Book Review – More Money than God: Hedge Funds and the Making of a New Elite (2010) by Sebastian Mallaby

•August 18, 2011 • Leave a Comment

1)      What are you currently reading and why?

I’m reading More Money than God: Hedge Funds and the Making of a New Elite by Sebastian Mallaby. It is one of the most comprehensive books on the history of hedge funds. It is very well written and reads like a novel rather than a textbook. The stories are well-researched and highly relevant against a backdrop of the current financial landscape. I would recommend this book for finance professionals and laymen alike. It is definitely one of the best (if not the best) book on hedge funds out there. This is a non-technical book which covers the rise and fall of the biggest names in the industry from the very first modern hedge fund – AW Jones, to current titans like Paulson & Co and Citadel.

It looks into the history and success of hedge funds. It also delves into hedge fund catastrophes, the ‘highs and lows’ of the industry – from the first long/short fund in 1949 to the recent financial crisis. The esoteric field of hedge funds has always piqued my interest. This book provides a detailed account on various hedge fund legends like George Soros and Stan Druckenmiller as well as Paul Tudor Jones, the Commodities Corporation, Citadel, and Jim Simons amongst others. The book takes the reader through all the major economic events from a hedge fund’s perspective and the excellent narrative helps readers to relive those events and get inside the mind of a fund manager.

2)      What strikes you most about the book?

Hedge funds have been portrayed as secretive freewheeling money managers, corporate raiders, or worse – economic hit men. Nothing could be further from the truth. The cemetery of hedge funds are filled with many managers whose funds imploded that we never hear about.

I also share the author’s view that the hedge fund industry should remain ‘unregulated’. Hedge funds have consistently outperformed every asset class due to their nimble ability. Unlike banking institutions, hedge fund failures are borne by the fund partners and their private investors. Until now, no public money has ever been used to bail out a failed hedge fund. The same cannot be said about banks. Of course, there are notable hedge fund scares such as Long Term Capital Management and Amaranth. The bankruptcy of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers are also well documented in this book.

Mallaby debunks the myth that hedge funds pose a systemic risk to the financial markets and that they were partly responsible for the 2007-2009 financial crash. The author paints hedge funds as the pinnacle of capitalism. They shift vast amount of cash between countries and companies helping to grease the giant economic machine by allocating capital more efficiently. Hedge funds will tear a firm down if it makes money and build it back up if it makes more. They punish inefficient firms though short-selling and reward well-managed ones with capital. Capitalism at its very best.

After reading the book, one may be keen to invest in hedge funds. The return on investment is phenomenal. All in all, if you are curious about hedge funds, how they make money, why the successful ones are so profitable and how their trading strategies work, the book comes highly recommended. For myself, I am in awe at how human ingenuity in shuffling bits around electronically with little or no productive effort can have such monumental effects on the global financial markets. The book was nominated for the Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award and was also one of Wall Street Journal’s 10-Best Books of 2010.



•April 25, 2011 • Leave a Comment

20 APRIL 2011, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Asia Media Group will invest RM500 million in developing the first Digital Live Transit-TV Broadcasting infrastructure in Malaysia. As part of a RM11.2 billion Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) outlined by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, Asia Media’s mobile broadcast network on public transportation aims to transform Malaysia into a world-class nation and enhance the country’s competitiveness within the ASEAN region. The project falls squarely within the Communications Content and Infrastructure (CCI) of the National Key Economic Areas (NKEA).

By adopting international broadcasting standard infrastructure, Asia Media will be capable of delivering live video and voice across the transit industry such as the bus network and light rapid transit system (LRT). Leveraging on its extensive Transit-TV network, which extends to over 3,000 Transit-TVs with Rapid K.L., Causeway Links and Konsortium Transnational Group, Asia Media is also positioned to extend its Transit-TV network system into the Light Rail Transit (LRT), Monorail and eventually the Mass Rail Transit (MRT). This project will contribute RM604 million to our Gross National Income and create 400 jobs by 2020. It will entail funding of RM500 million in-line with government objectives and an investment horizon between 5 to 10 years covering the entire Peninsular Malaysia.

To date, the company has invested a total of RM25 million for its Transit TV system and is currently investing another RM25 million for the Klang Valley rollout of Digital Live Transit-TV Broadcasting. The company has provisionally identified seven locations within Klang Valley to deploy the transmission towers: Kuala Lumpur city centre, Damansara, Putrajaya, Subang Jaya, Klang, Serdang and Rawang.

Coverage for other states within Peninsular Malaysia will be rolled out in stages from 2012 onwards.

The scheduled network rollouts for the following states are:

  • Klang Valley (Kuala Lumpur Greater Metropolitan Area) by Q2 2011
  • Johor Bahru and Penang by 2012/2014
  • Perak and Pahang by 2014/2015
  • Kedah and Perlis by 2014/2015
  • Kelantan and Terengganu by 2015

Asia Media’s Terrestrial Digital Multimedia Broadcasting is one of seven all-new projects unveiled by the Prime Minister within the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) ̶ raising the total to 12. The 12 projects will bring in over RM11 billion in investments as part of an initiative by the government to propel Malaysia into a high-income economy by 2020. The programme is also aimed at increasing Malaysia’s corporate transparency, accountability and good governance.

Asia Media CEO, Dato’ Ricky Wong was quoted as saying “the company supports the development of a knowledge society through infotainment delivery using mobile broadcasting. The project will elevate the Communications Content and Infrastructure (CCI) of Malaysia.”

The Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) is a focused, inclusive and sustainable initiative aimed at transforming Malaysia into a high-income nation by 2020. It is managed by the Performance and Delivery Unit (PEMANDU), an agency under the Prime Minister Department of Malaysia.

Asia Media Group IPO – Speech by Dato’ Ricky Wong

•January 19, 2011 • Leave a Comment

The following is a transcript of the speech delivered by Asia Media’s CEO Dato’ Ricky Wong on 11 January 2011


Bursa Malaysia Berhad CEO Dato’ Yusli Mohamed Yusoff

Asia Media Group Berhad Exec Chairman Datuk Wira Syed Ali Alhabshee

My fellow BOD, Management & Staffs,

Member of the Media,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to attend the Listing Ceremony of Asia Media Group Berhad. I must first express my heartfelt thanks to all my Board of Directors and all the professionals who made this possible.

A special thanks to our advisor, sponsor & managing underwriter, PM Securities and underwriter JF APEX securities, our reporting accountant TCH & Co, our lawyer Lee Perara & Tan, our market researcher Frost & Sullivan, the Malaysian Issuing House, the Company Secretaries Symphony Corporatehouse, the Share Registrar Tricor Investor Services, and most importantly, the investors & shareholders of Asia Media Group Bhd.

Today, on the 11th of January of the 2011th, aside from being an auspicious day, Asia Media reached another significant milestone in its corporate history. Four years ago Asia Media was founded with only a handful of members. Our growth has been remarkable. – Today, we are now a public media company with an audience of 1.2 million in the Klang Valley alone. Along the way, Asia Media has won the MSC best start-up company, represented the country in international competition, and held a record as the Largest Transit-TV in the Malaysian Book of Records and many other accolades.

In June 2010, Asia Media was granted the License & Spectrum to Broadcast for our Transit-TV by the Government, – a first for the country. We will use this to expand our Transit-TV coverage to other public transportation networks across the country. We will be able to deliver live news coverage and entertainment programmes on buses, trains, LRTs and taxis very soon. As such, we expect to significantly increase our prominence this year.

The media industry has increasingly become fragmented. In Malaysia, the mass media has traditionally been dominated by a handful of companies.  Asia Media’s Transit-TV has changed the landscape of the Malaysian media industry by pioneering the creation of a new mass-media medium. Advertisers can now reach the same consumers at a fraction of the cost.

The digital out-of-home-advertising industry is forecast to continue on its upward trend overshadowing that of traditional mediums such as print, radio and TV. As most of you are aware, the (KLCI) Kuala Lumpur Composite Index rose to a record 1566 points last week. An article in Bloomberg reported that with an increase in foreign funds into emerging markets and expectations of an early general election, our KLCI benchmark index may surge well beyond 1700 points within the first half of this New Year. That is a 14% increase!

Asia Media is very optimistic about this coming year and we anticipate a strong fiscal year for the company in 2011. As such, we have recently raised our forecast as all the indicators are bullish. The macroeconomics for Asia Media is positive at every level.

Firstly, we have an optimistic macroeconomic outlook. Analysts have reported that the KLCI benchmark index breached an all time high with increased trading volume. Secondly, this bull market is being led by telecommunications related stocks. Thirdly, our media sector is forecasted to continue expanding at an accelerated pace. And lastly, Asia Media expects to increase its market share and dominant position while increasing our revenue on the back of strong financial performance. The general sentiment on emerging market equities remains strong bolstered by the monetary policies of the West.

We look forward to expanding our services across the country this year. Before I hand the floor over, on behalf of Asia Media, I would like to thank our brokers, investors and members of the public who applied for our shares. Our IPO (Initial Public Offering) is oversubscribed by a factor of 21.5x. So it is clear that majority of the public who applied for Asia Media shares will have to purchase it from the open market. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out where out stock price is heading.

Thank you all for joining me on such an auspicious day. May the year 2011 bring you plenty of health, wealth and prosperity. With Chinese New Year just round the corner, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of you an early Gong Xi Fa Cai. And for those who have invested in Asia Media, I hope it will bring you a big Ang Pau!

Thank you!



•January 5, 2011 • Leave a Comment

4 JANUARY 2011, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Asia Media Group is expected to raise RM 23 million from its public issue en route to a listing on the Bursa Malaysia in a highly anticipated initial public offering.


IPO balloting results indicate an oversubscription by 21.46 times. A total of 5,119 applications for 178.63 million shares were received for the 8 million made available to the public. Under its listing exercise, the initial public offering involves an issuance of 98 million new shares with 90 million shares placed out to selected investors. Based on the IPO price of 23 cents and its enlarged issued and paid-up share capital of 228 million shares, the group’s market capitalization would be RM 52.44 million.


According to its prospectus, 70% or RM 16 million from the gross proceeds would be utilized for capital expenditure, RM 5 million for working capital and RM 1.54 million to defray estimated listing expenses. The group said the RM 16 million capital expenditure was in line with its proposed rollout of Digital Terrestrial Television Broadcasting (DTTB) in the near future, adding that the sum involved transmission equipment, network equipment and facilities as well as integration of network system for seven transmission towers.


As an established player in the digital-out-of-home (DOOH) transit media industry, the company has evolved to incorporate broadcasting capabilities. Asia Media’s CEO Dato’ Ricky Wong said “We are leveraging broadcasting technology to strengthen our narrowcasting. It is the best of both worlds. Apart from the public transportation, the company plans to improve its ability to broadcast information and entertainment to more devices such as mobile phones, personal computers and personal digital assistants”.


In May 2010, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) awarded the company with spectrums and licenses allowing Asia Media to broadcast digital TV and radio transmission to moving vehicles and mobile devices.  Asia Media was also awarded the Individual Licenses for Network Facilities Provider (NFP), Network Service Provider (NSP) and Content Application Service Provider (CASP).


The group’s tentative listing date is January 11, 2011. The company anticipates a strong opening based on the high demand for its shares as indicated by the IPO ballot results.


About Asia Media Sdn. Bhd.

Asia Media is a digital media, broadcasting and advertising company. The Company operates the largest Transit-TV network in Malaysia (Certified by Malaysian Book of Records) with over 3,000 screens installed onboard 1,500 buses. Asia Media TV is the company’s flagship channel that uses LCD screens to display infotainment programs, advertisements, community driven messages and public service bulletins. Asia Media TV reaches out to over 500,000 viewers daily with a unique viewership of 1.24 million each week.


Asia Media’s products and services consist of four primary divisions: – the Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru (JB), Penang and the Creative divisions. Collectively, Asia Media TV operates a network of over 3000 Transit-TVs through the company’s exclusive network partners: – RapidKL, Handal Indah, Konsortium Transnasional Berhad (Nice++ and Plusliner Express fleets). Asia Media’s Creative Department is a ‘one stop centre’ that caters for all advertising and marketing needs. Services provided include conceptualization, design, pre and post-production.


Apple’s Ipad International Launch

•May 28, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Today is the Official International Launch of Apple’s Ipad and Asia Media has managed to get its hands on the Apple Ipad 64 GB wifi+3G version. Our correspondent in the UK was at hand to experience the launch.

Today I got my iPad. In fact I got two of them within 30 minutes of the official launch! Both are the high-end model of 64 GB Wifi + 3G at £699 (RM 3390) a piece. The UK nationwide launch for the Ipad was at 8am (GMT) today.

Last week, I thought of pre-ordering it through the Apple website but was told by the online chat staff to expect delivery some time in June. Instead of waiting, I thought it would be a good opportunity to attend my first ever Apple product launch. Two days before the launch, I was talking to the Apple staff at my local Apple store (Churchill Sq, Brighton) regarding the logistic issues and chances of me securing myself an Ipad on the day of its release. I was advised to come early, very early – well before 8am. The Apple store and shopping centre normally opens at 9am, but they were set to open one hour earlier for precisely this reason. It was a great idea as about 100 people eventually turned up.

I arrived at 6.30 am  there were about 20 people there already. I gathered the first person arrived around 3 am! Last night, I saw on the news that people were already camping outside the London flagship store on Regent Street, Oxford Circus. The queue built up gradually and the Apple staff turned up at 7 am to address the throng of Apple fans. 1 hour to go….

I actually felt embarrassed. I never thought I’d be one of those die-hard Apple geeks. It would be at least another month or two before it is available in Malaysia.

7.30 am – There must be about 80 or some people by now. Some school kids in uniform turned up. They had an exam at 9 am. I doubt they managed to get one before their exams.

7.50 am – We were ushered into the Shopping Centre in blocks of ten to prevent a mad rush. The entire shopping centre was still closed. We felt like school kids.

8.00 am – There was a camera crew and a countdown at the Apple store. There must have been about 30-40 Apple staff on-site as well. I must say I was rather impressed with how well organised Apple was. Chatting to the staff while waiting in line, they mentioned that they have learned through experience with the various product launches they had before the Ipad.

8.15 am – Everyone was cheering when the first customer walks out with his Ipad.

8.25 am – I walk away with my two Ipads.

Talking to other Apple fans there, I gathered that Apple is known to deliberately create an impression of scarcity  to further hype up demand for its products.  Apple forbids any of its premium resellers to accept reservations and any of its staff to comment about stock levels of the ipad. Apple even threatened to ‘mystery call’ resellers posing as customers willing to pay a premium to reserve an ipad and any reseller caught in breach of agreement risk losing its license.

11.00am – I posted a comment on the BBC news website regarding my Ipad launch  ‘adventures’. I got a telephone call from the BBC within 2 minutes asking me to tell them about my experience. Totally random & unexpected!

The contents of the box are rather light. The ipad itself, a usb cable, a power adapter, and a small manual/booklet. That’s it.

The official Ipad case from Apple itself! It fits rather snugly and had decent reviews from the Apple US website.

I only had chance to review the Wall Street Journal ipad app. After all the ipad’s intention is to replace newspaper and books. I must say I am impressed. The layout of the screen is exactly identical to the paper version. Except when the articles and videos ‘come to life’ and I can interact with it via the touch screen, it sure feels a little like Tom Cruise in Minority Report. It is definitely something I can get used to in minutes. I can save articles of interest for review later and browse through previous days edition.

I won’t waste time covering other functionality aspects of the Ipad as I am sure there are plenty of other sites out there that did a great job.

So what is the one thing I love most about the Ipad?

Honestly, The one thing I like most about my Ipad is the fact that I can really lie down on my bed and browse the web, watch videos, etc in comfort! You can never really do that with a laptop. It is just difficult with that flip-up ancient thing resting on your chest or lap whilst you lie in bed. With the Ipad it is a dream!

Finally, I am sure a lot of you will be asking about the 3G version’s micro simcard. The Micro simcard is just a cut out version of a normal simcard. If you have precision cutting tools you can make a microsim card out of your regular sim card.

5th Annual Digital Signage Investor Conference, New York City 6 October 2010

•May 24, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Asia Media’s CEO Dato’ Ricky Wong has been invited to speak at the above event in New York this coming October.

International Outlook: Opportunities, Growth Drivers and Realities
Opportunities in outdoor media and digital networks have also emerged in markets across the globe. Join this session to hear about the business challenges and successes in other parts of the world.

  • Local market trends and growth drivers
  • Advertiser receptivity and support of space
  • Business models for success
  • Determine where the next big deals are and plan accordingly

Why are discussions on business models, metrics, M&A, etc important right now?  Are there any trends/drivers/changes in marketplace?

Trends: The integration of digital signage with social media to create a ‘three-way’ dialogue between advertisers, network operators and viewers. The fusion of ‘new media’ and OOH creates a new and innovative pathway for advertisers to reach consumers.

What should investors care about the digital signage/digital OOH (out-of-home) space?

The convergence of media and technology may be ‘old news’ but ‘mediamorphosis’ and the constant evolution of media consumption continue to present significant profit opportunities for companies who successfully exploit the ‘disruptive’ nature of this business. The forwards, backwards, and lateral integration of media companies is changing the landscape of the industry – and with change comes great opportunities.

What do you hope to share with your peers at the event?

  1. The opportunities for growth in the DOOH sector in South East Asia and other emerging markets.
  2. The benefits of using social media to supplement DOOH.

What are you looking forward to at the event?

Networking opportunities and insights gleaned directly from industry leaders who have front row seats to where the industry is heading will prove invaluable.

See you all in the Big Apple!

Digital Signage Investor Conference PDF Brochure

About this Summit:

This is the definitive event for digital signage investment. We are building on the success of our past events and will once again bring together media executives, investors, analysts, advisors and companies in the space. Our speakers and attendees are very senior, typically CEO, president, chairman, founder, managing director, etc.

Topics we are covering this year include business models, financing, M&A, advertising forecasts and agency adoption, measurement, mobile and social integration and more. Our speed networking session will also be back by popular demand.

Our elite line up of speakers in the past have included:

  • Beth Ann Kaminkow, President & COO, TracyLocke
  • Donna Speciale, President of Investment and Activation, MediaVest USA
  • Christian Vaglio-Giors, CEO & President, Neo Advertising Group (Switzerland)
  • Andy Querin, President & COO, ZOOM Media (Canada)
  • Virginia Cargill, former President, CBS Outernet
  • Rob Gorrie, President, Adcentricity
  • Suzanne LaForgia, President, DPAA/OVAB
  • Matthew Stoudt, CEO, Outcast
  • Bruce Failing, Partner, Alerion Partners
  • Duane McKnight, Senior Partner, Syncom Venture Funds
  • David Carlick, Managing Director, Vantage Point Venture Partners
  • Michael Hudes, former Global Director of Digital Media, Clear Channel
  • Lon Otremba, CEO, Access 360 Media
  • Mark Wienkes, Analyst, Goldman Sachs
  • Ana Stewart, CEO, i-design Group (UK)
  • Tom Blaisdell, General Partner, DCM

This year’s speaker lineup includes:

  • Connie Garrido, CEO, Posterscope USA
  • Linda Brennan, Chief Sales & Marketing Officer, InStore Insights
  • Jill Nickerson, VP, Director of OOH, Horizon Media
  • Garry McGuire, CEO, RMG Networks
  • David Ingraham, VP, M/C Venture
  • Joe Covey, CEO, Interactivation (recently purchased NBC’s Patient and Newborn channel networks)
  • Matthew Stoudt, CEO, Outcast
  • Phil Cohen, President & CEO, CARE media Holdings Corp
  • Alan High, President, Clear Channel Malls
  • Bruce Failing, Partner, Alerion Partners
  • Gadi Tiroshi, General Partner, JVP (Israel)
  • Dan Olschwang, President & CEO, Jumptap (mobile advertising)
  • Rich Cooley, President & CEO, Visser Digital Media
  • Kelly Moulton, Partner, Fabian Invest & VP Marketing, (Norway)

Kraft in Asia: Lessons From a Turnaround by Knowledge @ SMU, 15 March 2010

•March 18, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Kraft in Asia: Lessons From a Turnaround

by Knowledge@SMU, 15 March 2010

Kraft Foods Pradeep Pant risk-taking self awareness winning mindset

As a 34-year veteran of the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry, Pradeep Pant, President of Kraft Foods Asia Pacific, can say quite convincingly that he knows the key to successful leadership.

The magic lies in a “winning mindset”: a trait that can make all the difference between making profits or suffering losses under trying business conditions. Pant, who spoke at a recent Wee Kim Wee Centre seminar at the Singapore Management University, said that it was this “winning mindset” that helped turnaround Kraft Foods’ Asia Pacific business.

Kraft Foods made the news recently when it launched a US$19.5 billion takeover of Cadbury plc, the British candy maker famous for its iconic purple-wrapped chocolates. This was barely three years after Kraft’s US$7 billion acquisition of Group Danone’s global packaged baked-goods business. Clearly, Kraft Foods is not a humble company merely selling cheese. Rather, it is one of the largest food manufacturers around.

On February 16th, the company reported that operating profit for the fourth quarter ended December 2009 nearly quadrupled to US$1.3 billion, on the back of a 3.2% increase in revenue to US$11 billion in the same period.

Today, Kraft Foods’ products can be found on the shelves of supermarkets and grocery shops in 160 countries. In its stable is a line up of 11 ‘billion-dollar brands’ like Nabisco, Oreo, Philadelphia Cream Cheese, Maxwell House, and of course, now Cadbury, as well as dozens other in the ‘hundred million brands’ category.

Naturally, within such a sprawling business organisation, it would be impossible for every cylinder to be firing at the same speed all the time. While emerging markets are a critical engine of growth for Kraft Foods today, the Asia Pacific division was struggling with low to flat growth between 2001 and 2007. However, around 2007 onwards, three major ‘change’ factors came together.

First, there was a global reorganisation led by Kraft Foods’ CEO, Irene Rosenfeld, to move decision-making closer to local consumers and customers. Next, Kraft Foods acquired the Danone biscuit portfolio. Finally, new leaders, like Pant, were brought in. Since 2008, operating profits have been growing at double digit rates – despite the recent economic downturn.

From a regional business unit with relatively sluggish top line growth, Kraft Foods Asia Pacific has since taken on the mantle of being the global company’s growth engine. The Asia Pacific business now boasts approximately 6,400 employees across 15 markets, 21 manufacturing plants in eight countries around the region, and eight research and development centres.

According to Pant, who took on the job in January 2008, what drove the turnaround were: a clear strategic focus where Kraft Asia can win, consumer insight-based innovation, a powerful integrated marketing initiative, aggressive in-market execution, and heavy investment in people.

But all these would not have worked without the willingness to get into the mindsets of “we will be leaders” and “we will win.”

Eyes on the Prize

To win, it is necessary to focus. In many organisations, the focus is on the core business. Focus means knowing what you want. But it is useless to know what you want if you cannot articulate it, for you will not be able to formulate a robust plan and steer your team or organisation towards yourFocus also means concentrating on one task at a time. Gillette, where Pant worked his way up over 20 years to become President for Asia Pacific, is one good example. When the operations underperformed in 1999, the company came up with a recovery plan. While many other companies might have rushed to react to changes in the market, Gillette stayed the course, tackling the issues one by one. This approach became the foundation of the organisation’s successful turnaround.

In a highly competitive marketplace, companies may feel compelled to be “everything to every customer,” and “doing everything everywhere,” says Pant. But to do well, it is better to stick to a clear strategic focus. He suggests that organisations ask themselves two questions: “What do I want?” and “What do I not want?”

Mastery Begins With Self

In order to win, certain attitudes have to be adopted. For example, to master the business environment, one must first be the master of oneself, Pant says. Start by being self-aware. Ask yourself: Who am I? What are my values? What are my weaknesses and how do I fix them?

The art of self-control is important as well. “If you can’t control your weaknesses, you can’t control other things,” Pant noted. Old ingrained habits will require time to break, so try instilling discipline in small doses, he advises. For example, if you want to start a morning exercise regimen, start by waking up on time everyday for the first week, before easing into the exercise. The trick to lasting changes, he said, is to do it in small steps.

Mastery over oneself also means being genuine and real. Many people often put on a front to impress others. However, the real self will show gradually. So, be yourself and let people see you genuinely for who you are. “Nobody, including me, can act well enough to fool people all the time,” he adds.

Seizing Opportunities

Pant, whose turf includes a diverse mix of markets with different characteristics and cultural nuances, encourages adaptability – so as to draw ideas and thoughts from different cultures. This, in turn, helps him to run the multinational corporation better.

Another route to winning, for Pant, is to think of opportunities in times of adversity. Citing the two Chinese characters that make up the word crisis, or wei ji, he notes that wei represents danger, whilst ji stands for opportunity. So these are two ways to look at a crisis.

During the global economic downturn last year, as most other companies cut back on spending and shelved expansion plans, Kraft Asia Pacific went the other way. It maintained its prices, its product quality and marketing spend. The company saw results very quickly, further confirming that the decision to stay the course was the right one.

Next, leaders need to realise that a winning mindset will do no good if there is no one to put the ideas into actual use. Unlike fixed assets, human assets need not be depreciated, says Pant. In fact, if there is an asset that appreciates all the time, it is people.

Pant’s advice for any company is to help every staff maximise his or her potential, and make winners out of every one of them. At Kraft Foods, it is the strong belief in people – the aggressive investment in people through development and training – that has played a key role in turning it around, he adds. Innovation and Risk-Taking

Winners never achieve success by staying put within their self-imposed boundaries. They need to be innovative; they need to take risks.

Innovation and risk-taking starts with listening to the customers’ needs, says Pant. One example is consumer research on Tang, a drink that is usually drunk cold in the U.S. In China, however, it is consumed as a hot drink. Oreo, one of the company’s best-selling cookies, was not well received in China until the less sweet version was launched. With this version, Oreo became the number one cookie in China. In contrast, Oreo sold in Indonesia is sweeter. “Ultimately, consumers are the bedrock of understanding the product,” says Pant.

With insights from customers or targeted audiences, Pant suggests delivering solutions in ways that are unique and exciting. One example he shared was from his Gillette days, when he gave salespersons silver recognition medals – not after they had achieved their targets, but before they set out to do so. He points out that the last thing someone wants to do is to return a silver medal because they didn’t deliver what was committed.

The task is to find out what makes people tick. If you do well, celebrate. “Reward yourself with a small celebration for small achievements, and a big celebration for big achievements,” says Pant. But more importantly, strike a happy balance between contributing, learning and having fun at work. After all, we spend the longest part of our waking life at work.

“So what is your idea of fun?” an audience member asked.

“Beating competition in the marketplace and seeing people grow,” he replied.