Lai See

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 June, 2010, 12:00am

Companies wake up to real benefits of virtual worlds

Ready or not, the virtual world is upon us. We have heard how virtual worlds can help improve lives and business performance. Now, more and more real-world companies are exploring the use of 3D virtual communities for internal and external communications, training, business collaboration and a host of other business functions.

Many firms are running their business, campaigning and training on Second Life because the virtual universe offers opportunities that are of infinite scale, inexpensive and efficient.

Kathleen Phillips, the managing director of BizTech Connect Consulting, says virtual worlds provide an excellent venue for training employees.

'There are no geographical limitations and no impact on company productivity. You can conduct training with staff on the other side of the world anytime you want, and the cost is negligible.'

Phillips points out that the largest expense for professional development programmes, by far, is attributable to the time spent by the participants in training programmes, career development and organisational development activities.

In most training programmes, costs due to lost productivity and travel time can be as much as 90 per cent to 95 per cent of the total outlay. Direct and indirect costs for training only amount to about 6 per cent of the total spending, while design and development count for a mere 1 to 2 per cent.

'Realistically, it makes sense to invest in an assessment of needs to make sure you are making wise investments in training and other possible programmes,' Phillips says.

We hear the number of people using virtual worlds is increasing at a rate of 15 per cent every month and the growth of this global digital community shows no sign of stopping or slowing down.

No doubt virtual worlds are very serious business, and are for real.

A run for pantyhose milk tea

We stand corrected - Hong Kong's first pantyhose milk tea brewing competition was in fact well-attended and widely reported by the media last year.

The chairman of the Association of Coffee and Tea of Hong Kong, Simon Wong, assured us that the event was one of the highlights of the Hong Kong International Tea Fair.

The brewing process of this celebrated Hong Kong-style sweet milk tea involves using a mixture of tea leaves and, oddly, a pantyhose strainer.

The champion of the individual category, who was laid off just before the competition, landed himself a job with the Lan Kwai Fong Hotel in Macau after winning the title.

The title-holder of the professional section helped boost the business of the Yuen Long cafe he worked in. The little Chinese cafe - or cha chan tang in Cantonese - shot to fame overnight, selling 2,000 cups of pantyhose milk tea per day, four times more than before.

Wong says even Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and his missus ventured out there a few months ago just to have a cuppa made by the tea master.

Hongkongers consumed one billion cups of milk tea last year, 11 per cent more than the year before.

Wong points out an inexplicable phenomenon about this unique beverage: 'The poorer the economy, the better the sale of milk tea and coffee in town ... that's why cha chan tangs can survive during hard times.'

Going barefoot for a cause

Thirteen-year-old Canadian Bilaal Rajan is an inspirational force to be reckoned with. Not only did the young social activist motivate people around the world to go barefoot for a day to raise awareness about child poverty in the developing world, he also did his bit for charity.

Rajan did two charitable acts on Tuesday, which was International Children's Day. He shaved his head to raise funds for Haitian earthquake victims and kicked off his shoes for the Barefoot Challenge, which he launched a year ago.

'I received some strange looks,' Rajan says. 'But when people asked why I didn't have shoes, I reminded them that millions of children throughout the world didn't either.'

We are not sure how the underage high-achiever responded to questions about his hair.

Time-saving scheme

Remember the saying 'time is money'? Well, in the United States it's really coming true.

It has been reported that dozens of 'time banks' are being started in hard-hit communities. In a time bank, members get credit for services provided to other members, from cooking to housekeeping to home repair.

For each hour of work, one time dollar is deposited into a member's account. One Pennsylvania bride even paid for a big chunk of her wedding using a time bank.

No money? No problem.