Singapore -- Relentlessly striving to expand its horizon, global search engine giant Google on Tuesday inaugurated its new Southeast Asia headquarters that might be only a few hundred meters from its dowdier former site in Singapore's sterile financial district, but in typical Google style, located in the CBD, with a Lo Hei ceremony to welcome the year of the Dragon.
Decked out with vintage posters that adorn the walls at one of Google's micro-kitchens in the Internet giant's new Singapore offices, including a karaoke lounge to hammocks, several well-stocked pantries and an enviable lunch spread, Google's local management hope the new digs will stoke the more playful and creative instincts of its employees.
Google-ifed old-school posters at the Google Micro-kitchen. Google officially opened its Singapore office on Tuesday. -- PHOTO: GOOGLE
Addressing the gathering at the opening ceremony, Julian Persaud, Managing Director for Southeast Asia, said key reasons for Google's accomplishment included a great working environment and corporate culture.
He also introduced Loren Schuster, who now heads the businesses in Singapore and flourishing markets. The new office holds a wide range of functions from developer relations to sales, marketing, engineering, operations and partnerships in the region.
“This region has been flourishing tremendously for the past few years and we chose to invest in Singapore because of its world-class technology infrastructure as well as its highly-skilled, globally competitive and multi-cultural workforce,” Persaud said.
“Google's culture is not a grandeur or something we take for granted,” said Persaud, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. “Superficially, many chief financial officers see some of this stuff as a waste of money, I'm sure--they see it as a cost.”
The Internet search giant since its establishment has long sought to foster innovation through unconventional approaches to office layout and staff management. As Singapore continues to be an increasingly important market for the company--one out of five Asian-based staff was hired in the city-state--the company, too, is importing its Silicon Valley-style laissez faire workplace vibe to a state often epitomized by a hierarchical, bureaucratic management culture.
Moreover, moves by multinational corporations into Asia have generally been driven by efficiency and cost impulses--but in Singapore's case, low taxes and a stable political system--rather than a search for creative talent. Still, Google is certain that it will continue to hire “exceptional talent” in Southeast Asia. The company receives two million CVs every year, and credits much of this to its unique workplace culture.
“We have preserved our culture as a company having been here seven years, which is not an easy thing to do when you’re growing here at that speed,” Persaud said. He asserts that Google “thinks like a start-up” and never compromises on innovation despite its staggering growth.
Despite the easygoing atmosphere, just how at ease Google's Singapore workers are about letting their hair down during office hours was not immediately apparent: no one appeared to be using any of the said facilities when The Wall Street Journal visited.
Hammocks are tucked away at a corner of Google Singapore's new offices for staff who want somewhere quieter to work. Google Singapore
Southeast Asia cuts a promising frontier for the search giant. It opened offices in Malaysia and Thailand last year and views astronomic growth in Indonesia--a market dominated by RIM's Blackberry, rather than Google's Android smartphone platform, and the Firefox web browser, rather than Google's Chrome. Still, Persaud says Southeast Asians are “incredibly social”, which helps the growth of some of Google's key products including social network Google +, which so far has struggled to create the same following as Facebook or Twitter.