is not only an escapade that enables singles to
expand their social network while having fun. In "First Impression", indeed many
people, including the media regarded it as the "most extreme" dating event in
Singapore's 4-year-old modern private sector driven dating industry. In this
competition, there are a few rounds. In round 1, singles chat with each other for 8
minutes in a round-robin fashion, as in the norm in speed dating. Both men and women
are tasked to rate and score each other based on 1) First Impression and 2) Personality.
Participants ranked in the top 50% will advance to the next round to meet top 50% of
other groups. All results and feedback will be e-mailed to each participant 2 days after
the event. The voting continues throughout rounds 2 and 3 until the final 6 (3 men and 3
women) are determined, after which they will enjoy a free fine-dining activity together
as a reward for surviving till the end. This is a competitive dating concept, which I like
to stress, not with others but you yourself. I emphasized again that the secret is being
the right partner rather than looking for the right partner. This event offers the personal
feedback element into speed dating, something which we all needed but seldom
obtained. We want people to think and possibly reflect and avoid making the same
mistakes over and over again in dating. How did I get this business idea? Singles
complain about the quality of events in the market, which tend to be formulaic and
monotonous. My concept will help weed out insincere or undesirable personalities. The
natural selection process will raise the quality of participants, thereby raising the
quality of our events. The elimination process is always on the person mind whenever it
comes to dating. Some are totally shocked to see their low scores, which did not reflect
the positive body language shown (or so they thought) and the friendly conversation
exchanged during the speed dating. This proves a point that the unseen feedback is often
different, different from what you think. But all is not lost for those eliminated. They will
still be notified on the mutual matches and their contract details as a consolation prize.
And if they want to improve in their grooming and etiquette in order to excel in future
dating events, we also can offer professional coaching and personal development
services to them. In fact, I received praises even from my competitors, for example Ms
Claire Chiang, a well-established business women and Ms Violet Lim of Lunch
Actually.

21. Where or who do you get your business ideas from?


I find that the best time to relax and have about new business idea is during bathing.
Ideas are generated not when u are thinking about it. It usually comes as a concept or
idea when you are very relaxed.

22. To succeed in business, what qualities are essential? What are some of the
secrets in making a successful business?
Innovation. Sometimes innovation does not necessarily mean we must keep doing new
things. For example, different chefs and cook the same dish in many ways, or when
given the same ingredients, can cook different types of dishes. Therefore, to innovate,
we can also look at doing old things in new ways, to innovate something done many
times. Most importantly, to keep a customer for life, you have to continually innovate to
keep up to their changing demands as well as the market trend. You also have to create
demands and educate them along the way. Creating your own customer base and
market is also important. For example , in my business, I have my own marketplace of
customers, a portal for 10,000 people where I have critical information and databases.
Database is the 2nd most important thing to small business, next to cash. A lot of people
start without the database and information of their customers, which led to their failure.
Having good relationship with customers, media, and with strategic partners, the
synergistic partnerships you formed with "friendly competitors", are also essential. A
important lesson I learnt in business is how important EQ is, to know how to manage
these types of relationships. A company's EQ can been seen in its trust in its staff. If a
company does not trust his staff and pass on important responsibilities to them, it is also
likely that the company does not trust its clients. The Entrepreneur should also influence
and lead the industry. In my line of work, it means changing mindset. I use the power of
media to influence and change people mindset. The media is a very good tool, as people
regard it as an objective tool and therefore believe the media more than whatever
marketing flyers or banners I can produce. When you do mass marketing by
conventional means such as mass emails and flyers, typically only 0.01-0.1% will
respond to you. However, we should instead work backwards. We should first find out
how many people I target to that, say 50 people, then work for you. To able to market
effectively, you first need to have the right information and databases so that you would
not waste much resources "shooting everywhere".

23. You mentioned the importance of forming alliance with strategic partners in
your business success. Can you build up on this?
Indeed, one of the successes is able to work with your competitors to have more links,
and alliances for the greater good. For example, in one of my events, Dating@Sea, my
company and 4 competitors in the dating industry come together to do one event. The
idea of alliance is to help each other. I always believe that there is no such thing as
direct competition, only strategic alliance. This is because every business is
fundamentally different if you look at their business model, as they serve different
groups. Therefore, there is always something we can work together with our
competitors. When I mean strategic alliance, I do not mean long term alliance, but more
towards short term alliance that can be forged and broken. In forming alliance, you
should look to ally with a company that can give you the most benefit. One of the key to
forming successful alliance is to give first, and then you receive. It is like sowing and
reaping. You have to throw seeds and sow them before you reap the results. I tell
competitor what I can give (offer) first and before I tell them what I really want from
them. For example, for the Dating@Sea event, I told all the competitors and offered
them to work together with me, as when the event is made big and the media came,
every company will get PR benefits. Similarly, in dating, many singles in my opinion do
not want to find a partner, but rather someone who can solve their problems or do their
chores. For example, some guys want to find a woman to help him wash clothes, do
housework, wash cars etc. Therefore, I have a role here to educate and pass on values
to customers, and tell them the difference between finding a partner and finding
someone just for the sake of solving your problems. However, when you forge alliance,
you will only be able to initiate and forge alliance when you are the stronger party or
you have something unique to offer. Therefore, you have to establish something first
before you can forge alliance. You need to have a unique selling point, and to drive
upon the point that "you need me more than I need you". If it is the other way around,
then it would not be successful. Nowadays alliances are very common in every industry.
For example, SIA in the airline industry, and Singtel in the telecommunications
industry.

24. Do you have mechanism to monitor and progress your business growth and
successes?
Indeed, I think having a report card is very important that can monitor the business
progress, successes and areas to improve, especially if the report card is objective. In
my industry, I use the media as my report card. It provides as objective view, as they
take the views from everyone, including my competitors. In addition, once the media
recognize you as the main authority in this industry, if they need information, they look
for you. If you manage the media well, the media can be a great spokesperson for you,
in addition to being a great report card. I always believe in using concepts, as they not
only provide convenient frameworks, but also are easier to coach if you are a mentor. I
always applied the ERS principles in my business, and they indeed helped a lot in my
success. E stands for experience, and it includes the amount of experience and know-
how in the industry you are in, and also the lessons you learnt as a businessman or
Entrepreneur. R stands for the resources you currently have. S stands for the situation
you are in. This ERS concept works very well for me to conceptualize my ideas and
make them into business.

25. You are regarded as a Industry leader in the matchmaking business since 2005
by the government. What do you see the challenges this industry would face in the
future and how profitable do you think this industry can be?
The first challenge is the "service quality gap" which still is present as SDU has been in
the business since 1984. No one company will be able to fill SDU's and SDS shoes
within a short time. The second challenge would be the increased cost of love. In the
past, SDU and SDS are less profit driven being government agencies. However, as the
responsibility now falls in the hands of the private industry, profits become a important
factor in every agencies. Therefore, to avoid passing these costs directly to consumers,
to maintain affordability, we price events at different levels to cater to different
customer base and needs. In fact, I personally like to organize group social events, as
firstly the participants are able to meet more people, and secondly due to economies of
scale, we are able to charge lower price tags as compared to personalised matching.
The third challenge would be to sustain the singles interest and attention span. There
are pressures on all the dating agencies to be creative and innovate to keep their
customers interest, and what worked five years ago may not work now. Therefore, new
innovate methods must be continually created and introduced. I think every business in
this industry can be profitable in the long run as a whole as long as each player defines
its niche and be creative in the services they offer. While I do agree that with such a
small population in Singapore, with more players coming in, the market can be getting
more and more saturated. However, do note that the base of customers and demand
does increase too. However, each business has to be innovative, and provide additional
range of services to meet, satisfy and be flexible to meet current customer needs. In
addition, we also can create needs for customers, for example, my cycle (add here)
Therefore, even with increasing competition, I believe that as long as your products and
services continue to be unique, and you can keep coming out new products to offer to
people, you can still do well

26. What are the advantages you see with the matchmaking responsibilities falling
in the hands of the private industry as compared to the Government-led SDU and
SDS?
Pushing the private sector to step into SDU and SDS shoes will encourage a broader
diversification of services for the singles market, especially for those who are 30 and
above, including people who are divorced or widowed. In the past, SDU, SDS and other
agencies seem to prefer to handle the "quick and easy" younger population. In fact, I
feel that no one is every too old to look for love. As long as they believe there is
someone special out there for them, they should always keep seeking.

27. What do you see for your business in the next 5 years, and does it include any
plans for expansion? Do you also have plans to penetrate overseas markets?
In the next five years, I will still be focusing on the local market as I feel there are still a
lot of untapped potential to develop the local market. If I were to penetrate overseas
market, it will be by ways of Strategic Alliance. Currently, I am actually launching a
couple website, www.couple.sg. My mission is to have a customer for life. Being in the
industry for some time, I observe that romance can be divided into 5 stages. 1) Dating
2) Just Married (double income, no kids) 3) Young parents (with children from new
born to Primary School) 4) Mature Parents (with children from secondary to University
graduation) 5) Golden Years (with kids have grown to working adults, get married)
Currently, my efforts are targeted into the first stage, Dating . Therefore, my this couple
website, www.couple.sg, is targeted at the second stage, "Just Married stage". However,
I will not stop in stages 1 and 2. My vision, is when the customer comes to me, I will
keep him and her for life, throughout these 5 stages of romance. I have plans to create a
community, a sustainable self-help groups community among these five stages of people.
Now, each of these groups of people have their own unique set of problems. I mentioned
earlier that mentors are very important to a aspiring Entrepreneur. Similarly, I also
strongly feel that mentorship, and the idea of "going forward" is also very important in
romance. For example, a stage 3 young parent can get essential advice from a stage 4
mature parent or a stage 5 Golden years parent when he or she faced problems with
their young kids. In addition, I am also building up databases. We all know that
accurate information is hard to come by, and data mining is a very big and hectic job
for any business. For example, if your kid is 21 years old, I know I do not need to mail
you if I need to find couples with kids 0-5 years old to form a playgroup. Therefore by
doing so, I am narrowing the scope of marketing. If I do this successfully, I can sell this
information to the appropriate businesses. I have come to a stage where I like to
compound and crystallize all my thoughts, experiences, failures, and I like to coach and
be a mentor to people. I like to share with people, both aspiring Entrepreneurs and
seasoned business people alike my story and journey. I would be happy if I can help
motivate these people to build new grounds. I also like to engage more youths, and
would like them to manage my business if they are suitable. I give them the bait and let
them discover themselves. If I want to make this happen, I need to use the media
thoroughly. For example, I can regularly contribute articles on "how to maintain a
relationship".

28. The idea of mentorship and creating a self help community is very interesting.
What are the problems you think you may face in this project
The biggest challenge is, as the one initiating this, you as the gatekeeper and facilitator.
You have to be around for quite some time, at least 2 years. When you first start up,
everyone is like a piece of charcoal. You are the fire-starter. And you have to be around
for sometime, before the charcoal can start to heat up and glow.

29. What do you think makes a good leader?


A good leader in business must not only be a visionary, he must also be able to coach
others and shorten their learning curves. The idea is to ensure you can duplicate
yourself in the shortest time possible so that the leader will also have the motivation to
go to the next level himself before others catch up with him too quickly.

30. What are the problems you face with your staff and how did you overcome
them? How did you source for talents to work for you? How did you retain them?
I think it is the motivation of the staff to see the big picture that they are a integral part
of the company. Besides monetary rewards and other incentive, timely encouragement is
important to ensure they know they are on the right path. In my dating business, I will
only recruit people I have observed and seen them in action. There is really very little
time to train someone from nothing. Poaching is rather accepted in dating business
though the industry is small.

31. What does entrepreneurship mean to you? What does it mean to have the
"spirit of enterprise"?
Entrepreneurship is a pioneering profession. Entrepreneurship is not only to have a
dream but a building road map to fulfil that dream. Having a good idea is not enough. If
we cannot sell it to the right people at the right time and in the right way, it will always
remain as a dream but the reality belongs to someone else. To have the "spirit of
enterprise" means you know you are always learning and teaching others. It is
something very hard even for many businessmen to do. Precious lessons learnt are
usually kept like treasure for future personal reference. If these lessons can somehow be
documented and knowledge transferred to young budding entrepreneur, this will be true
Spirit of Enterprise.

32. In your opinion, what other qualities does a person need in order to be
successful in business? And why? (e.g. Educational qualification, work experience,
family influence, attitude, etc)
Teach-ability is very important. Education, work experience, attitude and family all play
a part. However, if a person fails to be teachable and have a humble spirit, he is bound
to fail. No body can say they know everything about business. There are always new
things or lessons we can draw from everyday life.

33. Who or what motivates and inspires you?


Success to me is always a moving target. I am energized by the journey and not really
the destination. I envision a destination and how to get there. By the time I get there, I
would already by thinking of the next destination in terms of business. So the journey
from one destination to another motivates and inspires me.

34. What are some of your business values and what would you like to pass down
to others, particularly the younger generation? Would you advise young people to
work in a company first before setting their own business?
Dare to be different but not outrageous. Learn from others mistakes. Yes, I would advise
young people to work in a company first as that is always a good training ground for a
person to see the big picture of business. The company they work for can be a good
substitute initially for a business mentor in life

35. Can you share some of the more significant events / incidents that affected or
shaped your business philosophy and the way you conduct your business? I.e.
SARS, new competition or shifts in market behaviour and trends, etc.
In 2005, the change of government direction to want the private sector to be more active
in the match making business, had given me a new business opportunity. The lesson I
learnt is the knowledge and experience gained from one industry can always be
transposed to another industry. SARS affected many big industries and the cycle slowed
down significantly. However, the dating industry is less susceptible to unexpected
events. It also allows more creativity and opportunities to excel.

36. With the changes in the market today, do you think it has become harder or
easier to succeed in business? Why do you say so?
There is more competition now as there is more awareness of entrepreneurship. It is
harder to succeed but it is also easier to enter into a business now with all the
government schemes and grant. The banks are also more aggressive in granting loans
and credit lines. In a nutshell, competition has increased due to an increase in
availability of resources.

37. What do you think are the main hindrances and obstacles to nurturing the
spirit of Entrepreneurship?
Lack of mentorship, and only cases of success are glorified but cases of business failure
are seldom reviewed for lesson learnt. Success and failure are both good examples of
lessons learnt

38. As we try to select the top 43 honourees of the year, what are the winning
qualities should we look out for?
The winner should not only be an example to the youth or budding entrepreneurs. He
should also be respected by other businessmen to be someone who can forge strategic
alliance even among friendly competitors. He must be someone who can balance
everyone's objectives and still be able to steer the alliance to the right direction and
result in a win-win situation.
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