Best of June in Asia-Pacific
Curating the best content in the region
Bringing back curation-style posts! (Albeit on a monthly basis). Since I have more time now that I’m bouncing around Southeast Asia, decided to share the best content that I’ve consumed this month in relation to the region.
If you want to hear more of my personal blabble, skip to the Final Thoughts section. But, for all the best Asia-Pacific content to make you smarter and more informed, read-ahead my dudes (and dude-ettes)!
Q: Public housing often has a poor reputation, but that’s not the case in Singapore. Why is the city’s government-built housing so well-regarded?
A: So we actually did not build housing, we built communities. For example, we broke down new towns into neighbourhoods. And within each precinct, I wanted to make sure we have one- to five-room flats together. But not just anyhow. You don’t mix one and three together because the economic gap is too big, it will create envy. You can only mix one- and two-room flats and then two- and three-room flats. So all these things have been built into the hardware.
And actually, even a small thing like this: We used to have one-room flats with central corridors. After going to Europe, I realised that when we have a central corridor, there’s no light inside. And when there’s no good lighting, people are in a bad mood and they tend to fight more. That’s why we got rid of that [design].
It did not happen by luck, every little bit was a result of hard work and hard thinking.
I’m doing a deep dive on Singapore’s housing policy and HDB soon so stay tuned ;)
Deep Dive: Grab by Value Punks
Takeaway: Grab is a net beneficiary of Southeast Asia’s brisk pandemic recovery (I can vouch for Bali at least, it feels just as busy as pre-pandemic 😳) as business and tourism travel normalizes (bookings and driver supply are currently at ~70% of pre-pandemic levels). But stock price is down ~80% since listing, yet we only think this is approaching fair value.
Apologies if you’re not a cricket fan, but MS Dhoni is an interesting one. And not for any particular reason. He’s an enigma:
Dhoni is a contradictory sort of hero, detached yet entrenched, not available yet available, but not quite, a complex man obsessed with keeping things simple, instinctive in one form of the game and stubborn in another, the most successful Indian captain ever, yet the most helpless when losing. For someone who has brought immense excitement to Indian cricket, Dhoni's story is not overly dramatic. Heroes and villains don't roll off the pages. Which makes it more compelling. The story is grander than simple drama: small-town boy becomes India captain, the best ODI batsman, the richest cricketer in the world, the most powerful too, and, always, beyond our reach.
Monster of an article. But a detailed and enjoyable read. I won’t list all the rules, but a couple of favourites:
14. Consider the risk of marriages falling apart
Consider the case of Trang Nguyen Corporation, the most successful coffee company in Vietnam. It was run by a husband-wife team of Dang Le Nguyen Vu and Le Hoang Diep Thao, known in the press as the “Coffee King” and the “Coffee Queen” of Vietnam. […] in 2013, the King retreated to the mountains of Vietnam to meditate. While he was meditating, the Queen ran the company and the business became an incredible success story. But in 2015, she filed for divorce. The King came back and as revenge, the King ousted her from the company. After years of legal drama, the court ruled that the King would receive 60% of shared assets and control of the group. Meanwhile, the company suffered. In 2018, profits fell 50%. The Queen went on to start her own coffee brand “King Coffee” - perhaps a thinly veiled attempt to get back at him. And now they continue to fight, each with their own competing brands.
20. Don’t take control - use drag-along rights; Taking control of a business can be messy. […] You’d be responsible for the company’s representations, warrants and contingent liabilities.
A solution is so-called “drag-along rights”. Such rights enable you to gain a controlling 51% share in the business with the option to sell that stake to a third-party buyer. And while the original sponsor may “lose their baby” so to speak, it will be a less messy divorce than trying to effect change as a minority shareholder.
How AirAsia Conquered Aviation in ASEAN by Allocators Asia (me)
Hell yeah, you better believe I’m gonna toot my own horn. It’s funny, the feedback from comments and messages has probably been the best since my Li Lu post. But overall views have been bad. Like grade-A stinker bad 🤷♂️. I (naively?) thought aviation was a fairly popular topic, and AirAsia hadn't been covered in-depth like I did I felt? The only thing I know is that I don’t know.
Longriver - Michael McGaughy - No One Left To Sell [Spotify]
Graham asks great questions that I’m often saying to myself “I wish I had thought of asking that!”. But overall Michael’s story is an atypical one and he’s certainly been around the block. Would love to listen to his whole backlog of stories I bet he has.
Should I Invest in Real Estate in Japan? Three Arguments For and Three Arguments Against. And the TL;DR?
For: Real estate in Japan is dirt cheap (relatively of course), investment yields in Japan are surprisingly strong, foreigners can own properties in Japan
Against: Japanese people are still afraid to invest in real estate, natural disasters (earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons & volcanos, but thankfully no Godzilla… yet), and the population decline
Bretton Goods - Australia: A Mine with a Parliament? [Spotify]
There’s a great section where Steven mentions “the lucky country” quote. And I want to highlight it as well because it’s something that honestly shits me to tears. Basically, on the odd occasion when a bogan1 is on break from their 2n1 FIFO swing2, when the beers are cold and the bbq is warm, they’ll parrot wisdom they’ve heard passed down from generations previous:
Gee, Australia is a lucky country
Not realising, the full quote comes from David Horne’s 1964 book The Lucky Country, which has a totally different meaning.
"Australia is a lucky country run mainly by second rate people who share its luck. It lives on other people's ideas, and, although its ordinary people are adaptable, most of its leaders (in all fields) so lack curiosity about the events that surround them that they are often taken by surprise."
The fact that people don’t realize it’s a put-down reinforces the notion. The quote was true then (I’m assuming, I wasn’t born in the ‘60s), and it’s sure as shit true now.
The most efficient way to share my curated videos is through a YouTube playlist. There’s a good balance of well-known channels and some hidden gems, but I make sure all videos are of exceptional quality. The standard of content on YouTube nowadays is so high that we really are spoiled as viewers.
Also, a sneaky reminder to subscribe to my YouTube channel! I post videos fortnightly and you’ll not only learn a tonne but be entertained too.
[READ] Mr. China by Tim Clissold
Published in the early 2000s but still so damn interesting. Tim is like the OG. Arrived in China around Tiananmen, and made a life there from scratch. Learning the language, the culture, and then doing business connecting east and west. It sounds very romantic and something I wish I could have done (or could still do?). But the bleak reality is that it was probably 10% Eat, Pray, Love and 90% rough-as-guts-just-get-through-the-day type of life. Tim is a great writer too, which makes it fun. 8/10.
Had the book downloaded for a while now but I heard it mentioned again on the Longriver podcast. I’ve just started and boy is she a big one! Over 500 pages but I’m finding it more than worth it just 10% into it. Liem’s story honestly is wild. Closely tied with Suharto and was once the richest individual in Indonesia and one of the richest in ASEAN.
After reading Mr. China, I think this is a logical next follow-up. Jordan’s review below has convinced me.
For anyone that doesn’t know, I left Australia in early June. And in short, I’m basically going hell for leather on going full-time creator. The (ambitious) plan is to at least be able to eek out a few dollars by the time I visit family this Christmas. Initial results may suggest I’m up shit creek here.
At worst, I come home with my tail between my legs and find a big boy job. At best I get to do what I wholeheartedly love every day. A worthwhile risk-to-reward scenario in my eyes.
I’ll finish with one of my all-time favourite quotes, from one of my all-time favourite writers:
"If I'm an advocate for anything, it's to move. As far as you can, as much as you can.
Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else's shoes or at least eat their food. It's a plus for everybody.”
- Anthony Bourdain
You can find previous posts here. I also interview legends at Compounding Curiosity, lurk on Twitter @scarrottkalani, and have a Discord server for everything Allocators Asia (I’d love for you to join our cool little community we got going).
Want to get in contact? Reply to this email, comment on Substack, or send a letter via carrier pigeon and trust that fate will deliver it.
The Australian equivalent of a redneck I guess
2 weeks on 2 weeks off fly in fly out job