Anndy Lian Interviews Teng Theng Dar, Business Leader, Ambassador and a technology evangelist “The best is yet to be.”
Anndy Lian: Good morning, everyone. I have invited Theng Dar for this interview. He is a business leader, and many know him as Singapore Non-Resident Ambassador to the Sultanate of Oman, and most importantly, he is my friend. It is my honour to have him in our segment.
Good morning Theng Dar. Can you tell the audience more about yourself?
Theng Dar: My name is Teng Theng Dar. I spent about 30 years living and working outside of Singapore. Mainly in the Asia region; Ten years plus each in Japan and Indonesia, four and half years each in Malaysia and Australia, including project time in the ASEAN region countries, especially Vietnam and Myanmar.
After I graduated from Waseda University in April 1979, immediately I started my first job in Tokyo, Japan, with a Japan MNC Kao Corporation (Then known as Kao Soap Co., Ltd).
Out of the 75 new recruits for the year, I was the only non-Japanese, and I stayed with the company for 13 years.
Over the years, I worked in various sectors like FMCG manufacturing and marketing, F&B, commodity trading, ICT, IoT and telecommunication infrastructure and biotechnology etc.
Anndy Lian: Can you share some highlights in your career?
Theng Dar: Sure. The highlights of my career would have to be my time with the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) as CEO in 2008–2011 when the whole world was plunged into chaos because of the global financial crisis.
As the voice of the business community, SBF in partnership with members of the uniquely Singapore tripartite body successfully weathered the challenge, and together Singapore achieved a V-shaped recovery in the following year 2010.
During the same period, I also served as Chair of APEC Business Advisory Council during the APEC Year Singapore in 2009 and collectively, with representatives from 21 economies raised issues against the rising protectionism then and continued to promote the possibility of TPP.
This is the two in one experience that I appreciate the most as it was so demanding that I had to put in my all, and it really stretched my capacity to the maximum.
Anndy Lian: Your career paths are exciting, navigating from business to government. It is very similar to what I am experiencing now. Much of my work is outside of Singapore. Is this what you have planned for?
Theng Dar: Not by design but through series of career path changes and events, as well as my active participation in various regional business forums and dialogues that somehow led to my appointment as Singapore Non-Resident Ambassador to the Sultanate of Oman, Adviser, South East Asia Affairs, Shizuoka, Global Business Adviser of Miyagi Prefecture Governments, and Adviser to the School Of Applied Science, Temasek Polytechnic.
With Temasek Polytechnic, my current focus is on using it as the trusted platform and gateway to promote food security & smart city collaborations between Singapore & Japan and then to the ASEAN region.
Interestingly, I am doing what I dreamt of doing when I was still a young undergraduate, and also to do the things I wrote in my graduate thesis.
Life has been very kind to me.
Anndy Lian: Food security, as defined by the United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security, means that all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life. I understand that you have been a strong voice in food security matters. What are you working on right now?
Theng Dar: In the past four years, I have been focusing on seeking collaboration opportunities linked to food security (I. e. aquaculture & urban farming)
By working with Temasek Polytechnic as the technical gateway and platform, my focus has been in the development of agri-business & R&D community to enable co-development and business collaborations to achieve Singapore Vision 30 by 30, and thereafter expand overseas to contribute to UN Sustainable Development Goal 1 — no poverty, Goal 2 — zero hunger, Goal 11 — Sustainable cities and communities, Goal 12 — responsible consumption and production, and Goal 17 — Partnerships for the goals.
Although delayed by Covid19, one exciting outcome is the inaugural Singapore Shizuoka Agrifood Forum held on Nov 17th, 2020.
Anndy Lian: Thanks for sharing, and do you think companies are ready to fork our extra cost to increase security from their productions? Do you also feel the governmental bodies and private companies have aligned goals on this?
Theng Dar: If we take food security as the specific example for consideration, then it is not just about cost but rather food loss/ food wastage and sustainable food supplies.
In agribusiness, we are still trying to measure food loss and food wastage and their impact on food cost and pricing. Either at pre-farmgate or post-farmgate, the “loss” or “waste” percentage can go as high as 30–50%. Next is the wastage at retail and consumption level where food waste is suggested to be between 10–30%.
All in all, with the current mode of operating the supply chain for foods, we are looking at a very alarming rate of losses/wastes.
Anndy Lian: Food sustainability is about generating food at a productivity level that is enough to maintain the human population. In years to come, we will face food scarcity. Future food like lab-grown beef has been much talked about; people are worried about its source, how it is produced etc. Do you think technology implementation, e.g. Blockchain + IoT connectivity helps in providing more trust for the consumers?
Theng Dar: By 2050, the world population is projected to reach more than 9 billion people but based on various studies and forecasts, food production capacity using traditional methods will not be able to meet the increase in demand.
We are looking at a severe food crisis in the making if farming practices do not adopt technology to grow more with less with assured quality.
With the above as a backdrop, combined with AI, big data, and analytics, I see blockchain technology as one enabling technology to help reduce “loss and waste”, create a supply chain of trust that can deliver speed in transactions involving multiple parties. In so doing, time and cost of supply chain can be further compressed.
Anndy Lian: Having chatted on various aspects, can you share with us how you see blockchain technology? What is the future like?
Theng Dar: Assuming that the required hard infrastructure is already in place, blockchain technology has the potential to deliver great impact in the way businesses are done and also in the way we consume health services.
(1) How blockchain can help to remove the administration pains associated with KYC? This should be able to benefit the regulators, financial institutions, and users by reducing the time and manpower needed to complete the process.
(2) How can the adoption of blockchain help ensure product traceability? This is one tremendous contribution that blockchain technology can deliver to food security and food safety and thus enabling the concept of “farm to table” to support quality and safe foods assurance. By the way, this will also enable a food supply chain with speed and security in inspections etc., and thus potentially achieve less food spoilage in transit.
(3) How blockchain technology can be done to help speed up property transactions?
(4) In health services, how blockchain technology can be applied to secure medical records and enable the delivery of personalised health records for better and accurate healthcare services in preparation for the tsunami of aging population. And many more.
That’s the bright and better future for all of us if the blockchain technology can be better applied in the areas where better and higher economical values can be generated by creating new efficient ways of doing things and higher value and quality jobs are then done by humans.
Anndy Lian: Do you think this pandemic is a wake up for many who did not digitise themselves? Do you think a level of decentralised post-pandemic will safeguard us in the event of another crisis?
Theng Dar: I do not think this needs further discussion. The reality is before all of us. As we advance, both IR4 and the preference of the future workforce will give pressure for businesses to digitise. On top of that, I believe we need to adopt a new way of doing business — i. e. How to operate our business on a permanent pandemic ready mode. If the answer is yes, then digitalising is the way to go.
Anndy Lian: Last but not least, please share an inspiring quote.
Theng Dar: It is my pleasure.
“The best is yet to be.”
Anndy Lian: Thanks for spending time with us today. I hope all of you like my moderation. Next week, Melody or Jenny will take interview another expert. Stay tune at www.blockcast.cc/interviews.
This interview is curated by www.blockcast.cc.