10 industry personalities talk about what they wish for in 2015

They discuss the significance of this year for their sector, what they are looking forward to and the changes they hope to see

Yuan Oeij. -- PRIVE GROUP
Yuan Oeij. -- PRIVE GROUP
Tjin Lee. -- PHOTO: TJIN LEE
Dr Edmund Lam. -- PHOTO: DESMOND FOO
Lim Teck. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
Theodore Chan. -- PHOTO: THEODORE CHAN
Molby Low. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
Ong Keng Sen. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
Dr Eugene Tan. -- PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Visual arts

Dr Eugene Tan, 43, director, National Gallery Singapore

"2015 promises to be another equally exciting year for the visual arts, if 2014 has been anything to go by.

"The Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA) at Gillman Barracks and the Singapore Art Museum look set to host some exciting exhibitions. Art galleries, such as those at Gillman Barracks, and fairs such as Art Stage Singapore and the Singapore Art Fair will continue to develop the art market.

"However, something overlooked in our art scene and which has much potential is the CCA's residency programme. This programme has brought international and regional artists (such as Sam Durant from the United States and Pratchaya Phinthong from Thailand) to our shores and fostered an engagement with our artists and art scene. It is programmes such as this that will reinforce Singapore's role as an international centre for art in the region this year.

"The highlight in the visual arts scene will, for me, undoubtedly be the opening of the National Gallery Singapore.

"While this may be a biased view, it is my conviction that the National Gallery will transform the visual arts landscape in Singapore and the region when we open in November.

"For the first time, there will be a major public institution, housed in two historically significant and magnificent buildings (the City Hall and former Supreme Court), with a collection to match, that will be focused on the historical development of art in Singapore and South-east Asia since the 19th century.

"The public will be able to experience and learn, through our two permanent galleries on Singapore and South-east Asia, about the development of art in the last 150 years as well as, through our special exhibitions, better understand how the art of our country and region relates to the art of other parts of the world, including Asia, Europe and America."

Huang Lijie

Performing arts

Ong Keng Sen, 51, festival director of the Singapore International Festival of Arts and artistic director of TheatreWorks

"I'm interested to see how the artistic community negotiates SG50 and what SG50 means.

"Artists are a strong voice in the Singapore community and because of that, it's very important to get a measure of what their feelings are.

"SG50 is a celebratory year and the question is: What are we celebrating? I know that every artist who is working on the ground is searching for a Singaporean ideal, whatever that is. So I'm interested in these multiple voices.

"I'm also looking forward to the Singapore International Festival of Arts 2015 because I think it will be a challenge to return this year with more Singaporean works.

"International productions are much loved by audiences because, generally, a lot of them see local productions throughout the year, so during festival time, they want international work. I'm curious to see what the response will be like.

"I think my sense of the overall arts scene is that there's always a healthy level of activity, but quantity is not necessarily quality.

"All of us arts groups have to deal with our own internal pressures, the pressure of having to perform, key performance indicators (KPI) and all that. I hope we can all turn that around, so that we can actually control our KPIs rather than have the KPIs controlling us.

"I would also like to see more care and intimacy brought into the arts, so it's not just about mass numbers. For example, I want to see fewer school assembly plays and more forum conversations and dialogues in smaller groups.

"I must say that there's a certain tiredness in Singapore right now. Singapore is a bit of a jaded woman or a cynical man. For me, the question is how do we get past this malaise?"

Lisabel Ting


Molby Low, 44, chief creative director of TV production company WaWa Pictures

"This year, there will be a lot more local content cropping up on TV, both on terrestrial channels and cable channels, due to Singapore's 50th birthday. This means audiences will get more viewing options on different platforms.

"I think a lot of the local content this year will deal with culture and heritage, so I hope this will create more chances for families of several generations to come together to sit down and watch TV as a unit.

"A lot of people these days tend to watch TV on their own, either on their TV set or via the Internet, so I hope the new slate of programmes which feature many collective memories can foster social bonding, and bring back that habit of everyone watching TV together. You know, like in the good old days.

"Given the increase in local content, I hope its high standards will be maintained throughout and that they will not drop due to the high volume.

"At the same time, the demand for more local content this year will also create more opportunities for creative personnel to join and work in the TV industry.

"I hope more passionate people will join the TV profession and give the whole industry a boost, not just for this year, but over the long term."

Yip Wai Yee


Theodore Chan, 54, president of the Singapore Institute of Architects and a director at the firm CIAP Architects

"Last year was a good year for local architects as they continued to go international. Many won international competitions and contributed their leadership to society, such as Ms Rita Soh, director of RDC Architects, who became a Nominated Member of Parliament.

"This year may not be rosy for residential projects because the property market is very soft at the moment and developers might hold back on projects. But health-care, educational and transport infrastructure projects will dominate.

"It is also the time for architects to be less niche and diversify, and contribute to nation-building where they can.

"The architecture fraternity will also be taking part in Singapore's 50th anniversary celebrations, with a special edition of the annual ArchXpo-ArchiFest Awards.

"There will be architectural appreciation talks for the public, while our young architects will be organising a photo essay competition for the public titled Our Favourite Places, which showcases spots we have grown up with. We will also honour the pioneer generation of architects.

"This year, I hope the industry will continue the soul searching and explore how to design meaningful buildings - those which are resource-conscious, efficient, productive, nuisance-free and safe to build and, of course, beautiful.

"I hope new buildings such as Changi Airport's Project Jewel, which will be built on the open-air carpark in front of Terminal 1, will stand up to this rigour of evaluation.

"The Government is also asking us to re-engineer our processes to use less manpower. But that's not possible. We can't be replaced with a tablet PC or an app.

"Architecture is about lovingly crafting and designing our buildings... That's the way it will always be for true architects. I hope there will be no more cookie-cutter designs.

"So, the Government can make our life easier by re-engineering its approval process for buildings. It is now very onerous, there's a lot of red tape and is a huge liability. This turns off the younger generation, from wanting to work in the industry, and I worry that talent succession will be compromised."

Natasha Ann Zachariah


Lim Teck, 39, managing director of Clover Films

"By all counts, 2015 is going to be an exciting year for the movie industry. It has been reported that there will be more than 20 Singapore-made movies released this year. This is indicative that our industry is growing.

"To have more movies will mean additional exposure for local film-makers and, given that this year is Singapore's 50th anniversary, hopefully local audiences will give more support to local movies.

"However, I am concerned film-makers here are focusing more on obtaining enough funds to get movies made and placing less emphasis on the quality of the movies and whether the movies will sell.

"Over the past three years, the Media Development Authority has been very supportive in providing grants to film-makers and this is a positive move. I hope local film-makers, with better support in funding, can make good movies that will sell, as only a sustainable movie industry will continue to grow.

"Clover Films just celebrated its fifth anniversary last month and we strive to continue to produce good movies and bring in strong Asian titles. We will be releasing four Chinese movies during the Chinese New Year period and hope to bring in more than 20 Asian titles this year. Let's hope the overall box office will scale new heights this year and be a record-breaking one for the industry."

Boon Chan


Dr Edmund Lam, 54, chief executive officer and director of Composers And Authors Society Of Singapore (Compass)

"There will be a mix of challenges and opportunities for the music industry this year.

"Globally, the distribution of creative works is rapidly shifting from physical to digital. This transformation will be almost complete this year.

"Our challenge is to promote businesses that require digital players to fairly remunerate songwriters, publishers and record labels for the use of their creative works.

"Regionally, rising Asian giants such as China and Indonesia have the biggest untapped music markets in the world, and are where Singaporean artists have a potential to do well.

"I also hope our Government or one of the Asean states will take the lead to provide the catalyst to establish a regional music market within the Asean Free Trade Area, which will come into full effect this year.

"The theme for the local music industry this year is undoubtedly nostalgia. There is palpable pent-up demand for our veteran bands and artists to return to the stage to celebrate our music of yesteryear.

"One of the highlights and probably the biggest event will be the Sing50 mega concert organised by The Straits Times and The Business Times to showcase our 50 years of music.

"SG50 is also about looking forward. The Gift Of Song competition organised by MediaCorp with Compass' partnership will let Singaporeans choose a winning song that can represent their aspirations and hopes and, most importantly, be a song they love to sing.

"Amid all the buzz this year, my only wish is that the momentum for the music industry will continue in the coming years and not suffer a deep plunge into the abyss after the euphoria of SG50 festivities is long gone."

Eddino Abdul Hadi


Mr Choe Peng Sum, 54, chief executive of Frasers Hospitality, a home-grown brand with 92 properties in 49 cities worldwide

"2014 was a strong year.

"Although there was radicalism in the Middle East, trouble in the Ukraine and currency woes in Russia, the year saw continued growth in business and leisure travel globally.

"Overall global travel spending is expected to grow 8.5 per cent this year and corporate travel spending is expected to post higher growth.

"There will always be the uncertainty of natural disasters, global pandemics, terrorist attacks or economic slowdowns that could affect global travel and relocation, but the forecasts are for increasing growth this year for our industry.

"Destinations that would see the most spending growth are the emerging markets such as China, where a 17.8 per cent growth is forecast for this year.

"India continues to be strong, while economic recovery in the United States is gaining traction.

"There is no doubt that in this world of ever-evolving Internet technology, social media and networking, shared reviews and experiences are the new forces driving the market.

"Companies need to be prepared to invest in leapfrogging technology to stay nimble, responsive and relevant in this rapidly changing, technology-driven landscape.

"Technology and new booking patterns have also given rise to websites that cater to alternative accommodation rather than chain hotels.

"As in all competition, this cannot be overlooked and is something that the hospitality industry needs to contend with.

"It is up to established industry players to continue to make themselves relevant to the needs of different travellers as it is differentiation, through distinct branding, that will help customers sort through the melee of choices.

"The fastest-growing segment of travellers is the Millennial traveller aged between 28 and 40, a segment which accounts for about 30 per cent of US business travellers today and will reach 50 per cent by 2020.

"These Millennials spend 13 per cent more a trip compared with the average traveller and this group also has very different requirements from other travellers.

"Seamless connectivity is a given for them, but also evident is their concern and focus on health and wellness."

Bryna Singh


Chris Chong, 42, chief executive officer of Orchard Turn Developments, which manages Ion Orchard

"The retail industry was on a roller coaster last year. This was partly due to the strong Singapore dollar, so many Singaporeans travelled and shopped overseas.

"Major regional events in the first half of last year - such as the loss of the two Malaysia Airlines planes, the tensions between China and Vietnam - led to a decrease in Chinese tourists who are in Singapore on transit to countries nearby.

"The way I see it, the retail market will continue to be challenged this year. So it is time for retailers to look at the fundamentals and embrace technology and the Internet.

"In the face of rising labour costs and manpower shortage, the industry needs to innovate and optimise its resources.

"For example, instead of having a cashier in the store, why not let consumers pay through their mobile phones? This will also change the way shopfronts are designed and the size of the stores.

"Some retailers still see online shops as a threat. Or they view brick-and-mortar and online boutiques as separate entities when that is no longer a valid discussion as the way forward is a convergence of the two.

"For example, multi-label online shop Zalora launched its first digital interactive pop-up store at Ion Orchard in October.

"Customers come in to browse through the collection, try on pieces, pay at computer terminals and their buys are delivered to their homes.

"So this year, retailers should not miss out on harnessing the power of the Internet and monetising it.

"It is no longer just about having blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

"They have to think about how those online activities will translate to sales in the offline stores.

"Especially when the teens and those in their early 20s who embrace technology will have higher spending power in years to come."

Gladys Chung


Tjin Lee, 41, managing director of public relations and events company Mercury Marketing & Communications

"In recent years, there have been good efforts to promote local designers.

"Last year, we saw the launch of Keepers, an ongoing pop-up event that showcases local labels, including hansel, In Good Company, a.w.o.l and Heads of State Millinery.

"It's heartening to see the industry banding together for a common purpose. I would love to see more of such initiatives this year.

"Local designer Max Tan will open his first standalone boutique at the new Capitol Piazza mall this year. I hope to see other local designers grow their retail presence in Singapore as this will help them expand overseas.

"On my part, I'm trying to see how I can entice more international buyers to come to Singapore so that local designers have the chance to be stocked in some of the world's best stores.

"One way would be to make the Audi Fashion Festival, which I have organised since 2009, more industry relevant. So far, it has been held largely for consumers rather than buyers.

"But to attract more international buyers, local designers need to think in more commercial terms. This means they need to know their customers and have pieces that are wearable.

"The local womenswear brands In Good Company and Ong Shunmugam are really leading in this area. In Good Company has a clean concept and many designs, while Ong Shunmugam blends ethnic and modern elements perfectly.

"I have a feeling that this will be a good year for the local fashion scene."

Stacey Chia

Food and beverage

Yuan Oeij, 45, chairman of The Prive Group, which runs restaurants such as Prive at Keppel Bay and Chijmes as well as The Green Door bar and Roadhouse restaurant in Dempsey. It will open a new restaurant and cafe at the Asian Civilisations Museum in the second half of this year

"The economy is projected to be weaker, so it will be a challenging year for restaurateurs.

"This year will see a consolidation of the cocktail bar scene, which suddenly exploded last year. I don't think the market is big enough to sustain the boom, especially when cocktails are becoming more expensive. The scene has become too saturated. It will be survival of the fittest.

"Last year, some smokehouse delis opened, such as Sacha & Sons at Mandarin Gallery, and more of them will start to open this year, such as hotelier Loh Lik Peng's upcoming Meat Smith smoked meats restaurant. With the influence from the United States, especially from the food shows on television, I believe there is enough demand for good restaurants that smoke meats in-house.

"The vibrant cafe scene continued to grow last year - although at a slower pace - and there will be more young entrepreneurs who will still pursue their passion. But instead of just opening more cafes, food trucks could be another avenue for them to explore. This year, I would like to see more policies that allow food trucks to operate."

Eunice Quek

What are your wishes and hopes for this year? E-mail stlife@ sph.com.sg

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