Product differentiation a mark of healthy competition

After reading the comments by Malaysia's Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng that Penang has beaten Singapore many times at its game, I think a trip there is long overdue (Let's give S'pore some competition, KL Finance Minister tells bosses; June 20).

I often hear comments that Penang's hawker fare is superior.

However, having tried various dishes which bear the same name from both cities - including laksa and fried kway teow - over the years, my impression remains that their similarities end in the name they share.

After all, Penang laksa tastes very different from Singapore laksa or, for that matter, different versions of the dish in other Malaysian states.

Would it be amiss for these states to lay claim to originating their own versions of this hearty broth?

A "kiasu" (fear of losing out) attitude about such petty details is unnecessary, especially since other South-east Asian countries like Thailand and Indonesia too have their own versions of laksa and char kway teow bearing different names.

Such serendipity of many variations on a theme is fast emerging in Asean and the world through more globalised competition and collaboration in cyberspace, enhancing Singapore's imperative to constantly evolve its long game and stay ahead of the curve.

Product and service differentiation to cater to various needs is the mark of healthy competition, as they tend to enlarge the space for win-win collaborations as well (Competing with Singapore not a solution for Malaysia, by Mr Patrick Tan Siong Kuan; June 21).

For example, if the Malaysia-Singapore high-speed rail (HSR) is fully implemented in the next couple of decades, visitors can easily take the HSR to Penang for a lunch of piping hot laksa, before spinning back to the Lion City for its version of the same dish for supper.

Toh Cheng Seong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2018, with the headline 'Product differentiation a mark of healthy competition'. Print Edition | Subscribe