Enterprise shines through recession woes

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 May, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 May, 1998, 12:00am

Enterprise. On the week that the local economy was declared, officially, to be shrinking, you could have been pardoned for thinking this particular 'e-word' had disappeared from the Hong Kong vernacular.

Granted, it takes two quarters of negative growth before we are officially in a recession, but, at a statistical level, the signs are not good.

Perhaps thankfully, the world is not ruled by statisticians, and there have been plenty of signs of good old-fashioned Hong Kong enterprise at work in recent days.

Let's take last weekend's much-heralded Legco elections as a starting point.

Lai See would have thought all of those incredibly dull months of campaigning would have been enough to kill what little was left of the great Hong Kong entrepreneurial spirit.

We're glad, however, to be able to report that stories detailing its demise have been grossly exaggerated.

Even in the last throes of the campaign, there were plenty of signs of the spirit that made Hong Kong great.

There was, of course, Giordano's move on election day to offer 40 per cent off prices in their store if consumers were able to produce their souvenir vote cards offered by the Government.

This inspired promotion apparently increased the store's sales by as much as 50 per cent last Sunday.

The candidates themselves even showed a bit of entrepreneurial pluck.

There was Liberal Party chairman Allen Lee Peng-fei's use of some star appeal in a bid to get votes.

He recruited the man known as 'Mr Smart', the ever-present television host Nat Chan Pat-cheung, to help out with his campaigning - and he was far from the only candidate using novelty tactics to impress voters.

The aptly named Citizens Party candidate Mozart Lui Yat-ming played his violin during the election run-up.

Kowloon West candidate Helen Chung Yee-fong enlisted middle-aged women supporters and dressed them up as Qing Dynasty emperors.

'Who could refuse to vote for me if even the emperor gives his support?!' she exclaimed boldly prior to the big day.

These candidates, unfortunately, all had one thing in common: they lost.

But simple concepts of winning and losing have no relevance in this context.

What mattered was that they proved themselves adept in the art of enterprising behaviour, something in which Hong Kong has traditionally excelled.

Examples of enterprise have not only been associated with the big election campaign.

Heavens above, they have even been present on the pet scene, as this column revealed on Monday.

One master of the art of salesmanship in Discovery Bay found a way of turning a profit of several hundred per cent on a pair of Russian hamsters - simply by calling them 'miniature chinchillas' and telling his customers that the animals did not breed in captivity.

It was not only the $390-a-pair hamsters that predictably multiplied as fast as rabbits. So did the budding entrepreneurs looking to make a quick buck.

One child showed he had learnt fast from the phantom pet salesman by putting his own advertisement on his school noticeboard advertising one 'miniature chinchilla' for sale for $1,000.

No word yet on whether there were any takers for the pet.

The fact that Discovery Bay is now overrun with Russian hamsters may not have helped his cause - but good Hong Kong entrepreneurs have a way of overcoming such minor details.

The entrpreneurial spirit extends to today's Dragon Boat Festival, as a veritable industry springs up around the festivities.

Fortuitously, the festival falls on a Saturday this year, allowing lots of chances for businesses to milk the opportunity to the max.

Numerous companies will host champagne breakfasts - and, no doubt, champagne lunches and champagne afternoon teas - at Stanley and other locations today in a bid to convince their clients that all could not be finer with their own corporate ships.

Caterers and wholesale purveyors of French champagnes have reportedly been doing a roaring trade in preparation for the festivities.

But perhaps the real money today will be in ferrying those living it up on the junks to and from their vessels to view the dragon-boating.

Plenty of entrepreneurial sampan-owners are ready, as usual, to cash in on this heaven-sent business opportunity.

Back on shore with the less well-heeled, drink vendors are preparing themselves for their one day of the year. Piles of exhausted oar-wielders in need of ample liquid sustenance, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, will get cash registers ringing in a big way.

And when you see those corporate T-shirts today - showing off the Acme Investment Bank 1998 Dragon Boat team, or whatever - have a think about the roaring trade those T-shirt printers must be doing.

Yes, by all means, bitch and moan about our looming recession. But pronounce Hong Kong dead only when the great local entrepreneurial spirit disappears.