Swedish businessman Hans Wetterberg has a background as colourful as adventurous, spanning 40 years all over the globe. But though officially retired, he keeps on doing what he loves most: bringing together people in far away countries and offer them tastes and sounds of Scandinavia.
Text & Photo by Michael Töpffer
It’s all about selling what you know best, and in my case it is Scandinavia. These words come from Hans Wetterberg, businessman with over 30 years of experience from Asia.
As we meet in the lobby at Bangkok’s Rembrandt-hotel, Swedish jazz-week is ongoing. It is the brain-child of Hans Wetterberg and a spin-off from Scandinavian Week, another project launched in Kuala Lumpur 26 years ago, where Hans Wetterberg was once sent by his Swedish employer.
Since then, Scandinavian Week has morphed into an ongoing event, staging concerts and food happening – gastronomic celebrations as he likes to call it – around the world.
“We have been to many places, from Vancouver via Casablanca to Kuwait and China,” he says.
But it is Asia that has been the focus of his work.
His colourful career started in the Soviet union 1970, after having studied business and graduated from the military academy in Stockholm. He was sent to Moscow as a representative for Swedish company Sweda, selling cash registers. He later he moved to former Yugoslavia working for Atlas Copco.
Two years later he had a stint with Swedish publishing house Bonnier selling printing presses in eastern Europe. That was followed by a return to Moscow for Alfa-Laval where he, in times of Soviet-style red-tape, bureaucracy and shortage of everything including office-space, manage to open an office inside the legendary Hotel National.
Among many other feats was to introduce commercial ads on vehicles.
“We had the Alfa-Laval-logo on our cars. We were the first with this,” he says.
But before coming to Asia he had an adventurous time in Guinea-Bissau in Western Africa, doing business in the commercial fishing fleet. This however came to an abrupt end when a military coup unfolded and Hans Wetterberg had to bring his boat to Sweden.
“I decided it was too rough for me and took the ship back to Sweden,” he explains.
Eventually he ended up i Kuala Lumpur working for Gadelius and Electrolux, before becoming engaged in both the property sector and introducing Ikea to the Malaysian market a few years later.
Importing Swedish food to the country was something he did even before Ikea took over that role.]
“No one new about Swedish food. I brought them classics like Kalles Kaviar,” he explains.
The music and food trail came as a result of his contacts within the hotel industry.
“The manager at Shangri-La hotel Kuala Lumpur came to me and asked about Smörgåsbord, and I told him that was a great idea. It lead to us bringing in Swedish music too,” says Hans Wetterberg.
He gathered some musicians from legendary music venue Nalen in Stockholm and asked them to come and play in Malaysia.
“They hardly knew where it was, but once they came, it was a truly successful event,” he says.
It all grew and slowly spread to other countries in the region. The list of participating musicians got longer. A star like jazz-legend Monica Zetterlund once joined, but in her case it came to an abrupt end when she fell from the stage in Manila.
“We sent her off to a vacation in Phuket instead,” Hans Wetterberg says.
Despite a respectable age of 72, he is still going strong with many ongoing projects, among them the plan to build a senior retirement home for Scandinavians in Port Dickson, south of Kuala Lumpur.
“It’s in the making,” he says.
Another project is to prepare the launching of a new Swedish technical product – or service- in Asia. Hans Wetterberg is very mum on details, but claims it’s related to hi-tech research and development.
And for those readers who want to take part in related events organized by Hans Wetterberg during the Scandinavian summer-months, join one of many jazz-cruises to the Stockholm archipelago onboard legendary m/s Gustafsberg.
“That will be great fun,” says Hans Wetterberg.
Hans Wetterberg is the creator of Scandinavian Week, an event full of Scandinavian food and music. Despite a respectable age of 72, he is still going strong with many business projects.