Thursday, May 18, 2006

Painted Anime - Paintedfigs does Singapore

I went to Singapore last week, officially to kick back and relax for a change. I did too, it was the first time in nine months that I didn't check email.

Singapore is an awesome city -- and yes, it is one big city state. It's clean, modern, prosperous, and full of high end electronics that are fantastically cheap since they're manufactured there :) . Singaporeans are great people, interesting, hard working, and highly motivated.

Sadly, Singapore is a pretty awful if you're Singaporean. You are likely paid less for the same work than expats with the same qualifications (a problem in Sri Lanka as well). Demonstrating gets you jailed for 25 years. There is no secret ballot, and the media is censored.

But Singaporeans carry on. Many understand that though they don't care for it, the quasi-totalitarian regime of Lee Kuan Yew has done a lot to create their success. Others simply cross their fingers and wait for Lee to die of old age.

Of Robin Low and Jacob Pang
Robin is a good friend of mine from Boston. We were at Harvard together, and I help him with PR for his own company,, a nanotech startup that sells self-deodorizing and anti-bacterial clothing.

Jacob, originally from Hong Kong, is one of Robin's lads and pretty cool guy. He has his own shipping company, and he's been doing sales for Greenyarn in China and Singapore for a while now. Jacob used to sell transformer kits, and he's familiar with the anime market.

The Anime Model Market
It was while shopping for GW supplies that we noticed the possibilities of the anime market. We found shop after shop selling plastic anime chicks, gundam model kits, and geshaphon. Jacob and Robin saw the potential well before I did, and did a good job of convincing me.

The next day we started laying down the ground work. Jacob is sending us some Gundam model kits soon so we can assemble and paint them as samples. Once we have something presentable, we'll put some in stores in Singapore and see how they move.


Then we cross our fingers. If all goes well, we sit down and figure out how to flood the market.

Meeting Up With Stephen Sing Stephen Sing has been one of our earliest clients. He came us to back when were just me and two painters -- and now that we've more than tripled in size, he's STILL drumming his fingers waiting for us to get him his poor minis...

I didn't get to spend as much time meeting with him as I'd like to have -- what should have been a casual hang out became, as usual, a business meeting. First I talked briefly with some of the guys at Paradigm Infinitum, Stephen's game store, and the I hung out with his friend Edward who gave me a lot of useful information on everything from drybrushes to stripping paint with Dettol.

Overall it was a great trip. You might say it was too short, but if I stayed any longer it would have hurt work in the studio. Its interesting -- if not for the abundant public holidays in Sri Lanka that mean we have to shut the studio, I'd never take any breaks at all!

The funny thing is, visiting Singapore felt like going home. A big, modern, multicultural city with all kinds of people - even the beer tasted right. For the first time, I found myself wondering whether I'd rather stay in Asia than go back to the US.

I talked to Robin about it, and he had the perfect answer, "the US is where my customers are, I have to be in the US."

If painted anime takes off -- who knows?