Seeing business opportunities everywhere.

Mr Ong: The former financial journalist who now heads investment holding company ERC Holdings made his first million when he was only 26

There’s money in real estate, an ageing population, emerging Vietnam.

ANDY Ong did not walk up to the stage to deliver his speech. He stomped up to it — and his voice boomed out to those who came to listen to him: ‘‘MORNING, HOW’S EVERYBODY?’’

Dramatic. Older folk in the audience might have found the young entrepreneur brash and boastful as he reeled off a long list of his achievements: owner of 19 companies; best-selling author of books on financial planning and investment; founder and president of the Financial Planning Association of Singapore — to name just a few.

But the self-made millionaire was speaking from experience — he made his first million when he was only 26.

‘‘(Business) opportunities abound in everything we see,’’ Mr Ong yesterday told his audience — many of them casually-dressed young people — at the Global Entrepolis conference hosted by the Economic Development Board and the Singapore Business Federation.

‘‘The opportunities are there and they require very low investment, if you know what you are doing,’’ said the former financial journalist who now heads ERC Holdings, an investment holding company.

Through his extensive travel and observations, Mr Ong said he has identified five key trends which will shape Asia’s economic growth in the next five to 10 years — and which will throw up many money- making opportunities for individuals.

The first is real estate. ‘‘Asians love it, it’s all about demand and supply,’’ he said. ‘‘The last I checked, they don’t make land any more. Land supply is constant, while more people want to buy property.’’

Mr Ong should know — he made his first million through buying and selling a shophouse.

According to him, Singapore property prices are relatively low at the moment. They lag behind those in neighbouring countries, but they are sure to rise. He predicted that prices for commercial property and shophouses will increase 30 per cent in the next three years.

Wealthy foreigners and high-net-worth Singaporeans are buying up residential property in Singapore’s prime districts — and pushing prices up, he noted. Will this spill over to outlying areas, many are asking?

Don’t bet on it, Mr Ong said. ‘‘The rich are getting richer, but the poor are staying poor.’’ While the wealthy are confining their purchases to the central zone, the less well-off are not snapping up property in the outer fringes, he pointed out.

The other four trends Mr Ong identified as promising for businesses are: an ageing population in Asia; the emergence of Vietnam; the shortage in commodities; and the Asian leisure boom.

‘‘There’re no retirement villages or homes in the region,’’ he noted. ‘‘We can make a lot of money from wealthy Japanese looking to retire.’’
And he’s not talking about just selling them retirement homes but also medication, food — and golf courses.

While an ageing population opens up new business frontiers, a young population is also not without its attractions. Mr Ong, in fact, seems more excited when he talks about young Vietnamese and their hunger to develop. He is putting 75 per cent of ERC’s investments to tap into the rising talent and energy of Vietnam, which stands out for its relatively youthful population.

‘‘Find ways to harness the enthusiasm and dynamism of the Vietnamese — and fortunes can be made,’’ Mr Ong said.

Similarly, according to him, fortunes can also be made in the oil-rich countries in the Middle East if you can help convert their petro-dollars into enterprising ventures which will stretch their earnings when the oil wells run dry.

The booming Chinese and Indian economies offer yet another source of opportunities as Chinese and Indian tourists roam the world looking to spend their newly acquired wealth. Mr Ong noted that Macau’s gambling casinos, on the verge of dying, received a new lease of life when the Chinese descended on the territory.

There’s no real need to invent new tricks to attract the new Asian leisure class, Mr Ong said. All you need is to put a new twist to existing offerings, like introducing a novel food and beverage concept.

How to realise the opportunities? Starting a business is easier in today’s new information age, said another speaker, Adam Khoo, chief executive of the Technologies Group, a public training company.

Mr Khoo cautions that before you start a business, you must have the ‘‘seven keys to success’’. He says these are: a sustainable competitive edge; your business must be very hard to copy; it must be among the top three industry or sub-industry leaders; it must have a large market; it must offer a high return on equity; it must be scalable; and you must have a passion for the business.

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Article by: Chuang Peck Ming

Source: The Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.
1 November 2006

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