For those that jet around the region on business, the Apec Business Travel Card might be the thing for you. The card, according to the Business Mobility Group's website, "cuts through the red tape of business travel and gives frequent business travellers pre-cleared entry to participating Apec economies". The site goes on to say that the card was developed "to gain streamlined entry to the economies of the Asia-Pacific region".
That may well be true, but if the experience of one reader is anything to go by, the process of getting your hands on one of these cards is anything but streamlined, particularly if you live in Hong Kong. Our reader filed his application with the Immigration Department. None of his documentation was queried, but 10 weeks rolled by before he was informed that local processing had finished. However, he was told he would have to wait 12 to 16 weeks for approval from the other economies in the scheme. That is, it only takes a few weeks longer for 21 economies to give their approval than it did for Hong Kong. All of which just goes to show how open for business Hong Kong really is.
Perhaps someone should explain to our civil service what being open for business means.
For your eyes only
If you want to spend HK$2 million on a pair of glasses, we can direct you to the man who can produce those for you - Henrik Lindberg.
A trained architect, he is the founder and chief executive of Lindberg, maker of upmarket eyewear. Look closely at a pair of Lindbergs and there are no screws, rivets or welding. Lindberg's eyewear is technologically advanced, precisely designed and carefully put together. They are worn by the Danish queen, the queen of England, various other British royals and celebrities. Giorgio Armani wears them eschewing his own brand.
In 1986, Lindberg produced the first titanium frames. "We were looking for something that was light and easily fitted the face." It has since moved into more exotic materials such as gold, buffalo horn and Siberian mammoth tusk. "Our frames reflect a commitment to aesthetics, technical innovation and impeccable craftsmanship," he says. "Our items sit in the middle of your face and are the very first thing people see."
The firm is unusual in the eyewear business in that it does everything connected with its glasses in-house, apart from the lenses. The design and manufacturing are all done in its Denmark offices where it has 180 staff, while the polishing and decoration and assembly of the glasses are done in its factory in the Philippines, where it has 400 workers.
Lindberg is, as he admits himself, a control freak. The design of the assemblies that display the glasses in stores is designed and made by Lindberg, in addition to the marketing, photography and publicity materials. There are no distributors. But he believes it pays off in that the company has tight control over the quality of all aspects of the business. Since for the past 20 years it has never taken a bank loan, it also has control of its finances and has used its own money to run the business and finance expansion.
Lindberg won't say how profitable the company is or talk about turnover. He says Lindberg makes more than 200,000 pairs of glasses a year. The United States and Germany are its biggest markets while Asia accounts for a third of its sales. Hong Kong is its biggest city market and seventh overall. Europeans are the most conservative when it comes to changing frames. This happens on average once every four years. Asians change every 2.5 years, while people in the Middle East do it every eight months. "They only have three ways of differentiating themselves from others - a watch, spectacle frames and mobile phones - since the clothing is all the same," says Lindberg.
He is in Hong Kong for the Optical Fair, but you won't see a Lindberg stand. Lindberg will hold its own exhibition in a hotel suite. Viewing is by appointment only. "We don't need any more customers in Hong Kong," he explains. "And we don't want people photographing our designs." Over the years, Lindberg has moved into higher-priced items. One request from a mainland textile manufacturer was eventually modified "to a design we could accept" and was forged from 18-carat gold and inlaid with rare pink diamonds from the Argyle Diamond Mine in Western Australia.