Coffee Break: Big money in Asia’s top couch potatoes

This article first appeared in Personal Wealth, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on October 23, 2017 - October 29, 2017.
Coffee Break: Big money in Asia’s top couch potatoes
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It’s been a few months since my last entrepreneurial idea in this column and, obviously, I’m still here. So, when our dear prime minister called for graduates to shed the wage-earner mentality and be entrepreneurial last week, the clarion call hit this lazy bum hard.

Frankly, I find myself spending more and more time chilling with Netflix these days, which means I have less time to be a dashing, bold and desperately broke entrepreneur in my spare time.

As do many of my fellow Malaysians, it seems. We are the biggest Netflix binge-watchers in all of Asia, according to a recent study it commissioned. We rank ahead of several other countries with arguably more depressing living realities like Hong Kong and the Philippines.

Hey, as some online writers called it, we are Asia’s top couch potatoes! Let how fitting that title is sink in for a moment because we also happen to be the most obese country in Southeast Asia, says a study by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Of course, some may argue that Netflix is capturing our hearts and minds (and wallets) so much because we need an escape from harsh day-to-day realities, but that’s a simplistic view.

The real reason, obviously, is because we as a nation are so addicted to drama that we cannot live without it even when we are tuning out from real life for a few hours.

The latest, of course, is at Malaysia Airlines Bhd. Mere months after predicting “the greatest turnaround in the history of aviation and maybe even of any business”, CEO Peter Bellew found in his heart a patriotic sense of duty to resign at short notice to take on his old job at Ryanair.

From a potentially career-defining “aviation’s toughest job” to calming down some angry Ryanair pilots? It’s as good a plot twist as any Netflix drama we’re binge-watching (except maybe Narcos, Stranger Things, House of Cards … okay, maybe not that good).

And the twist is how everyone, including Malaysia Airlines and its sole shareholder, found out via a stock exchange announcement half a world away.

The tragedy or comedy — depending on how you look at it — in this whole episode has been turned up a few notches as various parties issue statements on this state of affairs in the national carrier. So, the hunt is now on for yet another CEO for Malaysia Airlines, in what is becoming an almost annual ritual.

Anyway, let’s all take a moment to pray that there is light at the end of the runway for our billions going into turning around Malaysia Airlines.

This too shall pass, though, and then we’ll be deep in the next Malaysian drama. No wonder we love Netflix so much — and all that television is contributing to the scary findings that roughly one out of every two Malaysians is either overweight or obese, according to our latest National Health and Morbidity Survey in 2015.

So how? This couch potato tendency is also undermining the government’s call for more entrepreneurship among the younger people (like me? I think I’m young-ish). More time Netflix-and-chilling (non-biologically speaking, that is) means less time being productive.

Oh hey, that’s it! What we need are Netflix-equipped exercise machines. After all, who really needs little boxes telling us how many calories we’ve burnt, right? Might as well put high-definition TV screens there that goes blurry if we stop running or pedalling.

It could even be a 1Malaysia-branded product line — subsidised by the health ministry to promote a healthier Malaysia. Oh yes, this could be a very profitable venture, especially if the socialpreneur (me, of course) gets a soft loan to start the business too.

Now that’s entrepreneurism at its best, no? Killing two birds with one stone and doing a national service at that — helping Malaysians be healthier while indulging the drama-addicts within.

No wonder they say health is the greatest wealth — there’s so much wealth to be made in health! Next stop, MyIPO — I’m going to patent this idea before those upstart graduates do.