Norbreeze Group

IMG_0212Following the presentation by Vestas, the class of BSM Scandinavia 2015 were further treated to an invigorating presentation by Mrs Anne Trads Juel Sauerberg, Director & Founder of Asian retail specialist, Norbreeze Group.

Mrs Sauerberg began with a couple of questions to gain an understanding of the class’ knowledge of common business strategies and terminologies before proceeding to briefly explain the timeline leading up to the company’s founding in 2004. . Co-owned and co-managed with her husband, Mr Anders Peter Juel Sauerberg, Norbreeze Group is characterized by a deep passion for Danish design. Such contributed to the establishment of the company into what it is today with a clear goal and aim to distribute, market and build international accessible luxury brands that share a similar design philosophy of timeless allure and consistent pursuit of functionalism and quality.

Upon ensuring that we were well exposed to the core values and competencies that Norbreeze group abides by, Mrs Sauerberg then discussed the vital role that consumers play as stakeholders within the Norbreeze business model. Being a retail company, where the bulk of its revenue stream comes from buyers of its products, Mrs Sauerberg pointed out that achieving a strong customer base was essential for maintaining a healthy financial bottom-line for the company. Additionally, keeping customers happy with quality goods and service ensures positive word-of-mouth marketing for Norbreeze’s products. However, such success does not come easy and would not happen without the many standard operating procedures that Norbreeze has set in place to achieve the greatest satisfaction possible for its customers.

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Mrs Sauerberg reminisced how in the beginning days of Norbreeze her numerous meetings with potential clients and customers taught her humility. Despite setbacks, she persevered by choosing to celebrate successes and not harping on failures. She gained valuable life lessons that she constantly keeps in mind even today.

BeringWristShotMoving forward, Mrs Sauerberg then briefly explained Norbreeze Groups’s five pillars that assist it to achieve continuity and sustainable growth within the market. These pillars have allowed it to highly differentiate itself from copycats and imitators.
First of the five pillars, Mrs Sauerberg explained the importance of selecting attractive brands and ultimately becoming a custodian for the brand – promoting, living and breathing the brand’s values. Notably, Norbreeze only selects brands categorized as “accessible luxury”, to remain relevant and affordable enough for the masses, a major market that has been its target group from the beginning. This criterion remains core to Norbreeze’s business model due to the highly competitive watch and jewelry market within Singapore and the surrounding Asian region.

2649461Next, Norbreeze’s acceptance as a trusted partner, an important milestone to be achieved, allows the company to fully complement its partners and achieve the intended goals that both have. Through responsible promotion of its partners’ values, Norbreeze becomes a custodian for the brands. Staff involved in a partner’s brand have to immerse themselves in the brand and know its story.

Upon gaining the desired level of trust, Norbreeze manages and executes a variety of complex retail operations for its partners. Mrs Sauerberg was relatively discreet as to how Norbreeze carries out its business operations but assured the class that development and bringing of a partner’s brand to market successfully was the last piece of the puzzle that Norbreeze performs as part of its five pillars.

Cath-Kidston-GromitMrs Sauerberg then spoke of Norbreeze’s 3 Ss; Strong People, Strong Operations, and a Strong Corporate Culture that touches upon aspects of the company’s internal corporate culture, which not many know about. Quoting various academic papers, Mrs Sauerberg stated that many companies now realize the value of investing in their own employees, resulting in the provision of numerous in-house training and benefits. With a dedicated team of more than 250 employees, Norbreeze knows that it has to excel in this in order to remain attractive to the best employees.

Mrs Sauerberg then explained how investing in employees contributes towards growth ands allows Norbreeze to provide its customers a better service level. By investing most of its cash flow internally, Norbreeze could provide for a desired service level resulting in an entirely new dedicated department – the Sales Training Team, in 2013. Such commitment towards the people within the company had unexpected further positive effects – a reduction in employee turnover rates.

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Being careful not to let any trade secrets out, Mrs Sauerberg shared with us with Norbreeze’s operational model: the best form of service level is selected from a plethora of tried and tested ones, then applied across all brands to ensure consistency among staff members while not shortchanging any of its partners. Ms Sauerberg was adamant that despite the possibility of competitors modeling their businesses closely to Norbreeze, it was the company’s corporate culture that would be the hardest to copy. Norbreeze’s strong corporate culture ensured that it remains an asset in stimulating further growth as well as ensuring the company’s place in the coming future.

Before closing the session, Ms Sauerberg spoke of Norbreeze’s vision to be partnered with at least 12 brands by 2020 – breezing through as always.

– Danial

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Vestas Wind Systems A/S

IMG_019827 March 2015 was a day filled with numerous insights for the students of BSM Scandinavia 2015. Class that day began proper with Mr Naveen Balachandran, Senior Director, Head of Business Development at Vestas Wind Systems A/S – the world’s only global energy company dedicated exclusively to wind energy.

Knowing the purpose of our study mission, Mr Naveen began the session debunking certain myths related to Scandinavian business culture and shared what it is like to work for a Danish company. Having been with Vestas for slightly over 13 years, he affirmed our preconceived notions and assumptions regarding the openness, transparency and non-hierarchical structure of Scandinavian companies. Mr Naveen even professed to addressing Vestas’ Group’s CEO by his first name – something many of us Asians would find disrespectful, given our culture and upbringing.

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Our guest also shared with us what gets him to come in to work every day and what keeps him at Vestas year on year. Explaining how he found the culture of Vestas unique and appealing; the impartiality of communicating one’s thoughts and ease in approaching senior management were what he was looking for in a company. Motivation and satisfaction were other key factors Mr Naveen mentioned, pointing out their importance in ensuring happiness within the workplace. He also expressed how “doing something good for the world via renewable energy”, whilst plying his trade was rewarding.

Next, Mr Naveen explained Vestas’ position as the industry’s current market leader. Making it clear that despite Vestas being the largest in the world, global competitors had shrunk its market share to 28% in 2007. Ending the portion, stating that despite having tragically lost its leading position in 2012, Vestas regained top spot again in 2013 with a 13.1% market share.

0013729e3c901165d49422Moving forward, present issues were discussed, with Mr Naveen mentioning that many wind turbine manufacturers have shifted their focus towards China, where 50% of the global market is, in the hopes of expanding and capturing a larger market share. However, with half of Vestas’ competitors based in China, a high barrier of entry exists due to the ability of Chinese companies to provide cheaper alternatives that easily adhere to local government regulations. Fortunately, for Vestas, these Chinese companies themselves have been unable to venture out of China and tap into the global market due to certain inherent characteristics – unproven technology, poor branding and a lack of expertise within the field.

What worries Vestas the most – apart from their Chinese counterparts – are the Koreans, who have been making a name for themselves globally in other industries. Examples are Hyundai’s sponsorship of the recent FIFA World Cup and Samsung’s rivalry with Apple within the mobile handheld devices sector. Their ability to market brands reputably and achieve resounding manufacturing success is Vestas’ greatest fear as it competes to capitalize on the currently untapped Asian market.

2Following which, Mr Naveen then went into the technicalities of the products and services that Vestas provides its customers, which surprisingly includes high-net-worth individuals (HNWI). To quote, “Vestas can no longer afford to be seen as a company merely producing wind turbines; instead it has to be seen as a wind energy service provider.” It is now common for Mr Naveen to pitch to potential investors the specific returns that wind turbines could generate financially in addition to their primary role of producing clean renewable energy. Additionally, the increasing interest by HNWIs in renewable energy comes from their desire to have exotic assets within their portfolios, consequently shifting away from non-renewable sources of energy – coal, oil and gas.

Hence, begets the question: “Why wind?” Between 1986 and 2009, the cost of harnessing wind energy has dropped substantially – by 186%. Future costs are estimated to drop even further, at a rate of 2% yearly, as technology improves and allows for the construction of bigger and more efficient turbines. Comparatively, wind turbines do not require as much water as coal or nuclear power plants – they use only a fraction of what these plants use. Furthermore, the ramp-up period for wind turbines is between two to five years, the quickest amongst all available energy options. Hence, wind energy is touted as a “quick-fix” and as “the solution” for our world’s energy woes.

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Our session with Mr Naveen concluded with Q&A, where we embraced ourselves for a hurricane of answers and insights from our well-informed guest.

Vestas_nacelle_MG_5557The first question encapsulated most of our thoughts towards the mentioned untapped market within Asia, specifically China. Mr Naveen was asked how Vestas intends to compete in the Chinese market since he clearly stated that local companies are able to undercut all of Vestas’ product offerings. Our guest was quick to answer, mentioning clearly that it would cost Vestas 20% more in costs against all of its Chinese counterparts. Therefore, to compete, Vestas intends to further brand itself as a manufacturer of premium products, capturing 1MW of the assumed 10MW market. Instead of seeking customers who are interested in a quick-fix for energy troubles, Vestas seeks customers who are looking at viable long-term solutions with highly positive internal rates of returns.

The next few questions related to the effects that governments have on Vestas’ business activities. Mr Naveen said that most governments want to adopt clean renewable energy because of the increasing costs of natural gas and coal.

One classmate asked what Vestas looks into before proceeding with the sale and assembly of its wind turbines within a country. Mr Naveen shared two main issues that Vestas has to overcome in facilitating the entire process from purchase to the production of renewable energy. Firstly, there are fees and tariffs in any country, restricting most companies from simply setting up large-scale projects wherever and whenever they want to. Secondly, land availability and the presence of a grid connection have to be evaluated for the proposed project to be feasible. For example, India is seen as a wind-friendly country, however, due to the lack of available space and proper infrastructure for relaying the harnessed energy, projects tend to be rejected.

forsaleBefore our session with Mr Naveen came to a close, he was asked about the future of wind energy and what Vestas currently has in its pipeline for the coming years. Mr Naveen explained that with the market seemingly highly saturated, companies such as Vestas turn to technology for improvements. He mentioned the possibility of harnessing Class 4 winds – the weakest and slowest class to-date – through longer and more efficiently shaped blades. This technology would open up new locations worldwide for Vestas’ services and products, ensuring its position as the market leader for years to come.

The possibility of storing and transporting harnessed wind energy was then questioned. Could areas such as the Gobi desert produce enough wind to power the entire Asian region? Would it be possible to sell energy in one location to wind-deprived locales? These questions were then answered simply and justified strongly with the fact that storing such energy was difficult.

asia-1Mr Naveen then briefly mentioned Gobitec to exemplify such progresses within the space of wind energy (alluding to the Gobi desert in Mongolia and Northern China), a project with the goal of renewable energy production of wind and solar energy through photovoltaics, concentrated solar plants and wind farms in the desert of Gobi in Mongolia and China in Northeast Asia. With the overall potential of solar and wind energy in the Gobi Desert estimated to be around 2,600 TWh, a 100 GW project is planned to harness it. This energy would be transported via high-voltage direct-current (HDVC) electric power transmission lines through an “Asian Super Grid” to China, Korea, Japan and Mongolia, areas experiencing high demand for energy.

All in all, Mr Naveen’s presentation was akin to a breath of fresh air as would be the future of renewable energy.

Wind-Turbine

*For further information regarding Gobitec and the Asian Super Grid:
http://gobitec.org/
http://www.encharter.org/index.php?id=643&L=0

– Danial

Meeting Nordic Dignitaries

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An unassuming Thursday was made special for those of us in the BSM Scandinavia class of 2015 on the last week of March. We were honoured to be invited to the Swedish Residence, home of the Swedish Ambassador to Singapore, where we were greeted by him and three other Nordic dignitaries and graciously welcomed.

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Her Excellency, Ms Berit Basse, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Denmark

The Danish Ambassador, Ms Berit Basse, was the first to share with us. She spoke about Denmark’s history, and the reasons behind the country’s keen interest in renewable energy. Most of us, at some point in our education or another, would most probably have heard of the oil crisis of the 1970s. What is less well-known to us, however, is how heavily impacted Denmark was, with 99% of the country’s energy being imported in the form of oil from the Middle East at that time. With the oil crisis acting as a catalyst, the Danes became aware of their devastating over-reliance on unsustainable fossil fuels and forayed into the world of renewable energy, never looking back. Since then, Denmark has consistently proven to be a role model to developed countries all over the world, Singapore included, as it constantly strives to better its energy efficiency until a fossil free society is achieved.

His Excellency, Mr Antti Juhana Kuosmanen, Charge d’Affaires for the Embassy of Finland

His Excellency, Mr Antti Juhana Kuosmanen, Charge d’Affaires for the Embassy of Finland

After Ms Basse’s sharing, Mr Antti Kuosmanen, the Head of the Embassy of Finland in Singapore, took the opportunity to give us a brief background of how modern Finland came to be, before focusing in detail on how we, as overseas students, could further our education in Finland. The Finnish Social Model was born as a result of Finland having had a longer history of poverty as compared to her Nordic counterparts. Finland’s heavy territorial, industrial, and financial losses at the end of World War II came as news to most of us; unsurprising, considering history always has a habit of favouring the big players. With this new understanding, it became clear to us why Finland stands so strongly for social protection and why it sees economic competition as not a barrier, but a partner, to the country’s welfare-centric core in the fuelling of its growth. As Singapore has never been able to reconcile social welfare with economic competition, this new perspective proved truly insightful and set us thinking on how Singapore may be kinder to her citizens, while remaining economically progressive.

His Excellency, Mr Tormod Cappelen Endresen, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Norway

His Excellency, Mr Tormod Cappelen Endresen, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Norway

Following Mr Kuosmanen’s sharing, the Norwegian Ambassador, Mr Endresen, launched into his presentation of Norwegian history by informing us that although Norway is now enjoying great wealth as the world’s seventh largest oil exporter, prior to discovering oil in 1969, Norway was considered the poverty-stricken younger brother in the Nordic family of countries. He highlighted key aspects of Norwegian culture; all of which, he’d noted, fell under what Ms Basse and Mr Kuosmanen had already shared about Nordic culture as a whole, such as gender equality and freedom of speech, among many others. A particularly interesting tidbit was the friendly rivalry between the Nordic countries. In a manner of speaking, Singapore’s relations with her neighbours is similar to that among the Nordic countries, and it was an experience to be able to witness it among the dignitaries themselves, as though they were the personification of their respective countries.

His Excellency, Mr Sven Håkan Oskar Jevrell, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Sweden

His Excellency, Mr Sven Håkan Oskar Jevrell, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Sweden

Mr Håkan Jevrell started the final sharing of the day by jokingly saying that his job had been done by the other Nordic dignitaries and that he had nothing more to say about Sweden and the Nordic region that had not already been covered, as they were all so similar in so many ways. However, as he skimmed through facts about Sweden that had already been covered by the other Nordic dignitaries when they’d presented on the Nordic region as a whole, one particularly defining characteristic of Sweden that stood out was the Nobel Prize, arguably the most prestigious set of international awards for various academic, cultural and scientific advances. It is absolutely amazing how a country with fewer than ten million inhabitants can have such a great international impact, and exceptionally inspirational for Singapore in particular, due to our modest size.

After the various presentations by the Nordic dignitaries, we were invited to partake in a sumptuous feast of refreshments before the Q&A session. The spread offered was beautifully delicious and truly showcased the gracious hospitality of the Swedes. Even during this break, the Nordic dignitaries were generous with their time and continued to share with us more tidbits about life in the Nordic region.

During the Q&A session, the dignitaries had time to address four of our questions. The first question touched on the extent of political freedom, namely, whether or not the oft praised freedom of speech regarding political issues in Scandinavia was as truly praiseworthy in reality. In agreement with the ambassadors, Mr Kuosmanen confirmed that there is true freedom of speech regarding politics in Scandinavia; a laudable and inspirational achievement, as it is rare for the ideal to correspond with reality.

folketingssalenSecond to emerge was the question of whether or not multi-party and single-party governments have been successful in furthering the progress of a nation, both developing and developed. In particular, the discussion was focused on the governments of Scandinavia, India, and Singapore. Well-known for their multi-party governments, Nordic countries continue to experience high levels of efficiency and growth, whereas India unfortunately cannot say the same despite having a similar structure of governance. Singapore, on the other hand, although ruled by a single-party government, has been showing signs of moving toward a multi-party government structure, largely due to discontent regarding the equality of representation in the government of all population segments. To this, the dignitaries opined that perhaps developing countries require a single-minded vision and determination in order to succeed, while developed countries require multiple inputs from different segments of the population in order to ensure equal representation and general citizenry contentment. There is no single answer that can be held as the epitome of truth though; the reason for the successes and failures of different government structures could just as easily be attributed to cultural differences, among many other reasons.

1339674Another interesting topic that came up during the Q&A was how eco-friendliness is cultivated across all the Nordic countries – a problem that Singapore has failed to solve since we first recognised our responsibility to protect the environment. For this, Ms Basse held up Denmark’s history as both example and an answer. Having experienced first-hand a severe energy shortage due to the 1970s oil crisis, the Danes knew acutely the importance of making the shift from fossil to renewable energy. Singapore, however, has never had such an experience and thus, does not feel the urgency to be independent of fossil energy as acutely as the Danes did and still do. Apart from that, Ms Basse noted that educating the public about the importance of being environmentally friendly is very different from dictating that recycling must be done. This observation was exceptionally illuminating, and a possible reason why Singapore’s National Environment Agency’s recycling campaigns over the years have not been as effective in changing Singaporeans’ perception of recycling and recycling habits.

Nordic FlagsThe final question that emerged during the Q&A was on the topic of a hypothetical Nordic Union à la the European Union, especially with regard to the formation of a common currency. A classmate of ours very insightfully enquired as to the reason behind the lack of a common currency among the Nordic countries, which are all similar to each other in many ways, given that it would make the region more financially profitable and stable, like the European Union upon the founding of the European Monetary Union (EMU). In response, Mr Endresen summarised all the ambassadors’ opinions on the matter succinctly and accurately with the use of a single metaphor: the Nordic countries are like siblings in a family; while they hold the greatest of fondness for each other, living under the same roof would see them drive each other mad – a metaphor that stands unfortunately true in many other circumstances as well.

As the end of the event approached, we felt deeply the extent of just how truly privileged we were to have been able to engage in a discussion with the Nordic dignitaries with conversation topics ranging from the more formal political, economic and environmental, to the less formal social and cultural. Without this exchange, we would not have had the opportunity to gain invaluable insights regarding Scandinavia as well as Singapore, and would definitely have been poorer for it. It was also amazing to see the Nordic idea of a flat hierarchy at work – the Nordic dignitaries were not any less approachable for their statuses.

Mr Jevrell ended off on a humorous note by showing us a video highlighting the best differences between the worldview of the Swedes and the rest of the world. Let us share it with you!

*All relevant information regarding the hosts and their respective titles retrieved from: http://app1.mfa.gov.sg/dipcon/pdf/dipconopen.pdf

– Eldora

Electrolux Asia Pacific

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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.

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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.

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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.

– Eldora

Renewable Energy Corporation (REC) Singapore

REC Singapore

Seven of us from BSM Scandinavia 2015 were given the unique opportunity to visit REC Solar Pte Ltd in Tuas on 5 March 2015. Our hosts for the afternoon visit was Abdul Wahid bin Yahya and his team from Learning and Organization Development, REC. The BSMers were Sheryl-Ann, Danial, Myra, Alfred, Rohith, Shivira, and BSM course instructor Tom Estad.

REC SingaporeRenewable Energy Corporation (REC) is a Norwegian company that is a leading global provider of solar energy solutions. With more than 15 years of experience, REC offers sustainable, high performing products, services and investments for the solar industry. Along with their partners, they create value by providing solutions that better meet the world’s growing energy needs.

Headquartered in Norway and listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange (ticker: RECSOL), with employees worldwide, it generated revenues of USD 680 million in 2014.

With respect to REC’s foray into Singapore, Prime Minister Lee officially opened REC’s integrated solar production facility in Tuas on November 3, 2010. This milestone is the largest single investment ever made by REC, the largest clean tech investment ever made in Singapore?, at 2.5 billion Singapore dollars.

IMG_1350_FotorREC Singapore produces wafers, solar cells and solar panels for customers worldwide, with production based upon multi-crystalline technology. For 2012, a total of 722 MW of solar panels were produced at REC’s Singapore facility.

One key concept highly regarded within the REC Singapore’s production facility is safety. During our visit, safety was emphasized continually either verbally or through visual cues, such as posters and warning signs strategically placed in prominent areas. Even within the staff canteen, safety videos were played on-loop, to ensure that staff members are always aware of various potential hazards in their workplace and to impress certain safety work habits on them.

IMG_1490_FotorOur tour of the facility comprised the solar cell and solar panel production facilities. Even though REC Solar employs about 1,500, the production process is highly automated and requires precision engineering tools. We learned that REC has a highly efficient manufacturing process in place and that defects are kept at near-zero as a result.

The role of many employees along the production lines is to carry out inspection duties. To achieve strict quality control standards and REC’s yield rate of above 99%, cells are thoroughly inspected by hand and at the first sign of defect disposed of. We learned that REC takes a strong stand in being responsible in its waste clearing – waste is sent for recycling.

To our astonishment, we learned that some HDBs in Singapore have contracted third-party installers to install solar panels to power homes. However, to provide a single flat with the electricity a family needs requires 4 to 6 panels. Due to the large size of the panels, space constraints limit increasing the use of solar power, but REC believes that innovations such as double-sided solar panels will overcome such limitations.

All in all, the future of solar energy shines bright and we can start looking forward to cleaner, renewable energy in Singapore and the rest of Asia.

REC Singapore

– Danial, Myra, Alfred