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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Shy boys given rooms to grow as they are lagging girls

Schoolboys do relaxation exercises in an all boys class at the government-run Shanghai Number Eight High School. Shanghai, whose school system produces the world's top test-scorers, has launched China's first all-boys high school program with an eye on elite overseas institutions like Eton. Source: AFP

SHANGHAI: Teenage boys in a Shanghai school are on the front line of teaching reform after the world's top-scoring education system introduced male-only classes over worries they are lagging girls.

Rows of white-shirted boys are put through their paces as they are called up individually to complete a chemical formula by teacher Shen Huimin, who hopes that a switch to male-only classes will help them overcome their reticence.

"We give boys a chance to change," she said.

The Shanghai school system topped the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development's (OECD) worldwide assessment tests of 15-year-olds in 2009, the most recent available, ahead of Korea, Finland, Hong Kong and Singapore.

But even so officials are concerned that some male students may be slower than their female counterparts in development and certain academic areas, such as language, and the shift towards single sex classes aims to boost boys' confidence.

Girls do better than boys in secondary school across the developed world, an OECD report found.

A prominent Chinese educator, Sun Yunxiao, found the proportion of boys classed among the top scholars in the country's "gaokao" university entrance exams plunged from 66.2 percent to 39.7 percent between 1999 and 2008.

Across the developed world, girls do better than boys in secondary school, the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) found in a 2009 report on the educational performances of 15-year-olds.

"There are significant gender differences in educational outcomes," it said, adding that high school graduation rates across the OECD were 87 percent for girls but only 79 percent for boys.

In response, Shanghai's elite Number Eight High School is halfway through the initial year of an experiment, putting 60 boys into two classes of their own - a quarter of its first-year students - and teaching them with a special curriculum.

Schoolboys solve a math problem in an all boys class at the government-run Shanghai Number Eight High School in Shanghai.

 "This is a big breakthrough," said principal Lu Qisheng. "There's lots of hope - hope that boys will grow up better.

"Boys when they are young do not spend enough time studying," he explained. "Boys' maturity, especially for language and showing self-control, lags behind girls."

-- "We lack confidence" -

China shut most same-sex schools after the Communist Party came to power in 1949, and the only all-boys junior high schools in the country are privately run.

The number of male students scoring top marks in China's university entrance exams has plunged from 66 per cent to 49 per cent

Shanghai does have an all-girls state-run high school, the former McTyeire School for Girls, which marked its 120th anniversary last year and counts the three Soong sisters - Qing-ling, Ai-ling and Mei-ling - among its former pupils.

Between them they married two leaders and an industrialist. Qing-ling married Sun Yat-sen, the first President of the Republic of China, while Mei-ling wed Chiang Kai-shek, who would also later become president.

Student Li Zhongyang, 15, said he felt less shy about answering questions in his all-boys class, but drew hoots of laughter from his fellows by suggesting an absence of girls let them concentrate more on study.

"We lack confidence," he said. "The teachers like girls, who answer more questions in class. This programme lets us realise we are not worse than girls."

It is something of a contrast to males' traditionally dominant roles in Chinese culture, but principal Lu said the programme "doesn't have much relationship to equality in society".

The scheme was launched after China's government called for more "diversification" in educational choices within the state system.

A Peking University professor has called for an even bolder reform, suggesting in September that boys should start school one or two years later than girls.

"The Chinese education system needs to improve and allow various education methods," Wu Bihu said on his microblog. Now Lu hopes to create China's first all-boys school one day.

"Ten or twenty years ago, there was no need for an all-boys class - just put everyone together," he said.

In an increasingly aspirational society, he added, some families saw the new programme as having connotations of top overseas private schools, and so promising an advantage in the highly competitive gaokao.

"The parents know: England has Eton," he said. - AFP

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Are we competent with competencies?

Are you thinking of having or reviewing a competency model? Here are some tips on it

UNFORTUNATELY, the answer to this question, for many organisations, is a resounding NO!

Ever since psychologist David McClelland suggested that we should move away from the traditional measures of predicting job performance in Testing for Competence Rather than for Intelligence, in the early 1970s, many businesses and organisations have used some form of competency model as a key business tool.

Think about your own business or organisation, I am sure that you “have had, have, are thinking of having or are reviewing...” a competency model at this time.

Where are you on that continuum? The key questions are, “Why hasn't competency modeling delivered on its promise for many organisations?” and “Do competencies really add value to businesses and organisations?”

Have competencies been “a HR toy” and not a business tool? Let's look at some of the research behind competency modeling and see if we can answer these questions.

The use of competency models started with McClelland's work in the early 1970s.

A decade later, in 1982, Richard E Boyatzis illustrated a logical, integrated model of managerial competence in his seminal book called The Competent Manager.

His model provided a context for understanding the demands of management, and helped managers understand the competencies required to be more effective.

So, given that we had a reasonable start to the use of competencies in business why haven't competency models delivered greater impact into organisations?

In The Leadership Machine, Lombardo and Eichinger showcase research indicating that most organisations and their leaders identify the wrong competencies for success they don't know how to get at the essence of competency requirements.

They also show that many competency models are too compound trying to cram too many competencies into just five to 10 statements and hoping that will do the job!

In addition, a set of “Core Competencies” can't do the whole job for an organisation either jobs and roles are unique and generally require 20-25 competencies to describe the “Success Profile”.

The truth is all organisations need multiple competency models to fit their many different needs.

Yet, many organisations seem to think that a “one size fits all” approach will work. It's not that easy, I'm afraid.

A great starting point for an organisation, however, is a “Strategic Leadership Model”.

At least, that will let your leaders and aspiring leaders know what the organisation (normally the CEO and the board) thinks is going to be required to be a successful leader over the next five years or so.

A global Conference Board study from 2012 asked senior executives what were the most important items on their talent agenda. The top four (in order) were:
  • Grow talent internally;
  • Improve leadership development;
  • Provide training and development; and
  • Hire talent in the open market.
These are all great things to do high on your agenda, too, no doubt!

My question is the same for each point grow to “what”, improve against “what”, develop to “what”, hire against “what”?

I'm sure that you get my point.

Unless you can clearly define what you need in each area usually through a good Competency Model then you really don't know how to direct, focus or orient your growth, leadership development or hiring. Competency models are very powerful tools in this regard.

There are many good researches that show how the effective use of competency models can make a powerful business impact for an organisation.

Here are just a few. A longitudinal study by Russell in 2001 showed that top-level corporate executive performance can be reliably predicted by a leadership competency model. In addition, he showed that a competency-based executive assessment and selection process lead to an increase of US$3mil (RM9.29mil) in annual profit per candidate selected into the organisation.

Pluzdrak conducted a study in 2007 on the effectiveness of a Leadership Development programme and showed that positive changes on the key leadership competencies of individual leaders were positively correlated with both increase in net revenues and profitability!

A 2008 study by Clark and Weitzman used regression analysis to show that the demonstration of 13 core management competencies accounted for 54% of the difference in first-year sales commission and 30% of the difference in levels of retention.

They also found that developing people to be one standard deviation better on the key competencies driving performance generated an additional US$467,000 (RM1.45mil) per person every year!

The original question for this article was “Are we competent with competencies...?” Take a good, hard look at your own organisation and ask the same question.

If your answer is “No, not really... Not as good as we should be...” then remember that you can be and that there is every reason “Why you should be” and “Why you need to be”.

Talking HR with Graeme Field
Graeme Field believes that doing the basics' right getting the fundamentals in order is key to driving organisational success in the future. What we do operationally' today really does impact what happens strategically' tomorrow!

Performance culture lacking, Malaysian workers!

PETALING JAYA: Malaysian workers lack performance culture and generally spend half their working hours on matters unrelated to their job, said experts.

Leaderonomics chief executive officer Roshan Thiran said the laid-back working culture was partly to blame for the country’s low labour productivity.

“We tend to mix our working hours with bonding with colleagues and relationships whereas in other countries, working hours are made full use of,” he said.

He advised employees to perform self-audits to identify unproductive activities in the office that drained their working hours.

A check by The Star with several human resource practitioners revealed that Malaysian workers in general only spend four hours in a regular nine-to-five work period being productive.

Another two hours are spent on social networking sites or browsing through the Internet, whilst long lunches, cigarette breaks, tea breaks and office chatter make up for the other two hours.

Malaysian Employment Federation executive director Shamsuddin Bardan said our low productivity levels could drive away investors to neighbouring countries.

Shamsuddin said the unprofessional attitude among workers was in stark contrast to high-performance nations which encouraged a professional working culture with a focus on developing human capital.

“Some here have the ‘so long as I show up to work, it’s enough’ attitude, which shouldn’t be happening,” said Shamsuddin.

Human resource consultant Dr Asma Abdullah said Malaysian culture generally regarded the workplace as a social unit where work and social interaction mixed.

Meca Employers Consulting Agency executive director Dharmen Sivalingam said some employers had difficulties addressing their under-performing staff.

“Malaysian employers generally find it hard to converse with their employees on the matter of their productivity. It may be because they don’t want to be put in positions where they have to confront their subordinates,” he said.

Sivalingam also said workers in foreign countries were constantly under probation which keeps them performing at their best.

He said managers need to develop a proper key performance index system and see to it that employees understand how they are being assessed.

By NICHOLAS CHENG The Star/Asia News Network

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Malaysia world's No.1 highest civil servants-to-population ratio! Its tenure of service legally vulnerable but notoriously difficult to dismiss! 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Malaysians lag in productivity

PETALING JAYA: Malaysians work longer hours than their counterparts in many benchmark countries, but produce less than them.

According to the Malaysian Productivity Corporation, our employee productivity levels are a lot lower than those of countries like the United States, Japan, United Kingdom, South Korea and Singapore.

MPC director-general Datuk Mohd Razali Hussain, citing the 2011 Productivity Report, said Malaysian workers had a productivity value of RM43,952 a year.

“But compared with Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and the United States, we are still far behind,” Razali said.

He added that the country was still recording an average productivity growth of 4.5% annually, which was lower than that of Indonesia and India.

Labour productivity levels are measured by the real gross domestic product over the number of workers in the country.

“In other words, it is how many workers it takes to produce a profit,” said Razali.

According to the report, which analyses information from the Department of Statistics, workers in the top benchmark countries outperformed Malaysian workers almost six times over.

American workers topped the list with a productivity level of RM285,558 a year, followed by employees in Japan (RM229,568) and Hong Kong ( RM201,485) (see graphic).

In 2011, Malaysia had a productivity growth rate of 4.55%, which MPC said was on track for the country in becoming a high-income nation by 2020 with a productivity level of RM87,500.

However, Malaysians lost out to several benchmark Asian countries like China, which had a growth rate of 8.7%, Indonesia (5%) and India (4.8%).

“Even though we can see there is growth based on the data we have, Malaysian workers have not been creating enough with the resources that we have,” said Razali.

He clarified that an employee's productivity was not measured by the number of hours clocked in but rather by his or her overall output during working hours.

“Actually, most hours are not spent being productive. We have had foreign agencies complain that their Malaysian staff were taking very long tea breaks,” he said.

Razali said that working long hours could even be counter-productive.

“There is a lot of waste in productivity when you drag the hours ... The company would have to pay more for electricity and overtime,” he added.

Razali said management practices should be reviewed to boost productivity.

He stressed the need to reward employees for better productivity with gain sharing, and suggested project-based incentives, improving workplace conditions and providing more flexible time for employees to rest while on the job.

According to the report, productivity levels grew by 2.82% with improvements in labour efficiency recorded in five key economic sectors.

Productivity levels in the services sector expanded by 4.9% to RM53,938 in 2011.

The agriculture sector grew by 6.23% to RM29,466, while manufacturing increased by 1.97% to RM54,509.

Construction productivity levels went up by 3.09% to RM24,635 in 2011, while the mining sector recorded a negative productivity growth of -6.14% to RM866,246 from RM922,914.

Asked why the mining sector had a negative productivity rate when its turnover was higher than other sectors, Razali said this was because the turnover did not correlate with the large workforce.

By NICHOLAS CHENG The Star/Asia News Network

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Productivity levels driven down by unskilled foreign workers
MEF: Long hours may not mean quality work

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Malaysia world's No.1 highest civil servants-to-population ratio! Its tenure of service legally vulnerable but notoriously difficult to dismiss!  

Monday, February 25, 2013

Design application: 'Watch over me' created by a abduction survivor

Helping others: Chin showing a mobile app “Watch Over Me” which she developed after she was nearly abducted.

PETALING JAYA: Although former Internet marketeer Chin Xin-Ci has recovered physically from her near abduction, the emotional scars are taking longer to heal.

Chin suffered cuts after a cleaver was pressed against her neck by a couple of would-be rapists who pounced on her at the car park of The Curve at around 5.20pm on May 27, 2012.

Two men forced her into the car but she escaped by running out of the vehicle as it was exiting the car park.

Chin has used the experience gained from the terrifying ordeal to good use by developing a smartphone application for personal safety.

Produced in partnership with an app developer, “Watch Over Me” allows users to register for an event.

If they don't “check-in” within a certain time period, a message will be sent out to emergency contact numbers while the camera and voice recorder will be activated automatically and stored in servers.

“With a lot of the other personal safety mobile apps, you'd have to reach for the phone, unlock it and hit the panic button.

“Watch Over Me' also has a GPS tracking system that allows others to determine your location.

“If I had been abducted on that day, no one would know that I had gone missing until the next day,” said Chin, adding that she had been working on the app since October to make it more user-friendly.

After the attack, Chin slipped into depression and went through therapy for four months.

She only started driving alone this year and still does not go to shopping malls alone.

“At first I felt like a zombie.

“There was a lot of fear and anger from having suddenly lost my sense of security,” said Chin.

She added that the attack had made her even more paranoid.

Chin uses the app all the time, together with the 40,000 other users who have downloaded “Watch Over Me”.

“I hope more Malaysian women will use these types of applications.

“If something bad happens to you, at least people will know where you are and some evidence would be captured through the voice recorder and camera,” she said.

There are also other similar safety apps in the market.


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Malaysia’s vanguards: Design thinking of grooming innovators

Malaysia’s vanguards: Design thinking of grooming innovators

Malaysia’s vanguards

SIMPLY put, Design Thinking produces creative solutions to solve complex problems. In other words, you have to be creative to be innovative. But can one learn creativity or for that matter, innovative skills?

Yes, if you believe David Kelley, the design thinking guru and founder of global design firm Ideo and the School of Design Thinking at Stanford University.

“So many people think that it’s kind of in your gene – you’re a creative person or you’re not. I don’t buy it,” says Kelley in Design & Thinking, a documentary on design thinking by San Francisco-based One Time Studio. Kelley argued that human beings are naturally creative (just observe kids!) and you just need to rediscover your creative confidence to crack open the door to innovation. The process of design thinking is a “scaffolding for creativity” as design thinking advocate, Tim Brown of Ideo, calls it.

Hence when Genovasi was initiated by the Government to produce “innovation ambassadors,” the organisation settled on design thinking methodology to cultivate these innovators.

“We wanted an approach that would instil a sense of curiosity for technology and entrepreneurship among youths. And any innovation that derives from the approach should include empathy towards the needs of people,” says Datuk Seri Dr Kamal Jit Singh, chief executive officer of Unit Inovasi Khas (UNIK) which manages Genovasi.

“Design thinking fits these criteria perfectly as it offers a human-centred approach to innovation.”

Under the Innovation Ambassadors Development Programme, participants go through a 10-week programme to grasp the nuts and bolts of design thinking and apply their know-how to solve real-life problems posed by project partners. To date, project partners include The Millennium Project, an independent, non-profit think thank, and RSA (The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce), a London-based charity committed to finding innovative solutions to today’s social challenges. Upon completion of the programme, these “ambassadors” may go on to create startups or find placements in Genovasi’s partner organisations like government agencies, GLCs or corporations.

“These Ambassadors are expected to bring positive changes to three core areas: improve public service delivery within government departments, ministries and agencies; improve the quality of life in rural and local communities and create new economic wealth through entrepreneurship or industry game-changing efforts,” says Dr Kamal. Genovasi’s plan is to produce a minimum of 5,000 Innovation Ambassadors over the next five years.

As collaborators, the Hasso-Plattner-Institut (HPI) School of Design Thinking in Potsdam, Germany, not only helped develop the programme for Genovasi but also conducted strategy and trainers’ workshops and assessments.

“It was really great to see there are a lot of Malaysians who are keen to do something under the innovation programme,” says Dr Claudia Nicolai, the general programme manager of HPI D-School. Nicolai was in Malaysia to help set up the programme. “People are extremely open-minded and willing to work together.”

“Malaysia’s advantage, compared to Germany, is that you are so diverse. You have influences from different ethnic cultures, customs and religions – that’s an advantage to generate truly creative ideas.”

The D-School in Germany did not copy and paste Stanford University’s D-School model but instead adapt it to the European environment.

“Genovasi’s programme is basically an Asian version of what we are doing. It puts a new flavour in design thinking,” says Professor Ulrich Weinberg, HPI D-School’s director.

“You have the chance to build on the experiences of Stanford and HPI,” he adds. “You can build something which is the next version or reinvent what we’re doing.”

The Innovation Ambassadors Development Programme (IADP) is open to university students or entrepreneurs up to the age of 35. Students and experts from all disciplines are welcome to apply. The programme is free for Malaysians. IADP’s second intake starts from May 27. Closing date for application: March 31, 2013. For more info, go to

Grooming innovators

To produce innovative Malaysians, innovation agency Genovasi teamed up with a Germany-based institute to teach ‘design thinking’. We travel to Potsdam, Germany, to find out more about this creative approach. 

NEON-coloured sticky notes, Lego blocks, rainbow-hued foam peanuts, knitting threads, cardboard boxes and colouring pens – these are “tools” for brainstorming and constructing prototypes. Whiteboards on wheels replace walls that separate the “classrooms.” Chatter and guffaw waft across the space.

You can’t help but feel the creative vibes and peppy energy that emanate from the Hasso-Plattner-Institut School of Design Thinking (aka D-School). Located in the historical city of Potsdam, southwest of Berlin, D-School is part of the Hasso-Plattner-Institut, an IT-Systems Engineering university founded by Hasso Plattner, the man behind software giant SAP.

We are on a media familiarisation trip organised by Unit Inovasi Khas (UNIK), an innovation agency under the Prime Minister’s Department, to get an insight into D-School, which partners Unik to train Malaysian youths to become innovators.

Founded in 2007, the D-School curriculum is based on the “design thinking” process – an approach that looks at users’ needs and desires, leading to sustainable innovations that can make people’s lives better. It is not about design per se.

And unlike the mythical lone genius inventor, design thinking involves teamwork. It draws on the expertise of individuals from varying backgrounds and disciplines, from engineers and anthropologists to accountants and fashion designers.

Hardly a newfangled idea making its runway debut, the concept has been bandied about for decades and used as a mantra by some of the biggest creative companies in the world, including San Francisco-based global design firm Ideo.

But the methodology was pioneered from Stanford University in California, and taught and explored at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford since 2005. As part of the coursework, students get to work on real-life “design challenges” developed together with project partners from the industry, public sector or non-profit organisations.

Design thinkers

In the corporate realm, award-winning companies like Ideo employ design thinkers who are marketers, engineers, psychologists, industrial designers and architects. Ideo has 12 offices in eight countries and high-profile clients like Visa, Toyota, Samsung, Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola.

Take their design project with Shimano, the leading supplier of bicycle components in the world. In 2004, Shimano was grappling with stagnated growth in its high-end road-racing and mountain-bike sectors in the United States. Driven by technology innovations for years, the company’s initial instinct was to introduce high-end casual bicycles that might appeal to baby boomers.

But with the help of Ideo, adopting the design thinking method, the company realised they should reach out to the 161 million US adults who aren’t riding bicycles. Using a human-centred approach, Ideo and Shimano hit the streets to survey why 90% of American adults do not ride bicycles. Findings reveal that the complexities (like shifting gears) and costs of modern bikes, the high maintenance, and the danger of cycling on roads are factors that put off casual cyclists.

Shimano then partnered with bicycle manufacturers like Giant, Trek and Raleigh to produce a biking experience that stirred up childhood memories of simple, joyful riding. These “coasting” bicycles have coaster brakes (back pedalling to brake), automatic shifting and puncture-resistant tires to make cycling easier and low maintenance.

To ensure a holistic experience, a comprehensive website helps people to locate safe places to ride. Shimano also launched a trade campaign and training curriculum to educate retailers to better serve recreational customers. In six months, the three manufacturers sold out the 30,000 Coasting bikes produced.
“Design thinking is a mindset and a set of methods you can use to solve problems that can impact society and businesses,” explains Dr Claudia Nicolai, the general programme manager and lecturer of D-School, on our visit.

“It’s not like it has never been done before,” admits Nicolai who has been studying strategic innovations, the precursor to design thinking, for a decade.

“What it does is to combine different methods and developments and put it under the design thinking label.”

Nicolai develops and designs teaching content, coaches students and teachers, hosts workshops and develop design-thinking strategies for companies.

At D-School, there are three core elements in design thinking: focus on multi-disciplinary team, team-supported space that is highly flexible and dynamic, and the process itself, Director of D-School Professor Ulrich Weinberg added.

Dubbed the “grandfather of computer graphics in Germany,” Weinberg is instrumental in getting D-school going from the beginning.

He has 25 years of experience in 3d animation, simulation and computer games. At D-School, the course runs over one term (Basic track) or two terms (Advanced track) spanning 12 weeks, and students are assessed based on their teams.

“What I learned in the last five years is that you will not get the full, dynamic energy of the people, whether in companies or schools, if you have incentive models that focus on individual performance.”

In recent years, huge corporations in Germany are also jumping in on what D-School is doing.

“Companies are calling us to partner on projects or to book workshops on design thinking,” says Weinberg. Some of D-School’s partners include industry giants like Siemens, Johnson & Johnson, DHL, Panasonic and Lufthansa Airlines.

The enthusiasm of D-School students is as infectious as their teachers’.
“I think the key benefit is learning how to design for people, focusing on their needs or wishes. You are not trying to sell things but to fulfil needs,” says Juliana Paolucci, 24. A product and graphic designer from Brazil, Paolucci and her teammates Andrezej Karel, Sabrina Meyfeld and Laura Kroth are working on a design challenge for Genovasi. Their subject: how to engage young people in the development of the community.

They had to set out to find solutions that can convert Malaysian youths from armchair critics to empathetic doers.

“The youths are the future of the country, they need to engage the community and change reality,” explains Paolucci. “But first we need to find out their needs, wants and desires, and ways to fulfil them.”

“Also we need to take into account activities they like to do, for example, how do they use social networking to take community action?”

Using design thinking methodology brings together different actions in a structured way, Karel added.

“The first idea might not be the best solution, so we go through an iterative process multiple times: understand, observe, define point of view, ideate, prototype and test,” says the 25-year-old Polish who is working on his thesis for his marketing/management degree.

Room for failure is the DNA of design thinking.

“In a conventional design process, you just sit in your room, and keep going at it until you think it’s perfect,” explains Meyfeld, 27, a communication scientist.

“But with design thinking, we’re out testing prototypes on the second or third day and if it doesn’t work, we start at it again.”

“I am keen on social innovation and want to learn more about how to apply the methodology in my social enterprise,” adds Kroth, 29, who studied communications and public relations. She hopes to start a small business to bring people of different generations together to develop dialogues on German history and keep history alive for future generations.

 D-School experience

As for D-School alumni like Jeremias Schmitt, his experience prepared him for how he wants to work with people and how to develop projects further.

“After the D-School experience, students actually find real meaning in what they do, why they do it and how they want to do things,” quips the 27-year-old Berliner.

“Some even applied for jobs that they never thought of applying, for example, a student who studied information science seeking for a business development job.”

In Europe, more and more start-ups are using design thinking as a tool to innovate, Schmitt added.

So is design thinking the be-all and end-all of innovation? And how does one measure its efficacy or success rate?

“For me, it’s not about how many products are successful in the market. I care more about how design thinking deeply impacts the students, how they got the chance to experience the process, and how it changed the way they do things,” says Weinberg.

To date, D-School has done about 70 projects. One-third of the ideas were implemented at some point, the other third came up with solutions that led to different things, and one-third led to nothing.

Clients who worked on the project either left their companies or there was no follow-up from the clients’ side. The role of design thinking at D-School is to create innovators, not so much innovations.

In the case of Shimano’s Coasting programme, three years after its initial success, the company pulled the plug on the programme and manufacturers stopped rolling out coasting bikes because sales fell below expectations.

Some industry observers blamed it on the bike brands that weren’t doing their jobs to communicate the benefits of Coasting to retailers and customers, among other factors.

It wouldn’t be fair to say this design thinking experiment has flopped.

Suffice to say, design thinking isn’t the magic pill for success.

But “use it to its advantage: to give new insights, outline new ways of thinking, introduce new techniques or develop new entries to the market,” as innovation and design writer/editor Helen Walters (formerly with BusinessWeek and Bloomberg) attested in her talk “Design Thinking Won’t Save You.”


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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Filipinos’ Sulu militant group in Sabah must leave Malaysia today

Muslims at the Golden Mosque in Quiapo district of Manila on Saturday express their support to Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III and followers who are Sabah in press for their claim. DANNY PATA

LAHAD DATU: Malaysia has extended the deadline for the Sulu armed group to move out of Tanduo village and return home to today, following a request from the Philippines.

The Philippine Government had earlier asked for the deadline to be set for Tuesday to allow them to persuade Sultan Jamalul Kiram III to order his brother Azzimudie Kiram and the armed group of more than 100 to get out of Tanduo village in Felda Sahabat 17 where they have been holed up since Feb 9.

The request was made to Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman by his Philippine counterpart Albert del Rosario after the expiry of the Friday deadline.

Anifah, however, told The Star that he had conveyed the decision on the new Sunday deadline to Rosario.

“We are hoping the stand-off will end peacefully with the latest deadline,” he said, echoing Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein's statement that he wanted the two-week stand-off to “end sooner than later” without bloodshed.

Hishammuddin told reporters in Kluang that the extended period would not be too long as his ministry would leave it to the security forces to conduct an operation to end the stand-off.

He said the Tanduo incident was different from the country's past experience with armed groups such as Al-Maunah, Abu Sayyaf and Jemayah Islamiah as this group claimed to be descendents of the Sulu sultanate.

However, he said the country's sovereignty and the pride of the Sabah people must not be taken for granted.

The priority of the armed forces was to defuse the situation without bloodshed as it could affect Malaysia's good relationship with the Philippines, he said, adding that the preparation for the deportation of the Sulu group “is in the final stage”.

As the Philippine Government tries to persuade the Sulu Sultan to take their Sabah claim demand to a diplomatic level, the Kiram family has been adamant and had asked Azzimudie's group to stay put in Tanduo.

Although emissaries have been negotiating with Azzimudie, the political pressure in Manila has been mounting on President Benigno Aquino and his Cabinet to resurrect the long dormant Sabah claim following talk that the Oct 15 peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front had left out the Sulu sultanate as well as Nur Misuari's Moro National Liberation Front.

To help defuse and bring the stand-off to a peaceful conclusion, Philippine Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said he and his Malaysian counterpart, including the armed forces of both countries, were closely coordinating their actions and exchanging information.

Gazmin said the Philippine military had enforced a naval blockade in the Sulu Sea to prevent undocumented Filipinos from entering Sabah as reports emerged that other groups from southern Philippines were poised to help Azzimudie's gunmen.

Stating that the Sulu group was pursuing its Sabah claim the wrong way, Gazmin revealed that six navy ships and a transport vessel were on standby in Tawi Tawi, about a 15-minute fast boat ride to Tanduo village.


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Asean nations feud over South China Sea 
Philippines wants rearmed Japan to contain China   
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Saturday, February 23, 2013

China heaps scorn on Abe remarks to boost US alliance (against China)

Washington (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Japan's new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is in the United States to forge a new and closer alliance with the Unit States in opposition to China. Elected in December, the hawkish Abe arrived in Washington yesterday. Today he is scheduled to meet US President Barack Obama. The timing of the visit is not accidental, given rising tensions with China over a group of islands and North Korea's ever-dangerous threats

.In an interview with a US paper ahead of his trip, Abe voiced hope that the US alliance - and the presence of 47,000 American troops on Japanese soil under a security treaty - would send a message to China. "It is important for us to have them recognise that it is impossible to try to get their way by coercion or intimidation," Abe explained.


 The Chinese foreign ministry on Friday continued to slam Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who pointed the finger at China on a slate of domestic issues during an interview prior to his visit to the US.

The ministry accused Japan of playing up the "China threat" with ulterior motives.

"China is strongly dissatisfied with the Japanese leader's comments that distort facts, attack and defame China and stir up confrontations between the two countries," Hong Lei, spokesman for the foreign ministry, told a press briefing.

Hong's comments followed others from Thursday and came in response to Abe's accusations, which claimed China had a "deeply ingrained" need to spar with Japan and neighboring countries to "maintain domestic support," according to the Washington Post.

Echoing the Chinese side's requirement for immediate clarifications, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga explained Friday that the newspaper misquoted Abe's remarks and had caused a misunderstanding.

Suga said the prime minister has repeatedly emphasized the Japan-China relationship and would push forward strategic and mutually beneficial relations.

Despite the explanation, the transcript of the exclusive interview published by the Washington Post on Thursday showed that the hawkish Japanese leader lambasted China's political and education systems among other issues.

During the interview, Abe said that under the one-party rule of the Communist Party and having introduced a market economy, China needs to maintain high economic growth by seeking resources through coercion or intimidation while teaching patriotism mirroring an "anti-Japanese sentiment."

"Obviously, Abe tries to tarnish China's image in the international community and hype up the 'China threat' before talks with Obama in order to win US sympathy and support," Lü Yaodong, a researcher of Japanese politics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times Friday.

Hong said that only Chinese people have the right to speak about whether China's political system and development strategy are suitable.

"Only those with political bias and ulterior motives would maliciously interpret and blame them," he noted.

Huang Dahui, director of the Center for East Asia Studies at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times that this reflected the "value-oriented" diplomacy Abe has been adopting to "flatter" the US, adding that the hawkish Japanese leader has also stressed propaganda throughout his political career.

Abe was scheduled to meet Obama on Friday. During a press conference on Thursday, White House Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said the meeting is a "further symbol of the President's commitment to the US-Japan alliance as a cornerstone of US economic and security policy, and as a cornerstone of the US-Asia policy."

Danny Russel, senior director for Asia at the National Security Council, said the two leaders are expected to discuss maritime security issues and territorial claims both in the East China Sea and the South China Sea.

In his interview with the Washington Post, Abe also warned that without changing its current policy, China would lose the confidence of the international community, which will result in a loss of foreign investment.

"The logic is ridiculous. It is Japan that has stirred up provocation by 'nationalizing' the Diaoyu Islands. It should rethink its own policies," said Lü.

Regarding such remarks, Russel said Obama would listen to Abe's assessment and views on the current situation in the East China Sea and the consultations between Tokyo and Beijing. He added that the US opposition to coercive actions or unilateral steps threatening the stability of the region has been "clear."

A commentary carried by the Xinhua News Agency on Friday said the US should not be "hijacked" by Japan over the territorial dispute with China, as the US support for Japan on this issue "would not only damage Washington's credibility as a constructive superpower, but also as an important partner of China on many pressing global issues."

Huang said in terms of China-related issues, the US would show its support to Japan as an ally, but would not be led by Japan to sacrifice the China-US relationship.

Sources: Times

Related post:
Japan's smear campaign, trade bards with China over radar incident near disputed isles

Friday, February 22, 2013

Cyberattacks using US IPs' target military - China-fights back


China’s state media has come out fighting after over allegations of cyberattacks on US companies, and declared the accusations a “commercial stunt.”

Earlier this week, Alexandria based Internet security firm Mandiant, said Chinese military cyberspy unit had been targeting US and other foreign firms and organisations in hacking attacks.

But China Daily have hit back, writing: “One cannot help but ask the real purpose of such a hullabaloo.”

The paper added:
“With the US economic recovery dragging its feet, it is reasonable to think that some in Washington may want to make China a scapegoat so that public attention is diverted away from the country’s economic woes.”
China Daily also quoted defense ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng as saying the People’s Liberation Army had also been targeted in a “significant number” of cyberattacks.

“A considerable number” of them originated in the United States, judging from the IP addresses involved,” he said, but added that he did not “accuse” the US government of being involved.

According to Agence France-Presse, Mandiant’s report alleges that the hacking group “Advanced Persistent Threat” (APT1), was part of the Chinese military’s Unit 61398. Mandiant also said APT1 have stolen hundreds of terabytes of data from at least 141 across 20 industries, some of whom are involved with US domestic infrastructure.

But official state news agency Xinhua said the Mandiant report “reeks of a commercial stunt”.

“Next time,” wrote Xinhua in a stinging commentary, “the CEO could simply say: ‘See the Chinese hackers? Hurry up, come and buy our cyber security services.’ ”

The state news agency added that the US had a “matchless superiority and an ability to stage cyberattacks across the globe”, and that the US military had “established a significant cyber force, including the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade, which is a regular military unit tasked with carrying out cyber missions”.
In a further missive, Xinhua said Washington had a “habit of accusing other nations based on phony evidence,” adding:
“Facts will eventually prove that the cyberattacks accusations are groundless and will only tarnish the image and reputation of the company making them, as well as that of the United States.”
The comments in China’s media comes after President Obama’s administration executive order on February 12 which promised to aggressively combat the increase in cyberattacks pursuing trade secrets that could threaten domestic economic and national security, Mondaq reports.

In a report titled the Cyberspace Policy Review, the White House did not explicitly name China as a threat, but the inference was clear.

The step-up on US cyber-security follows well publicized claims of hacking attacks from Chinese sources at The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday, “We have repeatedly raised our concerns at the highest levels about cybertheft with senior Chinese officials, including in the military, and will continue to do so. This is a very important challenge.”

At a subsequent press briefing on Wednesday, Carney added there could be possible trade restrictions imposed on China.

But some experts say most the documented cyberattacks have been linked to Eastern Europe, with the remainder linked to the U.S. and only a handful to China.

“There are too many people right now saying, ‘the sky is falling,’ without proposing cost-effective solutions, which is causing a lot of confusion,” said James Hendler, professor of computer science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, IB Times reports.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Spurred by private sector, Malaysia economy grows 6.4% in Q4, 5.6% for 2012 vs 5.1% in 2011

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's economy recorded a spectacular performance in the last quarter of 2012, growing 6.4%.

This is the highest quarterly growth since two and a half years ago and was buoyed by robust manufacturing and construction sectors.

It supported the overall economic growth for 2012 that expanded to 5.6% compared to 5.1% in 2011.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast that the growth of the fourth quarter would accelerate to 5.5% from 5.2% in the previous three-month period, and forecast a full-year growth at 5.3%.

All sectors registered positive growth with the services, manufacturing and construction sectors continuing to be the key drivers in the supply side.

Many experts believed that the Economic Transformation Programme, with its multi-billion projects, had to a great extent supported the growth in the construction sector that carried spill-over effects onto other sectors.

Bank Negara Malaysia said total investment remained robust and was the main driver of growth during the quarter.

“The growth of private consumption continued to remain strong although the pace of increase moderated.

“The growth during the quarter also benefited from a significantly lower negative contribution from net exports.

“On the supply side, most economic sectors recorded improvements in growth during the quarter,” it said in a statement yesterday.

The main drivers of the economy in the fourth quarter included domestic demand that continued to expand by 7.5%.

Private sector investment advanced by 20.2% supported by capital spending in the domestic-oriented manufacturing and consumer-related services sub-sectors, namely telecommunications, real estate and aviation and the on-going implementation of projects in the oil and gas sector.

Investment was also supported by capacity expansion in the primary-related manufacturing cluster and capital spending in new growth areas such as medical and communications equipment.

Public investment expanded by 11.1%, driven by capital spending by public enterprises in the transportation, utilities, oil and gas and communications sectors.

Bank Negara said the headline inflation rate, as measured by the annual change in the Consumer Price Index, continued to moderate to 1.3% in the fourth quarter.

Going forward, Bank Negara said there were emerging signs of improvements in the global economy where the latest economic indicators also suggested further stabilisation in growth performance in Asia. - The Star/Asia News Network

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Robert Kuok is still top among 40 richest Malaysians

Robert Kuok, the Hong Kong-based Malaysian tycoon, is still the richest man in Malaysia with a wealth of RM46.1 billion, up 0.88 per cent from last year’s RM45.7 billion, followed by businessman Ananda Krishnan and Public Bank’s Tan Sri Teh Hong Piow.

Ananda, in second position since 2004, suffered the biggest wealth decline, falling by 23.5 per cent from last year, with his assets held via Usaha Tegas Sdn Bhd worth RM32.90 billion as at the tabulation date of January 18, 2013.

Teh, kept his place for the third year running with assets worth RM13.73 billion, business magazine Malaysian Business said in its February 16 issue.

It said that the combined wealth of Malaysia’s 40 richest individuals rose slightly this year despite the volatile and choppy capital markets.

They were collectively worth RM194.86 billion as at January 18, a slight increase of 0.86 per cent compared to RM193.2 billion a year ago.

When Malaysian Business first started counting the wealth of Malaysia’s 40 richest individuals in 2002, their combined assets stood at RM41.7 billion and Kuok came out on top.

The magazine said that fourth on the list is Tan Sri Quek Leng Chan, who jumped from sixth position last year, replacing Tan Sri Lee Shin Cheng of IOI Group, who slid to sixth.

Quek’s wealth, through his flagship Hong Leong Group and Guoco Group, is valued at RM11.09 billion this year.

Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Albukhary keeps his fifth position this year with a wealth level of RM10.60 billion, up from RM9.53 billion last year.

Lee slips from fourth position in 2012 to sixth with assets of RM10.56 billion.

Genting Group’s chief, Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, and his mother, Puan Sri Lee Kim Hua, maintain their seventh and eighth positions respectively. Lim’s wealth rose 7.06 per cent to RM8.12 billion while Lee Kim Hua’s increased 9.82 per cent to RM7.23 billion.

Tan Sri Tiong Hiew King, through his vehicle Rimbunan Hijau Sdn Bhd, is at ninth place this year with assets worth RM6.35 billion, a slight fall of 1.01 per cent from that of last year.

Rounding up the Top 10 list is Singapore-based property tycoon Ong Beng Seng, via Hotel Properties Ltd, with a wealth level of RM4.02 billion, a decline of 18.36 per cent from last year.

Malaysian Business said that one interesting fact was that since 2002, 81 tycoons have joined the 40 Richest Malaysians list and of that, 15 have managed to remain on the list continuously.

Overall, the steady increase of these tycoons’ wealth can be attributed to share market performance and price inflation, given that their wealth is largely based on their shareholdings.

It is also reflective of the performance of their companies and Malaysia’s positive economic growth over the past 12 years.

As for this year, there were 31 billionaires — one more than last year — and 23 of the 40 in the list saw their assets increasing from last year. Of these, 14 registered growth of more than 10 per cent.

There were three newcomers to the list. Datuk Desmond Lim of Pavilion REIT made his debut at number 15, with a wealth worth RM1.869 billion. The other two, Datuk Tan Heng Chew of Tan Chong Motors Holding and Tan Sri Kua Sian Kooi of KSK Group, returned at number 37 and 40 respectively.

The full list of the 40 tycoons and details of their wealth appear in the magazine. It also presents a list of the 10 richest tycoons on the ACE Market.

As in previous years, the wealth of the Top 40 was assessed based on the value of their stake in listed companies as at January 18. — Bernama

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Who is Nick Zenophon, biased, unwelcome,stupid and impractical?

Biased and unwelcome

Australian senator Nick Xenophon has been accused of tarnishing Malaysia’s image by questioning our electoral process and smearing the palm oil industry.

A LOT of heat is being generated both here and in Australia following the Govern-ment’s decision to deport independent Australian senator Nick Xenophon who arrived at the LCCT in Sepang on Saturday.

He was detained as an undesirable person and deported on the first available flight back the next day.

There is considerable support as well as condemnation for Xenophon’s deportation, with many individuals and NGOs questioning his independence and accusing him of coming here to interfere in our election system.

Those who condemn the deportation say it is authoritarian and reflects the Government’s paranoia of foreign observers.

Just who is Xenophon and what is the Australian’s relationship with Malaysia?

The outspoken senator is a personal friend of Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and one of his many sympathisers in Australia.

He often speaks up on various Malaysian issues and has travelled here several times, the last in April, at Anwar’s invitation to ostensibly study the polling system.

But his critics charged that he is heavily involved in supporting the Opposition and had even participated in the Bersih 3.0 rally in April last year that ended in violence.

Xenophon’s latest trip here was as part of a four-member Australian delegation after the Australian government rejected Anwar’s request for independent observers for the upcoming general election.

Xenophon was deported, said our immigration authorities, because he had tarnished the image of the country. He had been classified as a “prohibited immigrant”.

The fact is immigration had blacklisted Xenophon because he had attended the Bersih protest last year and for allegedly making “baseless” allegations about Malaysia.

“He can’t pretend to be an independent observer as he is very biased,” said political analyst Dr Chandra Muzaffar.

“It does not make sense trying to be an independent observer when he is not. He is a very partial observer and was ready to denounce our electoral process,” Dr Chandra said.

Xenophon had given a press conference in Parliament last year in which he lambasted the Government’s “electoral shortcomings”.

Among the issues he raised was the short campaign period.

He also vocally objected to the fact that rural constituencies had a smaller number of voters compared with urban ones which had many more.

He compared Malaysia’s electoral system, which he faulted, with other countries including Australia’s which he painted favourably.

But it is through his virulent anti-palm oil campaign that Xenophon first came to the attention of our Government.

As Australia’s Green Party senator, Xenophon strongly supported and promoted legislation requiring labelling of palm oil in food products.

Labelling has threatened big plantations and thousands of smallholders equally.

Xenophon promoted the “Truth in Labelling – Palm Oil Bill” which was proposed by environmental NGOs and supported by Xenophon because oil palm plantations, it was said, contributed to deforestation and threatened the orang utan.

The palm oil industry earned the country RM80bil in 2012 and provided hundreds of thousands of Malaysians employment and income.

But Xenophon couldn’t care less.

Eventually the Bill was defeated by an extensive information campaign mounted by Malaysia.

Lately, Xenophon has emerged again on the Malaysian political landscape as a human rights advocate who is concerned with our election laws and practices.

He has allied himself with Anwar and with the Opposition who now decry the fact that he had been deported rather unceremoniously by an exasperated government that at one time had tolerated him and allowed Xenophon free access.

The reality is that many of these battles are actually trade wars waged in various shapes and forms and which are heavily financed by our economic rivals.

The economic stakes are indeed high.

In his own Australia, Xenophon is viewed as a maverick and attention grabber who is into self-promotion.

Australian commentator Greg Sheridan, writing in The Australian, has this to say about Xenophon – he only campaigns for one side of Malaysian politics, the Opposition.

Sheridan also wrote it was “stupid and impractical” for Australia to send election monitors, citing Vietnam and Cambodia, and Malaysia “on any measure is one of the most democratic and freewheeling nations in South-East Asia”.

Indeed, Xenophon has come here on a number of occasions, taken advantage of our openness and had even engaged in grandstanding – not just in Parliament but also on the streets.

He has lost our goodwill and made himself persona non grata.


Related Stories:
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Guan Eng: Deportation disgraceful and unacceptable
Xenophon not on list of Aussie delegation 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Distinguishing research authorship and ownership rights


Distinguishing authorship

I REFER to the letter “Quality time supervising post-graduates” (The Star, Feb 16 - attached below) where the writer said: “The supervisor obtains grants for his research and allows you to use the money to do your research. There is no reason why he should not claim first authorship”.

This was one of the responses to the letter “Stop practice of ‘free riders” (The Star, Feb 7- also attached below) which criticised the alleged practice of supervisors claiming authorship for students’ works.

It appears that there is a failure to appreciate the difference between authorship and ownership.

“Author”, as defined under section 3 of Malaysia’s Copyright Act 1987, means “the writer or the maker of the works”. It does not refer to a person who pays for the work.

In our present context, authorship can only be acquired through some scholarly input into the work. Money cannot buy authorship.

Authorship must not be confused with ownership.

The latter refers to one’s property right in the work, which includes the right to exploit it for profit.

For example, an author and a publisher may co-own a work. But the publisher is not the author.

Likewise, the supervisor who has provided the funding may acquire ownership, but not authorship.

Being an author attracts certain rights.

No person may, without his/her consent, present the work without identifying the author or under a name other than the author’s.

This is one of the author’s “moral rights” recognised by the law (section 25), which cannot be overridden without the author’s consent even if the work is subsequently sold.

Of course, where the supervisor constructs the framework for the research (more common for sciences than for social sciences) and divides its components to be researched by her students, the supervisor may appropriately be regarded as an author. There is scholarly input on his/her part.

What about the credit due for supervision given?

This will depend on the common understanding between the supervisor and the student.

In normal circumstances, the supervisor’s comments on a student’s work does not give him authorship since it is either given gratuitously or in pursuant to the supervisor’s obligation as a supervisor.

As the legal holder of moral rights, the student may as a matter of courtesy offer to include the supervisor’s name. But this is a matter of discretion rather than obligation.

Supervision is a selfless task. In my subject area, at least, supervisors conventionally disclaim authorship (or rather, they do not assert).

To acknowledge their generosity and sacrifice, it is common to explicitly express our gratitude to them in our work.

A close and personal relationship, which will last for many years (or decades) to come, arises from such mutual respect.

ALVIN SEE Assistant Professor of Law  Singapore Management University
  • B.C.L., University of Oxford, 2010
  • C.L.P., Malaysia, 2009
  • LL.B. (First Class Honours), University of Leeds, 2008

Quality time supervising post-graduates

I REFER to the letter “Stop practice of free riders” (The Star, Feb 7 - attached below) by Pola Singh.

The writer has missed the point by many miles. He has called supervisors by many idioms! One of which is “lembu punya susu, sapi dapat nama”.

He has misunderstood the whole process of postgraduate education. I don’t think there are any supervisors who will force a student to work under him like a “slave”. It is the student who chooses to work with a particular supervisor.

The graduate student–supervisor relationship is very personal and close. Yes, the student has to do all the work under the close supervision of the supervisor. The supervisor obtains grants for his research and allows you to use the money to do your research. There is no reason why he should not claim first authorship.

Of course in any publication there is no need for the supervisor to put his name first, but the corresponding author must be your supervisor. You cannot be the corresponding author simply because you will not be able to answer the reviewers’ queries as well as he.

If you can, then you don’t need the postgraduate degree and you don’t need the supervisor.

Many professors and supervisors spend hours discussing, correcting and guiding many students to their postgraduate degrees.

PROF FAROOK ADAM School of Chemical Sciences 
Universiti Sains Malaysia Penang

B. Sc. (with Education) (USM) 1981) M.Sc. (USM) 1992 D.Phil. ( Sussex ) 1998   

Stop practice of ‘free riders’
I FEEL compelled to write after hearing the tales of graduate
students pursuing their doctorate degrees at local universities who are exasperated with their professors for making use of them for their own ends.

Graduate students, particularly those doing their doctorate degrees, are at the mercy of their professors who demand this and that.

Topping the list of unreasonable demands is the co-authorship of papers based on the research done by the student for his PhD dissertation.

It is the student who painstakingly prepares the literature review, formulates the hypothesis, collects and analyses the data, draws up conclusions and makes recommendations.

Yes, the conscientious professor guides the student all the way (which in any case is part and parcel of his work) but when it comes to the publication of a manuscript based on the research findings, guess who gets all the credit?

Professors take for granted that in an unequal relationship, they will get credit for the hard work put in by the student and this is manifested by putting their name as the first author of the research paper.

No straight-thinking student would challenge this. In the worst case scenario, the student’s name does not even appear on the manuscript.

It’s akin to the saying “Lembu punyi susu, sapi dapat nama”.

Call this a form of exploitation but it is taking place all the time.

This imbalance of power leads some to label the students as “slaves”.

No matter how friendly and accommodating professors are, they still hold considerable power in deciding when the student will graduate.

Some nasty professors demand that the thesis be rewritten again and again and this frustrates the student who will do everything and anything to complete his doctoral degree as soon as possible.

We can understand why students are so afraid to bring such matters up to the higher authorities. In the process, they suffer in silence and the problem remains buried deep in the ground.

And it’s hard to say “no” to a professor’s unreasonable demands because grad students need the support of faculty members, who may happen to be members of their dissertation committee, to pass and approve their thesis.

Many of the department heads are so busy and sometimes overburdened with their administrative duties that they have hardly any time to do serious substantive research.

But as they aspire to go higher they need to beef up their resume by coming up with more publications. This will also increase their prospect of promotion and getting the elusive JUSA (super scale) post.

Guess who does all the “donkey work” for them? And yet some of these selfish professors do not even acknowledge the contribution of the student, although their contribution in the preparation of the paper has been minimal.

It’s easy to know who the culprits are.

Just ask the academicians to submit a list of their publications and notice the number of times the name of the professor is listed as the first author followed by the students.

Sometimes, the subject matter or topic of a paper is the same but the student’s name is left out entirely.
This practice of “free riders” in the academic circle has to stop.

Graduate students cannot be forever exploited. Vice-chancellors should not condone such practices which are regarded as a norm not only in Malaysia but also in developed countries.

A system has to developed by the Higher Education Ministry to ensure students get due credit for the work they have done.

What can be immediately done is to send a circular that a professor cannot take ownership of an article or paper that has been prepared entirely by the graduate student based on his dissertation work.

If it is warranted, the professor’s name can be listed not as the first author but as co-author.

POLA SINGH  Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia's MOL (Money Online) going big globally, aims for US$1bil revenue

GANESH Kumar Bangah turned 23 in true techpreneur style. He listed a company, entered the Malaysian Book of Records as the youngest chief executive officer of a public-listed company, and pocketed his first RM1mil.

That was in 2002. Just a few years earlier, he had merely been an ambitious engineering undergraduate. He had been managing cybercafs and peddling a proprietary cybercaf management system, having developed it with a business partner.

“We started out selling the software but decided during the dotcom bubble to give it away for free in return for control of the first screen that people viewed so we could offer eyeballs,” Bangah recounts. Their plan was to sell advertising space on that prime landing page.

Call it guts or luck, he even got Vincent Tan, founder of the Berjaya Corp conglomerate and one of Malaysia's richest men, to bankroll his little start-up called Money Online or MOL. “Tan was one of the early movers who recognised the potential of the Internet and was investing in businesses in the industry, ” says Bangah.

With a financial backer onboard, Bangah dropped out of university to focus on the business. Within a year, he had signed up 15,000 cybercafs from around the world. It should have been a shoo-in success, but monetising the Internet in Asia in the early 2000s was not easy.

Internet penetration in Malaysia at the time was just 15% of the total population, a mere 3.7 million. And in pre-Google AdWords days, online advertising was a tough idea to sell.

So Bangah switched his focus to the online payment business instead. Rather than give the software away for free, the cybercafs were asked to pre-buy a certain amount of MOLPoints, which they could resell to their customers. These points could be used to transact safely online.

Unfortunately, e-commerce was just catching on, and consumers still preferred the comfort and certainty of shopping the bricks-and-mortar way. Bangah decided if there wasn't a market for his points, he would create a demand for them by selling prepaid airtime reload coupons online and making it a currency of choice for online gaming.

“There was a game from (South) Korea that was very popular with gamers at the cybercafs. It was free to play but I had a hunch they would soon start charging,” he recalls. “So I went to the game publisher and secured the exclusive rights for the game in South-East Asia.”

It was an astute call that gave Bangah his much-needed break and set MOL on course to being one of Asia's largest end-to-end content, distribution, e-commerce and payment networks today. His MOL Global group comprises MOLPoints, an Internet wallet for purchasing game credits, content and services; MOLReload, which facilitates the distribution of prepaid airtime; and MOLPay, an e-commerce payment solution gateway.

Online gaming remains his sweet spot with sale of MOLPoints, predominantly for gaming credits, accounting for more than 80% of profits. “We control about 70% of the market in Malaysia and about 40% of the region,” says Bangah. He estimates that MOL is also among the top five leaders in the game payment industry globally.

“MOLPay is our fastest growing business even though it accounts for only 20% of revenue now,” he says.

MOL handles over 60 million transactions annually with a payment volume of over US$500mil (RM1.55bil). This strength comes from having a complete payment universe: Content and distribution channels plus online and offline payment options.

“In the case of online gaming and content, it is a chicken-and-egg situation. Content partners will sign up with you only if you have channels, and channel partners will do so if you have content. So our success comes from having both,” Bangah explains.

It is a position he continues to strengthen by continually signing up new content publishers, which at last count, stand at over 500.

This is complemented by MOL's links with more than 1,000 payment partners worldwide. These comprise over 680,000 physical retail payment channels across 80 countries, 88 online banks in nine countries, and major international payment systems.

In 2009, Bangah scored another coup when MOL acquired Friendster for an undisclosed amount. While the pioneer social networking site may have lost much of its luster with the entry of Facebook, MySpace and other similar sites, it still had a huge Asian following of over 100 million members.

Bangah is quick to clarify that buying Friendster was not about mounting a challenge against Facebook. “Friendster is a global brand while MOL was then primarily a Malaysian brand. Owning it has helped the MOL branding and opened doors for us to big players,” he says.

“We also bought it for its community. We thought that if we could convert 1% to 2% of Friendster's members into MOL members, it would be quite substantial. And we have done that our membership now stands at two million.”

Then, of course, there were the patents Friendster owned, which MOL subsequently sold to Facebook in a cash-plus-stocks deal, reportedly valued at US$40mil. Bangah declines to comment on this citing a non-disclosure agreement.

Bangah has since turned Friendster into an online social gaming and discovery portal, a move that hopes to build up MOL's revenue from online gaming.

Since the acquisition of Friendster, that revenue has already tripled.

Now his plan is to go global with MOL. Having built strong footholds in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines, the group is expanding into Vietnam, Turkey, the United States, Brazil and Australia.

The last two years saw the group buying several online content distributors and payment service providers to realise this ambition: Zest Interactive in Thailand; LoadCentral in the Philippines; Ocash in Australia; and Rixty in the United States.

As far as Bangah is concerned, he has barely skimmed the surface. His target is to become a company with US$1bil in revenue.

“As long as online gaming grows, we in the platform business will grow.” - China Daily  By ELAINE TAN

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Big Malaysian banks with diversified defensive qualities seen upside

IN view of the weaker loan growth this year, which banking stocks will prove to be winners?

From the softer loan growth reported in December 2012, moderating at 10.4%, analysts expect loan growth will continue to weaken this year.

The 10.4% loan growth in December compares with a growth of 13.6% and 12.8% in 2011 and 2010 respectively.

Most analysts estimate loan growth this year to be within the 9%-11% range. “Together with the ongoing interest margins headwind, there are limited opportunities to drive earnings growth for banks materially beyond our current expectation of a high single-digit to low-teen growth,” says a Kenanga Research analyst.

However, Alliance Research banking analyst Cheah King Yoong sees loan growth falling within 7%-9%.

“I suppose our 7%-9% forecast is lower than other analysts’ 10%-11% forecasts due to our assumption that the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) related loans may not be a key loan driver this year, given that significant amount being disbursed in 2012 could be repaid this year, which could drag the business loan growth momentum for 2013,” he says.

However, Cheah expects housing loans to resume its reign as key loan drivers this year, on the support of the continued robustness in property loans and recovery in hire-purchase loans.

Lending indicators turned negative in December with loan applications falling flat with a 14.6% year-on-year drop at RM53.6mil while approvals and disbursement activities dropped by 21.1% and 7.9% on a year-to-year basis respectively.

“The fall in lending indicators support our investment case that both lenders and borrowers are turning cautious with the impending 13th general election, which has to be called by the first half of 2013, and is now widely expected to be held in March,” says Cheah.

As at end-2012, business loans outstanding expanded by 9% year-on-year due to slower disbursements and base effect. Meanwhile, household loans continued to expand by 11.5% from a year ago.

“Drilling deeper into the business segment, the slowdown in year-on-year loan growth was mainly caused by transport, storage and communications as well as other sectors, with loans to these sectors contracting by 8.2% and 17.4% year-on-year respectively,” RHB Research analyst David Chong says.

He adds that it is possibly a reflection of lumpy repayments or refinancing via debt capital markets.

Key loan growth drivers came from real estate, construction, wholesale and retail trade, hotels and restaurants, and primary agriculture sectors.

CIMB Research banking analysts Winson Ng says the weak lending loan indicators do not point to a strong rebound in loan growth in the coming months. “On the other hand, we think that the erosion of net interest margin will be less drastic this year as banks will be more rational in their pricing of loans after the stiff rate competition in the past two to three years,” he says.

Ng reiterates his “neutral” rating on Malaysian banks. He adds that asset quality is expected to remain intact, which alleviates fears of a spike in credit costs for new impaired loans. “There are still some positives for Malaysian banks including financing opportunities from ETP projects, undemanding calendar year 2013 price-earnings of 11.5 times, and an attractive net dividend yield of 4.5%,” he says.

The banking sector could face two potential de-rating catalysts, which could pose further downside risks to analysts’ loan growth forecasts for 2013.

“Lending activities could decelerate in the first quarter of 2013 with slowing corporate loan disbursements and consumers turning cautious pending the upcoming general election,” Cheah says.

Another catalyst would be if the Government were to implement the goods and services tax (GST) and resume the subsidy rationalisation programme and raise the electricity tariff to close its budget deficit. “This fiscal tightening policy could have an adverse impact on consumer spending and consumer loans in the later part of the year,” says Cheah.

CIMB notes its preference for big banks that have better defensive qualities. “Maybank’s diversified business portfolio with top-three ranking in all business segments will enable it to reap the greatest benefits from the implementation of the broad-based ETP,” Ng says.

He adds that Maybank’s key earnings catalyst will be its rapid expansion in Indonesia which will enable the group to gain market share in the region and fuel its fee income growth.


Meanwhile, Public Bank Bhd’s fundamentals remain unrivalled, with a return on equity in the mid-20 percentage point range, the best asset quality with an impaired loan ratio of below 1% and a cost-to-income ratio of 30%.

“We expect the group to keep its credit cost low in 2013 to 2014, thanks to its superior asset quality, especially with the full adoption of FRS (Financial Reporting Standard) 139. Loan growth is projected to be a decent 11%-12%. The push for fee income growth, primarily from wealth management and bancassurance, will provide a further fillip to topline growth,” Ng says.

However, Alliance Research believes that Public Bank’s future risk-reward dynamics are less appealing.

“With the election uncertainties expected to be cleared by the first half of 2013, we believe that Public Bank may underperform its higher beta banking peers post-elections,” Cheah says. This is coupled with its rich 2013 price-to-book valuation of 2.8 times and declining asset growth trajectory.

Cheah expects high beta banks that underperformed in 2012 to outperform its competitors in 2013.

RHB Capital Bhd serves as our top pick of the banking sector since we believe that its current low valuation is no longer justified,” he says.

In the mid-cap section, Cheah has cast his eye on the often-overlooked Affin Holdings Bhd due to its turnaround story and good proxy to the merger and acquisition theme.

For investors looking for a direct and pure exposure to the fast-growing Islamic banking sector, BIMB Holdings Bhd is the way to go, says CIMB’s Ng.

“Re-rating catalysts include the best loan growth among the Malaysian banks under our coverage, the potential to venture into the under penetrated and fast-growing Indonesian financial market, brisk fee income growth, primarily from its takaful operations, and expected expansion of its net interest margin by optimising its loan-to-deposit ratio which is currently only 50% plus,” he says.

RHB Research and Kenanga Research remain “overweight” on the banking sector, while Alliance Research and CIMB Research maintain their “neutral” stance.