24 Nov 2018

Speech by Mr Ang Wei Neng, Member of Parliament for Jurong GRC at the MDISSpeeches

Good morning,

Dr Eric Kuan, President of the Management Development Institute of Singapore;
Dr R Theyvendran, Secretary-General of the Management Development Institute of Singapore;

Dr Kevin Robertson, Faculty Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor, Learning & Teaching, Faculty of Health & Life Science, Northumbria University;

Faculty Members of Northumbria University;

Dignitaries and Ambassadors, Your Excellencies;

Distinguished guests;

Graduands and parents;

Ladies and gentlemen.

1  I am honoured to be invited here this morning to share the joy of more than 100 graduands at the MDIS-Northumbria University Graduation Ceremony.  I thank MDIS for inviting me to this meaningful occasion.

2  Graduands, today we are not here to celebrate the end of your learning journey at the university. But, the beginning of your life-long learning journey.  Why life-long learning?  Because, the fastest way to get old is stop learning. But more importantly, knowledge has expired exponentially in the past decade and will accelerate in the coming years with the advancement of technology.  To stay relevant, you have to keep learning.

3  To stay relevant is the topic of my sharing today.  You can imagine Superman taking off his shirt to show the letter “S”?  We are all not Superman.  But, we can be Relevant by revealing the “R” in your chest.

Experience of Cabby
4  I will like to share my personal experience to illustrate the importance of being relevant to the society, to your employer and to your customers. 

5  I took over as the CEO of the ComfortDelgro Taxi Business in May last year.  The blue and yellow Taxi used to be big brother in the Taxi industry, point to point transportation in Singapore.  Not any more, when Uber and Grab came into the picture.  The comfort Taxis lost 25% of its fleet in 2017 alone while private hire vehicles almost double its fleet in the same year.  Hence, I took over a hot potato.

6  How is Taxi business going to stay relevant in today’s world?  To survive in my job, I then started to learn ABCD all over again.  Lifelong learning.  What is the ABCD that I am re-learning?  It is the ABCD of the emerging technology.

7  A is Artificial Intelligence. B is Block Chain. C is Cloud Computing and D is Data Analytics. I repeat, A is Artificial Intelligence. B is Block Chain. C is Cloud Computing and D is Data Analytics.

8  It is not easy for me learn this new ABCD. My last computer language I learnt in the university was Cobol, not even C++ and certainly not Java.  After learning the new ABCD, I started to hire data scientists, analysts that know SQL instead just excel file expert. IT graduates, please take note. I also hire people with User Experience/ Interface skills, adopt agile technology and so on.

9  Have I turned around the Taxi business? Not yet.  However, my Taxi bookings through the ComfortDelgro booking app has experienced double digit growth in the last few months.  More people are switching back to Taxi because of no surge pricing and ease of getting a cab.  The earning of the cabbies has increased because they have more booking jobs. From next week, you will experience a new ComfortDelGro Taxi booking app next week if you are an iPhone user. Android user will get their new app later but soon. 

10  But, more competition is coming as you know.  Will ComfortDelgro Taxi survive? I do not know but I can tell you that ComfortDegro Taxi is still profitable but all other ride hailing companies in Singapore have yet to make profit.  Will the trend continue?  It is a million dollar question.  It can be a Harvard Business Review case study.

11  What I know, however, is that I have to continue to learn. My organization has to transform.  My staff has to embrace technology or will be shown the door.  It is a brutal reality.

12  Now, let me give you another example.  As a Member of Parliament, I have many other duties. I am the Chairman of Jurong-Clementi Town Council, I am the advisor to the Singapore Port Workers Union, a union for the 6,000 port workers working in PSA, I am the President of Volleyball Association of Singapore and more recently, I have been appointed as the Chairman of River Hongbao.

River Hongbao Experience
13  I want to share my experience as the Chairman of the River Hongbao.  River Hongbao has 32 years of history. It was mooted by our founding Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew to retain the tradition of celebrating Chinese New year. The annual River Hongbao is held at the floating platform.  How many of you have heard about River Hongbao? ?????  How many of you have been to the River Hongbao in the past 3 years?

14  Looks life River Hongbao is losing its relevance to Singaporeans.  How to make River Hongbao relevant again?  Since taking over as the Chairman of River Hongbao earlier this year, I have been thinking hard about it.  After some brainstorming, we have created a few new items, a few new programs and a few new experiences for River Hongbao 2019, the bicentennial edition. There are many new programs, never before in the 32 years history of River Hongbao. I will just share 3 that may be more relevant to you.

15  The first program is Hackathon.  For the first time ever, River Hongbao is holding a business plan competition for undergraduates and poly students to come out with business idea to run the merchandize stalls during the River Hongbao period.  River Hongbao typically attracts more than 1 million visitors every year and undergraduates have to come out with new ideas to sell goods and or services to the 1 million visitors.  The top 3 teams with the best idea will win $6,800 each and they can use the $6,800 to join the phase 2 of the competition.  That is, they will use the $6,800 as the seed money to physically run the actual stalls to sell the wares and/or services during the River Hongbao which will be held from 3 to 10 February 2019.  The team that makes the most profit in phase 2 will be the ultimate champion.  However, they have to contribute 70% of their profit to charities but get to keep 30% of the earning.

16  The closing date for the competition is 20th December 2018 but more than 20 teams have registered.  Dr Ignatius Teo, the head of MDIS business school told me he would incorporate this River Hongabo Hackathon as part of the course work of MDIS business school. 

17  For more information on the Hackathon, you can visit the website of River Hongbao.  As you can see, the Hackathon is a perfect platform for you to horn your entrepreneur skills in a relatively safe environment. This is part of our efforts to make River Hongbao relevant to our undergraduates and poly students.

18  The next fresh idea is Instagram photo competition.  Many of us like to take selfie or wefie and post the photograph on Instagram.  It is fun, it is trendy and it is for good memory.  When you take photograph of yourself at the floating platform with the lanterns, bicentennial exhibition or fireworks as the background and post it at the Instagram during River Hongbao, you get to win a prize every night.  The nightly prize include hotel stay in a hotel in the Marina Bay area.   There is also a grand prize.  The grand prize is a pair of air tickets. To which city? Which is your dream city to visit? Bangkok? Taipei? Tokyo? Paris? London?  No, it is New York.  Yes, by posting a photo on the Instagram, you get to win a pair of air ticket from Singapore to New York, the longest commercial flight in the world, in business class.  Yes, a pair of business class air ticket to New York.  Exciting? 

19  I will now mention the 3rd new program.  Every year during the River Hongbao, we will have 3 minutes of fireworks display every night. Next year, as the bicentennial edition of River Hongbao, 4 of the 8 nights of River Hongbao will feature 12 minutes of fireworks instead of usual 3 minutes. Yes, 12 minutes of fireworks on 4 nights. Each night, we will invite fireworks specialists from different continents to show off their skills. Each night, the fireworks will be different. The fireworks on the first night will be choreograph by the Italian from Europe. The second night will be by USA from the America continent.  The third night will be by the Australian and the closing night will be by the Chinese from China, Asia. Admission to the River Hongbao is free.  The fireworks will be attractive not just to the children but to all ages as well as all races.  This is how we make River Hongbao relevant to all Singaporeans regardless of race, language or culture.

20  In short, we always have to be kept relevant.  As you graduate, you have to continuous to keep up with your knowledge. The knowledge you learn from your professors will be obsolete in a few years’ time. But the skills to learn, to research and update your knowledge will stay with you for your entire life.  That is provided you do not stop learning.  That is provided you do not become stagnant. That is provided you can stay relevant.  We are no Superman. But, you can the superhero of R, be the super Relevant. 

21  Lastly, you probably know that you can graduate today not just because of your hard works.  Your parents, your siblings and your partners have been supportive of you.  Please give them a round of applause. Also, your professors have nurtured you, guided you and supported you.  Please give them your biggest round of applause.

22  Thank you and have a nice weekend!

"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution."

Albert Einstein