Do you remember Eco Action Day event that I blogged about a few weeks back? Ricoh was the supporting organisation. The Eco Action Day post-action ceremony was held last Friday but unfortunately I couldn’t make it.

To my pleasant surprise, I got a phone call from Ricoh saying that we’ve won a lucky draw prize. Assuming it was some small commemorative item, I popped down over to their Heeren office on Monday.

Ms Masayo Hada, a very nice lady, greeted me there. The prize turned out to be a business colour printer (a very welcome addition to the office), along with other small goodies:

Ricoh freebies

1 colour printer, 2 folders, notepads, staplers, and LOADS of pens.

Ricoh stapleless stapler

I was most intrigued by this little gadget. At first I thought it was some sort of hole-puncher, but testing it on recycled paper yielded the following result:

stapleless stapled

ah-ha! It’s a staple-less stapler. The flap created holds pieces of paper together without the need for consumable metal staples.

It’s a clever idea but I don’t think external organisations would appreciate this as it is not as sturdy as normal staples. Would try using it in the office though. 🙂

Thanks, Ricoh!


Hello everyone,

I’ve just received the programme schedule from SEC for the Singapore leg of the Live Earth event this Saturday. It’s just 4 days away!

Because of the time zone difference, the programme is spread out over 7 and 8 July. So there’s your entire weekend all planned out for you.

The Live Earth, ahem, live screening is interspersed with local performances and talks. Click on the thumbnails below to see the timings, so you can catch the items you want.

Hope to see you there!

Live Earth 070707 schedule part 1Live Earth 070707 schedule part 2Live Earth 070707 schedule part 3Live Earth 070707 schedule part 4Live Earth 070707 schedule part 5

Shopping for a new refrigerator or air-conditioner will be much easier come 1 Jan 2008. That is when compulsory energy labelling laws kick in. This was an extension of 6 months to the original deadline of 30 June 2007.

Energy labelling rules benefit both the retailer and consumer. An energy-efficient air-conditioner can save over $500 per year in electricity cost compared to an inefficient one. The higher upfront cost can be recouped in less than 2 years.

So why have retailers and manufacturers been slow to get their act together? After all, voluntary energy labelling regulations have been in place since April 2002. After more than 4 years, over 80% of the products in the market are still unlabelled.

Could it be the cost of registration and certification, at around $100 per product model? However, NEA has waived this cost till 30 June 2008.

More likely is the fact that most of the products sold in Singapore would simply score poorly, especially the cheaper models imported from China. Given this market reality, voluntary registration would never take off.

Singapore has already lagged badly behind other countries:

  • The U.S. introduced its mandatory labelling program in 1979.
  • The energy labelling programme in Australia started in 1985.
  • EU in 1992

Manufacturers and retailers in other countries have successfully adapted to compulsory labelling more than 20 years ago, and the results have been hugely encouraging.

Better late than never.

OK, let’s say you started a new business. Which is a better strategy:

A) Sell fewer products at higher prices? (Margin game)
B) Sell more products at lower prices? (Volume game)
C) Sell more products at higher prices (High margins and high volume)

Obviously C is the ideal case. But is it easier to reach there via route A or B?

What’s your answer?

Our favourite bald marketer argues for A. It’s easier to convert a small group of customers at a time. The higher margin buys you time while you improve your product and expand the market. At the same time, there are costs associated with reaching out to a huge group of customers.

Many will argue for B. Witness the number of new product launches with generous discounts. Lowering prices is the best way to attract the maximum number of new customers. Get the word out and the volume up, then increase the prices.

This is obviously too simplistic, so let’s analyse this further with the example of bamboo flooring in Singapore.

1. Familiarity of product

Bamboo flooring is a new product in Singapore, many people have not heard about or used this product before. A lot of effort goes into educating the market, and this is best done one-to-one.

Based on this, I would choose Option (A).

2. Price constraints

The cost of your product limits how cheaply you can price it. The prices of your competing products immediately places a constraint how much we can price bamboo flooring at. The two most popular flooring products here are laminate floors and teak parquet. Given that laminate floors are dirt cheap here, it would not make sense to fight based on price.

Again, it’s Option (A).

3. Ease and cost of distribution

Bamboo flooring is a bulky and heavy product, so transportation and storage costs are correspondingly higher. Bamboo flooring also require the skills of specialist hardwood floor installers.

Not surprisingly, Option (A).

So based on the 3 factors above, we should sell as a lower volume and higher margin product. Which is exactly what we have been doing (in Singapore. We also do international export trading, but that is a different story altogether).

Now contrast bamboo flooring to a software programme which could be downloaded from the Internet: It could be cheaply marketed to a wide market and transported at near to zero cost. This company chose Option (B) with excellent results.

So it’s not about which option is better. Rather, it’s about which option is better for your business.

Question: What is 07.07.07?

Answer: The perfect wedding date.

Just kidding. It’s also the date of Live Earth, a series of live concerts around the world to raise awareness of global warming.

It’s like Live Aid’s younger brother.

It’s also Al Gore’s latest project. Formerly known as the person who lost a US Presidential Election, he is now the face of the crusade against global warming:

Environmental activist and former U.S. vice-president Al Gore announced the Live Earth concert series in February.

The “7” in the dates also stands for the 7 continents where the various concerts will be held. Isn’t that cool? 😀

As Star Bamboo is a Green Label recipient, I got an email on what’s happening in Singapore from our friends over at Singapore Environment Council (SEC):

Dear Green Label members and SEC Friends

On 7th July Saturday at Merlion Park One Fullerton, there will be a LIVE EARTH Satellite Concert Screening. (

The screening will kick off in the morning (as Australia Sydney will be the first to start the ball rolling). We are pleased to have a big screen at One Fullerton to bring you the best from all over 7 continents. It is Free Admission.

The concert is set to feature over 100 headlining music acts, across all seven continents. Artists such as Madonna, Alicia Keys, The Smashing Pumpkins, Black Eyed Peas, Bon Jovi, Kylie Minogue, Snow Patrol and Jennifer Lopez are among the big names who will grace the show.

If you are attending, as a please bring your own tupperware for drinks and food, as concert shows always produces a lot of trash.

Reduce Waste First, followed by Recycling.

The Singapore Environmental Council will also be there.

Singapore Environment Council

So do mark down the date in your diaries/PDAs. Enjoy the free concert and make merry, hopefully we’ll remember the real message after the hangover wears off.

Since the cuts in China export tax rebates was announced last week, there has been an immediate impact on the bamboo flooring industry.

For bamboo flooring, the export tax rebate has been reduced from 13% to just 5%. In a cut-throat and highly competitive industry, profit margins have been cut significantly overnight. So what changes should we expect as a result?

Firstly, many of the larger bamboo flooring manufacturers have temporarily stopped purchasing semi-products. Contrary to what they may say, many of the biggest manufacturers only do the tongue-and-groove milling and/or lacquering. The initial processing from bamboo poles to bamboo boards are outsourced to many smaller factories.

(Star Bamboo is a smaller player, so we can focus on quality and make the entire bamboo flooring in our own factory.)

There is now uncertainty in the market. Will the customers be willing to accept higher prices or would we have to bear the full burden of the tax cut?

No one is sure until the tax cuts take effect on 1 July, hence a temporary pause in production.

Secondly, those manufacturers that do continue buying semi-products have dropped their asking prices. This means that the big boys are attempting to pass on at least some of the lower margins to their supporting factories.

This will cause a cascading effect up the supply chain, and probably force many of the small factories to close down.

Consolidation is a good thing for us in the long term, as it eliminates many of our competitors.

I’ll have more updates for you as events continue to develop in China.

Cascading dominoes

Update (26/6/07): The Today reporter said she only reported the estimated figure of 2.5m (which was prominently featured in the headlines), as provided by NWDCD, and advised me to contact them for clarification. I have emailed them and will update here if they reply.

I saw this headline in the Singapore papers today: “North West CDC initiates move to recycle 2.5m bottles yearly.”

That’s great news. For a population of 4.5 million people, 2.5 million plastic water bottles is a substantial quantity.

Until I read the article and realised that this plastic waste is created by North West CDC (NWCDC) itself.

OK, some background information for our overseas readers: A CDC is a government organisation which organises community-building programmes for Singapore residents. CDCs are divided according to geographical regions, and there are five in all.

NWCDC formed a Brisk Walking Club (BWC) five years ago to encourage regular walking as a form of exercise. BWC is not a single club, but an umbrella of over 100 separate clubs and 28,000 members. A typical walk is 2.4km long with warm-up exercises at the start.

Singaporeans love freebies. So there are various enticements to get us to participate, such as a complimentary breakfast at the end of the walk.

And a free bottle of water.

Hmm, there are 2 things I don’t get:

First mystery is why go to this trouble of recycling plastic waste that could have been avoided in the first place.

Simply encourage participants to bring their own water bottles. Or they could provide re-usable water bottles, similar to our recent campaign for plastic carrier bags.

What is also puzzling is how the figure of 2.5 million bottles is derived:

Liang Eng Hwa, MP, Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, said: “In the case of North West CDC Brisk Walking Club, we have monthly walks.

28,000 bottles per participant x 12 walks a year = 336,000 bottles per year

Can anybody enlighten me? 🙂