Determined Leader Making A Change

Determined Leader Making A Change

“Many leaders promise, we deliver” are encouraging words that Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum lives by. He is the current Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and the ruler of the Emirate of Dubai. He is one of the prominent figures in the Gulf Region and is responsible for the major transformation of Dubai into the global city it is today. Transforming a nation into a global leader is certainly challenging, but according to Sheikh, the word “impossible” does not exist in the UAE’s lexicon.

The third in a family of four sons, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum was privately tutored in Arabic and Islamic Studies since young but began his formal education at the age of 6. He went on to subsequently study at the
Mons Officer Cadet School, the same British military training establishment in England in which Prince William and Harry trained. He was awarded the sword of honour as the top Commonwealth student.

Sheikh Mohammed took over as the ruler following the death of his brother Sheikh Maktoum who suffered a heart attack in Australia back in 2006. He has done wonders since his accession, including launching the UAE vision 2012
which aims to make the UAE as one of the best countries in the world by year 2012. Having a strong commitment to gender equality, he also has undertaken reforms in the UAE’s government. He formed the Gender Balance Council,
placing focus in strengthening and evolving the role of women as partners in the development of the UAE.

H.H. Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum , Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman, Dubai Executive Council, United Arab Emirates attends the opening plenary of the World Economic Forum’s Summit on the Global Agenda 2010 held in Dubai, 29 November – 1 December 2010.

He is also committed to the development of education. Apart from launching the Arab reading challenge, the first project of its kind in the Arab world which uses incentives to encourage children to read more, Sheikh Mohammed also launched the Dubai Cares campaign, a special campaign to raise money to educate children in poorer countries within the region. He matched the public’s AED1.65 billion and made a total of AED3.5 billion to be donated.
Under his leadership, Sheikh Mohammed is responsible for the launch of major enterprises such as Emirates Airline, DP World and the Jumeirah Group. He has also overseen plenty of projects in Dubai which has brought major changes in the nation, including the creation of a technology park, the Dubai Internet City, Dubai Media City, the Palm Islands, and the well-known Burj Al Arab hotel along with the Burj Khalifa. Sheikh Mohammed launched the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives (MBRGI) to support his vision to promote humanitarian, developmental and community work building on sustainable and positive changes aimed at improving lives. Under his initiative, 42 million people in different countries have benefited from the different projects.

A man of many talents, Sheikh Mohammed is an avid equestrian as he was introduced to horse riding at a young age. He is also a poet in his native Arabic language. He began writing poetry when he was schooling and cited his father
as his greatest influencer in his development as a poet. His poems were even published in newspapers but under fictitious names as it was important for him to be sure that people admired him for his poetic skills and not just for his status.

He currently has twenty three children in total, fathered from 6 different wives. His six daughters married into royal families in the Middle East. His family wealth is estimated to be ‘in excess of’ $4 billion.

Building the Beverly Hills of Asia

Building the Beverly Hills of Asia

Faith Tang’s contribution in shaping the Hong Kong real estate industry to what it is today has made him a legend among the island’s glitterati. Together with a group of like-minded partners, Faith helped built Icon City Group, Hong Kong’s first local boutique multi-discipline property consulting firm. Today, the company has carved a formidable and unparalleled reputation as being one of the best in the industry. Having recently retired from Icon City Group, Faith is fully embracing his role as Director of Instant Bonus Development Sdn. Bhd. In this issue of Top 10 of Asia, he talks about his next adventure in building the Beverly Hills of Asia right in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.

Despite hailing from Hong Kong, Faith Tang, Director of Instant Bonus Development Sdn. Bhd. and former Chairman of Icon City Group, is happy to take on the challenge of educating his fellow countrymen about Malaysia’s real estate treasures. “Malaysia’s property prices was and still is the cheapest in Asia, capital to capital,” says Faith. “From the first time I stepped into the country many years ago, I felt right at home. The political situation is relatively stable, the people are easy to get along with and they have a fantastic ‘Malaysia My Second Home’ programme. These are very compelling reasons to invest in the country.”

Faith had set his sights firmly on real estate for as long as he could remember and the passion for all things property has never waned even after 40 years. In 1974, he attached himself to a British surveying firm as a trainee surveyor. Possessing zero real estate experience, he had to work doubly hard to prove his value to his British mentor. His hard work and determination paid off, landing him a partnership role in the firm. He then joined a property valuation agency, Thomas Ng and Associates International Ltd. (now known as Icon City Group) in 1986 as an associate and later on, found his niche in managing private investments in real estate funds.

An ardent believer that there is no better investment than property investment, Faith has successfully guided many an investor into making profitable returns through his funds. “It is evident throughout the world that the value of a property will always appreciate in the long term. If you have the holding ability, you will not lose your investment and your returns will be high and secure,” Faith explains.

Witty, calm and incredibly insightful about human nature, Faith is always on the lookout for clever investors. “It’s easier to work with people of the same mind-set, who won’t question your every move. Speed of execution is essential at times, and you wouldn’t want to be bogged down by petty arguments.” His criteria for choosing investing partners are those who are willing to learn about the industry and who would not balk during times of economic turmoil.

His real estate investment funds offer a unique proposition to the average Hong Kong investor who have HK$2 to HK$10 million to spare. “HK$5 million can’t get you anything in Hong Kong, to be honest. The big fund houses are not interested in these types of investors, but I see an opportunity in this niche segment. I would gather about ten of these investors and form a substantial investment fund to invest in development projects,” says Faith. “The investors are encouraged to be actively involved in the whole property development process as they are my co-investors and partners. They are confident that the projects will be successful because I have invested my own money into it.”

His professionalism and credibility in the industry have led many Hong Kong celebrities, including Stephen Chow, himself a savvy property investor, to his office door. Many of them not only became his investment partners but also lifelong friends. According to Faith, turning a client into a friend is the recipe for success. “For many stars, it can get very lonely at the top as they don’t know who they can trust. Just being there for them and spending a lot of time to know them made a world of difference. That’s how I earned their trust and friendship.” As a testament to his strong connections to the entertainment industry, international artiste Alan Tam is one of the many star-studded investors to Faith’s first Malaysian project, the Robsonhill Residency. Fondly dubbed as the Beverly Hills of Asia, the project is slated for completion in 40 months and will be an exclusive residential complex unlike any other.

Issue 11/2016

From Lawyer  to Celebrity Cook

From Lawyer to Celebrity Cook

It takes a lot of passion, confidence and conviction to venture into a completely new career path and to find immense success in it. In 2010, corporate lawyer Adam Liaw chose the less travelled road when he entered and won the 2010 MasterChef Australia. He then quit his job, and  within five years, three best-selling cookbooks, a popular TV show and numerous newspaper article contributions, Malaysia-born Adam is still as passionate as ever to help improve people’s lives with home-cooked meals. Recently, he shares with Top 10 of Asia his recipe for success in cooking and in life.

Adam Liaw, who moved to Australia at a young age, was already making waves in the kitchen long before winning the second season of MasterChef Australia. Once a month, Adam and his seven siblings will take turns to prepare the family meals to give their mother a well-deserved break. “I was eight when I prepared my first family dinner,” he recalls. “It’s great when you make something and everyone around you is so appreciative and enjoys it. It makes you want to learn more about it.”

Adam became a qualified lawyer at 21 and worked for six years in Tokyo as an in-house lawyer for The Walt Disney Company. But his passion for cooking never faded. He returned to Australia in 2009 to take part in MasterChef and over 5 million viewers watched him won the title in July 2010.

“Cooking is a much harder job than being a lawyer. There is more pressure, speed, and more effort involved in improving myself. As a lawyer, you get to a point where you are comfortable with everything. I do read articles and go to conferences once a month to keep up-to-date with my skills. But with cooking, I have to learn and do research everyday on new techniques to be a better cook. I’m loving it!”

He owes his vast culinary influences to his heritage – his mother is English-Singaporean and his father is Hainanese Chinese – and his travels in the many countries he has worked in during his time with Disney. Still, Adam believes in keeping it simple so that anyone can pick up the skill. “I believe cooking is fundamentally important. There’s no other skill that you can develop than has a greater positive impact on your life every day.”

According to Adam, when he creates new recipes, he is not merely focused in wanting to make something tasty or creative. “I try to solve problems in food, whether it might be providing a balanced diet for a family, or a simple solution for a weeknight dinner (for busy people), or trying to teach someone about the basics of Asian cooking like I do in my new book,” he says. “There are more recipes flying around on the Internet these days than there ever have been, but we still don’t cook particularly well at home. I’d really love to change that.”

Known for his trademark warm smile and topknot, Adam calls himself a cook, not a chef, as he believes there is a big difference between the two – one cooks in a restaurant and the other, at home. “Chefs do fantastic and inspiring things in restaurants, but the average person eats more than 90% of their meals at home. I love food and I love cooking, and I think it’s more important for us to focus on the way people eat at home rather than how we eat in restaurants. Home cooking is about culture, health, time, family and quality of life. If I can help people cook better at home and improve their lives, I think that’s a more positive thing than just giving them a great evening out at a restaurant.”

Since winning Master Chef Australia, Adam’s life has drastically changed. “There is a huge variety in what I do now. One month I might be filming a TV series in Sweden, the next in a photoshoot for a new book in Sydney, then the month after that doing an advertising campaign in Singapore, or at my desk writing articles, or in my test kitchen working on new recipes. It sounds exciting and fun (and it is), but my biggest challenge is to give every individual thing I do a 100% focus.”

Adam is also travelling more these days but makes it a point to incorporate quality time with his family as much as he can. “I make sure the time I do get to spend with my family is active and genuine. Rather than just staring at the TV together, I’ll teach my son how to cook, or head down to the park for a family picnic.”

To Adam, having a family has been more rewarding than anything else that he had done. “My personal successes – my successful law career, winning MasterChef Australia, publishing my books and making TV shows – they’ve all been fantastic experiences, but it wasn’t until I started a family that I felt that success was something that could be shared. It’s really changed my perspective on why I want to do well,” he says with a smile.

Issue 10/2015


Lighting Up Life’s Darkened Paths

Lighting Up Life’s Darkened Paths

Taking a firm stand for what one believes strongly in is virtuous but spreading the awareness to others by utilising one’s gift is noble. That is exactly what Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, the internationally renowned documentary-maker and journalist from Karachi, Pakistan has dedicated herself to achieve in her life. In this issue, Top 10 of Asia speakswith the feisty filmmaker on her myriad of experiences, accomplishments and some secrets to her success.

While mainly focused on the themes of conflict and social justice, most of Sharmeen’s films revolve around the consequences of war and the ways in which it impacts marginalised communities. Her work has taken the visual activist all over the world, from Afghanistan to Timor Leste in search of compelling human interest stories. It is easy to drone on and on of the director’s long list of remarkable feats and triumphs, which include two Emmy Awards and an Oscar, making her the first Pakistani to be an Academy Award recipient. However, all achievements begin with inspiration and it is no different for this social artist.

“I started writing for local papers and publications in Karachi at the age of fourteen, and pursued print journalism while I was in college in the United States. My decision to pursue documentary filmmaking was motivated by the aftermath of the World Trade Centre tragedy on 11 September 2001 when the world’s focus shifted to Afghanistan and Pakistan.” That was when the visionary scholar realised she had a unique vantage point as a native Pakistani who had spent a substantial amount of time in the US. “I hoped that I would be able to successfully tell stories from the East to audiences in the West. Soon thereafter, I made my first film, ‘Terror’s Children’, which was about Afghan refugees in Karachi. I felt an instant connection to the medium, and haven’t looked back since!” says Sharmeen with an obvious tone of excitement.

Working closely with real people and documenting their hardship does not come without its own unique challenges. The difficulties faced by Sharmeen and her team often differ according to the nature of the film in question. However, the main concern is almost always the security of everyone involved in a project, both the subjects and the crew. “Most filmmakers have to grapple with security concerns and that sentiment is amplified when you are leading a team into some of the most dangerous parts of the world,” admits the mother of a 3-year-old girl.

Sharmeen puts her heart and soul into each of her films and some of the most gratifying moments for her as a filmmaker are when her films achieve the tangible changes that they are meant to do. She firmly believes that documentaries truly serve their purpose when they are used for social justice or activism.

“For example, I made a film last year about the efforts of a young educationalist, HumairaBachal. Humaira ran a make-shift school out of a rented room in an urban slum in Karachi. She was eager to open a state-of-the-art facility but didn’t have the funds to pursue the project. We successfully used the film in partnership with Catapult and Gucci to raise enough money to fund Humaira’s school, which will now provide high quality education to thousands of children every year. Moments like these are what reminds me of why I chose this career and why I believe that such stories need to be told,” says Sharmeen who cites her father as her role model and mentor.

The harder the road gets, the more resilient the filmmaker becomes. Bearing no regrets of the past, the award-winning journalist reveals that she always looks at each project as a learning process where there is always an opportunity to learn something new. What then motivates her to push forward and keep working every day? “It’s the nature of the stories that I cover and I regard those opportunities to do so as a privilege for me,” reveals Sharmeen. “From acid attack survivors who are fighting legal battles to the struggles of transgender populations in urban Karachi, I am always amazed at the sheer will and determination of the people that I meet. They motivate me to continue my work despite of whatever challenges I may face.”

A significant struggle Sharmeen faces everyday is finding the right balance between her work and personal life. “I am fortunate to have a husband who takes pride in my achievements and a family that has always valued hard work and determination.” She readily admits that attaining the perfect equilibrium is easier said than done. “It isn’t always easy and there are definitely still times when I wish that I had more hours in a day!”

When asked about what she would like to see herself doing in the next ten years, the acclaimed documentarian has this to say: “I would like to have many more documentary films under my belt and would consider venturing into fiction films if the right project comes along. I also hope to mentor the up-and-coming young filmmakers in Pakistan as they start their careers in documentary programming.”

Issue 7/2014

Beyond Books and Borders

Beyond Books and Borders

Leading geopolitical expert and world traveller Parag Khanna is critically-acclaimed around the world for his groundbreaking theories on global trends, systemic risks and technological disruptions, and has provided advice and consultations to various institutions, organisations and luminaries, including the current President of United States. The multi-published best-selling author also has three engaging, thought-provoking books under his belt that tackle various world-order concerns of the 21st century. In this issue, the fast-moving high-flyer shares with Top 10 of Asia his life beyond work and studies.

Born in India but raised in almost every other corner of the world in places such as UAE, New York and Germany, the globetrotter himself has lived independently in various countries, including US, UK, Switzerland and Singapore, where he is based now with his wife, famed author Ayesha Khanna and two children. Ayesha is also well-known as Parag’s constant collaborator, even publishing a book that they wrote together titled Hybrid Reality: Thriving in the Emerging Human-Technology Civilization and published by TED Books.

An undeniable asset to the global community, the international relations and diplomacy expert did not always know what he wanted to be as an adult. As an accomplished adventurer in his adolescence, Parag had already travelled far and wide, including driving from the Baltic Sea through the Balkans and across Turkey and the Caucasus to the Caspian Sea, travelling across the rugged terrain of Tibet and Xinjiang provinces in western China, and climbing numerous 20,000-foot plus peaks.

However, when it comes to his decision to pursue his current career path, he embraces it as part of a master plan. “It’s more something that one becomes rather than something one decides to be. I’ve only ever wanted to travel and immerse in diverse cultures and integrate geopolitical, economic, environmental and other trends to gain a holistic view of the world,” he admits.

The same teenager with a wanderlust is currently one of the most authoritative intellects of the world, holding a Bachelor of Science in International Affairs and a minor in Philosophy from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, a Masters Degree from Georgetown’s Security Studies Program, and a PhD in International Relations at the London School of Economics.

At present, Parag Khanna is the Managing Partner of Hybrid Reality, a geostrategic advisory firm, besides serving at various other posts, including as a Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation, Adjunct Professor in the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, Visiting Fellow at LSE IDEAS, Senior Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, and Senior Fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs.

Behind every successful man or woman there surely is a dedicated and invested team. Parag’s management and leadership style over his helpers and in his career is inspired by a wide array of role models and mentors, from military generals to travel writers to his parents and family.

Fluent in English, German, Hindi, French, Spanish and basic Arabic, Parag Khanna is truly a man of the world. “10 years down the road, I imagine myself getting back to long-term continuous travel as I did in my 20s, moving between different projects and advisory roles in many countries. Places change quickly and there are many I would like to go back to and revisit,” says the academician who regrets not moving to Singapore sooner.

Issue 8/2015