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Ten Inspirations from Dato Sri Tahir: an entrepreneur & banker

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Dato Sri Tahir / 翁俊民 is the founder of the Mayapada Group, an Indonesian-based conglomerate.

Literally, Mayapada is an imaginary kingdom in Mahabharata.

I first knew Tahir through Forbes. He was born in Surabaya on 26 March 1952.

Below are ten (10) inspirations that I learned from him:

1. Dare to dream.
To quote Tahir, "One is not afraid of failure, one is only afraid of being fearful to dream. Life is like a competition / race with many participants and few winners. If you do not run faster than others, you will never win prizes"

Transform our dreams into our beliefs & vision / 异象.
With vision, we can exercise self-control.

2.Turn adversity into advantage / 逢凶化吉.
Once I attended a talk by Professor Lui Pao Chuen who also advocates turning adversity into advantage.

In the words of Tahir, "I come from a poor Chinese family," the tycoon says of his roots. "My parents used to make becak (a three-wheel rickshaw / pedicab). My father would assemble the parts while my mother painted them."

3. Be resourceful & courageous to make positive use of our resources.

"His wife, Rosy, the daughter of another Indonesian tycoon, Mochtar Riady, recently started h2h Charity, which has a vintage shop in Jakarta, proceeds from which are donated to help provide schooling for underprivileged children in Indonesia."

Tahir’s father-in-law rescued him from bankruptcy in 80s. Having wealthy (and most importantly keen & willing to help) family or friends may be helpful.

Sometimes, we may know wealthy associates but the timing and place are not right for them to assist us.
Do not blame them.
When the people, timing, and place (the spatio-temporal dynamic context) are right,
and we obtain assistance in the forms of any or some financial ($), intellectual resources,
these people become 贵人.

Make positive use of 贵人, even the best universities and Google stand on the shoulder of giant.

4. To win,
one must continuously learn, absorb, observe, and practice.
自强不息, 力求上进.
Practice makes perfect.
Practice creates talent.
It takes 10,000 hours of practice to give birth to an exceptional talent.

5. It is essential to pursue and support education.

Tahir’s Formal Education:
2008 : Obtained Doctor Honoris Causa (an honorary doctorate degree) from Universitas Tujuh Belas Agustus 1945-Surabaya (Major in Small and Medium Enterprises)
1987 : Obtained Master in Business Administration with GPA 4.00 from Golden Gate University, San Francisco, USA.
1976 : Obtained Bachelor’s degree majoring in business from Nan Yang University, Singapore

Tahir has also been appointed as a Board of Trustee at the University of California, Berkeley, becoming the first man from Southeast Asia to hold this position.
On April 2011, Tahir donated $1 million to the University of California, Berkeley for international student fellowships for students in the fulltime MBA program at Berkeley-Haas.

In my humble opinion, education is not entirely equal to schooling. I will write more about their differences.

6. Abide by the rules.
Competition has rules.
If one does not follow rules, s/he will face extinction.
Tahir cites an example using his banking business that strictly follows rules and regulations of the banking world.

"The Mayapada bank went public at the Jakarta Stock Exchange and weathered the 1997 economic crisis (when many banks became bankrupt due to not following rules) and managed to expand even more aggressively after the crisis. With foreign investment partners from the US, UAE and Singapore, the bank now has over 100 branches throughout Indonesia, and in 2007 has been voted as the second best public bank outside state-owned banks by InfoBank magazine, an influential banking magazine in Indonesia."

Though rupiah (IDR) collapsed in 1997, his bank (The Mayapada Bank) was spared because it was small and had not borrowed in US dollars.

7. Self-know.
Know ourselves, our strengths and weaknesses.
Know our level of competence.
If you are of 50 kg, you should not compete in the 100 kg class.

8. Win over your greatest enemy: yourself.
The only challenge Tahir faces, he says, is within himself: "I have to overcome my selfishness, my improper ambitions and greed."

Tahir could say so because he has successfully journeyed through the climb.
For many of aspiring entrepreneurs,
we first have to overcome laziness, faulty pride (e.g. the need of approval from others), negative mindset.

9. Build strong & solid platforms / foundations.

To quote Tahir, "I don’t build deals, I don’t build transactions … I build foundations or platforms."

Tahir has built the following platforms:
financial services (Mayapada Bank, Zurich Insurance Indonesia and Nipponkoa Indonesia).
Duty Free Shoppers.
real estate business (several buildings in Jakarta, hotels in Bali and Batam, and a new tower in Singapore).
healthcare (Mayapada Hospital).
media (Guo Ki*, Forbes Indonesia, Topas TV).

* the largest Chinese newspaper in Indonesia, with a circulation of 30,000 copies.

10. Make others happy, especially let others happy in their last moment.
Perhaps Tahir has lived long enough (as compared to young students) and seen many death to say: "The most enjoyable moment of my (life) is when I help people, especially when you give pride and honor to a person who is in a crisis in (the) last moment of his life."

If you find my writings are inspirational to you, please donate to me by clicking here.

Written by blueroselady

May 20, 2013 at 6:57 am

Entrepreneur: Merry Riana

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Recently, I met up with a two friends who were from Indonesia and studied in Singapore. They are lovely oung couple in love, L and S.

S adores Merry Riana so much, she wants to be like her, young, beautiful, successful, rich, famous, and is supported by a loving husband.
Like S, Merry Riana is Indonesian who came to Singapore for her university education. Both of them struggled financially, worked part time while coping with demanding courseworks.

I agree with S that the following qualities of Merry Riana is worth emulating:
1. determination. Merry Riana is a sales agent for Prudential insurance who has won many awards. She earns her first S$1 million at the age of 26.
2. discipline.
3. faith. Like S, Merry Riana is Catholic. I think having a belief helps one to overcome many challenges and turbulations in life.

L mentions that he does have some things that he dislikes about Merry Riana.
1. Her "rags to riches" story is not entirely believable. In her childhood, Merry and her family went to Australia, so Merry was actually living a good life. Most Indonesians have not been overseas. Both L and S had never went overseas for holiday until they finished their university education and started working.
2. To appeal to Indonesians, Merry said that she wanted to study in a university in Jakarta but was forced to move to Singapore by chance instead of choice, because of the financial crisis and riot in 1998. L and S admit that many Indonesian students want to go overseas, e.g. Singapore because of the perceived better quality of education. To apply for an admission in universities in Singapore, Indonesian students have to sit for tests that was held more than half a year before the end of high school, so Merry seemed to choose to come to Singapore, instead of being forced as what she said.
3. In L’s opinion, Merry’s motivation contents are more about herself, about dreams and money, instead of concrete tips for others to follow and realize their dreams.

I feel sympathetic to S, because S looks up to Merry, while L is not so supportive of her role model.
We grow up reading biographies of inpiring people, and it hurts when our partner told us that our heroes and heroines are otherwise.
Well, while people need heroes and heroines. It is disappointing when our heroes and heroines are not as perfect as we expect, but they are also human beings.

Personality aside, I learn about the following things that I want to pursue further:


Define what courage really means to you and putting that definition to work on your own life
Understanding the Real YOU !
Re-connect with your inner life & re-charge your energy
Learning how to trust your inner self
Overcome conflicts between caring for your loved one and managing your career
Build lasting passionate relationships with your significant other
Discover your inner strengths and master the art of self-appreciation


The importance of image to your professional success
Your self-image and your external image
How your professional image influences your performance and the way others respond to you
How to recognise your body shape. Understanding your body shape is the first important step, in learning what style of clothes will best suit you.
How to Determine your face shape, and most importantly how to choose the right hair style for your face shape.
How to camouflage your worst bits and highlight your best features.
Understand the fashion do’s and don’ts for each body shape. How to look thinner, How to balance big shoulders, how to cover up a big butt, how to make your legs look longer.

Merry Riana loves to share about her success, her story, about the importance of having dreams, but I do not find tangible things from her sharing (apart from vision, action, passion, get the right associates), that you and I can emulate to be as successful as her.

Since Merry Riana achieved her success by selling insurance products, I want to find out which insurance products bring success to the insurance agents. After all, not all products are created equally. As a consumer, I am also highly interested on which insurance products that provide the highest coverage per dollar that I spend.

About Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT)

From the MDRT website "The Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT), The Premier Association of Financial Professionals, is an international, independent association of more than 31,500 members, or less than 1 percent, of the world’s life insurance and financial services professionals from 464 companies in more than 80 nations and territories. MDRT members demonstrate exceptional professional knowledge, strict ethical conduct and outstanding client service. MDRT membership is recognized internationally as the standard of sales excellence in the life insurance and financial services business."

In summary, that members of MDRT demonstrate exceptional (1) professional knowledge (2) strict ethical conduct (3) outstanding client service.

But in order to qualify for MDRT, one only has to qualify for the minimum production (sales) requirements either in first year commissions or first year premiums.
For year 2011, the qualifying commissions that a Singapore adviser must earn in order to be a member of the MDRT should be at least S$103,000 to qualify for the MDRT. This is based on first-year commissions. Note that many life insurance products pay commissions over a few years. The qualifying commissions are even higher for Court of the Table (COT) and Top of the Table (TOT).

According to Wilfred Ling, the parts on "strict ethical conduct" and "outstanding client service" are outsourced to other parties.

Insurance agents are often rewarded with overseas incentive trips.

She has been to many overseas incentive places, including:
China (HK)
US (San Francisco, East Coast)
Europe (France)
… and many others.

Written by blueroselady

September 18, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Part-time endeavors of an entrepreneurial scientist

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What can I do?
(1) stock investor / fund manager: lots of research, applications of strategies, and of course lots of $ to spend and to earn. Our passion of researching to bring our the best will surely drive us.
(2) sales of insurance / property. It will help me to grow to be more friendly and kind.
(3) rent property: the 1st challenge now is to get a property. Have been homeless for more than a decade, I long for a house of my own. Even if God brings me to see the world and contribute worldwide, I still can rent my property, a passive income to pay for the lifelong mortgage.
(4) photographer: i. wedding ii. family / children baby.

Thanks a lot to my PhD (People Have Dreams) education, I become more desperate and hungry to be entrepreneurial and successful.
Of course , whatever we have and achieve are the blessings by God.

Written by blueroselady

July 1, 2012 at 3:12 am

Entrepreneur Dong Mingzhu of Gree Electric Appliances

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Sister Dong Mingzhu (董明珠)

In a hot humid day, we will be grateful for air-conditioning.

When I think of air-conditioning, I will remember one of the toughest (难缠) businesswomen in China – Dong Mingzhu.

On motherhood:

I heart her because she was once a young widow,

with the responsibility to raise her son by herself.

Mingzhu once sent her 12-year-old son to the airport alone by bus because she was busy.

Is she too much as a mother?

Well, perhaps her action helped to nurture independence in her son.

On training:

Mingzhu dtudied statistics at a vocational school in Nanjing and toiled at a research institute for 15 years.

She was a technician in a chemistry laboratory in Nanjing.

Then, her husband’s early death changed everything.

对生活依然充满着憧憬 (vision) 和希望 (hope),想出去闯一闯 (try again!)。

On profession:

She WOW me because she has not taken a day off in more than 20 years.

NY Times: "Unlike many of the women who pepper China’s rich lists, Mingzhu did not inherit wealth and had no man beside her and no political connections"

She started as an air-conditioner saleswoman, traveling widely.

The Marketing Queen adopts WIN-WIN approach.

董明珠很简单 (simple),




Her expertise:

企业战略 (corporate strategy)

营销策略 (marketing strategy)

销售 (sales)

Likes reading and shawls.

Mingzhu is a symbol of determination.

I want to read her autobiography "Regretless Pursuit" 行棋无悔

(published in 2006).

Her advice:

"You must be a thinker.

Be decisive, have good judgment, organizational ability.

Most importantly, you have to be able to take control."


Forbes Asia March 2012

New York Times. Setting the Pace With Toughness.


Written by blueroselady

April 13, 2012 at 3:58 pm

Entrepreneur: Ruben Gnanalingam of Westports on people

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Ruben Gnanalingam is the CEO of Westports in Port Kluang, Malaysia.

His father won the bid in 1994 to operate Westports.

I found it hard to relate to Ruben in the context of his privilege to attend Eton, which opens the path to LSE.

In 2012, the school fee of Eton is more than GBP 30,000 per annum.

With my current economic situation, I will not be able to send any boy to Eton.

However, I like Ruben’s attitude to credit his people.

Westports hire 4000 employees.

I saw my boss, his boss and the boss of his boss, do struggle with people, with some success and some failure.

Dealing with people is one of the most important things to master for an entpreneuer.

In Ruben’s words:

“Anyone with the finances can buy equipment and build the wharf,

but it is not easy to buy people and culture.

We MOTIVATE people, PLAN well and AUTOMATE processes to make it easier for our people to work.

We try to KEEP our WORD and create a FRIENDLY and FLEXIBLE culture.”

Taj Mahal was not built by Shah Jahan,

Taj Mahal was built by the workers.

Source: Forbes Asia March 2012

Written by blueroselady

April 11, 2012 at 3:58 pm

Entrepreneur: Don Huang and his 100 days at a startup

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I read 100 days at a startup and found it refreshing for my dream to be an entrepreneur.

It was written by Don Huang who is currently a Director of business development for Klout in San Francisco.

He reminds me on one of my former roommate in California, like Don, he also has Vietnamese origin and loves to cook.

I miss Vietnamese food greatly! I miss the moments when my roommate brought me to his favorite Vietnamese restaurants.

Moreover, Don was probably born in 1980, about the same age as my friend, whom I looked up as a big brother.

Back to the article on 100 days at a startup,

in a nutshell:

To analyze my skills, my passions, and what I want out of my career. To find my passion and follow my passion religiously.

To embrace ambiguity.

Build a network, understand how to work with people. After meet someone, immediately look them up in LinkedIn to prescreen opportunities and source for opportunities. Maintain reputation. Network! Network! Network!

Be a direct communicator.

“If you don’t like something – try to change it. If you can’t change it – leave because you’re wasting your youthful energy.” I agree, no amount of $ can buy back our youth.

Look for quick wins.

In the pursuit of education, I strived to go to the best places.

Though not perfectly done, I am grateful to myself for taking the responsibility, hard work, and commitment to make my dream a reality.

Before I completed my PhD, I thought that PhD is the highest academic qualification one can aim for.
Then, my supervisor told me that he has DSc and encouraged me to consider and pursue it. Wow!

Personally, I find that the success of completing a PhD study (especially in a subject that you do not have strong background), makes one strongly believe that one is capable of learning anything.

I struggled, survived, and surprisingly succeeded better than some people I thought as smarter than me.

However, formal education alone is one thing, but not everything.

I feel that I have been given a lot, but have not given greatly to the world.

We really become a valuable person in this world, when we can give something to others.

I want to give more tangible things to this world.

I want to join a Fortune 500 company.

These companies have made their ways to be the best in the world, surely there are tremendous things that I can learn from them.

I need to have a strong rock before I jump into my start up.

There are things inside me that are always kicking and screaming:

“Honey, you can do your best in whatever you choose to do.”

“Honey, your products and services can change the lives of million people, why are you satisfied with just a stable job?”

Yes, I can learn many things as long as I put my heart into it, from photography, writing, cooking, make-up, planning and surviving adventures to more number of countries than the number of years I have lived.

The main issue is not about my achievement, accolade, and experience, but more about how my life can better others’ lives.

I believe in myself, in my team, and our future customers.

Written by blueroselady

April 9, 2012 at 3:39 pm

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Entrepreneur: Zhang Xin

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Who is Zhang Xin (张欣)?

Co-founder of SOHO China, the largest commercial real estate developer in Beijing.

How did I know about her?

My benefactors

The Tiger Mum Amy Chua.

Why do I like her?

She is a rags-to-riches tale right out of Dickens.

Her childhood was harsh yet she has adopted “NEVER GIVE UP” spirit to go to UK to study under grants.


She is my senior (thanks to my alma mater where she studied for a master in development economy)

She is a mother of 2 sons, so a good role model for me who wants both family and career.

A philanthropist: SOHO China Foundation.

Honestly, she reminds me (in look and style) to a friend of mine WT. She is also a senior to my brother (for the same high school that they went). Their short hair, their masculinity in women, I wish you a great success my dear friend.

I almost had a chance to listen to her directly in Switzerland.

It is OK, there will be another chance.

If you were born poor or your childhood was so bleak, you can still ascend the social ladders like Zhang Xin. Work hard, get the necessary credentials (education, job experience), and start your own business.

Written by blueroselady

April 4, 2012 at 2:33 am

Entrepreneur: Jenny Dawson of Rubies in the Rubble

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How do I know about her?
Market Life Winter 2011. She is a trader @ Borough Market.
Though relatively expensive, I love Borough Market and the atmosphere.

Why do I like her?
She follows her passion. After completing a maths degree, she worked for a hedge fund for 2 years, yet continued trying to think of ideas to start a business.
She is creative. Look @ the name: Rubies in the Rubble.
She is tall and beautiful. Yes, beauty attracts!

What does her enterprise do?
make preserves from surplus fruit and vegetables and employing staff who need help geting back on their feet and into a job.

Why do I like her enterprise?
aims to takcle the current culture of excessive waste.
social change agent.

What are her other ideas?
tinted contact lesn for skiiing and sailing in the sun.
a compactible, reusable cup for coffee shops.
3D glasses carryable in our handbags in funky and pretty design. Themed design for kids.

What travel ideas that I learn from?
to visit Covent Garden Market @ night, as it is running throughout the night.

The rejected ones are still useful.
e.g. the rejected fruit and vegetables can be made into preserves / jams / chutneys.

Blueroselady: if you are rejected by a school / a company, you are still a useful individual. Must believe that you have talents to serve.

To know more, check their website:

Written by blueroselady

February 2, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Posted in entrepreneur, food

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I want to be an entrepreneur!

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Kicked start today by taking some shoots of a model applying cosmetic and pretending eating non-fat food. I like my model, she is wearing a spider-web stocking and short flowery black skirt. She took off her sweater, I told her she can wear (if she is feeling cold) or do not wear, and she decided to take it off.

Next, attended an entrepreneur talk. It’s interesting that more than 400 years ago, the spirit of entrepreneurship has emerged, as exemplied by renovation of churches. I am grateful to God, for having seen some of the most beautiful churches.
The most beautiful altar: Basilica Montreal.
The most beautiful floors: St John Co-Cathedral,Malta.
The most beautiful experience with Darling: St Peter Basilica for our Christmas Eve mass.

For some people, not being an entrepreneur is a risk, their risk is ending up in a boring job.

Well, we can live entrepreneurly without having to set up a company.

Above was written in autumn 2008.

Now in summer 2011, I want so much to have a company of my own, be an entrepreneur!

Here are useful notes:

able to ADAPT to new economic circumstances and living conditions.

able to multitask: “you have to be travelling and yet be present in your hometown, be able to envision the future still developing the present” Beatrice Trussardi.

a drive to innovate.

a permanent search for new opportunities.

no clear-cut def for “entrepreneur”.

accounting skills, sales skills, people skills, science skills, presentation skills.

Morten Lund: “You always have to acknowledge LUCK as part of your entrepreneurial success”

Entrepreneurship is much more about TEAM WORK and GROUP EFFORT.

You have to be HUNGRY to be a successful entrepreneur.

Morten Lund” “Successful entrepreneurs are role models, but 7 out of 10 entrepreneurs are not role models because they fail.”

Christian von Koenigsegg: “I have a really ROCK SOLID BELIEF that if you really want something and believe in it and work hard for it, you will get it”.

“If I or my company suffer any setback, I always have to look at it as an opportunity” Suhas Gopinath (SG)

“I do not think we should underestimate anyone because of their economic status or age. I used to offer my service FREE of charge, and this enabled me to showcase my skills” SG.

“If you believe in your own ideas and visions you will be able to acquire these skills on your own” SG.

“To secure our future success we are constantly intensifying COMPETITIVENESS in this organisation” Paul Bulcke of Nestle.
“not having people motivated only by rewards.”
“want to maintain our basic philosophy – that people are here for the long run, that they are here because they identify with the values, mission, and vision of this company”.

Tips: Do not stop learning.
e.g. Although being successful, Therese Albrechtson (1985, Swedish) never stopped her studies and is currently taking several courses in leadership and economical theory at IHM Business School.

Why do you want to be an entrepreneur?
1. To offer employment to others.
2. Passion. Utilize my talents to serve others.

Written by blueroselady

August 1, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Reading on an entrepreneurial scientists’ venture

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To do, we have to learn.
To learn, we have to read.

May 17, 2010
Entrepreneurial Scientists Help Drive Economic Development and Innovation
A couple of weeks ago, the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author Thomas Friedman published an optimistic column in the New York Times about the start-up company EndoStim, which has developed a medical device to treat acid reflux. The company started out as one doctor’s idea – an extension of his clinical practice – and was helped along by several investors. Friedman, who likes to stay ahead of current trends, sees EndoStim as the future of scientific innovation and economic development.

Friedman’s analysis of EndoStim’s success in combining science, business, and technology reflects ideas that can open career opportunities and directions for researchers. For example, EndoStim’s way of doing business hews close to the methods of the open-science movement discussed in a Science Careers article last month. Indeed, EndoStim’s approach might be called “open everything.” Its lack of a formal structure and use of technology allowed the company to bring in ideas and capital from all over the world, taking advantage of the fluid nature of information. As Friedman explains:
“EndoStim was inspired by Cuban and Indian immigrants to America and funded by St. Louis venture capitalists. Its prototype is being manufactured in Uruguay, with the help of Israeli engineers and constant feedback from doctors in India and Chile. Oh, and the C.E.O. is a South African, who was educated at the Sorbonne, but lives in Missouri and California, and his head office is basically a BlackBerry.”
Another point that Friedman hints at — and that another Science Careers article discusses — is the motivation behind the success of these scientist-entrepreneurs, which is not always profit. Financial success, of course, is a big reason scientists start their own companies. But in many cases the chance to develop useful — in some cases life-saving – products or processes from their research is as important. As one bioengineer told Science Careers, “You have to have faith…You have to believe in your technology and what you’re trying to do.”

If you’ve got an idea based on your research and think it’s marketable, now may be a good time to push forward. And if you want to do something truly new and interesting, it’s a good time to investigate novel business models like this one. For more on founding a science start-up, in addition to Science Careers, see this Depth-First blog post from 2008.
This guest post is contributed by Angela Martin, who writes on the topics of Career Salaries. She welcomes your comments at her email: angela.martin77 [at]

Written by blueroselady

August 12, 2010 at 2:53 am

Posted in entrepreneur, sciences

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