My role model is Fuzukawa Yukichi, the Benjamin Franklin of Japan

Bamboo Innovators bend, not break, even in the most terrifying storm that wouldsnap the mighty resisting oak tree. It survives, therefore it conquers.”

BAMBOO LETTER UPDATE | November 3, 2014

Bamboo Innovator Insight (Issue 57)

§  The weekly insight is a teaser into the opportunities – and pitfalls! – in the Asian capital jungles.

§  Get The Moat Report Asia – a monthly in-depth presentation report of around 30-40 pages covering the business model of the company, why it has a wide moat and why the moat may continue to widen, a special section on “Inside the Leader’s Mind” to understand their thinking process in building up the business, the context – why now (certain corporate or industry events or groundbreaking news), valuations (why it can compound 2-3x in the next 5 years), potential risks and how it is part of the systematic process in the Bamboo Innovator Index of 200+ companies out of 15,000+ in the Asia ex-Japan universe.

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Can You Guess This Asian Wide-Moat Company?

“My role model is Fuzukawa Yukichi, the Benjamin Franklin of Japan.”

Q: “Who has influenced you the most? Any role model(s) that you have?”

Mr. H: “There are many people who have influenced me. My role model is … Fuzukawa Yukichi. Yukichi-san is regarded as one of the founders of modern Japan and is called the Voltaire and Benjamin Franklin of Japan. His ideas about government and social institutions made a lasting impression on a rapidly changing Japan during the Meiji Era. He is an author, writer, teacher, translator, journalist, and entrepreneur who also founded the newspaper Jiji-Shinpo and the Institute for Study of Infectious Diseases. He is also a civil rights activist and liberal ideologist, believing that whether one is a child of a samurai or farmer, male or female, they should have the right to be educated. An interesting story about his creativity to overcoming resistance. During his era, Japanese don’t eat beef. Besides religious belief and cultural influences, an aversion to beef is because of its taste. So Fuzukawa added soya sauce, spring onion, sugar into what we now know as the hugely popular Sukiyaki, the Japanese beef hot pot. From this small story, you can see that without Yukichi-san, there is no modern Japan! In those conservative and stifling times, he is able to see Japan a hundred years ahead with incredible foresight. Hence the Japanese commemorate his contributions by putting him on the highest-denomination (¥10,000) of the Japanese yen currency note.”

Can you guess who is this Asian entrepreneur? Our latest monthly Moat Report Asia for November investigates an Asian-listed company who is the global #3 leader in a product with multiple applications from shale gas to submarines, overtaking General Electric (GE). For a world-class company possessing deep intangible know-how, the company has an undemanding valuation at EV/EBITDA 10.2x and Price-to-book value 1.45x. Its P/B is even lower at 1.2x after taking in account the property revaluation gains from unlocking the value of its land bank near the MRT earmarked for urban renewal and development that would drive up its book value by 21%. The firm’s short-term downside is also protected by its healthy balance sheet with net cash of $230m and a decent dividend yield of 3.23%.


From Mr. H’s role model, we get to perhaps examine Kuroda’s massive monetary stimulus from a different perspective by traveling back in time. Japan’s postwar economic miracle was driven especially by companies that exported materials, parts and industrial products – not by consumer-goods companies. Hitachi, Toshiba and NEC have grew after the war by exporting industrial products like locomotives, gas turbines. Now, quietly, some Japanese giants have returned back to their industrial and robotics roots. In recent years, the three – Hitachi, Toshiba, NEC – have shed many consumer operations and doubled down on businesses like heavy machinery, industrial electronics. Take the case of Hitachi. After posting cumulative losses of ¥985bn for four fiscal years ended Mar 2010, Hitachi swung back to a cumulative net income of ¥1.03tr in the four years since then. Panasonic has quit the consumer smartphone market, stopped making plasma screen TV sets and sharply reduced its camera output.


Besides Japan, America is also experiencing a manufacturing-industrial renaissance and re-shoring driven by the decline in energy costs, the increase in American labor productivity and the rising wages in China and Asia. American factories are producing more expensive and complicated goods – medical equipment, computer chips, commercial and military jets and oil and gas equipment.

And Mr. H’s products are part of these structural trends that will take place in the years ahead.

Who is Mr. H and his company?

His personification is Fuzukawa Yukichi and Benjamin Franklin – Mr. H is also you.

Warm regards,


Managing Editor

The Moat Report Asia


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PS: We have also posted the presentation slides to a talk given by Mr Wai Phyo Kyaw (the technopreneur behind Rebbiz: MyanmarCarsDB, MyanmarJobsDB, MyanmarHouseDB) and Ms Chua Mei Mei (executive director of Beauty Palace) to the students in the Singapore Management University (SMU) for the official course Accounting Study Mission to Myanmar (Dec 2014) upon the invitation of KB Kee, managing editor of The Moat Report Asia and adjunct faculty (accounting) in SMU. Wai Phyo is akin to the early days of Greg Roebuck who founded the highly successful (CRZ, MV $2.2bn). Beauty Palace, a former distribution partner of Unilever, demonstrates how emerging companies stay relevant and competitive to the extent that they become the targets of MNCs/Unilever who send people to learn from them. Beauty Palace also sheds insights into the dynamics of the listed Asian operations of Unilever –Unilever Indonesia (UNVR IJ, MV $18.9bn), Hindustan Unilever (HUVR IN, MV $25.4bn). KB wrote the following thank-you note to Wai Phyo and Mei Mei on behalf of SMU:

Dear Mei Mei (and Kenneth), Wai Phyo and Ye Lin,


Many thanks for coming down to SMU to share with the students your hands-on experience in building up businesses in the rapidly-evolving Myanmar with its distinctive challenges and opportunities.

One thing that all of us felt very strongly from all three of you is the sense of national pride that you have in being involved in the transformational changes gripping the country as both an entrepreneur and a citizen!

Indeed, from urban Yangon/Mandalay to the rural towns/villages, every Burmese desire an improvement in their lot in life, whether they be shampoo-toothpaste or trustworthy information about cars-houses-jobs.


Mei Mei: You remind all of us of Hyflux’s Olivia Lum who was the first woman to win the Ernst & Young World Entrepreneur of the Year. Both of you are willing to brave uncertainties and hardship in traveling to far-flung, dangerous places to sell products and forge relationships – Olivia had shared with the world the tale of her trip to Maldives where she was the lone passenger in a boat manned by two men; a storm broke during the four-hour trip to an island and sea water gushed through a crack that had opened up in the bottom of her boat. You have shared with us your inspiring story of courage and grit in traveling to different parts of Myanmar to do business with integrity and values.

·        One question that all of us would like to learn from you in an ongoing conversation is this: Your unique background has shaped your outstanding character, values and success – from having the sense of responsibility as the eldest in the family of five siblings to the heightened sense of business awareness in the family business relationship with Unilever over the years that the foreign partner could go independent one day and hence a need to stay hungry and capable. So how can someone “ordinary” have the drive and grit that you have?

Wai Phyo: Startups are all-consuming and we are thankful for your sharing on the tech startup scene in Myanmar and your inspiring leap of faith (long working hours, commitment, and responsibility) that resulted in your business success in Rebbiz (MyanmarCarsDB, MyanmarJobsDB, MyanmarHouseDB)! Your success remind us of what Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz shared in the photos “What It’s Actually Like” below: “This is an actual scene from Palo Alto, [Mark Zuckerberg] spent a lot of time at this desk, head down and focused…this is just him signaling his intention to be focused and keep working, not be social.” moskovitz startup entrepreneurship launch advice deck

·        One question that all of us would like to learn from you in an ongoing conversation is this: In building up a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) in a startup to improve from the interaction and feedback from the actual users, how does one overcome the anxiety and fear when bigger, more resourceful rivals (eg Rocket Internet) actually emerge with a seemingly better product, especially since everyday the entrepreneur and his team are fighting fire with limited time and resources?

“In what you burn, you ignite in others.” – We are inspired by your authentic sharing today and all of us look forward to continuing our conversation with you in Yangon in the Alumni Event on 7 Dec! Thank you once again for your valuable time in sharing with all of us your knowledge and wisdom!


Warm regards,


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