SAS´s new General Manager for South East Asia expects within the coming year to be able to open a new direct flight to Stockholm. Next, he hopes to open a non-stop flight between Singapore and Copenhagen which will serve both the Swedes and the other Scandinavians living in Singapore better not having to stop over in Bangkok.
The need for a direct Stockholm flight is biggest in the winter, he thinks.
“If we have flights to Stockholm four days a week in the winter time and three days a week in the summer time, that extra plane we would “spare” in the summer time could be used to fly on Beijing for example,” he explains.
This kind of thinking in regional terms is what the restructuring of SAS in the region is all about. SAS was looking for a person, who could take over from not only one, but two persons, Axel Blom in Thailand and Paul Kristensen in Singapore.
“Instead of having two managements competing against each other and each trying to gain from the same route, Copenhagen-Bangkok-Singapore, we are now one organization and everybody can contribute to this route,” says Hakan Olsson.
“I do not really care if a set of tickets are sold in the Philippines or in Singapore or in Bangkok – that no longer matters as long as we do good business in general. Also, we do not have to do everything twice. If you are going to do a marketing campaign, we do not need to have someone develop it in Bangkok and another one developing it in Singapore. We can let one region takes charge this time, and another region take charge next time. So we can use our resources a lot better.”
What has left a very positive impression on Hakan Olsson since his arrival in May is the hard work and dedication that the staff at the offices in both Singapore and Bangkok put into their job.
“I wouldn’t say it has surprised me, but it has made me really proud to see that everybody is so very professional. They have been with the company for quite some time, and they are very business-oriented. They know what to do. They know the markets. People work very hard. That’s really something that amazes me. They really work hard,” he says.
“Everybody here is really one with the company. In Sweden, I think – or in Scandinavia in general – you work, but there are many other things in life too that take up your time. But here they really put in a lot of hours, they live with the work and they live for the company, and they are really proud of working for SAS.”
Håkan Olsson has been working for the company since 1989. The first three years as an air-steward. After that he went back to study at business school, but worked at the SAS head office at the same time. Having finished his studies Håkan Olsson worked in in-flight and beverages for about three years. Before becoming the new General Manager of SAS in South East Asia, he was director of sales for Stockholm and northern half of Sweden.
“The challenge for me is to see whether it is possible to take some of my ideas from my previous job into this market, which is completely different from the swedish. And for me it will be a personal developement working in different cultures,” Håkan Olsson says.
Håkan Olsson has pinpointed two areas, that he finds can be improved. That is how SAS works with travel agents and and serves corporate customers.
“We must focus more on how we can work with the travel agents to support the corporate customers, e.g. nordic companies in the region. SAS does not have to approach each and every customer. We can work with selected travel agents who can support some of these corporate customers on behalf of SAS. In that way the travel agent does not see SAS as the one stealing their potential customers.”
Family settled in Singapore
Having spent the first couple of months in South East Asia by himself, his wife Kia, 11 year old daughter Elina and his son Rikard, 10 recently joined him. The family will be based in Singapore, and the children will attend the Overseas Family School there.
When Håkan Olsson was offered the job, he thought from the very beginning that it would be a lot of fun and a great challenge. His wife, Kia was very excited about the new job as well even though she had to give up her own business. The children, however, were not all that happy about moving to the region.
“They said that they would LOVE moving to Asia on just two conditions. First, they wanted to bring their friends. Second, that everyone out here would speak Swedish. That is quite hard to arrange, you know, Håkan Olsson laughs. Fortunately, at the childrens swedish school there were three or four families, who moved out of Sweden the last two years before we did. So the kids know it is possible to survive moving to another country.”
According to Håkan Olsson it took a lot of time to discuss things, listening to the childrens thoughts and prepare them to move, but he is certain that the whole family will benefit from living in Asia.
“From a family perspective I think it is a fantastic chance to give your family and especially your children a chance to see that the world is bigger than Stockholm and the little school they used to go to. We have travelled a lot, but it is different to really leave everything behind. That will broaden their senses.”
Håkon Olsson also had to give up something himself to go to Asia. His hobbies. Skiing and boating in the Stockholm archiepelago, but he is about to get a new hobby.
“My new colleagues were very nice to me. They bought me a golf set in Bangkok and one in Singapore. I have never played golf before, but I will to start to learn, when I get a chance. I have to, because the first question from whoever I meet in Singapore or Bangkok is “do you play golf?”
Having signed a contract for 3-4 years, there will be none or very little skiing and sailing around Stockholm. In spite of that Håkon Olsson is a happy man.
“I get the best of two worlds. I live in Singapore with my family, where it is nice and clean and everything works. But it can get a bit boring in the long run, so therefore it is great that I also work a lot at our office here in Bangkok. I go out in the street in the morning and just walking the few hundred meters to this building I get 100 smiles and 200 smells. A completely different – and more Asian – experience than Singapore.