The good news is that “The Apprentice-Asia,” which made its debut on May 22 on the AXN channel, is no country-bumpkin cousin to Donald Trump’s US original.
Hosted by Air Asia owner Tony Fernandes, it puts its 12 Asian (plus one Frenchman who speaks Chinese) business mavens through the wringer as they compete for a cushy, career-defining job in Fernandes’ literally high-flying business empire.
Two Filipinos are in the rat race— marketing director Jonathan Yabut and Fil-French Celina Le Neindre, a food and beverage consultant.
On the show’s premiere telecast, it was Yabut who was able to get a few licks in, while Le Neindre was content to be a quieter presence, and tempered her remarks.
The first challenge brought the modern business mavens back to the absolute basics, as it required them to sell—fish! The simplicity of the task boggled some of the players, who confessed that they didn’t even shop in wet markets back in their home countries.
The girls’ team (Apex) and the boys’ group (Mavericks) tried to make the biggest profit as they cajoled and even “forced” people at the wet market in Kuala Lumpur to buy everything they had for sale—and the girls turned out to be the clear winners, to their rivals’ consternation!
Everybody learned that there was much more involved in selling fish than just a loud voice and aggressive hawking skills. They had to find out the selling price for all kinds of fish and shellfish at this particular wet market, determine their desired profit margin, stick to it despite buyers’ “diversionary” tactics, and think of creative ways to sell everything.
But, it was quickly apparent that theory was a far cry from actual practice, as both teams had a nervous start and some prices were drastically altered on the run, resulting in dismaying losses all around.
At the end of the very long day, everyone was exhausted, tempers flared, sharp words were exchanged—until everything was made moot and academic by the girls’ victory, and the firing of the guys’ team leader.
Everybody else, including “our” two bets, lived on to sell and compete another week, but some painful lessons were learned: First, excitement and energy are great, but getting carried away could result in defeat and getting fired—so, cool it.
Second, strategy and profit are key considerations, but ethical behavior is still required.
Third and specifically relevant to the guys, excessive “testosterone” can be a game loser when it makes competitive machos forget that they have to think as a team.
All told, the girls made a stronger and more positive impression early in the competition, because they were (surprise!) less emotional and more unified than the guys, who tended to do their own thing even as they professed absolute allegiance to their chosen leader—who, ironically and instructively enough, was the first to bite the dust!
The biggest “winner” in the tilt thus far is Fernandes himself, who showed with his confident and sometimes even abrasively insistent speech and behavior that he would be his own man, and would never be content to project himself as Donald Trump’s clone.
No wonder he’s been so successful as a businessman! His apprentices are sure to learn a lot from him—if they survive!