Date: May 17, 2023
NoonTalk Media CEO Dasmond Koh has set himself a three to five year roadmap for the company to expand outside of Singapore.
Being an entrepreneur carries a different weight and responsibility than being a salaried staff, as NoonTalk Media’s chief executive Dasmond Koh would know first-hand.
A decade ago, the ex-DJ, actor and show presenter took a leap of faith to become an entrepreneur in the media and entertainment space, doing everything from managing talents, producing films, web series and television serials, to conceptualising and running events.
While it was not unfamiliar territory to the industry veteran, the weight on Koh’s shoulders was much heftier.
In the past, life was more “easy-going and free”. But when he helmed NoonTalk, there was a huge change.
Every single decision was closely scrutinised, especially when it came to numbers and how the company was performing. Then there was the responsibility of ensuring employees’ rice bowls are well looked after.
Passion was a critical ingredient for him to continually push themselves, innovate and “strive to get things right,” says Koh.
“You need a lot of passion, a lot of belief in the industry itself, the people that we meet, to help you keep you going on,” he says.
The birth of NoonTalk Media
Under Koh’s leadership, NoonTalk Media has earned its stripes to become one of Singapore’s leading Chinese media entertainment companies, with a passion to instil passion and interest in the Chinese language and culture among younger audiences.
The company has two main revenue-generating business segments.
Under its management and event arm, NoonTalk manages everything from talent (such as household names like Xu Bin, Kimberly Chia and Zong Zijie), studio venue and equipment, events conceptualisation and management of both in-person and live-streamed events.
These span large-scale events and projects by clients such as the People’s Association, the National Arts Council, Marina Bay Sands and Changi Airport Group.
In addition, its production arm comprises services relating to multimedia creation and production, film and television production and video production. Marquee projects it has organised include Chingay 2021 and 2022, and ChildAid 2021. It also produces films, web series and television serials.
It was an “impromptu decision” but Koh and his team decided to go for the Initial Public Offering (IPO).
At that point, NoonTalk had posted revenue that had more than doubled since FY2020, from $3 million to $6.4 million in 2022.
This revenue growth came from the company’s ability to secure projects such as Chingay 2021 and gain a wider scope of work for Chingay 2022. Further revenue was generated from drama and movie productions such as the drama “Dear My Happy Working Life” and a movie titled “The Antique Shop.”
Seized by a feeling that the timing was right, Koh and his team went for the IPO and applied to NoonTalk to be listed on the SGX on 22 November 2022.
Taking the company to overseas markets
Koh had a vision: to market Singapore as a top filming destination and a vibrant music hub, with a multitude of concerts and fan meets.
“Why do people travel to Korea and Japan? It’s through movies that they learn about the culture and they want to go there to experience and be immersed in it. So movies have this power,” explains Koh.
The same principle applies to concerts too. When major international artists fly in to hold a concert in Singapore, it would attract droves of fans from the region as well, leading to a positive trickle-down effect on the economy, says Koh.
With NoonTalk helping to be the connecting bridge, Koh sees it as part of a longer-term strategy to build stronger partnerships with foreign television networks and concert promoters, and to bring Singapore content into a bigger international stage.
Naturally, these efforts take time, spanning beyond merely one or two years.
“You need to go through three, four projects or even five projects. And even before you go into any project, you need to gain this momentum and the belief and trust in them. So that will take a little bit more time,” says Koh.
To that end, Koh has set himself a three to five year roadmap to get the company to where he wants it to be — a star “regional, if not an international player.”
On a macro level, being based in Singapore has supported the company’s global ambitions, Koh adds. With the breadth of four different languages, Singapore can help build a bridge between countries, and NoonTalk can play an active connecting role in that aspect.
For instance, being able to collaborate with the China market and Thai production team with ease, or Korean artists wanting to break into the Chinese market. Because of Singaporeans’ fluency in the English and Mandarin languages, NoonTalk is able to bring the countries together, he says.
“We see the international stage as our platform, a playground for us,” he says.
Pushing on despite challenges
Operating in a small market like Singapore, running the company naturally came with its fair share of challenges.
While there were a number of projects NoonTalk wanted to embark on, the lack of financial resources impeded them from working toward their dreams. Even seeking out help can be demoralising, as the others might not understand how the media industry works, he adds.
“These are the times that actually set you thinking about whether it is worthwhile to put in so much effort and time to push on with the passion that you believe, and whether it can go on and on. It’s really challenging at those times,” says Koh.
On what causes him to lose sleep at night, Koh gets contemplative.
For Koh, it is important to be able to “cut through the noise” to reach out to the core believers and not be affected by the critics and keyboard warriors.
“It’s not easy to paint the story that you truly believe in and have the passion for, because there are people with the wrong intentions who try to influence others who might already buy in or believe what you say. So this is something very worrying, how to fight against all these different voices,” says Koh.
For example, the decision to pursue the IPO saw its fair share of doubters and naysayers. There were some people who were criticising and “bugging” them on the low $20,000 profit they would make, but missed out on the fact that they had been able to jump from a $3 million to $6 million revenue in a year, says Koh.
Koh points out the immediate priority is to pump in resources to “set the foundation right”, and to invest in elite manpower and equipment, all of which would take a little time to reap the fruits of their investment.
“Although it’s only a $20,000 profit, that is only now. Look at the revenue that we can channel. And if we have bigger supporters and bigger strength coming in, we’ll be able to see that huge jump,” he says.
The journey ahead
More recently in the last six years, Koh was able to glean many invaluable lessons along the way, having met a number of “good people, good mentors” who advised him on his entrepreneurship journey and possible blind spots to be aware of.
Koh counts himself lucky to be backed by a “strong and passionate” team at NoonTalk who believes in that shared dream. One of them was his chief operating officer Jed Tay.
One common misconception is NoonTalk Media is solely a talent management agency. Conscious to pivot away from that image, he took the chance to share about the company’s offerings on various media platforms. Slowly, as they started to “shed more light”, more people came to understand more about the company.
Today, NoonTalk Media’s wide-ranging portfolio is a testament to Koh’s relentless pursuit of the goal.
He says what kept him going was the support of all the believers who have stood behind him.
“I wanted to show them that what they believe can be done, and can come true. You have to fight no matter what adversities may come along the way. It’s something that you have to be responsible for and not let all these people who believe in you down.”
NoonTalk Media Limited is a Singapore-based media entertainment company that specialises in artiste and talent management, multimedia production, and event conceptualisation. NoonTalk Media aims to be Singapore’s leading media and entertainment platform in creating quality entertainment content and to inspire a vibrant media landscape in Singapore, with a particular niche in Chinese-language media productions. NoonTalk Media taps on its comprehensive suite of service offerings to be a one-stop provider of high-quality, bespoke events and entertainment solutions that can be adapted to suit the particular demands of its clients for any project.
The company website is: https://noontalk.com/
First published on SGX website on 12 April 2023
About kopi-C: the Company brew
kopi-C is a regular column that features C-level executives of leading companies listed on SGX. The series is curated by SGX Research in partnership with Beansprout (https://growbeansprout.com), a MAS-licensed investment advisory platform, and is aimed at helping investors better understand the individuals who run these corporations.
Text: Toh Ee Ming
Photo: Company file