All posts by Sukru Haskan

Ultimate Goal

To be highly successful and go through the rough times with resilience, you must have an ultimate goal. One that keeps you going, no matter what the obstacles are and what kind of pain you are going through. You will get through all these difficulties if you have a strong ultimate goal.

Then I am thinking…

What is my ultimate goal, really?

To be a good person? Have a comfortable life? Travel around the world? Get richer? Read more books? Enjoy good wines?

These are good simple goals, but all of them are very individualistic. In other words, I am a “taker” rather than a “giver” in each of these goals. Do not get me wrong—there is nothing wrong with these goals.

But are they enough?

What about giving, instead of only taking?

Giving is the real taking, since it gives both you and your counterpart pleasure.

When you help someone get a job that he feels strongly about, he gets happy. Not only him, you become happy too since you created value for someone and you feel useful.

In simple terms, the more lives you touch, the happier you become. To identify and stick with your ultimate goal will make the challenges you experience much easier and more bearable. You will be more resilient and strong.

So, I finally decided my ultimate goal.

Opportunity to access proper education is the key for a society not to be left behind, and to prosper and develop. Being British and Turkish, and planning to move to London in a couple of years, I would like to create a platform to make sure that all the 500,000 British Turks have proper access to education.

I will work hard to reach my ultimate goal! I am always happy to collaborate with people who share the same or similar goals, and I would be extremely happy to generate ideas and action plans to work together.

All the best from Singapore.
Sukru Haskan

Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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Value of Time

I would like to thank the many of you that suggested your book recommendations to establish my reading list for 2018. I am compiling all the emails right now and I will choose my 52 books from among them and publish the list in my blog during the next couple of weeks.

Recently, I have not been feeling well due to an allergic reaction that caused hives on my body and I had some days off sick, which enabled me to do a lot of thinking.

Image Credit: Street Artist Banksy

What is the most common valuable asset that we all have?

Many may say wealth, health or family, but actually it is time! Your allocation of time determines the importance of the rest.

All of us have some sort of time on this planet to accomplish our ambitions and desires. But it is not unlimited. It is like a ticking time bomb that will explode at some point.

We can use time to acquire or establish many things: wealth, family, business, etc. It all depends on the basis of our very personal choices!

Are these choices really our personal choices or are we manipulated to follow these choices?

Again it depends on how much you are aware of your surroundings and decisions. Many factors today are trying to control us. For instance, software/app designers are working very hard to steal our attention to spend as much time as possible on social media. Businesses try to make us as busy as possible so that we are unable to think, and do not live in the present time, but in the future, in the hope of distracting us. After applying all their attention to capturing new techniques, they also humbly (!) advise us to live in the present time by applying mindfulness.

What an irony!

TV ads and newspapers try to channel us to think in a standardized way!

As a result of all this, many people start going on a social media diet by deleting the most commonly used applications from their phones to make sure that their attention is channelled towards more useful resources, but most importantly to the resources that one really wants to give one’s attention to.

We have to take control of our time and make our own independent decisions.

After all, does wealth make you rich anymore?

What about time?

All the best from Singapore.

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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52 books in 2018

I am pledging to read 52 books in 2018 – in other words, one book per week.

I read, roughly speaking, books with an average of 350 pages, so I should read about 50 pages a day to accomplish this challenge.

I think it is quite doable, but I need your help.

Currently, I am trying to line up the books for 2018.

Please help me by sending your suggestions!

I would be interested in reading history, biography, economics, finance and psychology.

I will publish the list of the books for 2018 by the end of this year.

You can send your suggestions to my inbox: sukru_haskan@yahoo.co.uk

All the best.

Sukru Haskan

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Freedom and GRIT

How free are you really?

I have been thinking this question and its possible answers for quite some time now.

Even though many of us are walking around and thinking that we could potentially do whatever we like, we are not really as free as we like to think we are. In some cases, we are more like prisoners than actual prisoners are.

How come?

We are bound and restricted by many obstacles in our modern lives with commitments that we did not want to commit to or were forced to commit to, such as demands from our surroundings, daily jobs, huge corporations that supply us with modern necessities in the form of electricity, gas, mobile phones and, most importantly, ourselves; our ego.

A person’s ability to explore their own potential is getting more difficult nowadays because those of us with great potential are not really free. Our minds play the most important role in this equation since you could potentially ignore all obstacles and live however you like.

Easier said than done!

Unfortunately, freedom does not really dependent on one’s wealth either. It is the personal choices that makes us imprisoned and creating a meaningful way to escape from modern lives trap is the only way out that I can think of.

What is my conclusion?

Freedom creates happiness. Many of us are not happy since we are not free. Follow the way that scares you most since the seeded fear inside will guide you the right way; the way that many will say is the wrong one! Most importantly, try to simplify everything as much as possible. It is not easy to cut back on luxuries since we are all drugged up to a certain level and cutting back will create quite a lot of symptoms. Nevertheless, be strong and try!

I have recently read a great book by Angela Duckworth called GRIT. If you are not familiar with this term, GRIT means for persistence and perseverance in the long-term in order to achieve our goals.

Talent by itself is not enough to achieve success in our lives. You need to be persistent and consistent for some time to overcome obstacles and achieve your goals!

I personally really liked the book and it opened up my mind to understand why running without a specific goal every day is not good enough. There has to be a specific goal (a deliberate exercise) to improve your running skills each session so that the training gets more effective. More importantly, it has to be combined with your passion so that there is always that carrot stick in front of you when you are going through the pain!

Please take this short test to understand how GRITTY you are!

Grit Scale

Do not worry if you are on the left hand side of the GRIT scale; this can always be changed as soon as you change your MIND!

So where do we start? Please let me know…

Best from Singapore.

Sukru Haskan

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UK Elections: Is it a chance or a real threat?

I was at Jeremy Corbyn’s manifesto speech in London at Chatham House last month. Despite being a good speaker and being able to construct lovely sentences with a proper British accent, it made me think of the implications of a hung parliament with Corbyn in the government in the UK.

The election on June 8th is a good chance for the UK to reaffirm support for the Tories and deliver them a clear mandate or clear political chaos for the future of the country.

As Theresa May says, “This is a really important moment for our country and we’ve got to get this right. If we get it right, I am optimistic for the British people…”.

A hung parliament would be a real disaster for Britain due to the huge gap in the different policies of the different parties, but more significantly, I am pretty sure that this would be used by Brussels quite cruelly.

Some of Jeremy Corbyn’s romantic statements, such as not to use nuclear weapons under any circumstances, no hand-holding with the US anymore, and potential tax increases, made me worry about the country’s future defence policy along with its economic policy.

 Could Singapore’s model be applied to the UK if the Tories win by large majority?

The answer to this  question is, potentially yes, but it would not be easy since it is a much bigger country with many people dependent on the system of social security. But it’s not impossible…

Lowering taxation in the UK would attract various types of businesses from all over the world and it would create a healthy opportunity to replace the departing financial industry. In addition, it would assure its place as one of the best options in the world for global talent to live and work.

On the other hand, it would push up the prices of everything (especially housing!) and citizens without health insurance would really suffer as there would be no safety net for them going forward! It could potentially create an even more competitive economy; thus, the transition would be painful for a lot of families and it would be very hard to find a balance there.

In contradiction to why voters voted to “Leave”, the current result may create a real “Remain” for London and the rest of the country.

I am personally optimistic for the UK after the election since history proves that many victories around the globe are not won on the battlefield but at the negotiation table!

Good luck Britain!

All the best from Singapore.

Sukru Haskan
@sukru_haskan

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Trip Notes: Yangoon, Myanmar

I was thrilled to be in Myanmar a couple of weeks ago with my family. Since time was limited, we only spent three days in Yangon.

Myanmar is the 57th country I have visited – and I should say I am quite amazed by it.

After visiting Cambodia, I wondered if I was doing the right thing flying to Myanmar with a 15-month old, but I can truly say that it is a very safe country. There are many warm people and the infrastructure for a country with USD 1,300 per head is pretty good.

The airport was built quite recently and looks modern. Even though the online visa processing could have been a little smoother, nothing really bad happened on that front. Immigration to the country also went fairly well.

We stayed at the Savoy Hotel, near the centre of the city. It is a nicely-kept colonial building. The hotel is operated by a German company and the staff’s level of English was extremely high. The room was spacious and nicely decorated with local ornaments.

We had a chance to spend some time at the Strand Hotel, located literally just next to the British Embassy. This would be a great hotel as an alternative to the Savoy!

We were extremely lucky to have a Burmese friend, a London Business School alumni like my wife, who invited us for a nice dinner at a local restaurant, Padonman Restauant. The walls were covered with American and British diplomatic pictures. Burmese food is very similar to Thai food and people who like spicy food (like myself) will really enjoy the cuisine in Myanmar.

We visited many temples, such as the famous Inclining Buddha, the Shwedagon Pagoda and the Sule Pagoda. Although Yangon is not the best place to visit pagodas on the whole, the Shwedagon Pagoda was an original example. If you are really keen on temples, I have been recommended many times to visit the city of Pagan in Myanmar. I am not personally a big fan of visiting temples, as I found them rather similar after going to one after another.

We were brave enough to taste Burmese wine – and I would not advise others to try it… Stick to the beer instead!

During our time in Myanmar, there had been a water festival going on, and it was a real experience to see lots of people packed into the back of a truck, throwing water at each other throughout the city. We did not see any violence and watching people having fun was really good. The water festival marks the beginning of a new year for the Burmese people.

Video: Water Festival in Yangoon

For a country where civil war ended only a couple of years ago, and which is opening up slowly, Myanmar has definitely got a lot of potential. With its beautiful people and wide landscape, Myanmar is a candidate to be a real star in the region.

Hospital building from colonial times

Is a new Thailand emerging in south-east Asia?

YES!

All the best from Singapore.

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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Lecturing in Hong Kong

I was honoured to co-lecture with Eric Sim, an investment banker and an adjacent professor at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology last week.

Hong Kong Univesity of Science and Technology has a great campus located at Clear Water Bay Road which is half an hour drive from Central Hong Kong Island. It has a great view of couple of islands.

Not only its campus makes it great, but also HKUST ranks quite highly between its peer among the globe. It had been previously ranked Asia’s No.1 by the independent regional QS University Rankings: Asia for three consecutive years between 2011 and 2013. It’s one of the fastest growing institutions as ranked #2 and #3 by QS world’s under-50 universities and Times 150 under 50 universities respectively in 2015 and 2016.

Financial Times ranks its Global MBA programme as the 15th best in the world in 2017.

My lecture topic was banking and it was an enjoyable almost an hour chat with the students about the current trends including Fintech that are affecting the financial industry as well as job description and challenges/opportunities ahead of the financial industry.

The most encouraging part for me was the Q&A session which turned out to be quite active and interesting.

This has been my third lecture after SMU in Singapore in 2014 and Renmin University in Beijing in December 2016. I hope to continue lecturing since it is a great way of giving back to society whilst improving my skills for public speaking and having a great fun!

Thank you Eric Sim for inviting!

All the best from Singapore.

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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Unutilised Youth in Emerging Markets

I consider myself quite lucky that I can travel to many countries throughout the year for business and pleasure.

I had the chance to visit Athens after almost four years for a weekend and lately I was in Istanbul for a week. One of my latest observations is  that emerging countries, such as Greece and Turkey, are unable to utilise their very well educated youth not only in the labour force, but also in the social arena.

Consider Greece… Youth unemployment is close to 45 per cent and overall unemployment is around 25 per cent.

Consider Spain… Youth unemployment is close to 50 per cent and overall unemployment is around 22 per cent.

And finally Turkey… Youth unemployment is around 20 per cent and overall unemployment is around 10 percent.

A common point among all these countries—besides the fact that they are all Mediterranean—is that they have a highly educated minority youth population, whether they be not fully utilised in the labour force and inactive in the country’s social arena, or fully utilised in the labour force (very few of them), but again inactive in the social arena.

To be sure, a minority of the minority is active in the both arena and this is huge loss for these countries in closing the gap between them and highly developed nations.

Another common point among these countries is that there have been coup attempts and coups in their recent histories: a coup attempt in Spain in 1982, a coup in Greece in 1967–1974, and most recently, a coup attempt in Turkey in 2016.

Whether we like it or not, the common history of violence and coups has pushed the youth of these countries away from voluntary social  work and has made them completely apolitical, as well as more individualistic and disinterested in local/global issues.

Given that they are living in much better conditions than their peers, these groups of people live completely for themselves, make fun of everything and, more significantly, do not produce much.

It is no secret that all societies are becoming more individualistic, irrespective of the culture and countries that we live in, but it is always important to feed the soul as well as the stomach.

We should reincorporate these youths back into society and grow together! Unfortunately, I do not have a concrete plan to act upon, but I have the ambition to start somewhere!

All the best from a beautiful Mediterrean country.

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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Fintech Jurisdiction Shopping

Hardware, software, capital and regulations are the key challenges for most of the fintech startups and regulation remains the most important external factor that could potentially lead the whole idea to be stillborn if not correctly assessed and addressed.

When the regulators are not very cooperative and do not want to take any risk, then it is almost impossible for the fintech startups such as SmartDeposit to operate and acquire clients.

The selection of the right jurisdiction for your startup will affect the performance of your company tremendously, especially at the beginning.

Imagine a regulatory environment that bans you from operating without a licence and treats you as a proper financial institution. As soon as you are treated as a financial institution rather than a fintech company, capital requirements and red tape will kick in, which will not only increase the cost of your doing business tremendously, but also disadvantage you in the competition from the very start since you must now act like a proper bank whilst you do not have millions of customers and you don’t have any capital nowhere near as any bank.

In this respect, Singapore is a great place to set up the venture since the regulator is willing to help innovative companies and they are willing to regulate only when they reach a critical mass for the industry. In addition, regulators in Singapore are communicative and have specific employees assigned to the fintech industry. I would think the only and very important disadvantage is the size of the market since it is a small city state country. Regardless, it is a great and the best option for SmartDeposit to take off due to its regulatory environment.

Since Singapore is a gateway to South-East and South Asia, a good reputable take-off could enable the company to benefit from accessing other mass markets such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand from Singapore. Moreover, access to capital and VCs in Singapore is relatively easy and the region is booming not only economically, but also in many other aspects.

London is a good alternative with an established ecosystem. In contrast, New York would be difficult in terms of licensing issues and other regulatory hurdles.

The regulator in the UK, FCA, is also supportive of the fintech industry and the establishment of Level 39 in the financial hub of London, Canary Wharf, is an advantage.

When you acquire the critical mass in terms of clients and deposits, you will need to leave your home country (e.g. Singapore) to find new customers to exponentially grow and this will ensure you cooperate with more than one regulator. But since you now have a critical mass from your home country, it would be much easier to go out and try to look for new markets, and most importantly, you have more negotiation power now than at the start.

All the best from Singapore.

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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Trip Notes: Sri Lanka

We spent our holidays in Sri Lanka over the Christmas and this is the fifty-fifth country in the world that I’ve visited. It is an island country which is located south of India and has recently become open to tourism, since the civil war ended in 2009.

Room View from Jetwings Galle Hotel

We made a big mistake by booking the hotels and the driver through a tour agency in Singapore and, as a result, we were significantly overcharged and stayed in the hotels that we did not particularly enjoy.

Our first destination was Colombo City and we stayed at Mirage Hotel. Since we landed very late at night, we stayed in Colombo City to sleep and go to Kandy in the morning. Colombo City is the capital of Sri Lanka and there are a lot of nice colonial buildings.

Sri Lanka was a colony of Portugal, the Dutch and the British.

I would not recommend spending much time in the capital, and I think a day should be more than enough to see the all landmarks. I would not recommend staying at Mirage Hotel, either. There is a Hilton in the city centre which would be a much better option.

We arrived Kandy in the afternoon after six hours trip by car. Christmas traffic and a one lane road increased the duration of the journey, which would usually take three and a half hours.

Sunset in Kandy

We stayed at Amaraya Hills Hotel in Kandy. The hotel sits at the top of a hill and has a beautiful view of Kandy. Having said that, the hotel is not up to good standard and they are lacking very basic service requirements. You can find my review of the hotel on the Trip Advisor website.

Kandy Lake and Tooth Temple are places to see, but I would not advise spending much time to see them. Kandy sits in the middle of a valley and, as a result, the air can be quite polluted. Unfortunately, during our two day visit, the air quality was horrible.

We travelled to Sigiriya Rock, which is around a two hour journey from Kandy. Sigiriya Rock used to be a fortress for monks and, today, it is a UNESCO listed World Heritage site. It is an example of ancient urban planning. I would say that this is the most interesting place that we visited throughout our eight day trip to Sri Lanka.

Sigiriya Rock

On the way back to Kandy, we stopped at the Elephant Corridor Hotel, where we ate our lunch. It is a good hotel with a good manager. I would recommend anyone wanting to stay close to Sigiriya Rock to stay there.

On our second day in Kandy, we went to Elephant Park Orphanage, which charges around USD 20 each for entry. It was interesting to see elephants, however, I was not particularly amazed.

Elephant Orphanage

After Kandy, we headed towards Galle which is located to the south of the island. It is another five hour journey by car. Luckily, there is an express way between Colombo and Galle and this makes the journey much more enjoyable.

On the way, we stopped at a spice garden and were introduced to different types of spices. We also stopped at a tea shop where they gave us a free introduction on how tea is processed. It was interesting to go on a small tour to learn about the stages of tea processing and we bought some tea during our visit to the tea shop.

We stayed at Jetwings Lighthouse Hotel in Galle. I would recommend staying at this hotel, since it has a great location, by the beach and lives up to certain international standards. They have a nice open buffet, as well as a good a la carte menu.

The staff are friendly and they definitely do their best to help.

The only downside to this hotel was that they were not able to give us a late check out, since we were checking out on the 30th December, which is understandable.

There are not many places to visit around Galle, except the Galle Fort, which is a must. A lot of small shops and leftovers from colonial times make you feel as if you are somewhere in 18th century. There are some very nice hotels inside the Galle Fort, however, I would not stay in any of those as they are not by the beach. There are nice tea shops inside the Fort, which I would recommend visiting to buy various selections of beautiful tea.

Overall, Sri Lanka is a nice country to visit and is developing very fast. Many foreigners are buying their holidays homes there. For me, it is a good to place to visit, but I am not sure I will go back soon. If I were to go back, I would definitely stay in the middle of the tea plantations, rather than in Kandy and Colombo.

If you are planning a trip to Sri Lanka, I am always more than happy to help.

Best from Singapore.

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

 

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