What’s your story?
I studied Chinese language and culture for many years eventually achieving a master degree in Chinese Studies. Having become fluent in Mandarin, in 2007 I was hired by a US company to be responsible for establishing and growing the business in the Greater China region. After four years of exponential growth the business was bought out by a Fortune 100 company and continues to grow to this day. In 2013 Matt Davies, one of my colleagues, began to discuss how we could potentially pioneer a company in Hong Kong that would be more meaningful. Having traveled extensively throughout Asia, we both became aware of the extreme social and environmental challenges being faced by local communities. After about 12 months of research we discovered that there were in fact many initiatives that had been started to help address these issues, but despite their great intentions, lacked the sales and marketing skills to take their development projects to the next level. Since we both came from Sales and Marketing, we saw an opportunity to become the missing piece in the puzzle.

What excites you most about your industry?
Regular reports are released containing consumer studies, showing that over half of people in Hong Kong said that they would be willing to pay more money for a product if they were confident that it was made in a socially or environmentally responsible way. The statistic still surprises people in Hong Kong when we share it, but we believe that although Hong Kong is not a large market in terms of scale, we believe strongly that this is the right place to be PhatRice’s launchpad to reach Asia and eventually the whole world.

Just in the last 12 months we have seen an eco magazine launch in Hong Kong as well as a number of new initiatives, many of which will have social impact all over Asia. I believe every person has the potential to do something good, if they are given a good opportunity. We hope that PhatRice is that opportunity!

What’s your connection to Asia?
I spent High School and University studying Mandarin and spent the summers doing internships and traveling throughout China. One such internship took me to the mountains of Yunnan where I was working to source hand-crafted goods from local Minority groups. Seeing the incredible impact of this business on their lives and culture was one of the main inspirations that eventually led to the founding of PhatRice.

PhatRice Founders


Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Although not at the top of the list of best place to live, Hong Kong is most definitely my favourite city for business in Asia. For starting a new business there is an incredible amount of talent, expertise and finances right at your fingertips, making the speed at which a business can operate unlike anywhere else in the world.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
A lot of people tell you to just “go for it” or to just take a risk in order to be entrepreneurial. In contrast our founding team spent over a year doing market research, organizing small events, securing outstanding advisors, and developing product partners well before we actually started building the site. We needed to prove that the model would work before we could raise the investment that we needed. Certainly there is no replacement for acting quickly, but it also takes a lot of patience and humility for someone to become a truly successful business leader.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The Alibaba IPO in the US was a real eye-opener for me, as well as a lot of people around the world. It really gave me a sense of confidence that not only are we in the right location, building a dynamic online platform is something that can truly change the world.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. Every great decisions and every mistake have been key to getting to where we are now, so I treasure every experience equally.

How do you unwind?
I play American Football on the weekends and I play music in my church worship band, as well as in my free time.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Thailand. Great beaches, great food, very hospitable people, and affordable. Everything you could want.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Start Something that Matters, by Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS shoes.

Shameless plug for your business:
PhatRice finds, curates and features the world’s most inspirational products, that are not only ethical and sustainable, but are also extremely well designed. Let everything that you wear or use be a statement to the world that you believe in change, that the real value of our possessions is not the price tag, but rather the story of the people and resources that go into creating each item. Join this consumer revolution and help us make a real difference for good!

How can people connect with you?

This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:


Callum Laing has started, built, bought and sold half a dozen businesses in a range of industries across two continents. He is the owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 11 countries and he is also the CEO of Entrevo Asia, a company that runs 40 week Growth Accelerator programs.

Take the ‘Key Person of Influence’ scorecard <http://www.keypersonofinfluence.com/scorecard/>

Connect with Callum here:
Get his free ‘Asia Snapshot’ report from www.callumlaing.com


Recently Published

Key Takeaways: The phenomenon of some fireflies’ flash synchrony has puzzled scientists for over a century. The phenomenon piqued the curiosity of many, including mathematicians Daniel Abrams and Steven Strogatz, who named it “chimera” In Greek mythology, the Chimera was a hybrid monster made of parts of incongruous animals – so a fitting name for […]

Top Picks

Key Takeaways: Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity has been remarkably successful in describing the gravity of stars and planets. However, gaps in our understanding start to appear when we try to apply it to extremely small distances, where the laws of quantum mechanics operate. A new study, published in Nature Astronomy, has now tested […]
Key Takeaways: Digital money is a form of currency that uses computer networks to make payments. It is not the digital nature of cryptocurrencies that differentiate them from digital money, but how they ensure the ownership of digital property that mark them as transformational. The Counter Currency Laboratory, a new initiative based in the Department […]
Key Takeaways: For many people, Buddhism appears to be uniquely compatible with modern lifestyles and world views. Buddhist mindfulness has influenced many schools of contemporary psychology. Buddhist philosophy embraces constant change and the inherent impermanence of all things. The 19th century Burmese monk Ledi Sayadawtravelled the nation teaching meditation and founding study groups. The forms […]
Key Takeaways: Elon Musk proposed a range of controversial changes to the Twitter platform. One of the ideas was to charge US$8 a month to obtain a verified status. The paid verification change has already been rolled out in several countries, including Australia, under the Twitter Blue subscription service. Musk’s proposal is not only misguided […]


I highly recommend reading the McKinsey Global Institute’s new report, “Reskilling China: Transforming The World’s Largest Workforce Into Lifelong Learners”, which focuses on the country’s biggest employment challenge, re-training its workforce and the adoption of practices such as lifelong learning to address the growing digital transformation of its productive fabric. How to transform the country […]

Join our Newsletter

Get our monthly recap with the latest news, articles and resources.

Latest Titles


Welcome to Empirics

We are glad you have decided to join our mission of gathering the collective knowledge of Asia!
Join Empirics