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The Business Times, Friday, November 13, 2009 APEC 2009 5

Small steps for Jet Li, giant leap for charity
Customers matter, By FELDA CHAY
star Jet Li got involved in
some Apec action yester-
Mr Li: ‘Start
small, but
dream big. You
may not be

not shareholders:
day when he met with dele- able to take on
gates of the grouping’s Voic- a significant
es of the Future (VOF) pro- role as an
gramme to talk about the
individual, but
role young people can play
don’t think

Alibaba boss
to create a more philan-
that your
thropic society.
The actor turned philan- efforts are too
thropist who founded chari- small. When
ty One Foundation was you take
greeted by loud, enthusias- action
Shareholders are days, Mr Ma said that when Ma’s speech was clearly a tic applause and cheers be- collectively,
markets were moving up, morale booster for many fore being swamped with you can make
traders, so bet on shareholders would tell SMEs, as he constantly re- more than 20 questions in a difference.’
workers, customers, him to give them more minded business owners a session that stretched
shares. They assured him and leaders in the audience
says Jack Ma that they would keep them to dream big – even if they
comfortably past the origi-
nal assigned time of one
as they were long-term in- are small. It is important hour.
Reports by CHEN HUIFEN not to give up, he said, as Al-
vestors. Senior parliamentary
IT’S your customers and But when the financial ibaba too made many mis-
secretary for community de-
employees – not your share- crisis hit, they headed for takes in the past.
velopment, youth and
holders – that matter in the exit at the first sign of “If you do not eat for 5-7
sports and chairman of the
times of crisis, says Jack trouble, even though the days, you will die,” he said. YEN MENG JIIN
National Youth Council Teo
Ma, CEO and chairman of company did nothing to con- “If you do not drink for
three days, you will die. If Ser Luck acted as modera- This is the principle be- our charitable strength, we “I have never thought
China’s Alibaba Group. tribute to it. “I’ll let you he said. One Foundation
you do not breathe for tor for the session. that I have sacrificed any- was set up in April 2007 af-
This is because today’s know: no shareholders can hind One Foundation, can make sure that the
three minutes, you will die. Mr Li’s key advice to thing because if I think that ter Mr Li and his family
shareholders are no longer be trusted,” Mr Ma said, to which is in a strategic part- most vulnerable members
But if you lose hope for one youths on how they can con- way, I will expect some- were caught up in the 2004
the long-term supporters of the laughter of many in his nership with the Red Cross of our global family will re-
minute, you die.” tribute to society is to thing in return. Instead, I tsunami while on a holiday
yesteryear, he told an audi- audience. Society of China. Mr Li has ceive the help they need,”
Mr Ma was one of the “share the responsibility”. think of it as something I in the Maldives.
ence here yesterday. Speaking at the opening “Start small, but dream set out to raise one yuan states the charity on its web-
keynote speakers at the from every person in China site. should do as a living, The near-death experi-
“Nowadays, the share- of the Apec SME Summit, Apec SME Summit, held at big,” said Mr Li in Manda- breathing person who has ence led to some inner soul
holders are share traders. held in conjunction with rin. “You may not be able to each month. When asked about the
the Raffles City Convention a responsibility to the next searching on the part of the
How can we trust them?” Global Entrepolis @ Singa- Centre yesterday. The sum- take on a significant role as “If each person donates sacrifices he has had to generation.” actor and a desire to help
he said. “So rely on your pore, he said it is important mit was attended by about an individual, but don’t at least one dollar/yuan make as a philanthropist, Youths need to look at the poor and needy. The
customers – because cus- that SMEs find the right 600 delegates, mostly entre- think that your efforts are each month, our individual Mr Li told his young audi- philanthropy and social re- main aim of the organisa-
tomers stay with you. Cus- people rather than the best preneurs, SME leaders and too small. When you take donations can be trans- ence that he has never sponsibility as “part of life, tion is to provide relief to
tomers grow up with you. people. senior managers of firms action collectively, you can formed into a much greater thought of his charity work like how we need to eat, the victims of natural disas-
Customers give you money, Sharing a mistake he that serve SMEs. make a difference.” fund. When we combine in those terms. drink water and breathe,” ters.
give you hope, give you sup- made back in 2000, he re-
port. So focus on your cus- called hiring what seemed
tomers. And, second, rely to be top talent, including
on your employees. It’s people with MBAs, as
your employees, as a team, vice-presidents. He be-
that make the difference. lieved none of his junior
Employees make all the staff would have the calibre
dreams realise.” to become VPs. But today,
Drawing on his personal all of the “top talent” has
experience, Mr Ma said left – and all of his VPs are
that in the aftermath of the employees who stuck with
dotcom bust in 2000, what him and believed in him.
encouraged him to go on “My suggestion is that
were letters, faxes and look at your employees,”
emails from customers, ex- Mr Ma said. “Develop
pressing their gratitude at them. Only when they are
having benefited from the developing will your compa-
services his company pro- ny develop.”
vided. If companies focus He also looks to the com-
on shareholders, they will petition in times of hard-
always be thinking about ship. Competitors can be
making the numbers and role models and they have
driving the stock price, he kept Alibaba growing fast.
said. But “don’t copy them; learn
Recalling Alibaba’s IPO from them”, he said. Mr

SMEs must be
more nimble
and efficient
Using ICT more As for whether the eco-
nomic recovery is “real”,
aggressively is vital, Mr Teng, who is also CEO
says SBF CEO of the Singapore Business
Federation (SBF), said the
BUSINESSES will have to “environment remains
be more efficient and react dusty”. And Mr Li said that
faster to changing condi- in terms of consumption,
tions as the economy the recovery is likely to be
emerges from recession, long and L-shaped as Chi-
members of the closing pan- na’s total consumption is
el at the Apec SME Summit still less than one-eighth
said yesterday. that of the US. He is also
Being more efficient will concerned that half of ven-
help them plug into supply ture capital funds may
chains serving new mar- close in the next three
kets, said Apec Business Ad- years as they struggle with
visory Council chairman poor returns.
Teng Theng Dar. This is “That probably would af-
particularly important as fect more start-ups in the
companies seek new de- West, since many of the
mand beyond traditional SMEs are not particularly
markets. dependent on venture capi-
“In particular, SMEs tal money, with the excep-
have to be more aggressive tion of technology-related
in using ICT (infocommuni- ones,” he said. “The good
cation technology) connec- news is that sovereign
tivity to make sure they are funds, as well as individual
able to engage new market corporations in Asia, are
communities faster, more relatively cash-rich and
accurately and more effi- much less debt ridden. So a
ciently,” Mr Teng said. lot of the start-ups in China
PCCW chairman Rich- and in Asia are funded by
ard Li said: “I think what private resources – friends
the market is looking for is and family, relatives – in
a quicker P&L (profit and that kind of equity financ-
loss) – a much quicker en-
gine and delivery of prod-
What is clear is that the
ucts and services. So one
future will see more integra-
has to look at applying tech-
nology that is readily de- tion. Procter & Gamble
ployable and immediately (P&G) Company India direc-
gives a competitive edge in tor Ashish Chatterjee said
the marketplace.” that innovation – where in-
The need to be quicker novation partnerships hap-
arises from the possibility pen outside of internal R&D
that changes in the broader – will be a growing trend.
economic environment This is especially so if com-
may happen more often panies want to grow at dou-
than before. And in the face ble-digit rates, he said. It is
of drastic market changes, not possible to have all the
SMEs especially will have solutions within an organi-
to shift quickly. sation.
This could be advanta- In the case of P&G, for in-
geous to SMEs, given their stance, for every research-
small size and closeness to er it has, there are another
customers – traits de- 200 outside working in the
scribed by UPS chairman same industry. “So you can-
and CEO Scott Davis at an not afford not to tap that
earlier plenary session at body of knowledge,” said
the summit. Mr Chatterjee.