Article 51 – Competitive world of entrepreneurs

by Tan Thiam Hock

I AM in a grumpy mood right now. Somehow, as I grow a year older, my mood swings from left to right like a pendulum more frequently. I have less patience nowadays and I totally shut off when I am forced to listen to people who talk gibberish and being totally out of point.

I am grumpy because I do not understand the social and political changes that are happening right before my weary eyes. I am tired of listening to crappy comments by politicians and so-called social activists in an ongoing slanging saga. Pots calling the kettle black. And it works both ways.

I am grumpy because I have enough problems trying to understand the world economic landscape that is constantly changing at a very hectic pace. Back home, I am confused by the daily barrage of heavily-skewed misinformation from both sides. Half truths and pure lies spew in abundance. I am really confused and do not know who and what to believe.

I acknowledge that local politics and local businesses are intertwined and as a businessman, I must be wary of the winds of change that is blowing. Shall I risk everything and bet on a winning side or shall I play safe by playing both sides?

I am feeling less grumpy now since I realise that I have no businesses tied to politicians or to the state or federal government. In fact, I do not have much of any business right now. Which explains why I was grumpy in the first place.

So, can some smart tycoons out there advise me what business should I invest in?

I am game for any high-margin business that does not require political connections. I am definitely not into the water business since I might cause tremendous distress to the coffee shops and the neighbourhoods when I am forced to turn off the tap. Also a no-no is a free land scheme which I can flip for a song lest I am called a cheat cheated by another cheat. Or in short, a twit cheat.

And please do not ask me to promote concerts and cultural performances. I have poor taste in revealing costumes and poorer taste in heart-moving patriotic songs. I am not much into education or being a professional speaker either since I am not a persuasive person by nature.

The last time I barked an instruction eleven times to my deaf Maltese bitch, she rolled over and played dead. Then she wanted to play hide and seek.

So, my wise super-rich tycoon, what non-governmental high margin business can you recommend to an old grumpy entrepreneur?

I am too old and slow to react when the Chatime fad fades, so please enlighten me to a business that an old heart like mine can beat to. I love the idea of farming but worry about what the pesticides will do to my weak lungs. However the idea of having clean fresh air and wide open space to enjoy a cigar or two certainly appeals to me.

I also love the biomass story backed by Pemandu but still not sure as to when it will take off. Theoretically brilliant but practically flawed in terms of cost and logistics.

Iskandar projects are reserved for the GLCs, the rich tycoons and Singaporeans. Any leftover crumbs for small Malaysian entrepreneurs?

Nationwide, there are so many new shoplots, we are running out of entrepreneurs to fill them. Very soon, blocks of shoplots will have Bangladeshis and Burmese residing in the upper floors, with car workshops and printing presses greasing the pavements below. Reminiscent of the good old depression days of late-1980s.

Worldwide, brick and mortar retailing is suffering from an irreversible e-commerce onslaught but tycoons are building more shopping malls in Malaysia. The weak malls will drag the small retailers down into a life of poverty and debt. Heed my warning.

E-commerce looks exciting but it is a business by the young and for the young. To survive, I will need to talk fast and move fast. Even though my mind is willing, my flesh and brain refuse to comply. So I will just have to wait for my sons to graduate and relieve me of my misery of not being able to cope with the Internet pace.

Easy opportunities like the gold rush came and went in a flash. Fortunately, I was slow to react so my life savings stays intact. But what about the poor souls whose greed was preyed upon by the supreme con artistes? Just to show that there is no such thing as easy money.

So, what business opportunities are there for an old entrepreneur like me? Despite having a nice break by missing two columns for the new year, there is not much for me to mull over. There is no energy left to start a new business and investment in existing business is expensive and carries high risk. Game over?

To the young entrepreneurs, the world is your oyster. I hope you have listened ( X11) carefully and learned from the mistakes of the older generation. I am still advising you to steer clear of businesses that includes politicians and anything linked to governments.

Admittedly, the new political landscape do offer vast opportunities for easy money to the brave and the daring. But you will have to compete with the incumbents and the rich and powerful.

Whichever route you may decide to take, keep your eyes wide open at all times and may your journey of hard knocks and bruises be as smooth as possible. Before you know it, time catches up with you and you will have earned the right to gripe like an old grumpy entrepreneur. Have a great year ahead.