Chicken Rice Paradise, Tan Xiao Ying

Chicken Rice Paradise

The Hainanese chicken rice is one among our nation’s greatest food icons. But what has it got to do with NUS Business School? Lots, considering how one shop that’s dedicated to this specialty is as much as a tradition for one NUS family as it is a pride for our School.

gano-may10-af-xiaoying

Of all the various business models, how did you know this was “The One” – a chicken rice shop?

It has always been my desire to run a business, but I didn’t know which business to go into. So, as a foodie, I started researching about the chicken rice business. Both my parents are Hainanese. We have a family recipe for traditional Hainanese chicken rice passed down from my grandmother – in fact, my mother holds the key recipes in the family. We wanted to sell this homemade element. And I liked the fact that the business will bring me closer to my family and family as we work together to develop it.

Also, we had premises that an uncle had been using to run a provision shop. When we found that the area was being redeveloped into a food hub, I jumped on the idea of opening a restaurant there.

Your father was a lecturer at NUS Business School, and your mother was Deputy Director at NUS Computer Centre. So did they bring their experience and expertise into the business?

I consulted my father a lot when starting the business. He made me aware of the nitty-gritty details of business – how to materialize it from dream to reality. He told me that “what looks difficult on paper is even more difficult in reality” so I had to be prepared for the challenges.

My mother is very capable in the kitchen. She is more of a cook than I am, and ensures that the quality of the food is tip-top. As she had a people-oriented job in the University, she knows how to interact well with the staff and customers. She taught me how to be professional yet warm at the same time. That is a challenge for me at this stage because the chefs and cooking staff are older than I am and I have to handle them gently, yet be their boss.

As for me, my business school background has instilled the importance of planning finances well.

Many of our customers are from NUS because of our family’s background and close connections with the place. While I know that marketing is very important, I realize that nothing beats word-of-mouth. The family recipes are still in the family’s hands. We diligently make all the crucial sauces ourselves, so it’s truly homemade. This keeps people coming back, and they tell others.

You practically went straight from business school into running a full-fledged business. Didn’t you need a period of apprenticeship or understudy first?

Well, it is not a one-man show. Everyone in the family shares ideas. I used to help at my uncle’s provision shop where I was cashier and learnt to introduce products to customers. So I did learn from someone running a business. I had also worked in another uncle’s shop, a pharmacy, where I helped with accounts, labeling, stocktaking, etc. In fact, I wish I had paid more attention to my accounts module in Business School because I am doing all the accounts in the restaurant now, so as to keep track of every aspect of the business.

I also spoke to friends in the food business. They told me to be prepared for two years of hard work where I may not make money, but that within the first year I’ll get the indicators as to whether I am on the right track.

So, knowing that Singaporeans love food, that we had a treasure trove of great family recipes, that family was on hand to pitch in, and being inspired by other young people in the food business, I went into this.

This is a long way from the financial world that most business school students dream of. What is it like?

My working hours are so different from my peers, and my financial situation is also different. There is no glitz and glamour nor cushy air-conditioned comfort. But I wake up looking forward to work, and have great satisfaction in doing what I enjoy and in being my own boss. I can’t describe the satisfaction of seeing my customers returning regularly, treating this like their own home where they sometimes have both lunch and dinner, and ordering their food even before they arrive. I have something I can call my own.

Everyone makes their own path and this is mine.

 

More Information

Check out Ying’s Kitchen at www.yings-kitchen.com
See a Ying’s Kitchen ad
Read U Weekly review of Ying’s Kitchen.

Best Job in the World – Cheung Kwan Ho

YOG is sweeping local sports news. But it’s all from the outside looking in. Now, we bring you right in, for an insider’s perspective. We spoke to one of our very own alumni who’s right smack in the middle of the action – a dream come true indeed to be a part of the inaugural Singapore YOG Organizing Committee.

gano-may10-af-kwanho

Why and how did you get the job on the Youth Olympic Games?

I still vividly remember the night on 21 February 2008, after Singapore was declared the host of the inaugural Youth Olympic Games 2010. I excitedly told my friends that I must join the YOG after graduating from my MBA course. Indeed, upon my graduation, the first job I applied for was with YOG. Unfortunately, I did not received any news from them. So I worked as a Marketing Executive with Wyeth which gave me such satisfaction and a function which I would like to pursue in future – since my YOG appointment will expire after the Games.

But I still held on to my dream and pursued my goal to work in the YOG. Through the help of an MBA alumnus, I was introduced to YOG’s Senior Management. When the job offer finally came, the opportunity of a lifetime to work on the inaugural YOG Organizing Committee was too much to resist, even though the job had a fixed term and I would need to get another after that.

I am truly lucky to get this dream job that combines my knowledge in Building and Business with my passion for sports. I have been a keen sportsman in various sports since school days, and regularly participate in triathlons now. With this job, I am able to keep up my sporting activities.

What does your job in YOG entail?

I am a Venue Development Manager in the Singapore YOG Organizing Committee (SYOGOC). There will be 18 competition venues and nine training venues for the 26 sports to be played in  the Games. My team is responsible for the management and operations of these venues, together with the Venue Managers and Competition Managers. We have to make sure these venues are suitable and ready, in time for the Games.

I work with the contractors and several parties concurrently, planning everything to move fast, since time is running out. Most Olympic venues have seven years to prepare, but Singapore only has two years to organize this inaugural YOG. Fortunately, I am able to leverage on what I had learnt for my Building degree. I am also able to leverage on my MBA course for soft skills involved in balancing the various needs and considerations of the international league of sportsmen and managers coming for the YOG, such as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and various International Sports Federation. You need to work well with people to achieve your targets and tight deadlines, so I apply communications skills I learnt from NUS Business School.

How are you able to balance such tough work demands with your passion for sports?

If you are passionate, you will find time for it. While my job is important, I cannot neglect my family, friends and passion. I should never feel that I am too busy for something I want to do. I’ve had good mentors in my life who showed me nothing is impossible if you try hard enough. So I believe that work-life balance can be achieved. I also love to travel, something I picked up while on a 4-month study stint in Barcelona. I covered 47 cities in that time.

gano-may10-af-kwanho2

Well, that would mean you hardly spent any time at school in Barcelona!

It was during my NUS MBA when I spent my final semester in ESADE Business School in Barcelona. I visited several European cities during my free time, which were weekends or after the course. I picked destinations that were within my budget, that seemed cool and exotic, or that were highly-recommended. I worked around a tight budget and schedule, to see as much as possible and leave no stone unturned.

I particularly enjoyed my time in Eastern Europe – Croatia, Slovenia, Slovakia and Poland – as the people were always very warm and friendly, and never hesitated to offer help. It was also interesting to listen to their stories as many of them had lived through wars and their outlook on life was different.

My travels have opened my mind to new ideas and possibilities, especially after meeting travelers from other countries, hearing their amazing adventures and making friends along the way. My travels have also helped me to appreciate the security and cleanliness that we take for granted in Singapore.

How would you sum up your YOG experience?

This is arguably the biggest event and project Singapore has ever undertaken. It is as though we are constantly sprinting in a marathon, full of adrenaline and excitement, a feeling I will surely miss when my YOG journey ends.

But I have learnt to live in the present and look forward to the future, and to look back on my life with no regrets. I have accomplished what I wanted so far, so anything else that comes in the future will be a bonus.

 

Visit the Youth Olympic Games website here.

Checkmate – Biz School

Going by the following accounts, marriages are made not just in heaven but in NUS Business School too. So what is about looking across the lecture theatre to find your soulmate looking right back at you? Click on their names to read their story:

We also celebrate the marriages of two alumni from the MBA programL


bv-mia

Mia Liu & Vincent

Her
He was from the Engineering faculty, but we met in Biz School when he took a cross-faculty module. We happened to be in the same tutorial class, and he was made to join my group – just because he was late for class and our group was closest to the door! I freaked out at his dyed-gold hair and thought this was going to be a horrible project experience. Surprisingly, he turned out to be the most diligent group member. On a group outing much later, no one turned up but he. That became our first “date”. I think it was a conspiracy! A few days later, he proposed a proper date. That was the official beginning.

Going from lovers to family is less about romance, and more about having someone to share my life with. His down-to-earth character and homeliness give me a sense of security.

Him
I first noticed Mia in the lecture theatre. She was seated first row, cross-legged, and eating sandwiches while listening to the lecture. I found her quite special and different from others. I was happy to find Mia in the same tutorial class. Things got even better when I was late for the second tutorial session and the tutor asked me to join Mia’s project group – thank you, tutor!

Since marriage, romantic ideas and movie trips have dwindled, but our relationship has strengthened through understand of each others’ “bad” and positive habits. This gives me the support I need whenever I face difficulties in my studies or career.


bv-angela

Angela Hing & Chan Yong Sheng

Her

A common friend, also a Bizader, introduced us. We ended up being in the same clique, where we got to know each other better. It was great starting off as friends, without the romantic feelings because then there was no need to impress each other, which means we got to see each others’ true colors. His earnest, sincere personality gradually won me over; I felt he was someone I could depend on.

Yong Sheng is now my soulmate; we can be completely honest about ourselves with each other. I wouldn’t say this has brought out the best in me, but it has certainly brought out the truest self in me. Some couples say their partners change after marriage; I think that’s because they were never truthful with each other in the first place.

Him

Getting to know her in a group meant there wasn’t any pressure to impress her from the onset. Angela exuded the greatest sense of maturity and sophistication among her peers, and that drew me to her. My fondness grew as we communicated well, were very comfortable in each other’s presence, and shared common philosophies about life. She became my soulmate, sparking the idea journey towards a long-lasting relationship.

She has always been supporting of the things I do. This certainly lends great credibility to the fact that behind every successful man is a supportive wife.


bv-suemei

Teo Sue-Mei & David Tay (BBA Hons 2008)

Her

I was drawn to how kind, gentle, considerate and caring David was; and how comfortable, warm and safe he made me feel whenever we were together. I was struck by how he saw the good in me, and by how he loved me for who I was deep down. He was grounded and confident in his beliefs. I admired that he did not try to be someone he wasn’t, unlike most guys who are just single-minded about personal success and prestige. I never once doubted that he was the one and only one! It just felt so right!

We work and face life as a team. Being married to David has made me want to be a better person everyday; to be more selfless and be the best wife I can be. It has taught me how to love – truly and purely.

Him

While I had regarded Sue-Mei as the most beautiful girl in Bizad, it was her good character and down-to-earth personality that made me decide that she was someone I could be with for the long haul. To this day, I cannot believe that I am with someone whom I think is the most beautiful person in the world on the inside as well as outside. My marriage to Sue-Mei is the most important thing in my life. It is something I would give up anything for. All I look forward to everyday is going home to my loving wife. I now have a very optimistic view of life.

We enjoy ourselves going to different places every weekend. In essence, every weekend is like a mini holiday for us.

David and Sue-Mei’s marriage was solemnized by Dr William Chung (Executive Education 1988), President of the Mandarin Alumni Association. This made the occasion even more meaningful to the couple – met at NUS Business School, wedded by a School alumni representative.


bv-ailian

Lee Ai Lian & Phua Zheng Hao

Her

I don’t exactly believe in “Finding The One” as I think it’s more about “Being The One”. I feel very comfortable when I am with Zhenghao. He is also very caring; he was always there for me through ups and downs during our Bizad days – and, of course, now. We have been through many exciting encounters. Once, we got separated at a train station in China with no handphone connection and nearly missed our train. Another time, our pockets were picked during our graduation trip to Europe. These experiences make us appreciate each other more; and I feel that he’s definitely a guy I can depend on in times of adversity.

Now that we are engaged to be married, he’s always telling me we have to stay invested to fight the inflation; how it’s a good time to invest – he’s such a typical “Business and Finance” guy. He’s taught me to be more disciplined, more logical, more organized and stronger. He’s even given me the courage to make a career switch to pursue my passion to be a teacher.

Him

Bizad is the place that brought us together on this magical journey of life. We complement each other pretty well. I am more a “logic and planning” person while Ai Lian is more a “feeling and spontaneous” person, so we manage to bring something good to each other! I have learnt to enjoy myself more, to look at things with more “colors”, instead of living in my binary world of soccer and investment. I have also gained more confidence knowing that I am teaching her something everyday!


bv-archana

Archana Ranganathan & Sridharan Srikanth

Her

Without knowing each other, I had applied for the same full-time MBA, the same batch that Srikanth applied for. Unfortunately, I could not complete the application process, whereas he got into the program. So, after getting married, he got a surprise when I showed him my email application. We were certainly meant to be!

His soft-spoken nature, and questioning, listening and thinking abilities impressed me. After marriage, our relationship sparkled even more! He keeps his words and commitments. The trust we share in any situation – giving me the space I need, unconditionally letting me go with me passion, being empathetic towards me – allows me to feel confident that he will be there for me, for us, forever. All these have further developed our love for each other. It has been 10 months now, and I can still recall the things he said to me during our first meeting.

Him

A few things about Archana immediately struck a chord with when we first met. First, her being an entrepreneur. I loved the idea of having a companion who is self-made and self-reliant. It said a lot about her nature and her attitude in life. Second, her maturity. She did a part-time MBA course while working so as not to add on to her parents’ financial commitments – Archana’s younger sister was then graduating and considering higher studies as well. And she kept mum about her reason, possibly till today! It takes a lot to make a decision based on how it impacts others; this reaches a whole new level when you do it privately and not for show. This told me much about how she would manage her life and make her decisions in a long-term companionship. Archana has made look at life through a different lens.

Now, there is a lot of light-heartedness in life everyday. Most of the time, we are like school buddies talking about things and having a lot of fun together. The fun quotient in my life has definitely gone up. This, in turn, has made me a happier person.


bv-manu

Vandana Sharma & Manvendra Upadhyay

Her

I was in my final days of post-graduate studies when I first heard about him and subsequently heard from him. We spoke to each other daily, or we would communicate via the lengthiest mails ever. In some two months, things began to change, I realized that I could spend the rest of my life with this guy. He was a very honest guy who helped maintain a constant reality check. He was an embodiment of a wise saying that goes like this: Keep high aspirations, moderate expectations and small needs. In spite of his exception academic background and illustrious profession, he was quite down-to-earth. I hope I learn this humility from him.

Him

The first thing that hit me, literally, was the frankness of this sweet girl. She impressed me as an independent person who likes to take care of people close to her, and who would go to great lengths to ensure their well-being. When we started conversing, she wrote me a long email specifying her priorities and responsibilities in life; and then very humbly but straightforwardly put it across that if I was a person who could not conform to that, then it would be pretty difficult for us to be together. Although I was not expecting such blunt words in our first few exchanges, I liked Vandana’s clarity of thought and realistic approach towards life, and tried my best to live up her expectations. And since our outlooks on life were similar – to keep things straight and simple – we struck the right chords together. I’m happy that I realized quite early that she was The One for me. Our marriage is a journey which I wish, pray and hope will never end.

Matching Up to Your Dreams

At the root of your careers, academic pursuits, and daily efforts, lies one thing – our aspirations. Everything we do is aimed at matching our aspirations. Alumni share how they work towards making their achievements and endeavors match their hopes and dreams.

 

gano-mar10-Cover

In their book “The Wellbeing of Singaporeans“, Dr Tambyah Siok Kuan (BBA Hons 1988) and Dr Tan Soo Jiuan (BBA Hons 1980) from the NUS Business School noted that Singaporeans from higher income households experience a lower sense of achievement compared to their less affluent counterparts. In explaining the irony, they said, “Perhaps such families have expectations that are so high that their members fell they have not accomplished much. Alternatively, they may feel that they have not pushed themselves to limits because their lives have been comfortable thus far.” The authors have advised that “more can be done to help them appreciate their own achievements and to find enjoyment in life. Perhaps they have forgotten how to savor simple pleasures”.

The heartening thing is that there are those willing to be less harsh on themselves, learning to find a balance between their high aspirations and dealing with the opportunities that life hands them.

As Julie Nathan (MBA 2007) discloses, “I was always flexible. I was always interested in new things, new opportunities. I was always able to adapt to the situation and make the best of it. And in critical times, I was able to make decisions and take the necessary action to move forward.” This has helped her to realize her core aspirations. She says, “I have a career which interests me on a daily basis with new ideas and challenges in a field that is of personal interest as well. My lifestyle and family life, while different from what I have imagine when I was a child – I wouldn’t have thought that I would live in Europe, for instance – is enjoyable for me. So if I simply consider the “happiness factor” and leave alone the facts of where I am, who I’m with, and how I live exactly, then these things are in line with what I would have imagined for myself when I was younger.”

Erica Wong (APEX-E MBA 2007), currently in Business and Market Intelligence Management, puts it frankly. “Youthful aspirations can be very valiant because when we are children, our social experience and exposure are almost negligible. So, I wouldn’t feel thwarted or restrained if I haven’t quite fulfilled my aspirations. When I was young, I was very ambitious and organized. I dreamed of becoming a good surgeon, professionally; and for my personal life, I was into music, geography and sports. When I look at myself today, it doesn’t match my youthful aspirations. The most important thing for me now is to have quality time with my family and in my work. How people view me is not my priority for happiness. I have taught myself to compromise and understand others’ differences and roles, so that the boat will sail more smoothly throughout the whole journey. I always see the positive side, do things within my conscience, and stick to my principles and values, And I will continue to pass on these values to my next generation.”

Park Jaewoo (MBA 2007) tempers his ambition with the realities of life, and still finds time to indulge his passion for travel. He says, “I have spent more than ten years in three different corporations, bringing myself closer to my career goal to be in the global business and cultural consultancy, particularly in Asia. My current responsibility doing global sales and marketing in Samsung Electronics is accelerating my dreams. But to reach my career goal, I must have an open mind for foreign culture, food and people. I’ve been travelling since my university days, backpacking mainly in Asia, writing travel essays and sharing the experiences. Those activities were for pleasure, nothing more; but they’ve prepared me for life abroad.” Where realistically possible, he goes for things that will give his ambitions a boost, as he explains, “My NUS MBA programmed and two years in Singapore were critical to my global exposure. That was my renaissance!”

Abhay Bangi (MBA 2007), from India, believes “dreams are important for every individual, and a plan to achieve your dreams and aspirations is even more so. I decided to do my MBA to broaden my horizon in Singapore, which was popular for the kind of jobs that I was interested in. It was a difficult decision in the early years of my career. But had it not been for this decision, my life would have taken a different course, and I would be much farther away from achieving my aspiration as compared to my position today. The only way to answer the question of whether I have fulfilled my aspirations is by asking if I am happy and satisfied. If the answer is yes, which is the case, I would think that I am on course to achieving my aspirations. Because I sincerely believe that life is a journey, and we must make it seam less so that we enjoy the experience. This is my mantra to meet my aspirations”.

His batch mate, Jim Liu (MBA 2007), from China, says his current aspiration is to get a home, and he is working towards it. He explains, “As a foreigner studying and working in Singapore, I have to rent a place to stay, and it doesn’t feel good sometimes, as many things in a rented place can be uncomfortable. I have told myself to get a place of my own and make it a ‘sweet home’ for my loved ones and myself.” To make that possible, it’s first things first, and that means getting “a stable job with a good pay” for him. “So I decided to enroll in the pioneer MBA course in Healthcare at NUS, and hope it helps me with career advancement and better income. So far so good; the healthcare industry is very stable. But it also takes time for a new MBA graduate like me to develop a career in the industry.”

Dr Tan herself shares how she came to terms with her own aspirations. “As a middle child among five siblings, my academic performance from primary to secondary school paled in comparison to my high-flying siblings, some of whom were scholars. So from young, all I wanted was to have a successful career and to achieve financial independence so that I can live comfortable. I started work as a banking inspector right after getting my BBA (Hons). One day, I received a letter from our then Dean, inviting top honors students with work experience to serve the university in its senior tutorship scheme. It was an ego trip for me; and after attending the tea briefing, I was sold. It was tough changing tracks; I had to take a severe pay cut, and have to tutor for two years before going abroad. But the opportunity to be sponsored for a PhD, with the prospect of becoming an academic with NUS, spurred me on. Since then, there was no looking back and I am glad I took the ‘plunge’. I am still trying to be a good academic, but I have definitely achieved my financial independence.” They are clearly ambitious, but these alumni have learnt to enjoy and appreciate the journey in, as well as the fruits of, their efforts – no matter how big or small, whether sweet or tinged with some bitter. Others could follow their lead to raise their “happiness quotient” too.