On 20 March 2015, the BSM Scandinavia 2015 class got to hear from Mr. Frazer Neo-Macken, Head of Public Relations and Communications at Electrolux Asia Pacific, Singapore.
Mr. Neo-Macken launched into his speech with vigour, starting with the history of Electrolux before moving on to its business operations. With nearly a century’s worth of colourful innovations in its history, Electrolux has accumulated numerous accolades, including inventing the retractable cord and the automated vacuum cleaner, all of which have contributed to transforming the art of homemaking across the world.
Over the years, Electrolux has diversified its portfolio and achieved a significant market share in the home appliance products sector by adapting its affordable, high-quality products to the needs of consumers. As is the Swedish way, the company is careful to emphasize gender equality in its advertising campaigns, but Mr. Neo-Macken acknowledged that the company’s products are mostly targeted at women, simply because, more often than not, they are the homemakers in the family.
Even within Electrolux Asia Pacific, the company culture is still very much true to its Swedish roots, remaining consensus-driven and focusing on view-alignment rather than prizing expediency above all else. Mr. Neo-Macken shared that, in his experience, adaptability and flexibility are important skills that one needs when working in a multinational corporation (MNC). To leverage on the advantage brought about by having different cultures coming together to work in an MNC, he opined that one must have an open mind and be willing to change so as to be productive and efficient even in a distinctly un-Singaporean-like work environment. In other words, it is more about the journey than the end goal, although as with all businesses, achieving organisational goals remains important.
Mr. Neo-Macken also revealed that the reason many MNCs such as Electrolux choose to set up their regional headquarters in Singapore is because of the tremendous tax rebates available. Without the need to cater to welfare-oriented policies like their parent companies, these MNCs capitalise on Singapore’s advantageous tax system.
One intriguing part of Mr. Neo-Macken’s talk was when he drew comparisons between the Swedish and Singaporean work cultures. In Singapore, it would be unheard of for office workers to clock out before the day’s work is done in order to pick their children up from childcare. In Sweden, however, not only is such an occurrence sufficiently commonplace to not even warrant the batting of an eye, it is even expected of office workers with young children. On that same note, while maternity leave in Singapore is restricted to four months for mothers, maternity leave in Sweden is shared between the father and mother and lasts up to sixteen months, with two of those sixteen months reserved specifically for the father. Even in this aspect, it is evident that the Swedes are strong proponents of gender equality.
The welfare-oriented nature of the socially democratic Swedes is a clear example of how, even without prioritising competitiveness as a driver of productive living, it is possible to remain strong in a rapidly changing world – an insight that Singapore could benefit from.