In my naive way I had thought of Singapore on earlier visits primarily as a colonial outpust housing the regional HQ’s of western businesses in East Asia growing primarily as a consequence of the flight from Hong Kong after the 1997 expiration of the UK’s lease on the territory.
Of course it’s not as simple as that. The migration from Hong Kong continues but driven more by pollutants than by politicians but now Singapore looks north to China rather than the West for the continuation of its strategic role in regional and global commerce.
This reveals, if it’s not obvious, that the strategic importance of China and its potential as THE growth engine for Western businesses cannot be understated. It seems that our clients have got to grips with this and one hears repeatedly that companies are sending their best people to China. The old acronym F.I.L.T.H – failed in London try Hong Kong – is now redundant and might be replaced by S.I.L.T.S – succeeded in London try Shanghai.
This is where brand owners have something of an advantage over their agency suppliers. By and large they are very large enterprises with structured training and staff rotation programs which are hard to replicate in businesses which while large in aggregate actually comprise much smaller operating units.
Our challenge, therefore, is to persuade our smartest people that China is not a colonial posting to be endured but an opportunity to be grasped.