IT'S WHAT YOU'D LIKE TO BE

My Journalist self follows fabulous people into fabulous places.

Category: Entrepreneur

You’d Like to Be a Cat That Falls From the Sky

Literally, that’s what it means, Tmall天猫, a phonetic translation of the fastest growing e-commerce site targeted at mainland Chinese consumers which saw a growth in transactions from 25 billion yuan (2.4 billion pounds) in 2010 to 520 billion yuan (50.2 billion pounds) in 2013, according to Wall Street Journal. However, it’s not the figures that should interest you but the fact that Chinese consumers view the Cat as the one place immune to the cancerous parasitic counterfeit reality in Chinese e-commerce as they only feature retailers with registered trademarks in China. The most outrageous example that I have come across so far with Chinese counterfeits was in an Asian supermarket based in Hackney where they juxtapositioned 2 identical instant noodles with 24p-difference in price with a disclaimer – fake 65p, real 89p. The reason for the noodles story is obviously to introduce this hilarious video made by a Dutch ad agency. And yes, Shin noodles, those ones, I’ve got 5 in my cupboard.

(continued with my last email to you on why we should re-think China’s Tier 1,2,3,4,x cities to expand your business, I hope Tom has read it and if he is reading, i’d like him to know that I can do more about criticising (bitching) about others 😀 )

With Apple and New Balance opening “Flagship” stores on Tmall.com, Yes, they chose the word “Flagship旗舰”,  it’s safe to say that the digital has completely transformed the concept of place and space. Tmall, the Cat from the sky is the king of all cats, particularly powerful against copycats. To demonstrate cats power, please go on BuzzFeed.com, or read on and you will find out that ASOS, the most idolised European online fashion retailer is planning to open a Tmall storefront in late April, offering (literally, like in the sense of sacrificing) 50% off a cardigan sweater to pull traffic. It was merely a few months ago in Nov that they launched their Chinese website that got the fashion industry bouncing off the walls.

Since you’ve pretty much got the idea why China’s space (especially air-space where territorial cats live) could be the intimidatingly huge with amazing potentials, I’d like to point out that cats can be a bit too smart for our own good.

As we conclude our discussion on china’s digital space, I’d like to point out that as the culture/film snob that I am (or possibly wanky), my favourite space is a concept called non-space (Ok, definitely wanky). There’s this 1967 French film called 2,3 Things I know About Her, which explores the concept (omg so wanky, call the police).

Thanks Tom!

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You’d like to be Tom Hulme. But, Would you really?

Another White Man Saving Brown Women from Brown Men?

(Disclaimer: I adore Tom Hulme and I would love to intern at his company. But after this article I’d imagine it would have slipped away naturally)

In complete contrast to his dishevelled hair – this gentleman’s list of achievements is as breath-takingly linear and long as they are well documented, in another word, world-class. Carrying the charisma that sets himself apart from other entrepreneurs who utilizes pretension for a conspicuous cause to establish status, Hulme – in check shirts and trainers talking to a podium-ful of work hungry students playfully.

“a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum and was listed in WIRED UK’s top 100 “digital power brokers” in 2011 and 2012. In November 2012 he was included in the Evening Standard list of London’s 1000 most influential people. Tom is also a member of the advisory board of the Tech City Investment Organisation of the UK government, supporting the startup community in East London.”

Founder of OpenIDEO, a project that enables “anybody” to contribute ideas usually for a specific seasonal task is currently burgeoning a campaign aiming at Indian women’s safety in low socio-economic areas, extending the social debate that gained worldwide attention due to the number of cases of rape, gang-rape in India last year, coinciding with the biggest election that the world has seen in India where 800+ million voters participated last Saturday certainly has got all eyes on him.

His hour-long talk at London College of Communication ended with a Q&A session where I had the privilege to ask the final question:

Me: “Post colonial cultural theorist, Gayaki Spivak is known for her criticism of “Western” doctrine’s interest in the debates on post colonial states, like India. She once famously criticized the ‘West’ for ‘White men saving brown women from Brown men’, do you think that your challenge on helping indian women could be a bit indulgent.”

Probably not as indulgent as my question.

It was the journalist in me that made me want to stir up the otherwise homogenous agreeable applause applause talk. Branded as an open innovation platform, OpenIDEO serves as a levelling tool to democratize ideas. Slide after slide of empirical data and research findings narrated in his non-threatening and yet authoritative tone, Hulme had smitten the room with the look of an Australian surfer and the backlog of jaw dropping credentials, as well as saint-like proclaims of the non-profit driven nature of his work. The question on my mind was, has he really discovered the ultimate levelling platform for ideas or is he just an amazing motivational speaker?

India, with its roots lying in a culture built around hierarchies of gender, religion, caste and colour produces the most number of millionaires in a country in the world but is known for the human pyramids built on travelling trains and “slum dogs”. Dealing with the issue of women’s safety in India is comparable to dealing with cocaine use in Hollywood, Indian men’s disrespect towards women is justified by the disregard of women’s identity as a whole. From the time a brother is sent to college whereas the sisters are left running errands to accompany the mom, to the criticism of a western tourist showing cleavage inviting a gangbang, to me woken up by a penis on my face that belongs to a married Indian friend of my housemate’s that was staying over who was told that I was gay, all these evidence suggest that sexual crimes can all be justified because the victims have all “asked” for it. (Possibly not all) Indian men live by the rules that the patriarch structure can be taken for granted and sexual offenses are the reward of sexually deprived women and gay men. Where can I send my “thank you for your penis” card?

The Khajuraho Group of Monuments in Khajuraho, a town in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, located in Chhatarpur District, about 620 kilometres (385 mi) southeast of New Delhi

From the country that brought you Kama Sutra, which features not only the 100s of sexercize positions (some even include horses, probably as props) but also the depictions of gay and lesbian sex to a society that bans prostitution as well as homosexuality, the change is held accountable by one country – UK. It was during the Victorian colonial period did the British labelled the Orientals “the oriental vice” during its “Fanatical Purity Campaign” – meaning the “West” didn’t like it that the Indians expressed their sexuality freely whose gods include hermaphrodites and androgynous beings.

Arjuna and Krishna – 2 Indian gods who are frequently referrenced for their same sex love. Photo by pramoduniverse.com

Centuries later, the repressed physiological needs of men (sex) are compensated by the compromised safety needs of women, due to the very fact that it was the colonial Victorians who initiated the increasing imbalance. We are brainstorming ideas globally to help with women’s safety? Something’s got to give. And solving the problem one-sidedly will only create future imbalance. If men were to blame, help THEM first. After all Marslow views sex as a more basic form of needs than safety. Shouldn’t we be thinking about how to feed the wolves?

Indian Men in/on/above A Running Train. Photo by BBC

An Indian girlfriend once said to me, “look at the UAE, if someone steals, they chop his hands off. That’s why their crime rate is so low, why can’t we do something like that?” Obviously we can’t, coz we are the “West” and they one thing we take pride in is the discourse of human rights. In cultural theorist Spivak’s essay “Can Subalterns Speak?”, long story short, subalterns can’t speak. Coz when they do speak, how are we going to listen with an ear that only takes in what fits in the western discourses such as feminism and human rights?

Solving a third world problem within the Western doctrine is very likely to lead nowhere. But if Hulme’s challenge is aimed at raising awareness and showing concern or goodwill, he certainly has accomplished that. After all, as of today, 585 profiles have contributed to their research, a research according to my question to him, could be of western problem-solvers’ indulgence.

My question for him certain got him interested. Having distinguished the contributors to OpenIDEO from the Westminster suit and tie white middle aged men, he gave a convincing answer that OpenIDEO users are of wide demographics which include victims themselves. However, my scepticism remains as my enthusiasm continues to find out how big of an impact could this challange manifest.

Hulme at London College of Communication, 2013. Photo by London College of Communication

N: is there any personal reason that made you consciously choose a path that’s not necessarily guaranteed to generate great revenue?

H: “My dad was an entrepreneur so I’ve always admired entrepreneurs. And I spent a year in Africa before I went to university the first time when I was 18 and that had a huge impact on me. I promised myself that I’d create businesses and do start ups that will have positive social impact so I combined the two things. That why I never went to work for a big company I never consider it.”

All eyes on Hulme and his OpenIDEO contributors. Participate and contribute to the reasearch and ideas here: http://www.openideo.com/
Follow Hulme on Twitter:

You’d Like to Be Richard Coombes

I am that 1%”

Humbly admitting that he sees himself very much the same as everybody else but the truth is, maybe he is a bit different. Coombes on some level is like the rest of us, building a career in constant struggle between circumstantial limitations and personal ambitions, insecurities and external confidence, balancing professional and personal life as a driven and yet emotional creature. Few dare to claim titles such as Head of Talent, Graduate Programme & Management Development at Barclays Commercial Bank, HR director at Leo Burnett EMEA, Lecturer and Tutor at University of South Australia (at age 19) and most importantly, Executive Coach whose clients include Bloomberg and Procter & Gamble, as well as Lenstore – one of the Times Top 10 fast growing private companies 2013, under his own company Coombes Business Coaching. Speaking to me in landmark location of Shoreditch, The Book Club, Coombes reveals the force that has asserted a modest Australian boy into the world of finance and Britain’s elite class. Nate reports.

Having arrived half an hour late for the interview I had scheduled for Mr Coombes, I was thousands of times more gratified that he had stayed to be interviewed than when he agreed to it, in exchange for my help in lifting some boxes at one of his cooking classes. Wait, cooking?

Richard_Cutting

(what’s going on here? Coombes had put 10 members of The Supper Club, UK’s premier network for entrepreneurs in a boot camp of high pressured cooking task, in order to observe their organizational behaviour under his microscope. Jan 30th, 2014 photo by Nate.)

For the first time, we could see how a pressured cooking environment creates high quality in a limited time. Then you can talk about leadership development and management behaviour. In that situation, entrepreneurs who are used to working separately and individually are with people they don’t know. Some of them begin to coordinate and work together but some would surge out of the group, not only being able to get the assigned task done but also seek to learn everything else within that space. What we’d be looking for is that I work more with them to identify in their business where they need to work as a team.”

I should mention that one of my highlights in life so far had been the time I had the privilege to taste Coombes caviar in the 3-story townhouse that he owns on a summer day in Hackney, East London, over looking the stand-alone fish-tank-like studio which he calls “office” across the garden. The fact that both of us were in flip-flops gave me enough excuse to indulge in his treat without feeling undeserving or too self conscious of my own status or cooking skills. How good was the caviar? … Sorry, did I mention it was caviar?

I am interested in food and cooking schools, I have been to about 30 cooking schools across the world. I believe that it differentiates me as a coach because it’s a different way of beginning a conversation about high performance, communication and teamwork. “

Richard_Serious_Telloff Richard_man

Richard_Candle

(Entrepreneurs associated with The Supper Club are carefully vetted to ensure that the Club maintains the highest quality of entrepreneurs across all sectors. Here they are cooking up a feast, but not without some serious tough love from Coombes, which he describes as the “In your face” style. Jan 30th, 2014. Photos by Nate)

 

It’s performance coaching, focusing on individual development and career development. I work with senior management, they have business objectives, department objectives and individual objectives, things that they need to deliver to their bosses in order to get their pay rise or promotions. One of my particular target markets is one that’s fast growing, small entrepreneurial companies.”

As Coombes alternating between coaching corporations such as Bloomberg, Procter & Gamble and individual clients that his current work entails,he is now reflecting on the past times when he had been HR director in Barclays. This is what he had to say,

They were no more professional, in fact, they had even bigger challenges. There was a certain degree of dysfunction in the way that the business operates. There was a great need for intelligent HR, tactics and strategy, but there wasn’t much of it employed. There were so much of a need but so little commitment.”

Being an HR director in a corporate space means 300-400 emails a day, working on 15 projects simultaneously at any given time. It means 80 percent of your time is spent on internal stake holder management, otherwise known as Politics.”

Coombes now would spend 40% of his time on client relationship development, marketing and networking and the rest doing valuable work with smart people who he likes working with, certainly a lifestyle that inspires envy and admiration, as if he weren’t as much of being his own boss previously. With a personality and qualities that easily cast command, Coombes is rigorously focused and uncompromising.

I like my lifestyle, that also means I’m spending more of my time thinking and communication about value and less of greasing the wheels of politics. I respect it [corporate politics], I understand it needs to happen, I can go into that space and operate, but also come back out healthy.”

Ostensibly, Coombes had embarked on a journey to success which most of our society would recognize or assume as a road taken by the talented and ambitious and most important of all, lucky. I for one had quit school 4 times due to visa or financial issues or because I had to waste years not knowing what I want from life. Coombes’ life could seem a bit too linear. As I whinged over my shortcomings, Coombes stopped me right there and with such conviction, put me in my place. “You always have options.”

So, what choices did Coombes have to make?

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Coombes in 1995. Photo by Coombes

From the point I was 15, everything I did, I did it to escape from Australia (if you had been to Australia you’d know why) and become successful and financially independent from my parents. Because of my sexuality, I feared that they and the society they came from would reject me and I would be lost. So I had to become very good at something very quickly. That fear had been a source of a certain degree of insecurity, combined with real ambition to succeed in the world, as well as my understanding and talent in organizations and organizational theory led me to become a person you’d call “loud” and “in your face”, which led to one of my lectures saying ‘you could be a good tutor’. He then let me do that before I was really ready to do it but I learned a lot.”

Within 2 year of Coombes ending his job as a tutor (since age 19) in Organisational theory having finished a degree in Business, Marketing, Human Resources, Australia experienced its economic recession. The consequence of which saw his coming out of Australia to the UK at age 26.

There weren’t jobs in big companies, I didn’t have connections through family, so it was either to be entrepreneurial or unemployed. And that is not my thing.”

richard tub

(Coombes vacationing in Tromsø, Norway, waiting for Aurora Borealis to appear while keeping himself warm and clean in the hot tub that’s installed on private boat Feb 1st, 2014. Photo by Coombes)

N: what’s your identity now?
C: Part of my identity is linked to my work, the sophistication and the challenge of it, my intellect, my professionalism, and part of my identity is related to my relationship with my partner, and me being a learning growing changing and emotional creature.

N: How about that insecurity you felt at the earlier stage of building your career?
C:
It’s a constant state. I have less fear of it now because I know it helps me be good at what I do. I still feel it and I don’t want to stop feeling it.

N: what is that one quality you couldn’t have made it without?
C: (After a short pondering) The willingness to challenge the
status quo.

I was deeply ashamed for not knowing what status quo meant but I have a feeling that this latin word would linger in my mind for many years to come. Boy, wouldn’t you want to be Richard Coombes!!

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(Coombes and partner Aidn at London’s Gay Pride Parade 2008. Photo source: Coombes’s facebook page.)

Coombes Business Coaching Main Page
www.coombesbusinesscoaching.com/

Coombes’ Covent Garden Cooking School
www.coventgardencookingschool.com/