From entrepreneurs to royalty: This S’pore-based matchmaking app helps you date high-flyers

date high flyers

Anisa Hassan, 50, had a thriving background in journalism. She was headhunted by then-Television Corporation of Singapore (TCS) — now Mediacorp — for the role of producer and host, and following that, she became one of the 10 anchors to kickstart Channel NewsAsia.

Despite her success, 2003 was the year she chose to step away from the “lights, camera, action” at Channel NewsAsia.

Anisa Hassan
Anisa in an interview with Malaysian media for Lets Joompa / Image Credit: Anisa Hassan

She later dipped her toes in the matchmaking industry in 2004, bringing over American dating franchise ‘It’s Just Lunch’ to Singapore.

When the brand ended its tenure in 2017, she founded Date High Flyers International (DHF), which offers personalised matchmaking services that served a niche market: professionals, business owners, and high net worth individuals (HNWIs) who have marriage in mind.

Never imagining herself on this path, she dubs herself an accidental entrepreneur.

I was looking for growth and an opportunity to stretch myself. Entrepreneurship was furthest from my mind. I didn’t come from a business background, nor did I think I’d have the business acumen to create or start a business.

– Anisa Hassan, CEO and founder of Date High Flyers International

Personalised dating for the select few

The proliferation of dating apps have many singles assuming that matchmakers are outdated, and an expense they can do away with. 

Anisa acknowledges that dating independently has worked on many levels. However, she points out that there are time-starved individuals who appreciate the value of time, effort, and attention matchmakers are able to provide for them.

It can be daunting vetting profiles after profiles not knowing someone’s background, real intention, and objective. Matchmakers take away that guesswork. Plus, there are dating patterns that individuals may be blindsided by if we don’t step in to draw attention to or away from.

Paying top dollar for a luxury matchmaking service means increased transparency and a higher level of compatibility that can only come about because the middle person has both parties’ interests at heart.

– Anisa Hassan, CEO and founder of Date High Flyers International

She adds that she has no particular matchmaking spiel. Instead, it all begins with a private conversation and the intention to serve if the requirements are within her reach. She is adamant in providing a personalised service, thus only extending her time and energy to a select group of individuals.

date high flyers luxury matchmaking
Screenshot of DHF Luxe Club Members Area

DHF has two categories: Luxe, and Black Label Memberships. Luxe is a local membership where clients are matched with others based in Singapore. The membership accounts here are run by Anisa’s team of trained matchmakers.

Meanwhile, Black Label is personally managed by Anisa and it is limited to 50 clients, usually men in their 40s to 60s. This membership opens up matches from within the local and international database. She also personally headhunts for other candidates for them and provides her clients with personalised coaching on how best to navigate the dating world.

While dealing with the affluent involves handling a multitude of privacy issues, DHF ensures that all personal information remains within the private domain. They never release last names, residential addresses, places of work et cetera, ensuring its clients information is not easily searchable.

Anisa’s clientele comprises professionals, including doctors, lawyers, bankers, academics, and senior management corporate executives. Some 40 per cent are entrepreneurs and there are others who include political and public figures, as well as members of royal families.

Half of these clients are referred by other clients, business associates, and friends. 

According to Anisa, she works on a retainer basis, typically ranging from six months to a year, and prices vary between S$1,000 and S$5,500 a month. 

A multi-step process to finding love

The selection process is a rigorous one. Once a person has registered with DHF, the team arranges a pre-screening process with the prospective client over the phone or via Zoom.

We ask them a series of questions that would ascertain their general objectives, academic backgrounds, and professions. We’ll also review their parameters with which they want us to work on.

If their requirements are reasonable and we are able to meet those requirements, only then will we offer a face-to-face interview with the prospect. During the interview, a prospect can expect a more in-depth interview where details such as family history, relationship history, and ideal partner are discussed fully.

– Anisa Hassan, CEO and founder of Date High Flyers International

date high flyers luxury matchmaking
Screenshot of appointment consultation page for Black Label members

Following that, the first introduction is arranged exclusively by DHF since it involves logistical arrangements, pre-date coaching, and post-date feedback. Subsequently, the couples can arrange meetings on their own. 

Complementing her services with tech

For the past almost two decades in the industry, Anisa and her team have matched over 1,000 couples who have moved on to marry, or are still in long committed relationships. The overall success rate ranges between 60 and 85 per cent. 

Moving forward, Anisa says that DHF will continue to remain a personalised matchmaking service as she sees it as filling a niche gap in the industry. The human touch aspect of the business also makes every success story more meaningful and significant for her and the team.

anisa hassan Joompa launch
Anisa Hassan at a Joompa panel / Image Credit: Hnworth.com

She has since entered the digital space with her own app, ‘Let’s Joompa’. It caters specifically to Muslim singles in Southeast Asia, and helps makes her business more “mass-market friendly”. Since its soft launch in Malaysia in 2019, the app has garnered more than 15,000 downloads so far.

As a matchmaker and an entrepreneur, I have to constantly grow and evolve with the times. I intend to codify what I’ve learnt as a matchmaker over the last two decades and create an online platform that’s safe, ethical, and effective. I intend to lean into this platform to help achieve my lifelong mission of creating a million marriages worldwide.

– Anisa Hassan, CEO and founder of Date High Flyers International

Featured Image Credit: Date High Flyers

Also Read: This S’pore startup allows dog owners to bring their ‘fur pals’ on a playdate for S$10/hour

“If the play-to-earn game is not fun, then it will not have long-term success”: Oasys Director

oasys

Over the past year, gaming communities have been vocal about their disapproval of NFTs and blockchain technology. Renowned publishers such as Electronic Arts (EA) and Ubisoft have faced backlash — from gamers, employees, as well as other game developers — for announcing NFT ventures.

As such, it’d seem there isn’t much overlap among the user bases of traditional games and blockchain games. This could be because the latter are generally built to serve a different objective. They’re often referred to as play-to-earn games, emphasising the ability to earn crypto rather than gameplay or entertainment value.

https://twitter.com/PlaytonicGames/status/1488529331223728133/

This also means that their popularity is directly linked to the state of the crypto markets.

For example, Axie Infinity was one of the most popular blockchain games in 2021, allowing users to earn the Smooth Love Potion (SLP) crypto token as a reward for playing. Over the course of the bear market, SLP’s value has fallen drastically. Today, it’s worth 98 per cent less than its all-time-high of around US$0.40.

The challenges of blockchain gaming

As the blockchain gaming industry develops, it’s beginning to address such flaws. Companies are now looking into business models which are more sustainable.

“In order to drive mainstream adoption, firstly, the user experience must be good,” explains Daiki Moriyama, director at blockchain gaming company Oasys. “This is where many projects fail.”

It’s difficult for them to retain their user bases when the monetary payouts slow down.

Daiki Moriyama, director of Oasys
Daiki Moriyama, director of Oasys / Image Credit: Oasys

A significant pain point to address revolves around the actual gaming experience, and whether it is fun. If the play-to-earn game is not fun, then it will not have long-term success in this industry.

– Daiki Moriyama, director of Oasys

Moriyama believes that this largely comes down to the limitation of current blockchain architecture. “Nobody wants to pay high gas fees to execute actions within a gaming metaverse, or wait up to five minutes for a transaction to be confirmed.” 

Since most blockchains are geared heavily towards decentralisation and privacy, it can often come at the expense of factors such as speed, performance, and cost. “For blockchain-powered solutions to be attractive, they need to be highly scalable with fast transaction speeds and low or zero gas fees for users.”

Security is another major concern in the space. In March, Axie Infinity reported losses of over US$600 million due to a hack. “Scams, hacks and misleading projects are rampant and discredit the good work that has been ongoing to upgrade gaming infrastructure,” says Moriyama.

Changing business models

Based in Singapore and Japan, Oasys was established to help improve the blockchain gaming experience. The company is working to increase mainstream adoption of play-and-earn gaming, in partnership with publishers such as SEGA and Bandai Namco.

As opposed to play-to-earn gaming, this is a model which makes use of blockchain technology, without making it the sole focus. “The misconception is that blockchain gaming is focused on earning, but really, what it offers is value — to both players and game developers alike,” says Moriyama.

“Blockchain architecture, being decentralised, offers players and token holders the chance to participate in governance and make decisions fairly and equitably,” he adds.

blockchain gaming oasys
Oasys’ blockchain was designed with a focus on gaming / Screenshot of Oasys

It also has significant implications on the ownership of in-game assets and user data.

Previously, these were all held by a centralised game publisher, and there were often strict user agreements in place to prohibit the sale or monetisation of such assets. What blockchain gaming does is transfer the value of these assets from centralised publishers into players’ hands.

Beyond earning tangential income, this really changes how we approach a leisure activity/hobby such as gaming.

– Daiki Moriyama, director of Oasys

How blockchain gaming will evolve

Moriyama believes that mass adoption of blockchain games is expected to happen within the next five years. “What we’re seeing now is more and more buy-in from traditional game developers and gaming companies.”

Although they’ve faced backlash in the past, traditional gaming companies are finding ways to enter this space without alienating their existing fanbase.

“Companies see the value of engaging users beyond traditional gamers. Bandai Namco recently launched its new mid-term plan which emphasises the gaming industry’s pivot from the product (games, toys, art, etc.) to a community.”

bandai namco
Bandai Namco is the publisher of renowned games such as those from the Dragon Ball franchise / Image Credits: Dragon Ball Legends

Blockchain technology offer an avenue through which users can be more involved in the success and ownership of their favourite games. “It allows game developers to program incentives that align with the interests of players.”

Oasys is working with a wide range of Web2 and Web3 partners to make this pivot a reality. This July, the company raised US$20 million in a private token sale round, with participation from companies such as Crypto.com, Huobi, and Jump Crypto.

The company operates a blockchain designed especially for gaming. It takes into account the aforementioned problems of transaction times and gas fees. “We are working with some exciting game developers to build on our blockchain, as well as working on a concrete plan to list our tokens on the very best crypto exchanges.”

Although the future looks promising, there’s still plenty which needs to be done. “For many long-standing game publishers, they will have to manage their reputations, as well as protect their intellectual property. They have understandably been hesitant about diving headfirst into blockchain technology,” says Moriyama.

As time resolves these issues, it seems the aim is not for blockchain gaming to take over, but rather co-exist with its traditional counterpart.

It is clear that for blockchain gaming to succeed, it cannot do so alone. Rather, it must acknowledge its limitations and embrace the value and expertise that traditional gaming brands can offer.

– Daiki Moriyama, director of Oasys

Featured Image Credit: Oasys

Also Read: S’pore startup Ethlas hopes to onboard the next billion non-crypto users with GameFi

Lowlight photography aside, here’s what else I appreciated about the OPPO Reno8 Pro 5G

I’ve been an iPhone user for some years now and never had any thoughts of switching teams, even in an Android-majority office.

While I’d say I belong to the school of thought that iPhones are superior (for the jokes, if nothing else), I’m always game to fiddle with new tech that land in our office. Including the new OPPO Reno8 Pro 5G.

We’ve already taken great extents to test the phone’s photography capabilities, but how does the phone perform as a daily driver?

A for aesthetics

Coming in the Glazed Green colourway, my first impression of the OPPO Reno8 Pro is its impeccable visuals. Rather than green, though, I found the colour to be more of a blueish seafoam hue.  

Beyond the colour, I also found the seamless design of the phone to be quite beautiful. OPPO calls it the Seamless Unibody Design, whereby the back of the phone uses just a single piece of glass.

As a result of that, the side profile of the phone has an elegant curve to it. The slight bump around the camera is sleek and subtle, extending all the way to the edge of the phone.

I personally found this design to be much nicer than OPPO’s Find X5 Pro 5G, which we’ve reviewed previously, that also features a subtle slope around the camera bump.  

The squarish edges in width immediately reminded me of Apple’s phones. Thickness-wise, it measures at 7.3mm and bears resemblance to my iPhone 12 Pro, but the OPPO Reno8 Pro exceeds in length at 161mm.

Despite that, the OPPO Reno8 Pro is relatively lightweight. At 184 grams, the phone feels quite premium and solid, especially with the glass material.

The one downside of the glass for me though is that it leaves a lot of fingerprints, but that’s easily solved by using the clear phone case that comes in the box.

Geared for daily use

Exterior design aside, the phone’s hardware also appears to be equipped to handle everyday tasks. Here’s a rundown of the specs:

Chipset MTK Dimensity 8100
RAM – 8GB
– 12GB
Internal Storage – 128GB
– 256GB
Display – 6.62-inch AMOLED Display
– HDR10+
– 120Hz
– 1080 x 2400 resolution
– ~89.0% screen-to-body ratio
Camera – 50MP, f/1.8, wide, Sony IMX766
– 8MP, f/2.2, ultrawide
– 2MP, f/2.4, macro
– 32MP, Sony IMX709
Battery – 4500mAh non-removable battery
– Up to 80W fast charging
– Reverse wireless charging

The phone is boxed with OPPO’s 80W SuperVOOC charger and a type A to type C cable. This allowed us to conveniently utilise the fast-charging capabilities of the phone, where my colleague was able to fully charge the Reno8 Pro in around 34 minutes.

The battery life is also quite reliable. I used it for around two days to take photos and play games without having to charge it at all. This might be in part due to the fact that it’s a new phone with a new battery, but regardless, it’s still impressive.

One downside is the fact that the phone does not have a water and dust-resistant rating—a troublesome thing for a clumsy person like me.

Light and dark

Previously, we’ve tested the phone’s lowlight photography capabilities by taking it into the caves. To find out how that went, you can read our article here.

As great as the night photography the OPPO Reno8 Pro is capable of, I’m admittedly much more of a daytime photography kind of person.

I took the phone out for a spin at Farm Fresh @ UPM on a sunny day. With its 120Hz FHD+ OLED screen, the phone was bright and vivid enough that I never had to squint or shield it from the sun.

As expected, the 50MP wide camera works great in natural sunlight, giving crisp photos and videos alike.

The 2MP, f/2.4 macro and 8MP, f/2.2 ultrawide cameras also work decently, but I did wish the latter performed better without desaturating my photos.

The selfie camera wasn’t my favourite. Perhaps I was a little jarred by the beauty filter, which seemed to be turned on by default. Turning it off was simple enough, so I can’t be too mad about it. Plus, the selfie camera seems to work well in low-light settings too.

Decent gaming phone

Being an iPhone user, I found the OPPO Game Assistant to be quite fascinating, though I hear it’s quite a common feature on other Androids. The Game Assistant slides out from the corner to show the time, battery percentage, and temperature of the phone. It also allows you to access the performance settings and the game focus mode.

The game focus modes let users block the game toolkit, gesture navigations, quick settings, notifications, calls, and alarms.

Meanwhile, the performance settings give you access to low power mode, balanced mode, and pro gamer mode.  

I tested out the phone’s gaming capabilities by launching Genshin Impact. Travelling around Liyue, the phone’s temperature went up to 39 degrees, which is a normal range to heat up to. The game ran smoothly, giving Genshin the quality graphics it deserves.  

Enough to change my mind?

In general, I felt like the OPPO Reno8 Pro does what it’s supposed to do. It honestly had a lot more features than I needed, such as the Air Gestures, which I honestly could not figure out how to use—I just ended up looking like an idiot waving at my phone.  

I at least had fun with the Omoji, though. Omoji is basically the ColorOS version of Apple’s Memoji, ColorOS being the mobile operating system created by Oppo Electronics. ColorOS is based on the Android Open Source Project, and the OPPO Reno8 Pro runs on the 12.1 version of it.

I quite enjoyed the UI of ColorOS in the sense that it didn’t get in my way. It was simple, clean, and easy to navigate. What more could I ask for?

The one issue I had was connectivity to my AirPods, but that’s more of my AirPods’ problem than the phone’s.

I suppose that’s one of the main reasons why I haven’t considered straying away from Apple, despite having a great experience using Android phones. I’m just too invested in all the lifestyle (and accessories).

If it weren’t for that, I could honestly see myself making the jump, and the OPPO Reno8 Pro 5G makes for a worthy option.

Ultimately, I found the OPPO Reno8 Pro to be at best, beautiful with a solid battery. At RM3,499, it’s a mid-range phone with great camera capabilities and an aesthetically pleasing exterior.

Pros Cons
Charges incredibly fast with the 80W SuperVOOC charger Lacks a water or dust resistance rating
Sports a great camera that takes good photos in both bright and dark settings Ultrawide camera could use some work
Seamless unibody design is beautiful, and the glazed glass look is elegant  
Smooth gaming capabilities with fluid animation  

  • Learn more about the OPPO Reno8 Pro 5G here.
  • Read more VP Verdicts here.

Also Read: Here’s a quick guide on how to get a RM50 voucher by subscribing to foodpanda’s pandapro

As S’pore adopts a sustainable stance, more zero-waste grocery stores are popping up

source bulk foods singapore

Single-use plastics are highly useful, especially in a densely populated Singapore, where they’re used mainly for hygiene purposes. This is especially so for groceries in supermarkets, where fruit and vegetables are often packaged in plastics, while fish and meat are sealed with cling wrap. 

These plastics are said to ensure food safety and quality by reducing damage and cross-contamination. Many suppliers also pre-package them to reduce the chances of them getting damaged, and thus wasted, during transit.  

However, even though it maintains cleanliness and reduces food wastage in that aspect, the use of single-use plastics remains highly detrimental to the environment. Moreover, since supermarkets carry pre-weighed and pre-packaged goods of set weights and amounts, more wastage can be produced if consumers end up purchasing more than they need. 

Single-use plastics in supermarkets
Supermarket produce wrapped in single-use plastics / Image credit: Nestia

In 2018, Singapore produced a total of 1.6 million tonnes of domestic waste, with one-third of it being packaging. Food waste is also one of the biggest waste streams in Singapore, and it has been growing by 20 per cent over the last 10 years.   

If food items “need” to be wrapped in plastic, how then, can Singapore move towards sustainability and address both food and packaging waste?

A possible solution that allows for both hygiene and sustainability, are zero-waste grocery stores. They mainly operate by offering produce and food items in bulk where consumers can purchase however much of the product they need, with no use of single-use plastics. 

“[Z]ero-waste grocery shopping could potentially address the environmental drawbacks of conventional supermarkets, offering a more sustainable and environmentally friendly solution for our livelihoods.”

– Florence Tay, founder of Unpackt

Taking home only what you need

Considering the transnational nature of the effects of climate change, zero-waste shopping is “important everywhere”, emphasises Amy Kirk, co-founder of Australian zero-waste grocery store Scoop WholeFoods, which was established in Singapore in May 2019.

Sharing the same sentiment, Florence of Unpackt advocates that “[b]y shopping zero-waste in Singapore, we purchase just the quantity of food we need without creating food and packaging waste”, essentially benefitting Singapore in the long run, considering the lack of space for more landfills. 

Zero-waste stores function much more differently from your typical supermarkets from the products they offer to the way in which they are displayed.

For example, Scoop WholeFoods offers a large variety of chemical free, organic whole-food products that run the gamut — from grains and pastas, to chocolates and fermented drinks on tap. They also carry sustainable homeware products, chemical-free toiletries, household cleaning products and have an organic bakery in their Great World City outlet.

However, unlike supermarkets carrying brands that have items wrapped in plastics and other unsustainable packaging materials, the majority of Scoop WholeFood’s products can be purchased in bulk via their bulk bins, which means customers either bring in their own containers or bottles from home or use the packaging like glass jars or cloth bags sold in stores to collect them. 

Scoop WholeFoods
Food items in bulk bins / Image credit: Scoop WholeFoods

Many of our customers come in store with the exact measurements they require for a recipe and leave with exactly that, proving how much you can save in the long run when you buy just what you need.

– Amy Kirk, co-founder of Scoop WholeFoods

According to Amy, ever since Scoop WholeFoods opened its first store in Tanglin Mall in April 2019, approximately 2.5 million plastic bags have been saved from entering Singapore’s waste system. An immeasurable amount of food wastage has also been avoided. 

Unpackt, Singapore’s first zero-waste store that opened in 2018, also aims to encourage consumers to take small steps towards leading a sustainable lifestyle, offering a range of zero-waste lifestyle products and groceries that come in reusable and refillable packaging.

unpackt Zero-waste refillery
Unpackt’s refillery / Image credit: Unpackt

An added benefit is that their products are sourced from local and package free retailers as much as possible, embodying circularity. Some of their retailers like Green Kulture even deliver the products in jerrycans and carton boxes that can be returned and refilled for future deliveries.   

Unpackt also conducts educational programmes such as corporate or school talks, learning journeys and workshops. In addition, it offers corporate gifts and pantry services in hopes of encouraging and advocating consumers to incorporate sustainable living habits in their own ways. 

Unpackt advocating zero-waste
Florence advocating zero-waste / Imade credit: Unpackt

“We have also worked with schools and companies to have a mobile Unpackt service where they can place an order online to click and collect at their school premise or company”, says Florence, adding that this helps make unpackaged products more easily accessible.

Hesitancy towards zero-waste grocery shopping  

Despite the benefits zero-waste grocery stores bring to our environment and health, why do some still purchase from conventional supermarkets?

Florence believes this consumer hesitancy towards zero-waste grocery shopping stems from the perception that it is costly and inconvenient. However, she debunks this claim, highlighting that it is a “common misconception”.

In actual fact, the rise of zero-waste grocery stores allows for greater accessibility and convenience. In terms of cost, many zero-waste stores also offer an affordable selection of produce.

Moreover, Florence believes that leading a sustainable lifestyle doesn’t have to be a hassle; it can be as simple as consuming in moderation instead of consuming excessively. 

Amy, who is also aware that a large part of consumer hesitancy is attributed to the cost factor, shares that Scoop WholeFoods’ variety of food “allows for different price points, where consumers have options to purchase high quality everyday basics, as well as more premium organic artisan made goods”.

This allows consumers to save money while making the right choice of prioritising their health and the planet.

Scoop WholeFoods food items
Scoop WholeFood’s variety of food items / Image credit: Scoop WholeFoods

In fact, Amy shares that one of the biggest draws to their stores is their affordability factor. 

“Being able to purchase just what you need for you and your family allows for significant savings as our customers don’t have to commit to purchasing quantities they don’t need and will most likely end up throwing out”, she says.

But, consumers may find more reassurance knowing that their products are packaged with plastic, which often connotes that food would be fresher and more hygienic as compared to leaving it in bulk bins or mason jars. 

However, zero-waste grocery stores have their own ways of keeping produce fresh — without the use of any plastic. 

For one, Scoop WholeFoods stores are kept at a temperature of 18 degrees at all times, ensuring the utmost freshness and quality of their products. They also make sure that temperatures of the produce are managed for their end-to-end supply chain, with their stock managers having to follow very detailed guidelines on how to look after products in bulk bins.

Moreover, they don’t carry any bulk products with short shelf lives that could go bad easily. “[W]e are very specific when it comes to our product selection”, emphasises Amy. 

Similarly at Unpackt, food items are stored under recommended temperatures and are kept in small containers that are regularly washed and sanitised before being refilled.

Better supporting the zero-waste culture

In order to drive the adoption of zero-waste grocery shopping into our livelihoods, it must first be made even more widely accessible, and that means the introduction of regulations and frameworks.

“[T]he first and most important step is for supermarkets and large grocery stores to immediately cease offering single-use plastic carry bags”, suggests Amy. 

bring your own bag ntuc fairprice
Bring your own bag / Image Credit: NTUC Fairprice

Florence chimes in, noting that even though there are more supermarkets than zero-waste grocery stores in Singapore at the moment, the adoption rates of zero-waste shopping could be driven to higher levels if consumers get more used to practising zero-waste grocery shopping habits like bringing their own bags.

But of course, consumer behaviour would still need to be addressed. Amy feels that suppliers can start by removing all unnecessary plastic packaging from fruits, vegetables, delicatessens, meat et cetera to aid in reducing the reliance on food logistics packaging.

Even though Amy concedes that these are not that straightforward or easy for large supermarkets to implement overnight, she’s optimistic in “see[ing] them provide [consumers] with more opportunities to shop waste-free”.

Zero-waste grocery stores lead the way

The demand for zero-waste grocery stores has been seeing a slow but steady incline, especially with the healthy diets and sustainability being hot topics in recent years.

Statistics from KBV Research also illustrate that the global value of the superfoods market has increased from US$137 billion in 2020 to US$157 billion in 2022, and expected to be valued at US$209 billion by 2026.

Data by Polaris Market Research supports this finding, revealing that the value of the global organic food and beverage market worldwide has had a compound annual growth rate of 13.2 per cent since 2018.

Key indicators of a shift in demand for zero-waste grocery stores in Singapore can also be indicated by the demand for more of such stores to open in more locations around Singapore for increased accessibility. 

Amy, who reminisces about the time Scoop WholeFoods opened the doors to their first store in 2019, shares that they were unsure as to how the response from Singaporeans would be like, since bulk food shopping was still considered a new concept back then. 

“We were humbled to see so many people lining up outside the door of the Tanglin Mall store on opening day and so many carrying their own containers all ready to be refilled. We knew there and then that the people of Singapore were well aware of the challenges our planet is facing and were ready to jump onboard and start their zero-waste journeys,” shares Amy.

Even though changing routines and habits can be tough, Amy feels that once people experience the many benefits of shopping in bulk, they’d be more receptive towards adopting zero-waste shopping habits, especially considering the savings they can make just from buying what they really need.

In fact, it seems that zero-waste shopping has gained much more traction in Singapore since then, with Florence noting that it could be due to the growing awareness of leading sustainable lifestyles.

“[W]e foresee the demand for this service to grow as more and more bulk stores open islandwide,” she affirms.

Jeff Lam and Florence Tay Unpackt
Jeff Lam and Florence Tay, co-founder and founder of Unpackt / Image credit: Unpackt

The introduction of more zero-waste stores that offer both healthier and more eco-conscious food supplies also helps in making “this type of grocery shopping the norm as it gradually becomes part of consumers’ daily habits and therefore [is] no longer considered an alternative way of shopping”, says Amy.

Now, Scoop WholeFoods will be opening their ninth store in Singapore later this year, and plans to continue adapting to the ever-changing and eco-conscious market.

Scoop WholeFoods team
Scoop WholeFoods team / Image credit: Scoop WholeFoods

At the end of the day, even as zero-waste grocery stores become more prevalent in our society, large supermarkets still need to do their part as well to push for more environmentally conscious measures. This is because they can influence positive change at both consumer and supplier levels on a massive scale.  

[I]t is also up to consumers to make more sustainable choices where possible and we believe our stores provide the perfect platform to help them do so. We are all in this together and we must work as a team to protect our environment and overall well being of our planet.

– Amy Kirk, co-founder of Scoop WholeFoods

Featured image credit: Source Bulk Foods Singapore

Also Read: S’pore startup treatsure co-creates pop-up store at Woodlands MRT to encourage zero food waste

It started as a home art class, now this Malaysian’s brand has expanded to 21 countries

The founder of the art learning brand globalart, Mahair Goh, believes that persistence truly pays off.

After all, one of the biggest challenges he faced when running globalart was the initial startup process of promoting the brand to others. 

“It was a hard time as we lacked funds and various institutions were also reluctant in accepting the globalart teaching concept,” shared Mahair. 

This left the founder in despair, and he was on the brink of giving up on his business idea. But he chose not to.

“I had a strong belief in my programme and a determination that knew no end, so I stepped up on my initiatives and began taking my programme to the streets. I started knocking on doors and approaching every art centre that I could reach,” described Mahair. 

His persistence finally paid off when a couple of art centres agreed to conduct a trial basis with his art and creativity programme. 

globalart began its journey in Malaysia, starting in 1999 with one art learning centre. With Mahair’s efforts, globalart today is an international franchise brand known for its innovative and effective art enrichment programme learning system for children ages three to 17.

“So I would say that the franchise business sort of happened and this gave me hope that the globalart learning methodology could be a new trend in art and creativity,” said Mahair. 

Creativity at its best 

At 22, most of us would either be pushing through our final year in college or enjoying the simple pleasures of life. Starting a business, however, would definitely not be on the list. 

For 22-year-old Mahair back then, he wanted to start a business after discovering that he had a passion for teaching art to younger children. Thus, he went on to establish his first art centre. 

The first year proved to be fruitful with an intake of 100 students, which eventually also proved difficult to single-handedly manage. 

Image Credit: globalart

Mahair went on to hire instructors who could help tutor the children. The method did not work out so well as there was a demand for his sole expertise in teaching art.

“I realised that I needed to develop a standardised teaching technique that would monitor and guide my students effectively as well as train my teachers to be better equipped with my teaching style,” he explained. 

That teaching and learning method soon materialised into the revolutionary globalart programme it is today. 

Mahair’s vetting process for his teachers is pretty straightforward. He does not emphasise his teachers having high qualifications. Instead, his only requirement is that all of his teachers love children and enjoy working with them. 

“Creative thinking is my motto and the heart of my entire programme,” he shared. 

This extends to their teaching style too, whereby the brand claims to be different by promoting and developing children’s creativity at their own pace. They do this by using a step-by-step approach and guidance. 

Growing a local programme globally 

Within one year of launching globalart, the brand’s programme was implemented by 60 franchisees. By 2000, there was also a total intake of 8,000 students in Malaysia.

Image Credit: globalart

“News on the effectiveness of my programme was widely circulated within the business community. The impact was so great that globalart became recognised and was endorsed by several prestigious art institutions,” expressed Mahair.

Currently, globalart has made its presence known in 21 countries. These include most of the Southeast Asian region, extending all the way to Canada, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, the US, China, and more.

What started out as a home-based business, has now transformed into a local and international franchise-based business.

Additionally, one of Mahair’s proudest moments includes being recognised and awarded “Franchise of the Year” by the Malaysian Franchise Association for the past three consecutive years. 

Image Credit: globalart

“It was definitely my plan and mission to expand the business as there was a demand and a need for the personalised teaching style introduced by me,” shared Mahair. 

Taking a personalised teaching method, the brand’s core programme (Visual Art) comprises Junior, Foundation, Pre-Basic, Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced levels. 

Image Credit: globalart

Beyond fostering their creativity, these encourage and develop children’s critical thinking, problem-solving, discipline, focus, and self-learning skills. 

Branching out further

The pandemic brought on negative feelings for many of us, and Mahair was no exception to this. When the first MCO took place, the founder faced many challenges and had to find a way to de-stress. 

“I started painting and I came to a realisation that art therapy had a calming and soothing effect on me. I then realised that this could be an important form in helping individuals de-stress,” shared Mahair. 

Hence, Artime was founded in 2020, and it serves as a means to provide adults with a place to enjoy art and release stress. With it, Mahair has secured his market standing in the creative industry, both for the target audience of children and adults.

Moving forward, globalart has plans to expand its services to other even more countries. “However, my main priority is still focused on innovating the programmes to benefit children and to let them embrace creativity,” Mahair summed up.

  • Learn more about globalart here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.

Also Read: Here’s a quick guide on how to get a RM50 voucher by subscribing to foodpanda’s pandapro

Featured Image Credit: globalart

Revolut launches crypto trading in S’pore, exec shares more on its local crypto strategy

Revolut announced today (August 4) the launch of its cryptocurrency service in Singapore, which is available from today onwards.

The new cryptocurrency service will allow Revolut’s customers to buy, hold, and sell cryptocurrencies within its app, and will provide access to more than 80 different tokens.

In addition to the basic functions of buying and selling cryptocurrencies, customers will be able to set up a stop or limit order, or use the app’s recurring ‘buy’ feature to average out market volatility.

The app will also offer budgeting features, shopping rewards, and peer-to-peer payments, among other functions.

Revolut believes in simplifying money management through a single app. Rather than having five different apps that all do different things, Revolute aspires to be a hub for someone to manage their entire financial life in one place.

– Deepak Khanna, Head of Wealth and Trading, Revolut Singapore

As such, Revolut’s crypto services will simply be one of many services that the company will offer, and the company’s crypto services will be integrated with its existing services.

Customers will be able to exchange 27 different fiat currencies, gold, or silver, into cryptocurrencies without foreign exchange fees, within limits.

The company has also promised that there are no hidden fees in the new service, with flat transaction fees of 2.5 per cent for standard plan customers, and 1.5 per cent for premium and metal plan customers.

However, Revolut has not specified which cryptocurrencies customers will be able to trade through the app, and declined to comment on how these cryptocurrencies are chosen.

Beyond enabling crypto trading

Revolut will also be launching educational courses for customers who wish to invest in cryptocurrencies.

According to Khanna, these courses will be short and free, and are meant to “help customers become more familiar with crypto concepts.” 

However, Revolut has also noted that for now, courses will only serve as a starting point for customers hoping to get into the cryptocurrency world.

Deepak Khanna, Head of Wealth and Trading, Revolut Singapore
Deepak Khanna, Head of Wealth and Trading, Revolut Singapore / Image Credit: Revolut

It is important to understand the trends, risks, and potential opportunities associated with any financial product or service, cryptocurrencies included. Though cryptocurrencies are becoming increasingly popular, it is important that users understand the pitfalls associated with it, so making education on it increasingly important.

We hope the courses empower our customers to make the best financial decisions they can, and inspire an appetite to learn more about crypto, and other financial products.

– Deepak Khanna, Head of Wealth and Trading, Revolut Singapore

He also promised that there are more features underway, including more courses on cryptocurrencies that cover deeper topics in cryptocurrency.

Separately, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has repeatedly expressed concern that cryptocurrencies are not suitable for retail investors, and has been imposing restrictions on what crypto companies can do to advertise their services.

As recently as last month, MAS has hinted that newer regulations are in the works, covering issues such as consumer protection, market conduct, and reserve backing for stablecoins. 

Khanna cautioned that “crypto may [indeed] not be suitable to all”, but the company intends to help anyone interested in cryptocurrencies to learn about them, and plans to design Revolut’s crypto services to be accessible in a seamless manner.

Revolut’s plans for the future

MAS building
Image Credit: Monetary Authority of Singapore

The global fintech startup received its in-principle approval from MAS to offer cryptocurrency services in Singapore in April this year. 

The company had previously obtained a licence as a Major Payment Institution in Singapore, in addition to a Capital Markets Services licence.

Revolut has also reportedly seen its customer base in Singapore grow six-fold since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, with its revenue run rate more than doubling in the past 12 months.

As one of the companies that has been weathering the crypto winter relatively well, Revolut hired 43 crypto staff globally in the first half of the year. These hires included specialists for the company’s global ambitions, as well as financial crime prevention and compliance teams.

According to Khanna, the company is still recruiting for crypto roles, including for crypto compliance and professionals with crypto experience working in legal fields.

Revolut has also chosen Singapore as a cornerstone of its global business, and plans to establish global product hubs from Singapore. When asked why Singapore was chosen, Khanna elaborated that Singapore’s pro-business environment and cosmopolitan workforce, were among the reasons for their choice.

This is in line with comments from Sid Jajodia, Chief Banking Officer at Revolut, who has previously stated that for crypto companies, “Singapore is the clear winner with wide-ranging support from government agencies, regulatory strengths, and proactive industry engagement.”

As such, Revolut sees Singapore as a place where fintech startups like them can thrive while providing utility to Singapore.

“We believe the regulatory strengths in Singapore and proactive industry engagement are key to serving clients with the highest standards. It is an ideal environment for innovation and the growth of fintech firms,” Khanna concluded.

Featured Image Credit: Revolut

Also Read: S’pore fintech firm DTC awarded full licence by MAS to offer crypto payments for merchants

[WATCH] What the ASUS Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED has to offer for creatives & multitaskers

Recently, we got the chance to unpack the dual-screen, ASUS Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED laptop. 

It weighs 1.75kg and comes with the ASUS Stylus Pen 2.0 which includes four different nib sizes.

While my colleague (a writer) wasn’t originally sold on the necessity of having a multi-screen setup, the same can’t be said for our video editor. Here’s a quick breakdown of what the new Zenbook has to offer.

Screens galore

This Zenbook has two screens. A 14.5-inch OLED screen with 2.8K resolution as its main monitor, and a 12.7-inch ScreenPad+ is placed above the keyboard. Both are touchscreens and supported by the stylus pen, and have an anti-glare coating.

With dual screens, multiple windows can be snapped into specific preset layouts. The laptop can comfortably fit up to seven open windows at a time.

Video editors might find the ScreenPad plus monitor useful to extend the timeline of a video editing workspace.

For our writer, she took advantage of the second screen to keep her workplace apps open. With this setup, no messages were left unattended for over a minute.

Via the GlideX app, phones and tablets can be linked as an extended monitor when they’re connected to the same WiFi or with USB cables.

You’re in control

The ASUS Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED laptop comes with the ProArt Creator Hub app. It helps users optimise and control their workflows by monitoring performance, calibrating colours, and adjusting the laptop’s settings.

In the Dashboard tab, there are four different fan speeds to choose from depending on what the Zenbook is being used for, including ​​Whisper, Standard, Performance, and Full Speed modes. 

When gaming, the Zenbook might get worryingly hot if on a lower performance mode. Switching over to Performance Mode should bring the temperature back down to an acceptable level for a non-gaming laptop (around 80 degrees Celsius). For comparison, the idle heat is around 50 degrees.

This is the work of a cooling system that uses two IceBlades fans, known as the ASUS IceCool Plus. The angled nature of the ScreenPad helps keep the laptop cool too, by allowing for more airflow.

An unconventional keyboard and touchpad layout

Switching over to the Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED took our writer a while to acclimatise. While the off-centre keyboard was easier to get the hang of, the touchpad off to the side felt unnatural to her.

Where the touchpad is positioned may also be inconvenient for left-handed users. Thankfully, the ScreenPad+ can also alternate as a touchpad, which can be activated by tapping on the ScreenPad+ with three fingers.

Our writer also found the front-mounted keyboard challenging to use, as her wrists typically rest on her laptop when typing. With the keyboard pushed all the way into the front of the laptop, she either kept her wrists mid-air, or rested on the table, which may result in cramps. 

A quick fix for those who’d be typing away all day is to get an ergonomic wrist rest.

Decent surround sound

The Zenbook is equipped with a Dolby Atmos system and Smart Amplifier. It gives more clarity to the multidimensional sound while preventing long-term damage to the speaker.

Average battery life

We tested how long the battery could last on a single charge. On regular usage, it has enough juice to last four hours after a full charge. 

For heavy use (like editing on Premiere Pro) coupled with Whisper Mode, the Zenbook’s battery dropped from 100% to 20% within two hours.

The ASUS Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED is priced at RM8,999. There aren’t many other comparable laptops available in Malaysia, so it’s hard to tell whether this is on the pricier side or not. 

As long as you’re always near a plug point though, this laptop is a powerhouse for productivity. Watch our video on it here:

https://youtu.be/DZI5EEFiAnw

  • Learn more about the ASUS Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED here.
  • Read our full review on the ASUS Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED here.

Also Read: Axdif: An HR management platform that solves communication, planning, & productivity issues