Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Mae Salong

The history of Mae Salong is most interesting…

In 1949, Chinese Communist Party defeated Kuomintang (KMT), or Nationalist Party, in the civil war. Nationalist troops under the command of Chiang Kai-Shek retreated across the Formosa Strait to Taiwan. Nationalist armies abandoned in Yunnan Province headed south into Myanmar and later Thailand. One division, under command of General Duan Xi Wen, eventually settled in Mae Salong. Another division, led by General Lee Wen Huan, settled in Tam Ngop.

The Thai military agreed to let the KMT stay if they helped to suppress Communism, which they believe would become rife among the hill tribes at the time of Vietnam War. In return for their help, the KMT were allowed to control and tax the local opium trade. By 1967, almost 90% of opium hauled into Thailand was controlled by the KMT. The anti-communist, CIA-supported “lost army” of Chiang Kai-Shek had become the world’s leading drug cartel.

The area around Mae Salong was relatively lawless until 1980s. When Khun Sa, the opium warlord, retreated to Burma in early 1980s, the Thai Government finally began making progress in pacifying Mae Salong and the surrounding area. Opium production is now suppressed, having been replaced by new cash crops such as tea and Chinese herbs.

The main population of Mae Salong is made up of old KMT soldiers and their descendants, who speak the dialect of Yunnanese. Its surrounding area is dotted with hill tribe villages. Hill tribe villagers can be seen at the market in Mae Salong.

Mae Salong has been renamed Santikiri (“Hill of Peace”), but most people still refer to it by its old name.

Here we come, Mae Salong…

General Duan Xi Wen’s mausoleum…

Tea shop, Chinese style…

OTOP means “One Tambon One Product”. Tambon is an administrative area in Thailand. OTOP is the government’s initiative to encourage specialization. In Mae Salong the major product is tea.

The Thai script reminds us that this is Thailand, even though Mae Salong may come across as a Chinese village.

This is me drinking Oolong tea…

Flowers along the road…

The real 7 Eleven, open 7.00 am, closed 11.00 pm…

Sunday, January 28, 2007

How Entrepreneurs Got Their Ideas? - II

Helen Elizabeth Read

Helen Elizabeth Read is an entrepreneur of my country. She is the founder and managing director of MS. READ, a retail chain that offers fashionable clothes for plus sized women.

Customers often came to her stores with their husbands and children, who would wait for them while they were shopping. Helen Read thought, “Why not offer something for the husbands and children?”

With this idea in mind, Helen Read started DELIcious Café inside one of her boutiques in 2004. It turned out to be a success, and she has since opened more outlets. From fashion manufacturing and retails, she successfully diversified into a completely differently line of business.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Traditional Northern Thai Dancing

Chiang Rai is a medium-sized city about 3-hour drive from Chiang Mai. It is a good base for exploring the famed Golden Triangle and other attractions in the far north.

I arrived at Chiang Rai on Jan 8, 2007, and spent the evening in the night market. Chiang Rai’s night market is smaller than the grand affair in Chiang Mai. What made up for it is the cultural shows performed on its two stages. In the evening of that day, I watched the traditional Northern Thai dancing, for free…

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Alms Round, Chiang Mai

In Thailand, Buddhist monks are not allowed to cook and store food. They live on sustenance offered by the laities. Every morning, from 6.00 am to 7.30 am, monks step out of their monasteries in their daily pindapat, or alms round. They walk through cities or villages and are offered food by the devotees.

When I was in Chiang Mai, I woke up early in the morning to take the pictures shown below. It was cool in Chiang Mai. The temperature was below 20C. I was in my sweater, but the monks walked bare-footed. While a few of them had their bald heads covered, most didn’t.

Here we see a woman offers food to the monk. The monk, in turn, blesses her…

Monday, January 22, 2007

Management Lite & Ezy 23 – Business Plan

A business plan is the written document that details the proposed venture. It must describe current status, expected needs, and projected results of the new business.

- Fry & Stoner (1985)

A business plan provides a clear picture of what that venture is, where it is projected to go, and how the entrepreneur proposes it will get there. The business plan is the entrepreneur’s roadmap for a successful enterprise.

- Kuratko & Cirtin (1990)

A typical business plan consists of the following sections:

· Executive Summary

· Business Description

· Marketing

· Operations

· Management

· Financial

· Critical Risks

· Harvest Strategy

· Milestone Schedule

· Appendix or Bibliography

Benefits of a business plan:

· It forces the entrepreneur to view the venture critically and objectively.

· It subjects the entrepreneur to close scrutiny of his/her assumptions about the venture’s viability and success.

· It helps him/her develop and examine operating strategies and expected results.

· It quantifies objectives, providing measurable benchmarks for comparing forecasts with actual results.

· It serves as a loan proposal to bankers, a venture plan to venture capitalists, or a venture prospectus to potential investors.

· It serves as a roadmap for guiding the venture to success.

Readers who are interested in learning more about business plan are advised to refer to the book listed below, or do an online search.


Kuratko & Hodgetts, Entrepreneurship – Theory, Process, Practice, 7th edition

Lecture notes of Aric Low

Friday, January 19, 2007

Wat Pantao, Chiang Mai

Thailand is a Buddhist Kingdom. There are more than a hundred temples, or wats, in Chiang Mai alone. One of them is Wat Pantao.

Wat Pantao is not as famous as other some other temples in Chiang Mai, such as Wat Phra Singh or Wat Prathat Doi Suthep, but I was fascinated by its wooden architecture.

The main hall of Wat Pantao. Note the wooden wall and poles…



Monks’ bowls…

Thais are overwhelmingly Buddhist, but they also worship spirits. Shown below is a spirit house within Wat Pantao…

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Mae Sa Elephant Camp, Northern Thailand

I traveled in Northern Thailand from Jan 6 to Jan 13, 2007. On Jan 7, I visited Mae Sa Elephant Camp, about an hour drive from Chiang Mai. Here are some photos taken there...

Mae Sa Elephant Camp…

A greedy calf… This young lady was a Chiang Mai resident.

Elephant show…

Elephant painter…

This tourist is getting excited…

Elephant massage!

This is the interesting part – elephant ride…

The package for visiting Mae Sa Elephant Camp also included bamboo rafting on Mae Ping River

Tourists from Britain and Australia

Sunday, January 14, 2007

How Entrepreneurs Got Their Ideas?

Entrepreneurs are opportunity-driven. While average people see problems as chaos, they see problems as opportunities. We will examine how entrepreneurs got their ideas. I will start with Ruth Handler.

Ruth Handler

Ruth Handler was the owner of Mattel, a toy company. In the 1950s, like most toy companies, Mattel made dolls that looked like babies, the thinking being that little girls liked to pretend to be mommies. Ruth, however, observed that her daughter, Barbara, played with paper dolls that looked like grown women.

Ruth decided that Mattel would do the unheard of: It would manufacture a doll that looked like an adult woman. Her idea gave birth to Barbie, a best selling doll. Barbie was named after Ruth’s daughter. Barbie’s beau, Ken, was named after her son, Kenneth.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Blogging on the Go - II

In the past few days, I have had elephant riding near Chiang Mai and watched cultural dance in Chiang Rai's night bazaar.

This morning I went to see cherry blossom in Mae Salong. It's beautiful...

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Blogging on the Go

I am spending my holidays in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and am blogging in an Internet cafe.

Firefox is not installed in the PC I am using, and Internet Explorer doesn't display properly :(

Chiang Mai is warmer than I thought. The weather forecast said that night time temperature would dip below 20C. However, day time temperature is quite high.

I will post my photos once I am back in Malaysia.

Management Lite & Ezy 22 – Evaluating a New Venture

When starting a new business, it is wise to conduct solid analysis to evaluate the feasibility of the product/service. Entrepreneurs must put their ideas through this analysis in order to discover if the proposals contain any fatal flaws.

Many approaches have been developed to evaluate a new venture, one of which involves asking the right questions:

· Initial Competitive Advantage

Is it a new product/service idea? Is it proprietary? Can it be patented? Is it unique enough to get a significant head start on the competition before it can be imitated?

· Product Development

Has a prototype been tested by independent testers? What are its weak points? What level of R&D should it receive over the next 5 years?

If it is a service, has it been tested on potential customers?

· Marketing

What is the overall market? What are the targeted market segments?

Has market research been conducted?

How big is the market? How fast is it growing? What are the trends?

What are the advertising and promotion plans?

· Distribution

What are the distribution channels? How will the products be transported?

· Production

How will the product be made? How much will it cost?

Will it be produced in-house or by others?

What is the present production capacity?

What is the breakeven point?

· Expansion

Will the business concept be developed and licensed to others or developed and sold away?

· Staffing

Can the company get – or has it already lined up – the necessary skills to operate the business venture?

· Funding

How much capital is needed now? How much more in the future?

Are major stages of fund raising in progress?


Kuratko & Hodgetts, Entrepreneurship – Theory, Process, Practice, 7th edition

Lecture notes of Aric Low

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Long-haul budget flight, anyone?

Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic, Sir Stelios Hajiloannou of EasyJet and Datuk Tony Fernandes of AirAsia are planning to start a long-haul budget airline company, probably offering service from Australia and South-East Asia to Europe.

I once traveled with AirAsia from Kuala Lumpur to Bali. However, I am not sure if I will be interested in a no-frills flight from South-East Asia to Europe. For such a long distance inter-continental travel, I like to have the convenience of re-scheduling, which is usually not offered by budget airlines.

Imagine this: I spend 250 Euros to book a flight from South-East Asia to Europe. For some unforeseen reasons, I can’t make it, and I am not allowed to re-schedule to a later flight. The amount of money wasted and the hassle of re-booking are a pain.

For any flights longer than 6 hours, I believe a lot of travelers value comfort over price. Many years ago, an assistant manager of my ex-employer was sent to Sweden. The company arranged for a seat in Economy class. The assistant manager spent his own money to upgrade to Business class.

I also remember a sad story whereby a London traveler to Singapore collapsed and never regained consciousness. She was said to have died of ‘Economy-Class Syndrome’.

Then there is the issue of connecting flights. Assuming I fly from Kuala Lumpur (KL) to visit my aunt in Amsterdam, making a transit in Heathrow. I am not sure if I can arrange for connecting flight online. On the return trip, what would happen if the flight from Schiphol to Heathrow is delayed? Remember that I can’t re-schedule my London-to-KL flight.

That said, the very names of the entrepreneurs involved give me a little bit of confidence. Perhaps these creative people can think of an idea which will give us the best of both worlds. Time will tell.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Harpist

This musician was performing for Christmas celebration.

Management Lite & Ezy 21 – Avoiding Pitfalls in Selecting New Venture

Each day thousands of news businesses are started up around the world. Some will eventually succeed, but many will fail. Researchers Kuratko and Hodgetts advice prospective entrepreneurs to avoid six pitfalls in selecting new ventures:

1) Lack of objective evaluation

Falling in love with an idea doesn’t guarantee success. All ideas must be subjected to rigorous study and investigation.

2) No real insight into the market

No product is instantaneously profitable, nor does its success endure indefinitely. It is important to develop the right marketing plan. Timing of introduction is very important, and product life cycle cannot be ignored.

3) Inadequate understanding of technical requirements

The development of a new product often involves new techniques. Failure to anticipate technical difficulties can sink a new venture.

4) Poor financial understanding

Many entrepreneurs are overly optimistic with regard to estimate of funds. Sometimes they are ignorant of the costs or underestimate them.

5) Lack of venture uniqueness

A new venture should be unique in order to attract customers. Entrepreneurs should adopt product differentiation strategy.

6) Ignorance of legal issues

Workplace must be safe for employees. Products and services must be safe and reliable. It is also important to protect one’s inventions and products through patents, trademarks and copyright.

Reference: Kuratko & Hodgetts, Entrepreneurship – Theory, Process, Practice, 7th edition