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An Entrepreneur with Altruism at Heart

What are the values of being a successful person? Let’s listen to Mr Sok Hang Chaw, the founder of Kingsland Development, on his insight about corporate social responsibility!

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Sok Hang Chaw bathing a child from the slum area while taking part in the rice distribution and free clinic mission at Dangkor Landfill in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in 2017. (Photo by Tan Paik Hui)

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on disadvantaged families in Singapore. Entrepreneur, Sok Hang Chaw had supported Tzu Chi’s fundraising campaign by matching public donation dollar to dollar, to a maximum of 300,000 Singapore dollars. By doing so, he hopes to inspire more loving kindness from others to give back to society together.  

Sok Hang Chaw founded Kingsland Development in 1974. The company is engaged in industrial space, data centre building and other real estate development in Singapore and Malaysia. He believes that the economic impact of the pandemic has resulted in an increase in people who need help. Being an ardent supporter of Tzu Chi’s charitable causes, he responded to the fundraising matching donation campaign and hopes to inspire more businessmen.

He said, "Many businessmen have similar aspiration but do not have the avenue to do so. So, we support their participation to enable the spirit of altruism to grow."

Social responsibility of entrepreneurs

As an entrepreneur, besides ensuring business sustainability and continuity, he must also create greater good for society. This is "corporate social responsibility." Sok Hang Chaw listed a few conditions in conducting corporate social responsibility, "First, we must have conscience and kind thoughts because the motivations of entrepreneurs are especially important. Things which are more meaningful and if given a chance, just do it."

Secondly, he believes that people should not only have material improvement in life but also enrichment in spirituality. When you help others, you are rewarded with joy within you at the same time.

In an era of constant technological advancement, Sok Hang Chaw recognises the importance of moral education. He explained, "Young people are very smart but they seem to lag behind in terms of morality and humanities. If you have righteous thoughts, you can help more people. If young people only care about making money and are not guided towards kindness, many will suffer in case they detract."

To him, sharing selflessly and guiding young people to jointly improve the quality of life of the masses is also a form of social responsibility.

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Sok Hang Chaw (first from the left) and his daughter Shann Sok (second from the left) at Jingsi Hall to meet and network with other entrepreneurs in December 2008. (Photo by Lai Tong Heng)

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Sok Hang Chaw participating in the rice distribution and free clinic mission at Dangkor Landfill in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in December 2017. (Photo by Lai Tong Heng)

The happiness of the body and mind

Sok Hang Chaw described the happiness from helping others as "happiness of the mind". Compared to playing basketball and travelling, which are "happiness of the body", he believes that the happiness of the mind is more meaningful, priceless and long-lasting.

"The happiness of the mind is to be felt, it is indescribable. It is like the love for your grandchildren, that kind of joy cannot be described. In life, the happiness of the mind is at a different level. To have a gleaming and glowing life, one must continue to grow wiser," he explained with a smile.

He recalled the time when he first participated in street fundraising, it was difficult for him to let go of his ego of being an entrepreneur even though he understood that everyone is equal. "However, after doing it once or twice, I am able to let go. Learning to be humble requires great wisdom," said Sok Hang Chaw.  

Once, he and Tzu Chi volunteers were in Cambodia to distribute rice to poor people. He shared, “Carrying the rice bag makes my body unhappy (due to exhaustion), but I am happy at heart.” Through that experience, he also realised that as long as there is kindness in us, everyone is equal with no distinction of classes.

Be it street fundraising or rice distribution, to Sok Hang Chaw, both are spiritual practices. "Master Cheng Yen is very wise, by getting people like him who commands a high position in business to learn while volunteering in Tzu Chi, the person will inevitably cultivate spiritually and let go of his ego of being a person from higher social status. Without realising, he will learn a lot.’

Seek goodness and kindness in oneself, instead of others

In the past, Sok Hang Chaw used to seek work efficiency, thus he was always edgy and put a lot of pressure on those around him. This led to inefficiency, which is contrary to what he wanted. He later discovered that "When you are cordial, the people around you will be more congenial, more cooperative and efficient. And they will willingly put in their effort without being forced to."

"The same is true for your family," Sok Hang Chaw said, "Do not try to change them. They cannot be changed. The only thing that can be changed is our inner self. Once our inner self becomes soft and gentle like the earth which is accommodating all life forms, leading by example will lead to the best result. If we try to change our spouse or children by force, the harder we try, the more they will not change. But after accepting them as they are, they will change."

Sok Hang Chaw feels that a kind person is more understanding and accommodating. "When faced with any situation, it is useless to panic. Those who are wise will have a gentle heart and will not adopt a hard approach. With that, positive energy will emerge, and help will appear."

"When you are kind, you will see the world differently. What you will see is not a crisis, but an opportunity." In this process, he believes that people should not expect anything in return, "What you give away will return sooner or later. If you do not ask, it will just come back. But if you ask, it becomes a transaction."

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Sok Hang Chaw participating in a street fundraising to raise funds for the Malaysia floods in January 2015. (Photo by Susan Ong)

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Sok Hang Chaw (first from right) was accompanied by Tzu Chi Singapore's CEO, Low Swee Seh (second from right) when visiting Tzu Chi Indonesia with a team of Tzu Chi entrepreneurs in October 2015. (Photo by Beh Keng Hua)

Great power in a petite body

Sok Hang Chaw had visited Jing Si Abode in Hualien, Taiwan numerous times with Tzu Chi team to pay respect to Master Cheng Yen and he was deeply impressed by Master Cheng Yen’s aspirations.

He said, "Master Cheng Yen is very compassionate and possesses an enormously powerful inner strength in her petite body. Tzu Chi’s charitable work is so remarkably huge, and yet she can lead these entrepreneurs to follow with conviction. Her compassion and selflessness greatly touched us."

"Master Cheng Yen is very wise, she uses very simple phrases like “give without expecting anything in return” and gives us time to understand it slowly." Master Cheng Yen's unconditional giving to all sentient beings has also greatly influenced Tzu Chi Foundation (Singapore) CEO, Low Swee Seh. "He ceased his successful business and volunteers full-time without getting any benefit. What he gives, he does not expect anything in return."

Therefore, Sok Hang Chaw deeply feels that such unconditional and selfless love is worth promoting to the wider public. Through Tzu Chi, he believes that by gathering the strengths of volunteers, more work can be achieved on a larger scale and in a more systematic manner. "A single person can't handle a big project, but if we work together, it will be more systematic and efficient."

Sok Hang Chaw also found that through an organisation, more charitable work can be carried out and more experiences can be gained. “We can do more and it is also more sustainable in the long term.” 

He added,” Tzu Chi’s financial account is very clear, the donation is spent only where necessary, there is no wastage. So, my mind is at ease with my donation.” 

One will succeed by benefitting others

Sok Hang Chaw opines that the value ​​of successful people is in benefitting more people. He explained, "If you are selfless, many people will support you. Whether you are selling a product or a service, do it sincerely to benefit others and they will be your supporters."

"If you are selfish and only care about yourself, then only a few people will help you. It is thus difficult for your business to grow and expand. This value is very important, and it is also the means to success. Benefiting others is very important, kindness is very important, and the objective is also very important." He continued to elaborate.

It was his business partner, Sim Hee Chew who introduced him to Tzu Chi. Sim Hee Chew said, "I am also grateful to Hang Chaw, my business partner for decades. I am grateful for his selfless dedication and for being a wise and virtuous friend to me. I am grateful that we can work together."

Sok Hang Chaw and Sim Hee Chew have a joint venture company together and they had the chance to participate in the same rice distribution mission. Sim Hee Chew said with respect and admiration, "He just carried the rice to be distributed to the poor. I am really grateful that he is able to let go of his ego of being an entrepreneur and carry out the distribution. I admire that spirit."

Sim Hee Chew opines that Sok Hang Chaw has fully embraced the teachings of Master Cheng Yen by incorporating the virtues of gratitude, respect and compassion in his career and family life. Due to his kindness and display of compassion and understanding, he can now deal with matters easily and skillfully. Thus, he can manage his business well.

Sok Hang Chaw’s corporate values are clearly spelt out in Kingsland Development’s website, “Be Sincere, Create Values, Share Results”, which are exactly what he is practising in his daily life too. 

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