And on Saturday: You wanna grow the economy? Try rat burgers and bottled sunshine

Nov 26, 2016 12.00PM |

by Felix Cheong

Mark Ke Ting, a fictitious businessman who likes to quote his own aphorisms, says the formula for Singapore to grow its economy is simple: Exploit existing resources. And shrewdly market it.     

MARKETING is the mother of Innovation. And Innovation is the father of Growth. Together, they give birth to a healthy baby boy we call Wealth.

That’s according to one of my own favourite quotes. (For a complete list, buy a copy of my self-published My Own Favourite Quotes, available on

Mr S. Iswaran, the Minister for Trade and Industry, seems to agree too. At the Entrepreneur of the Year Award ceremony on Wednesday (Nov 23), he said the “spirit of enterprise should be celebrated, and must continue to thrive in Singapore”.

The good minister was actually paraphrasing, without giving me due credit, what I had long said: Enterprising people are the spirit of Singapore, and they must continue to thrive despite being celebrated.

For whatever reason – complacency, complacency and maybe even complacency – we’ve lost this spirit.

We need to exhume it, give it a good CPR or a jab of adrenaline. Whatever metaphor you use, it’s time to wake up and smell the rats.

Yes, rats. For starters, look at this café in Moscow called Krasnodar Bistro. It recently began dishing out rat burger, using meat from a giant, orange-toothed rodent called Nutria. Priced at 550 roubles (S$12), it’s already a food fad there.

You may not be able to stomach this, but Muscovites apparently can, especially since the meat is touted as being high on omega-3 acids.

See what I mean by marketing? Give it a snazzy name, some Abracadabra benefit and dress it up in hipster vibe.

Before you know it, people who don’t know any better – because they can’t tell the difference between substance and style – will queue up for it, like rats to the Pied Piper.

And what do we have lots of in Singapore? Rats, of course. Just on Monday (Nov 21), a hawker centre in Jurong West was found to be infested with the rodent.

In fact, according to the National Environment Agency, 20,000 rat burrows were found in public areas islandwide in the first half of this year alone.

Imagine how much money an entrepreneur can make out of this. Free raw material, readily catchable. It’s enough to start a rat race, pardon the pun.

Again, think about what Singapore has most in abundance 365 days a year. And no, not MRT breakdowns.

The correct answer: Sunshine. And you can bottle and market it.

A recent article (Nov 7) in Fortune magazine noted how entrepreneurs in Canada, Australia and even Germany have started bottling fresh air and selling them by the truckloads to smog-filled countries like China and India.

These don’t come cheap. For instance, 3 and 8-litre bottles of “100 per cent Pure Rocky Mountain Air” cost around US$20 and US$40 respectively. So far, 12,000 bottles have already floated off the shelves in China.

Similarly, an Australian company says it ships 40,000 containers of bottled air a month to China. It plans to expand its reach in India, Chile, Malaysia, and the Middle East.

Now why are our entrepreneurs not in this game?

It’s all very simple, really. The raw material is free. All you need to do is design a curvaceous bottle in the shape of an airhead, say Kim Kardashian. Pay her to endorse the product, with a nudge-nudge-wink-wink tagline (“Here comes the Sun. Ho Ho Ho.”).

Before you can say “sun of a gun”, you’ll have a home-grown product guaranteed to be a hit in countries that don’t see much of the sun during winter months.

As I’d like to say, and pardon my false modesty as I quote myself again: Build it and they will come. Market it and they will buy.

Mark Ke Ting


Featured image by Natassya Siregar.

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