2020-05-29 10:03:00  2271125
Bruneian government supportive of entrepreneurship
Features
Wu Chun is believed to be the first international star from Brunei and the pride of Chinese Bruneians. SIN CHEW DAILY
Wu Chun is believed to be the first international star from Brunei and the pride of Chinese Bruneians. SIN CHEW DAILY


Wu Chun is a household name in Chinese showbiz, but not many are aware that before he made inroads into the entertainment business in 2005, he already had his own business back in Brunei.

Young entrepreneur

Wu's family has prominent businesses in the oil-rich country. The GHK Group owned by his uncle Goh King Chin is an established car dealer in the country commanding a third of the country's automobile market share, while his father Goh Kim Tian is a well-known real estate tycoon.

Wu himself is involved in a wide range of businesses including a gym and bakery in Brunei as well as CO3 Social Office in Puchong, Selangor, among others.

Wu started his own business in 2003.

"At that time I had just graduated from an Australian university. I loved sports and fitness and wished to bring back Australia's fitness culture to Brunei."

Even though Brunei is a Muslim country, Wu feels that it is a blessed thing to be able to start a career in Brunei.

"I can work very well with the local government and the Malay people, and they have given me a lot of encouragement and positive support.

"I feel I'm a lucky man!"

Doing business today is very different from during his father's time.

"Today, we not only need to emphasize on the quality of service but must also focus on marketing, how to package your brand in order to attract buyers.

"With the new media and Internet coming into place, we need to learn to make use of Facebook, Instagram and other resources to boost our business.

"This is what new generation businessmen must focus on."

Wu admitted that competition is getting tougher nowadays.

"With competition we have improvement. Everyone is trying to see what their competitors are doing. We have to work as hard to play the catching up and compete healthily."

Wu Chun: The government is providing a lot of resources, and it is therefore quite easy for young people to start their own businesses. SIN CHEW DAILY
Wu Chun: The government is providing a lot of resources, and it is therefore quite easy for young people to start their own businesses. SIN CHEW DAILY


Very supportive government

As a Chinese Bruneian, Wu concedes that the local Chinese community enjoys rather equitable status in this Muslim-majority country.

"Same as the other countries in Southeast Asia, Brunei is made up of different ethnic groups and boasts a very diverse culture.

"Most of the entrepreneurs here are Chinese but they don't get rejected because of this.

"To me, almost half of my customers are Malays, and when I deal with government departments, they are all very supportive. So I feel that the Chinese people here are indeed treated quite fairly."

Compared to people in other countries, Bruneians are easily contented and there is not so much competition here compared to other places.

"They seldom have a sense of insecurity. It is very important to be happy while working in Brunei. So, this is a country with very high happiness index.

"The government will provide you a lot of resources so that you can start your own business rather easily."

A big challenge facing local entrepreneurs is the country's relatively small population.

"We must find our niche selling point and grab any available opportunity in order to outdo our competitors.

"I love to learn new things and I often read interviews of successful businessmen and observe what's happening around the world in order to put more innovation into my business.

"Of course you also need to have a good team. There's no business without a team!"

Chinese traditions still well preserved

Soon Loo, CEO of Brunei Economic Development Board (BEDB), is a well known entrepreneur in the country with over 20 years of experience in own business. In addition to business, Loo is also actively involved in education and politics.

His career life began at Harvard Business School, and he later set up a technology start-up in Silicon Valley before turning himself into an educator, grooming "new economy" students.

"The Chinese in Brunei are now in the third generation. Their biggest challenge now is to assimilate with people from different communities.

"The challenge of the first generation Chinese here was to adapt to the new environment while the second generation had to learn to mingle with the local society, which is not easy.

"Into the third generation now, we not only need to assimilate into the local society but also go global because we are not merely competing within this region but the entire world. The biggest challenge now is to cooperate with the local indigenous people."

Soon Loo was one of the recipients of the
Soon Loo was one of the recipients of the "World Ten Outstanding Young People Awards 2013". SIN CHEW DAILY

Loo admitted that many outsiders do not understand the local customs in Brunei and tend to have a lot of wrong perceptions of this Muslim-majority country.

He insisted that many of the Chinese traditions have not been changed because of the country's Islamization policy.

"During my time, we even learned mathematics, geography and history in Chinese."

Even though the teaching medium has now been switched to English because of the globalization trend, the learning of Chinese language has never come under any government pressure at all.

Many Chinese traditions are still well preserved in Brunei, including Chinese New Year celebration with family and tomb-sweeping during Cheng Meng festival.

"Although this is a Muslim country, the people here have a lot of religious freedom, but of course we must also respect the local customs."

Niche market

Loo's ability has been well recognized by the Brunei government, and he was appointed the CEO of Brunei Economic Development Board (BEDB) responsible for luring foreign investments to promote the country's economic development.

Loo said the government had in more recent year diversified the country's economy from oil and gas, to manufacturing, agriculture, fishery, finance & banking, insurance and other industries in encouraging more foreign investments, thus providing the local Chinese new opportunities to expand their businesses. Digital economy is another area the government should prioritize in future, he added.

He said while Malaysia and Indonesia have dominated the global halal market for years, Brunei must move towards the high-end super food sector given the country's enviable air and water quality.

Brunei still keeps large swathes of untouched virgin forests, giving it an added advantage in high-end eco-tourism. Due to its small size, it is impossible for Brunei to go into the mass tourism market but it can set its sights on high-end tourism.

"The country is very safe and we have top-notched medical facilities to venture into high-end eco-tourism."


Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque is one of the most beautiful mosques in Southeast Asia. SIN CHEW DAILY
Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque is one of the most beautiful mosques in Southeast Asia. SIN CHEW DAILY












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