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Tuesday, 1 May 2018

How to lower your input costs

Introduce competition!

When Uber first came to Singapore, you were glad didn't you? What's not to like with all the discounts you were getting from normal cab fares?

When Grab joined into the fray, life couldn't get any better, wasn't it?

Now that Uber has capitulated and abandoned the Singapore market, all of sudden people were writing to big daddy to monitor against monopoly and what not!?

As if ComfortDelgro never was a "quasi-monopoly" in the first place...

Deep down you know the days of generous Grab discount codes are numbered...

Similarly, to entice you to switch from traditional credit cards to mobile payments, they have to dangle cash rebates as carrots to your nose. Once these landowners have achieved sufficient scale in customer acquisition, the milking (or monetisation) of their acquired flock will take over.

Just look at how credit card companies were able to increase interest rates, late payment charges, and other fees at will... Well, someone has to pay for the "free" miles and cash rebates, "ah ber then"?

Same goes for mobile telecoms and the internet. Introduce more players into the oligopoly market, all of sudden, consumers got lots of choices at even more competitive prices!

Let's hope the test in Jurong West for electricity liberalisation will be a success. Then all of us will have more options, and lower electricity prices to offset the increased in water prices!

As sheep or shepherd working for landowners, at the back of your head, you know your "value" would increase if more competitors enter into our Singapore market.

Remember the short lived experiment with a 2nd TV operator as in Channel U? Now we need 2 CEOs, 2 CFOs, more producers, more soundmen, more cameramen; etc.

Its not unheard of some amongst those who "defected" to Channel U got double or triple promotions! Want to bet those working now in SPH wished there were more "competition"?

If you are working in the banking industry, even if your bank were not affected, you'll feel the pressure when other banks withdrew from Singapore or cutback on their headcounts...

You know there will be more retrenched and experienced bankers knocking on your HR door.... That may erode your bargaining power end of the year....

As a landowner, if you are sick of paying exhorbitant manpower costs, what would you do?

Automation is one answer:

Driverless MRT trains - you extrapolate from here.

Self ordering and payment machines at cinemas, supermarkets, fast food outlets...

Robo advisors - sorry, I couldn't stop laughing...

I was pleasantly surprised to discover recently Singapore is currently No.2 in the world (behind South Korea) when it comes to using robots!?

I had assumed No.1 would be Japan!

However, not every job can be automated. We still need Man Fridays and Girl Fridays.

So don't hold your breath.

10 million will come whether you like it or not.

Unless you are OK with paying even higher prices.

That's the great paradox.

We welcome competition as we benefit from it ultimately. When it comes to our jobs, we much prefer it to be a monopoly!


  1. There is an old saying, be careful what you wish

    1. Yaruzi,

      Ain't it the truth!

      Property prices go up we happy knowing we make money as we sleep. Then we complain about big daddy as we begin to fear whether our children will be able to afford a place of their own when its their time...

      When big daddy engineered lower property prices through property cooling measures, we now super upset with big daddy as our "unrealised" profits have now disappeared...

  2. I still remembered the days when Grab and Uber came in a fierce competition by releasing tons of promo code in the same day .

    To an extent, I made used of the trips so well that my trip ended up free or cost much lesser than a normal MRT ride!!

    Hiring people to create such ‘new things’ and subsequently hiring more people to maintain such things!!

    Robo advisors.. well.

    It’s a big hit now. But as much as I can understand from that and being a more technical dinosaur, I still prefer to do things myself and hopefully own a land and manage my own land. Which is why probably I prefer Lalaland!

    I don’t enjoy being in a land that’s not owned by me and having to pay fees into maintaining a land that’s not owned by me!!

    I might be wrong. When a day, landowner, loses out to sheeps!

    Oh wells this is corporate!!

    1. sleepydevil,

      The time it will be bad to be a landowner is when the country is overrun by communists...

      That's when wolves in sheep skins take over :(

      Thank goodness the world has seen the real face of communism!

      That being said, there were idealistic sheep willing to fight and die for the communist cause...

      I've seen the true face of buy-and-hold, that I've no illusions.

      It will be interesting to see in 20 to 30 years' time, what investors will think of passive indexing!

  3. Hi SMOL,

    We do have options. The best way to overcome such circumstance is to be a nomad. Flexibility is the way to go!


    1. Ben,

      The flexibility you mentioned is only opened to those who are not "vegetables".

      Vegetables are not mobile; unlike their ancestors who practiced what we Teochews say, "Where got shade, where we sit."

    2. SMOL,

      It is not limited to the "vegetable". Flexibility can be adopted anywhere at anytime. It's all down to the willingness to adopt the appropriate plan at the varying circumstances.


    3. Ben,

      Flexible is good provided we are not so flexible until we have no convictions of our own...

      Then we become "prostitutes".

      Willow and Oak Tree

  4. Just like what u said about office poltics smol

    Everyone embraces competition when they are winning

    1. Sillyinvestor,

      That's why you don't hear me complaining about office politics ;)

      I don't go running to teacher or parents to complain when I got beaten. I lick my wounds and reflect how I can do better next time ;)

      Ownself fall; ownself get up.

  5. Join the longest queue when there is a few competition among food stalls selling same stuff. Competition is telling who is the winner among them.

    1. CW,

      My taste buds different from other people.

      I'll try all the competiting stores and make up my own mind which store I prefer ;)

  6. At the rate their countries' GDPs are growing, we'll be seeing reverse migration of foreign workers over next 10-15 years. Most young foreign grads from unknown unis in Phili, India, are already demanding minimum $3K salary to work here.

    Among ASEAN, Singapore's share of GDP will get smaller over the years as countries such as Indo, Thai, Viet accelerates. Phili & M'sia too, if they can get their acts together; both already have higher GDP growth then S'pore. Indo is probably the first in this region to cross $1 trillion GDP in 2017.

    Slowly Singapore will just need to DIY more, just like many developed countries in developed regions where manpower is expensive.

    Alamak, no more maid to carry my backpack & iron my clothes ... how haar?!?!

    1. Spur,

      That's why now we don't see Thai workers at the construction sites.

      Sir, I'll carry your backpack for $10 an hour? Boleh?

  7. I think innately most would know that prices would eventually go up. I mean after all, it's commonly known to most that the price war will not continue and will end some day (either by market consolidation or bled dry). But as human beings, or Singaporeans, we are just "buay song" that after paying discounted price for so long, we suddenly need to pay for full pricing and we all start complaining. But seriously, do we not see this coming?

    1. Kate,

      We want cheap, we want fresh, we want big big - but we not willing to pay for it!

      When we visit neighbouring 2nd tier or 3rd tier cities/towns, we often exclaim so quaint! It looks like Singapore in the 60s/70s.


      Deep down, we glad Singapore not like that. Although we like to bemoan Singapore moving too fast, this heritage site missing, that childhood icon gone...

      We wouldn't like it if tourists came and said Singapore has "stood still" for the past 40-50 years!

      For it were the case, Singapore's population will be dwindling below 3 million and more...

  8. Hi SMOL,

    I see competition in 2 ways.

    (1) If i'm good at what I do, I don't mind competition. In fact, I will welcome them with open arms. Without them being bad relative to me, how do I shine? In fact my market size will increase due to the competition, because now I can even coach the bad ones to be good.

    (2) If I'm bad at something, or the competition is just based on price (meaning it's just a commodity), then I'll be afraid. More competition, lesser pie for me.

    Is taxi service a commodity? Yes, so it's bad. But it's also a service, so if you do beyond the call of duty, you can still make a very good living. There are plenty of pple doing it part time, or half heartedly, and if I can show an exemplary standard of service, I can still make it out good.

    1. LP,

      Yes, that's what I told sillyinvestor when it comes to office politics too. When we are on top, what office politics?

      My take on the different shades of competion:

      1. During bull markets for stocks and properties, they often attract new entrants enticed by the so called "easy money" to be remisiers and property agents.

      When the bear market comes, that's where we see lots of dejected remisiers and property agents leaving the industry...

      But to the top producing remisiers and property agents, what competition? What bear market?

      Singapore is a champion of free trade. Would we do so if our local companies were not competitive on the world stage?

      2. Then there's competition where even the best of the best cannot compete.

      Amazon and other online retailers have made the former category killer Toys R' Us redundant in the States... What more to say about traditional mom and pop stores?

      Similarly, to MRT train drivers, no matter how good they are, they can't compete with driverless trains...

      Imagine if robo advisors took off, I wonder what's going through the minds of those people taking CFA qualifications now. Would their precious qualification be like HDB flats in 99 years' time?

      3. I am plumber or electrician in UK. I am good at what I do and I earn a good living.

      Then Britain joined the EU. All of sudden, there's free flow of plumbers and electricians from Poland offering much lower prices which are most welcomed by UK residents and businesses!

      But my livelihood is now affected :(

      So the elite will champion free trade and freedom in movement of people. The pie will get bigger and "everyone" benefits!

      But don't you dare mention why can't we do the same for lawyers and doctors to lower input costs?

      Hence its better to be the hammer than the nail... To be the sparrow than the snail...

      Always be the one who writes the rules!

  9. "Always be the one who writes the rules!"

    The Hakka knows that very well for they are war refugees who becomes "stateless" in thier own country - China & Taiwan.

    For record, do U know how many presidential leaders the Hakka have had produced though actually they are a minority group of China.

    In fact it is like Hakka is the "Jews" of China-No?

    1. temperament,

      The Hakka are also known as "guest people" to other Chinese.

      Yes, the are the most diasporic of all Chinese dialect groups ;)

      They are definitely not parochial.

      Like the jews, the Hakkas have a citizens of the world mindset!

      Its interesting that being the minority group, Hakkas have produced 3 Presidents in Taiwan and in Singapore our ruling family ;)

      You know Hong Xiuquan from the Taiping Revolution? If he had succeeded, China today would be a "Christian" nation!?

      He is the most "powerful" Hakka to me. How to top calling yourself "brother" to Jesus Christ?

      Now this is a person who knows how to write the "rules"!

    2. Smol,

      He failed becos of personal benefits. History teaches us a lot of valuable lessons which can be applied in the current world.


    3. Ben,

      Turned out he is an "ordinary" man afterall...

      But if he had succeeded, China would be a Christian nation today!?

  10. i think U have missed Sun Yat Sun and Teng Xiao Peng.

    1. temperament,

      Incredible right?

      It reminds me of Napoleon.

      He born in Corsica... Some French may not even recognise it as "true" French... Yet he became Emperor ;)

      I think the theory is when you are the minority and not expecting "born and breed here" entitlement, you'll try harder ;)

      When life is "too comfortable", why bother?

    2. Not we will try harder, we have no choice; to survive and prosper or stays as refugees.
      Or forever stay up high on the mountains and landless.
      That is history why hakka is famous for "San Ke".

    3. LOL!

      I have Cantonese friends during my younger days who often ribbed me that Hakka always tried to "Cheem Di Chi".

      It means we always try to settle "illegally" in "no-man's land" of the locals, given half a chance.

      Ya remember, we were war refugees from the North or North-Central of China.

      That's why we are called "Guest People"

      In fact, in the worse case, some may even like to suspect or imagine we are "Barbarians from the North" and not of Han Chinese.

    4. temperament,

      I was being polite.

      No choice so must try even harder!

      If not, how to survive as no matter where you go, you don't have "born and bred" home ground advantage ;)

      You have no homebase to speak of!

      Notice one thin lin throughout your lineage?

      Hakkas go for "political power"; judging by the number of leaders you have produced.

      Makes sense. Better to write the rules than to let others set the rules for you ;)

      We Teochews?

      We go for "wealth".

    5. Hi guys,

      Hmm, interesting...as I was reading through temperament's and SMOL's banter, I have an epiphany. I don't really identify myself with my dialect group and the stereotype that comes with it. Mine is cantonese (mum is teochew), but I don't really see myself as a cantonese.

      Is this a generational issue? Maybe I don't speak the language, hence the dialect group is no longer associated with me. Maybe the bilingual policy (mother tongue + english) works too well here. But I was wondering whether it robbed me of my heritage.

      What am I if I'm not a cantonese? Singaporean? I'm also not too sure about that.

    6. LP,

      That's the "price" for big daddy making a top-down decision for "good intentions", but quickly reversing it once they realised they are not reaching out to their most important base during the 60/40 swing...

      A lot of sacred cows were slaughtered once they woke up they could fxxx-up the end game!

      The damage has already been done to the younger generations :(

      That's why you are not a "Cantonese" ;)

      I identify myself as a Teochew. I take pride in my heritage.

      I also consider myself lucky that "stupid" policy only started when I were in secondary school. So I am not "damaged".

      The ability to speak Hokkien and Cantonese (together with English and Mandarin) in Taiwan, Xiamen, Guangzhou, and HK made me realised I have the advange of the Danes who can speak 3-4 European languages ;)

      Contrast this to the British or American who can only speak 1 language.

  11. Hakka produce so many leaders i think only because only we know what kind of life, refugees have to bear.

    1. temperament,


      Like the Hakkas, Teochews are quite diasporic too.

      I keep reminding myself the DNA in my blood - where got shade, where I sit!


  12. Hi,

    The unpredictable market circumstances reflect the importance of one being able to be self-sufficient for a few years. One may lose his/her job unexpectably without any warning.



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