Monday, October 29, 2007

Back to Earth.

It was a whirlwind trip (literally, as we came face to face with a passing typhoon) but was all worth it. The Tokyo Motor Show was a spectacular showcase of the finest class of automotive innovation, not a single maker did not take this opportunity to flex their muscle and brain power for that matter. While this year, the theme seems to center around saving earth, most frontrunning makers also showcased powerful concepts and queer designs straight from the idea factory. The event itself was something to be learned by KL Motor Show organisers - the event revolves around the visitor, propagating each maker's value and optimizing individual experience around that very same core value. Even the models were carefully chosen and tastefully dressed to evoke different emotions - sporty, luxury, sensual while Malaysia lags far behind in this area, exploiting 19 year old college girls from Ipoh, dressed up in pieces of cloth she wouldn't dare show her parents is not cool. Shame on you guys (meaning, you Auto magazines too!). Anyway, these models are far less than 'accessories' but real brand ambassadors who could hold more than just a few questions. They can anytime double as a salesperson if you ask me. I really do hope to see similar execution in Malaysia.

If you want more visual bite, click here. Please forgive me if I mixed up some while some are not in sequence. I was too bewildered and still am.


Friday, October 19, 2007

Tokyo Motor Show

I will be leaving for Japan tonight. Half excited, half anxious. Will be dropping by 甲府 for a night before heading to 東京, meeting up with the team for Tokyo Motor Show. To be really honest. Like really really honest (I mean this is what blogging is all about right?), I was never really into cars. A car is a mode of transportation for me to get from point A to point B. Only till recently, I've ventured into the world of automotive - Men's fantasy world - and I'm intrigued at times, and bewildered at other times. I still don't get it, what's with cars and women? Body talks? Some magazines really know how to cheapen themselves. However. On the other hand, there's so much to learn. One for instance, I've learned how to appreciate car designs even more (hence, my new found obsession for the five series, few cars can muster that kind of emotion in people y'know). Two, I've learned so much about the thinkers behind these wheels and their obsession in putting each and every screw together to form something I've always taken for granted. And three, I've learned how cars have changed the world, the impact they made on planet Earth in the last century and how automakers are now desperately trying to innovate themselves out of this pollution sh*t they've innovated themselves in (as we will see in the upcoming Motor Show). And there will be fourth, fifth, sixth, and so on and so forth. And that bit I'm really excited about. I mean, honestly honestly honestly speaking again? I've never gelled well with telecommunications too but today, it has become one of my more intimate passions. God has a very weird sense of humour. He knows exactly what I suck at and puts me right in the action of it. Thanks Big Guy :)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Projek Kami.

Earlier this year, I presented an ethnographic cultural study entitled Indie Revolution after months of going undercover as an indie chick in headbanging gigs, having the privilege to interview some of the most passionate bands ever and being exposed to some of the most enlightening notion of individualism which lacks in this oh-so-homogeneous country. The study was shared with one of the Big Three telcos (yea, if you realise the Big 3 doesn't just exist in automotive) and due to the edgy-ness of this study, it was arguably difficult to digest by the clients. Although I may not agree but I do understand their apprehension. Here's a young punk telling them Indie is the way to go to hit youths where it hurts most - to discover their passion and express it in their own individualistic and creative manner spearing through the noise of their ever-chaotic environment. One of the most frequently asked questions was "Show me the numbers". How do you share a definitive number in such a highly qualitative research employed with almost zero funds? That's always been my frustration in presenting ethnography work, that the purpose is to discover insights through long-term observation and participation which isn't to say can't be done through research proper, but trust me, it's a Ringgit dynamite just to check for example, "How many people actually draw the curtain to mimic/improve the cinematic experience in their living room?". You should shoot your researcher if he ever proposes this kind of questions.

Anyway, I don't know if this is only happening in Malaysia or it happens more in Malaysia. That clients need to be pacified by numbers to such extent because there are a lot of great ethnography work being employed overseas just so they have a tab on what's really happening in the world beyond the boardroom. Data provides knowledge but true understanding comes from being with people. I hope one day, everyone gets that.

Back to Projek Kami. I must really applaud 8TV and Nokia for taking this stance. I think it's a brilliant and refreshing projek and speaks right through to the hearts of creative individuals. The film is raw and real and although I haven't the luxury of following it every week but every time I did, I enjoyed it. I think it's very courageous for an international brand like Nokia to take this stance because not all foreign brands can blend into local culture in such a meaningful manner. And for those brands who are afraid of jumping into the indie bandwagon because of the absence of those precious numbers or the endorsement of a world-established research house, well guess what? Here, have them all.

Please give me your feedback on this if you have any. I want to hear different opinions about this subject and I definitely want to improve.

p/s: The Kami series is a brilliant product, but guess what? It's not the only needgap in this whole Indie culture. If you're ready for your bit of creative expression, mail me and we'll bounce ideas and off walls :)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

It's an obsession.

Doo. This is no one series. Go do your homework.

This is my obsession. The most muscular body in its class. Scratch that. I meant in every class.

"Some people are blinded by their own vision, unable to break free from the fetters of their own visual limitation. But this one defies everything."

If you haven't seen the new 1 series films, then please do.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

KSU strikes again!

I think I've posted Michael Wesch and his KSU kids' video on Web 2.0 sometime back. Today, they strike again. Personally, I'm really encouraged with the advent of the web. Although it's been around for more than a decade (maybe two?), its full potential remain much untapped. Today we're flooded with millions of web apps, similar but always with a difference, no matter how insignificant the nuance seems. What goes on in our head at this very second, is being created in another time, another part of the world. Wow.

Honestly, watching these two videos really made my butt itch. There's so much we can do! I mean, the question is not whether we can. It's how. Sparks is open for collaboration. Let's rock the net!

Information R/evolution - explores the changes in the way we find, store, create, critique, and share information

A Vision of Students Today - thinks about how students learn, what they need to learn for their future, and how our current educational system fits in

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Honda Myth: The Genius And His Wake

Many would have mistaken the Japanese car maker, Honda as founded by one person. Perhaps, it was even succeeded by Honda’s pure blood lineage. 476 pages later, not only I discovered that was untrue, in fact, it was a total opposite. I also felt as though I’ve just finished one of the world’s most interesting automotive sagas. If anything, I think this book – The Honda Myth: The Genius and His Wake, shed immense light unto the true DNA that runs in the blood of this young Japanese maverick. Be warned. This book is no bedtime story (certainly took awhile to digest) but it certainly is one of the better translated books around. I’ve personally found Japanese translated English books a little woozy at times because sometimes the words may be clearly deciphered but the nuance is simply lost, leaving a lot of fluff in between two covers. Well, in this case, I must say Masaaki Sato who is a renowned automotive and business journalist, himself, did a great job in maintaining the momentum which leads to a perfect climax in narrating the golden history of not just Honda but also the circumference of the entire automotive industry up to recent times.

First of all, Honda does not condone hiring family members simply because it isn’t a family business to begin with. If at all, its family consists of all employees and shareholders. Secondly, contrary to popular myth, Honda was founded by two legends with poles-apart-personalities. Soichiro Honda was a highly meticulous engineer who could build anything if only he could see it once while Takeo Fujisawa was the shrewd businessman whose management skills and strategies reverberated through the decades, both making Honda a grand exemplar of a Japanese automotive empire. Because of them, the early Honda was a company which strived on differences and thus was born the practice of waigaya, a closed informal discussion of anything and everything amongst executive directors with concern to Honda’s every step whether it was an internal or external issue, in engineering technology or business strategy. In this way, I could see why Honda was deemed as a unique automaker right from the beginning. It wasn’t just about cars. It was a cult – the Hondaism, the corporate belief that they are not here to sell cars but dreams. The notion of ‘We are not drivers but believers’ really stemmed from the fact that Honda started out as a dream to conquer racetracks because it was racing that inspired continuous product and corporate advancement which automatically generated publicity. Such was Honda and Fujisawa’s unique management style which was dubbed the way of Honda. Although each had their own area of expertise which boundaries were clearly respected respectively, they also had the courage to admit each other’s shortcomings and lean on the other for advice and know-how. In today’s world where autocratic capitalism and dictatorship rule, I’m not so sure if such management style still prevails.
What I found highly captivating about this book is the highlights of both Honda and Fujisawa’s management ideals which can be priceless lessons to any business managers. The list is endless but the few which really stood out (and which I think Sparks can learn from) are:

1) When you achieve a great milestone, it should help you to churn higher quality products and not the excuse to command a higher price tag – although I’ve only spent a measly 6 years in business and communications, this line appears to be a real myth to me. The trap of successful businesses has always been (and will always be) greed. That is when executives decide to compromise quality in an attempt to decrease production cost to subsequently improve margins or simply to jack up the price with a famous brand name but with no real substance. However, in the case of Honda, following the above direction set by Takeo Fujisawa, Soichiro Honda with his team of engineers subsequently invented the CVCC technology which encompassed a great 230 patents in Japan and abroad, with design specifications and engineering know-how that has even the most powerful makers (GM, Ford, even Toyota) to come begging for knowledge impartment. This to me is a clear sign that when you concentrate on your passion and what you do best, the mechanism of the universe will somehow miraculously click in your favour.

2) Honda believes in sangen-shugi which translates to The Three Actualities, which is the principle of going to the actual site for firsthand knowledge, focusing on the actual situation with firsthand understanding and making decisions based on actual facts which are prevalent at that moment. A lot of big corporations I know tend to skip any one of these three steps citing lack of time or manpower as a reason. This really reminds me to keep focus on the essence of Sparks and its ethnography work because understanding comes from finding out what’s really happening out there in people’s life instead of relying too much on impersonal data.

3) When you’re in the slumps, sometimes you’ll be forced to make important and strategic decisions all at once such as to increase cash flow, upgrade production and pump up the company morale – All. At. Once. Honda’s advice would be, “When things are at its worse, you need to project the highest and by hook or by crook achieve it” which to me is quite true. When things are at an all time low, the only way is up. The question becomes how high do we aim for?

4) Honda is committed to producing the finest people and needless to say only the finest people will get poached, which is how Hondaism, like a virus will infect the world. Talk about guerilla tactics.

Honda has a tradition to choose those who do not seek to lead, to lead. After the reign of Honda and Fujisawa, there were a string of successors who sought their advice from time to time on many corporate related issues. Both ‘masters’ took the time to plan and groom their successors; two to take after engineering genius Honda and business guru Fujisawa. The heritage of dual management continued until the reign of President Nobuhiko Kawamoto, who was also nicknamed ‘Hitler’ for obvious reasons. I can’t help but wonder where Honda would be today if the dual management style still exists. The one person whom I felt was highly overshadowed, a true gem within the rubble was Shoichiro Irimajiri. He was the person who oversaw the building and first production line of American Honda, which is also the first Japanese automotive production on American soil. Dubbed as the ‘Prince of Honda’ by many, I can’t help but muster great respect for Irimajiri because of his undying passion to be part of the automotive industry even after being forced to leave the company. As a boy, he was first inspired to build planes but due to unfavorable circumstances of post World War 2, he decided to channel all of him into auto-racing instead. And because of this enduring flame in him, he’s still committed to lighting dreams by giving lectures to science and technology students whom he hopes one day will continue the legacy of what Honda is all about, which is to show the world that it can be the world’s greatest car maker not just on civilian’s road but on every racetrack as well. Such is the power of dreams.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Looking for a young bright spark.

Part-time and Virtual office. Field and desk researcher. Reader and Writer. Resourceful and Go-getter. Apply here.

New malls, new way of life.

Malls. Malaysians don't seem to have enough of them. I finally managed to squeeze some time to visit the new Gardens. Although occupancy wasn't 100%, I like the smell of it already. Somehow, it just doesn't feel like Malaysia in there.

Anyway, while I was nosing around, I stumbled into this shop called Pavillion (no, nothing to do with the one downtown) which sells really cool (and expensive) kitchen utensils. Yes, the rustic tin colander you see on Jamie Oliver's show? That's RM113. That's right. Now we're talking. A walk, a hop and a skip away, welcome to the world of expensive kitchenware in Robinson's. Just a blog back, I was talking about preparing ourselves for a sudden kitchen makeover. At least in the homes of the young and affluent. Single Income No Kids, Double Income No Kids, Double Income New Kid, whatever you call them, looks like this overseas educated England speaking bunch will be playing 'masak-masak' in a very fancy way. Alessi is not cheap but it says a lot sitting on the table top, doesn't it?

Monday, October 1, 2007

Foodies unite!

Calling foodies of the world, let's converge in and share your family heirloom recipe with self-proclaimed chefs of Tom, Dick and Harriette.

I've been venturing into the kitchen of late, thanks to Jamie O's influence, who's probably one of UK's most renown celebrity chefs right now. I think why the Jamie Oliver brand is so appealing is because of his down-to-earth style of cooking and sharing of his homemade creations with viewers and fans. Needless to say, he's role in social innovation within the food industry also drew a lot of media attention worldwide.


The surge of food blogs in Malaysia over the past two years suddenly made everyone seem like a professional food critic. Some of these blogs are followed by a legion of fans while some are drawing thousands of ad Ringgit per month. Now my question is, will these blogs ever reach a saturation point? I mean after awhile, everyone would have blogged about a certain certain makan place at some point. Then what happens after that?

I think there is a great opportunity for foodie blogs to evolve into something bigger and more communal like, locally. When every self-proclaimed food connoisseur in Malaysia have tried and tested every possible dish in Klang Valley (or beyond) (and I'm exaggerating), then the time is ripe to move into food creation (from thought creation). Although statistically speaking, the numbers of men cooking is still small but there is a visible trend of young singles living alone or young married couples without kids venturing into cooking - as an interest, not as a chore. They may still opt to eat out on a weekday (I mean, who wants to be near the stove when you've already felt that much heat at work right?) but on weekends, they may possibly go shopping and cook at home. I've had newly wed friends who are still trying and testing their hand in home cooked food. There's definitely something warm about it - men cooking for their ladies and ladies cooking for their men.

If this is a trend, then there will be huge opportunities for:

1) Kitchenware designed with masculinity in mind, using super sturdy and tough steel material that works like a Bosch tool rather than mom's favourite pot. That is IF more men are venturing into the kitchen, even if it's on weekends. While it is sweet and thoughtful to invite a lady over for a weekend dinner, Man would want to look impressive and not pretty in mom's apron.

2) More food communities like this one to inspire bloggers to do more food and share, and foodies to blog about their original culinary experience.

3) Recipes are no longer given like in the good old Kuali-days. Nowadays, people don't even need measurements! If you watch how Nigella cooks or how David Rocco prepares a meal, everything is according to the cook's guesstimate. There are no recipes and measurements on supers. So expect to see more similar videos floating online, produced by amateur cooks.

4) More social dinners amongst the young singles and/or young married couples who have their own place. A time to catch up with friends and strengthen bonds at home instead of outside.

5) More specialty shops selling suave and imported kitchenware from Europe due to the growing appreciation in product aesthetic of new home owners. The best time to showcase these products would be during the social dinners mentioned above.

These are just some of the related microtrends that could be fueling the new food phenomenon, should kitchen be the new hang out place. Now if you don't mind me, I have to go back and cook up a storm at work :)