To be a hawker…..

May 20, 2013

I am not kidding. I happen to believe Vivian Balakrishnan’s idea of promoting hawkering is perhaps the best idea to ever come out from the PAP. First of all, this has to be remarkable. As the PAP really has as much imagination as a door knob. One reason why I like it is because, it is a very straight forward platform that contains within it plenty of room for improvisation and experimentation.

What many people may not realize, especially young entrepreneurs is entreprenuerialship can never be taught – if you don’t believe me go and ask yourself where Philip Yeo’s guppy and whale pipe dream ended up? One reason why it failed big time – was due partly to the mind boggling complexity of the whole enterprise. This blue print by Vivian doesn’t seem to suffer from those pit falls – the rough outline of the plan is simplicity unto itself – and hopefully this will allow the young to get used to the whole idea of managing themselves and others where they will expose themselves to business.

One of the things that hit me like a brick wall when I first started out in business was how so much of my mind was still stuck in the mud of thinking very much like a salaried man – the result was unnecessary down time, mistakes and what I can only describe as missed opportunities.

Eventually, I was able to make the perceptive shift – but my point was it didn’t come naturally for me and I really had to put in a lot of effort.

One reason why I like this idea is because hankering is really just a stepping stone to bigger things. I have blogged about this in detail and the essay is somewhere in the Brotherhood Press archives (you may want to look it up to get up to speed) – you may for instance start of just trying to whip up the perfect char kuey teow – but given enough time and opportunity – you may also see yourself branching out into designing, building and marketing modular kitchen furniture and fittings for hawkers – or alternatively, you may even decide to take your signature dish to Shanghai, Moscow or Paris and start a franchise there – the only thing that stops you is your imagination.

But to gainfully make full use of this opportunity – one needs to be able to see opportunity for what it is and not confuse it with other stupid considerations like – what if your friends eventually find out that you are turning the wheel of life as a hawker? My take on this is really very matter a fact – so long as your better half supports you, then you can just as well pack the rest up and fuck them all off.

The important thing is to do just do it – and not think too much about it – once you’re in the groove, then the doors will present themselves.

Good luck. Remember, this is opportunity. Even if people look down on you and think that you are a two time loser for wanting to be hawker – it doesn’t alter the fact opportunity is still opportunity.

Darkness 2012

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“Business is a black art. No one is my family is a businessman. So I really had to learn it all from scratch. But the biggest thing I had to learn was not anything new. Rather I had to LEARN how to unlearn so many things that has through the years managed to encrust themselves in my thinking, behavior and responses- this I believe was one of the hardest things for me to do. But if you go into business and even if you are doing nothing except planting row after row of palm oil – then a some point, you will begin to stick out your head and wonder to yourself, where the hell are all these palm oil bunches going too? Who is buying them? What are they doing with it?

You see this is what I did. I began to look beyond my field. These days I spend most of my time thinking about evil ways how to intimidate and blackmail the oil mills – from time to time, when I don’t get a good price for my palm oil bunches, I would jump up and down and threaten to build another oil mill next door to the only oil mill in my area – that strategy for the time being seems to work pretty well. But let us face it. Eventually, I will probably have to stretch myself and go towards that general direction.

That is the funny thing about business – if you look at a thing. Anything long enough. At some point you will begin to see BEYOND it. At some point possibilities will begin to present themselves – that is why when you decide to make hawkering a career, it is very important to keep asking yourself – where do I go after I have created the perfect char kuey teow. Don’t see it as an end. Rather it simply a spring board that holds out the promise of possibilities to go elsewhere.

Listen to me. You don’t have much time. I see dark clouds over the horizon. Can I share something with you? Can I really? You see I believe that one day, it will be impossible for the middle class in Singapore to turn the wheel of life anymore – as it is, they are already squeezed. That means most of us will have to go out of Singapore to turn the wheel of life. There are dark clouds coming our way my friend. Most people are still in a dream. They think it can never get worse and only get better. But look at the world economy it is well and truly fucked beyond all recognition. China is slowing down. Meanwhile the price of oil keeps going up. Salaries go down. Firms downscale. You get retrenched. You fall back on your payments. Next thing you know, you will be pitching camp somewhere in Changi Village. By that time your wife has probably left you.

I want to know – is this how you want to end up? You see I do not believe in this age and time, it is possible to turn the wheel as a salaried man in Singapore anymore. I believe the only reliable way to turn the wheel of liwit without grief these days is for a man to run his own business. This will be the only way in the future for the middle class to have liberty in Singapore.

But how does a man get over this mental block? How do you jump start a whole nation to want to be someone like Li Kha Sin or the next Robert Kwouk? Instead of settling for stupid things like a scholarship and whatever comes there after – how do you wean a nation from the idea that the only way to seek a better life is to work for someone?

I think it needs to be taken slowly, eating an elephant – it needs to be reduced into bite sizes. In this respect, I see hawkering providing a very stable learning platform – your real estate is small. What you offer is very specialized, the risk are small and manageable – its an excellent way to learn bother what other people say and think about it – just fuck them all off – that incidentally is the first thing you need to really feel comfortable about: telling other people to go fuck off! You see there is no other way. Because now you are no longer the name and face of a corporation. You are your own man – so your life for yourself. If you do not know how to say fuck off – you will always live your life for other people and never yourself.”

 

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