Thriving in the Age of Disruption

The Power of Vision and Intention: Mr. Chris Freund (Vietnam)

July 22, 2022 Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra & Mr. Chris Freund Season 1 Episode 17
The Power of Vision and Intention: Mr. Chris Freund (Vietnam)
Thriving in the Age of Disruption
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Thriving in the Age of Disruption
The Power of Vision and Intention: Mr. Chris Freund (Vietnam)
Jul 22, 2022 Season 1 Episode 17
Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra & Mr. Chris Freund

Listen to Dr. Ramesh's conversation with groundbreaking entrepreneur, Mr. Chris Freund, Founder of Mekong Capital, the first hands-on Private Equity firm in Vietnam. Chris grew up in Chicago (US) but was inexorably drawn to Asia, finally settling down in Vietnam at age 29.

Find out how Chris expresses his love for Vietnam in his pioneering role in the development of the country's nascent private sector, whilst adding value to the company's investment portfolios, investee companies and employees.

You'll learn from this seasoned entrepreneur how his commitment to transformation led to him turning around his business, as well as fulfilling his life's purpose, living in balance and thriving.

To learn more about Entrepreneurship with Dr. Ramesh, get your copy of The Big Jump into Entrepreneurship 2.0 on or

Also read Chris' book Crab Hotpot, a story about a bunch of crabs who found themselves stuck in a boiling pot, and how they chose to transform themselves to be able to achieve their shared objectives, cllck here to buy on Amazon (English) and Tiki (Vietnamese).

Host: Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra, Author, Podcast Host and Founder of Talent Leadership Crucible

Guest Speaker: Mr. Chris Freund, Founder & Partner, Mekong Capital

#EntrepreneurialMindset #Entrepreneurship #Entrepreneur #Vietnam #Success #PrivateEquity #MekongCapital #Partner #Founder #ChrisFreund #Dr.RameshRamachandra #TheBigJumpintoEntrepreneurship2.0 #CrisisReadyMindset #TalentLeadershipCrucible #Thriving #AgeofDisruption #CrabHotpot

Show Notes Transcript

Listen to Dr. Ramesh's conversation with groundbreaking entrepreneur, Mr. Chris Freund, Founder of Mekong Capital, the first hands-on Private Equity firm in Vietnam. Chris grew up in Chicago (US) but was inexorably drawn to Asia, finally settling down in Vietnam at age 29.

Find out how Chris expresses his love for Vietnam in his pioneering role in the development of the country's nascent private sector, whilst adding value to the company's investment portfolios, investee companies and employees.

You'll learn from this seasoned entrepreneur how his commitment to transformation led to him turning around his business, as well as fulfilling his life's purpose, living in balance and thriving.

To learn more about Entrepreneurship with Dr. Ramesh, get your copy of The Big Jump into Entrepreneurship 2.0 on or

Also read Chris' book Crab Hotpot, a story about a bunch of crabs who found themselves stuck in a boiling pot, and how they chose to transform themselves to be able to achieve their shared objectives, cllck here to buy on Amazon (English) and Tiki (Vietnamese).

Host: Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra, Author, Podcast Host and Founder of Talent Leadership Crucible

Guest Speaker: Mr. Chris Freund, Founder & Partner, Mekong Capital

#EntrepreneurialMindset #Entrepreneurship #Entrepreneur #Vietnam #Success #PrivateEquity #MekongCapital #Partner #Founder #ChrisFreund #Dr.RameshRamachandra #TheBigJumpintoEntrepreneurship2.0 #CrisisReadyMindset #TalentLeadershipCrucible #Thriving #AgeofDisruption #CrabHotpot

To learn more about Entrepreneurship with Dr. Ramesh, get your copy of The Big Jump into Entrepreneurship 2.0 on or

Also read Chris' book Crab Hotpot, a story about a bunch of crabs who found themselves stuck in a boiling pot, and how they chose to transform themselves to be able to achieve their shared objectives, cllck here to buy on Amazon (English) and Tiki (Vietnamese).

Host: Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra, Author, Podcast Host and Founder of Talent Leadership Crucible

Guest Speaker: Mr. Chris Freund, Founder & Partner, Mekong Capital

#EntrepreneurialMindset #Entrepreneurship #Entrepreneur #Vietnam #Success #PrivateEquity #MekongCapital #Partner #Founder #ChrisFreund #Dr.RameshRamachandra #TheBigJumpintoEntrepreneurship2.0 #CrisisReadyMindset #TalentLeadershipCrucible #Thriving #AgeofDisruption #CrabHotpot

Ho Lai Yun  00:00

Hello, and thank you for joining us on Thriving in the Age of Disruption. Today, Dr. Ramesh is having a chat with a brave entrepreneur who followed his heart to leave the US to settle in Vietnam. Mr. Chris Freund is founder and partner of Mekong Capital, the first hands-on private equity firm in Vietnam, and repeated winner of Private Equity International's industry awards. We're happy to share with you Mr. Freund's journey of transformation, played out at a personal level in his life, career, and Vietnam's developing nascent private sector.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  00:37

Today, we have a special guest from the private equity space in Vietnam. Chris Freund is the founder and CEO of Mekong Capital. I got to know Chris more than 15 years ago through the work that we did in corporate culture change. And that was to transform his firm and their investee companies. Welcome, Chris to Thriving in the Age of Disruption podcast series. Chris, we're so excited to have you here. Let's start off with you introducing yourself to our listeners. 

Chris Freund  01:09

Well, I grew up in America, I came out to Asia, to Vietnam in 1992, when I was doing a junior year abroad, and I was backpacking around that year, and I was also in Asia to study Buddhism at that time. I just had such a great experience that I wanted to come back to Vietnam, as soon as I graduated, which is what I did. Initially, I worked for Templeton for six years, first in Vietnam and then in Singapore. Towards the end of that, I realized that I wanted to set up my own business, and I wanted to be in Vietnam, and I wanted to create a new model of investing in Vietnam, that was more value added. So I set up what became the first private equity investment fund in Vietnam back in 2001. So that was 21 years ago, our company Mekong Capital has been through many phases, discoveries, and transformations along the way. But ultimately, we've been pretty successful.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  02:01

Awesome, thank you for that introduction about yourself. I feel that in this age of disruption, an entrepreneurial mindset is a key mindset for one to have, because I describe that as being resourceful, being someone who knows how to manage risk and create value. What are your thoughts about entrepreneurial mindset, Chris? 

Chris Freund  02:22

We've been able in Mekong to invest in more than 40 companies over the years. We've had some great successes and some failures, there's clearly some patterns that have emerged. Which sorts of entrepreneurs have been more successful? One place to start is that the more successful ones have a real willingness to transform themselves. They don't feel like they have to have all the answers, or they have to stay the same way and keep being who they were at the beginning of the journey, but rather, they're willing to transform like as leaders and as communicators. And I'd say that leadership transformation journey has really been critical, and 100% correlated to the success of at least the companies that we've invested in that have been successful. So any of our big successful companies because the story of people who really transformed themselves, and they discovered leadership, they discovered integrity, they made a choice to really give their word to whatever Vision that they had committed themselves to for their company, and people knew that they're really standing for that. That ultimately played an important role in their success. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  03:29

Wow, that's really interesting in terms of how you look at an entrepreneurial mindset and link it to someone's willingness to transform. And I totally agree with you because it all begins with ourselves as an individual. And then, of course, to also impact our companies and our teams as a collective. And this willingness to transform, you've also described it as becoming a leader, or our ability to communicate. That's really useful because as a leader, are we people who have integrity to give our word and keep it? Are we committed to that big vision that we've created? And I guess what you haven't said is that as we pursue a vision, we need to keep adapting, pivoting, altering because circumstances can change. And that is that nimbleness that you are expecting to see when someone has an entrepreneurial mindset. 

Chris Freund  04:23

I would like to add. There's always got to be some vision in the future. The vision may change, and that's okay and normal actually. Companies will revise their vision or create a new one before they achieved their old one. But they've got to have a clear goal in the future, that everyone's aligned around, that the relevant people care about personally, it is something that is fulfilled through the vision. They can connect their work back to the vision and see what's their role in delivering the vision. That's part of the role of the entrepreneur, it is to get everyone to see all that and discover that and make it about the vision and then stand for that.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  05:05

When you look back at Mekong Capital at your own journey, what were the challenges the turning points? And how did you get this vision to be the unifying focal point for the team? 

Chris Freund  05:17

Early on starting in 2001, we really had no vision. We had, I guess, some intentions to add value to our companies and to be the first fund to invest in private companies in Vietnam. But we didn't really have clear measurable results in the future that we had committed ourselves to. We just thought that focusing on private companies and trying to add value would somehow lead to success, but it didn't. For the first five or six years, we were trying really hard to add value to these investments. We were doing things like Lean Manufacturing, and Six Sigma, and trying a lot of stuff, doing a lot of work for our companies, like writing job descriptions for them and giving them the job descriptions. But it just had no impact. At the beginning, we believed it would work. But after five or six years, it just became apparent that a lot of these companies weren't growing, and they weren't hitting their targets. When we looked at the data, around one-thirds of our investments were on track and two-thirds were not. And then at first, I thought that "I'm not a good leader." And I thought, "Oh, Vietnamese people are too different. I grew up in America, and maybe I don't understand Vietnamese culture." I thought, "Oh, there's something wrong with me. I'm not a natural leader." And I was stuck. 

Chris Freund  06:33

The turning point for me, it was in June 2007, I went to Singapore. And I participated in the Landmark Forum. And my Landmark Forum leader was Poorani. And I discovered that I'm the source of it all, not like there's something bad. But I started to have a lot of power that I didn't know that I had. And I immediately started to have some new conversations with our team members, and I started to take responsibility for some things where I had previously been the victim and started to create some sort of integrity in our organization. And I just started from there and kept building. One thing led to another. And then we engaged in a three-year transformation program that both you, Dr. Ramesh and Poorani, led together. And it was a success. It was harder than what I wanted it to be. It took three years really. And at first, we didn't have a lot of support for this internally within Mekong. People didn't understand why are we transforming? Why do we need to create these new core values? And why do we need to be responsible all of a sudden? So there were some challenges at first, but we persisted. By the end of three years, it was working. By 2010, we were actually much more effective at everything - What investments we made, how we added value, our companies were performing better, our team was just more effective. And then it's sustained, and we just built on that from 2010 onwards.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  08:01

So then, Chris, what was that enduring quality, or the North Star that kept you on track? Because when you started that transformation process, things didn't necessarily go the way you wanted it. There were challenges, right? What had you stay on course? 

Chris Freund  08:18

Relentless perseverance towards the vision. Part of that transformation process is that in the middle of it, we created a vision, and it took us 14 days, but it worked. We had an alignment process. And then over a six-month period, we finally had co-created this vision. That was probably a critical turning point that now we had something very clear and specific in the future that we were standing for. And we gave our word to it, and just basically didn't back down. And then after that, make it all about the vision and people would have a choice. Do they choose that they want to be in a company that this is the vision or not? And they choose this vision for themselves. And maybe it wasn't right for everyone. But some people definitely did choose it. And we gave our word to it. So it's matter of integrity that I promise that you can rely on me to do whatever I need to do to contribute and cause this vision to be achieved. Yeah, as more and more people created a powerful relationship to their own word and choosing the vision then we had more and more people who were organized around it. And the core, I mean, I had an unrelenting perseverance around the vision and just didn't back down from it. Whenever obstacles come up, I make it about the vision, not about something else.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  09:33

That's right. So I heard the first thing is your relentless perseverance. Next, it was keeping on track with that shared vision, and all the time choosing for ourselves, and also the ability to keep our word. I can also hear how you became that vision because it was the most important thing to protect and take care of for the future. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  10:01

Do you find that an entrepreneurial mindset could be useful for people who work in corporates as employees? Is that something that they can use on a day-to-day basis?

Chris Freund  10:15

Certainly, yes. One dimension that we've seen about more successful companies is that those that can delegate down decision-making to the front lines, basically, they can adapt and grow faster. Even the entrepreneurial thinking of making business decisions rather than having to follow strict rules like companies where the goals are clear, including the vision, they can rely on people to make the best choices or decisions around what will lead to the vision and delegate down the decision-making. Of course, those companies do perform much better. 

Chris Freund  10:50

So for example, in the past, one of our investments is called Mobileworld. And they were our first investment to really embraced transformation. Part of the way that they did it, what they got early on was the importance of really cascading things down to the front lines, including the culture and the core values, but also the decision-making. So they were able to become Vietnam's largest retailer, in part, because they were able to delegate and rely on their team very much on the front lines, when their competitors couldn't. The competitors were very top-down, the CEO had to decide everything and then everyone had to follow the CEO's instructions, and often they weren't implemented well. But in Mobileworld, they were able to open 50 or more stores per month, and rapidly adjusted to the market, because they were able to trust their people to make those decisions, without even having to go back to the head office. So they were able to operate on a much larger scale and conquered the market.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  11:48

That's a great case study, your example of Mobileworld shows how a company can unleash the entrepreneurial acumen of the team, as well as delegate the decision rights so that employees at different levels are all empowered to make decisions. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  12:07

Let's move into leadership and decision-making. I want to specifically talk about women, for you are someone who has encouraged women to have greater role in leadership and decision-making. What was that motivation? Why are you so passionate about that?

Chris Freund  12:22 

I don't think I started off that way. But I think what happened over time was a lot of our strongest team members were women. It wasn't deliberate. It just kind of happened. And I'd say, it even more so, women that have had children, it’s some transformation they may be going through as mothers that find them to be very responsible and have, of course, great empathy. Just very reliable and stable. That was just who is performing best. Now, 80% of our team are more women, and it's probably moving even more in that direction.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  12:58

That's great and you continue to empower them. And would you have any advice for young people who are coming into the industry about how they can develop themselves?

Chris Freund  13:10

That's a hard one. Our business is very unique because we're very focused on transformation and coaching. The people that will work and Mekong Capital generally are people that are really enthusiastic about leadership, transformation, and coaching. People that have already gone on some journey and that direction are probably going to be a strong fit with what we're looking for. But that may not be necessarily for other companies.

Chris Freund  13:35

One of the skills that is a challenge that is important that we keep looking for is like question asking skills, really asking for the intentions of things. If there's one area where I wish that at least the education system could deliver better, it would be people being really effective at asking penetrating questions to get to the root causes. And then what's the intention of this? And why is it important? And how does it connect to the big picture? That's an important skill that we need that often is missing in a lot of candidates that we meet. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  14:07

So, it is to encourage people to be curious, but also to learn to probe a little bit more and not to just take the surface-level answer. 

Chris Freund  14:17

That's correct, yes. And to be very comfortable asking questions. There's no hesitation or concern that I'm asking too much. Most of the work we do involves asking questions. One of the discoveries we've made is that you can't give transformation to someone else. You can't even give them a solution. It just doesn't work. It's all about what they discover for themselves. And that generally happens through asking them questions.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  14:44

Chris, I'm curious about your views on family businesses. How would you describe the difference between a family business and an entrepreneurial company?

Chris Freund  14:54

I've noticed there's a very big cultural divide between what I would call an entrepreneurial company and a family company. An entrepreneurial company, especially if you have multiple co-founders, tends to be very performance driven. So they're clear about what results they need, and they organize around that, and they hire people based on who can deliver those results, and they may fire people based on who's not delivering those results. Whereas the family business culture is very much more about loyalty and trust, not about performance. And it shows up in so many ways, not just the fact that family members are working there. But all their priorities in the company seem to be more of trust and loyalty- who I can trust and to not get cheated, or to not lose something, that it's not about who can deliver results. So they don't hire based on that and they don't fire based on that. And they attract a different kind of person. They will attract people that are more interested to be in a company where if they're just loyal that they can build a career that way, rather than actually producing great results. So there's a huge cultural gap I have found, and yet I don't know the answer to how to break out of it. I've heard stories of companies that have done it, but the stories are, basically, to remove all family members. That's what I've heard, yeah. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  16:11

You're pointing to something very insightful. In an entrepreneurial company, what brings the founders together is the intention to produce results and be successful. While in a family business, perhaps loyalty and trust are more important. So sometimes, this gets in the way of performance and results. 

Chris Freund  16:30


Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  16:34

You've got to make a trade off. One of the key things that we've found in our work with family-owned businesses, is to create a future for the family, their own vision as a family. What it does is that it allows the family especially as individuals, family members, as well as the family as a collective, to be able to see that there is a difference between individual aspirations, the business's strategy, as well as the vision for the family to go beyond that generation. When they have awareness about these different roles that they play, it then gives them the ability to zoom out, and to look at their business as that one expression of them in the community but also, their other expressions that they can go out and fulfill, which gives family members the opportunity as well as the permission not to be involved in the business. It's almost like you're disloyal for saying, “I don't want to be in the family business.” Now you're saying, “It's okay, that we're not involved, and we are professionalizing, and it's not about me being disloyal.” And I think that's one of the key struggles that they have as well. 

Chris Freund  17:51

We used to have many investments and family businesses. So it wasn't that we didn't try. But they were never really successful. We kept hitting up against the same issues. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  18:05

I want to move on to a new topic. And it's about crisis. And ‘crisis’, I described as kind of a setback that we deal with in life; it can be professional, it can be personal. How do you deal with crisis? And what have you found to be the thing that keeps you grounded to move forward in a crisis?

Chris Freund  18:26

Yeah, we've been through some challenging times ourselves in Mekong Capital. We've had a crucible event, which started around the time of our transformation process. Basically, our revenues were declining, and our track record wasn't good enough yet to raise new funds. So we had to keep alive but with lower and lower revenues every year. And it was actually ultimately a great experience because it forced us to focus on what really matters and really think through what we need to invest our time and capital into. And what kept us going was our vision, and just sticking to it no matter what, and making it about that and about that future that we're committed to. We had actually very low turnover. We were short of capital, and we didn't really have the money to pay the full salaries we had previously paid. We had people very willing to stay and be part of it because they believed in the future. And I think that was critical. If there was no future, or they couldn't see the future, people would have all left. But the future was present, was clear what it was. They can see the pathway. They knew that we were facing challenges at the time, but there was clarity that the future is achievable, and this is what we need to do in order to achieve it. And so they stayed. Later, I found out that even some of our team members had got side jobs like at nighttime to just make ends meet, but they still didn't quit. They just needed extra income and they didn't want to quit so they found ways to get through it. And then of course, we did and then became much more successful after that.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  20:01

What do you have shared is that the future expresses the vision has got the power to rally and focus people, even in the midst of a crisis. That becomes the key thing that you're working towards, rather than get overwhelmed by what you see as a current setback?

Chris Freund  20:24

That's right. Yeah, I think some companies make the mistake of putting all the attention on all the fires that they're dealing with. And they think, "Oh, let's put everyone's attention and all these fires and try to put out the fires, and then later, we'll come back and create a vision." But the fires never go out if they do that way. In fact, what they'll have is a lot of people quitting, who don't want to be part of it. They're not going to be able to recruit anybody new. They are going to see no future in the company and it just kind of goes from bad to worse. 

Chris Freund  20:52

We've had companies that have gone through, like a year ago. One of our investments is called “Red Wok”, and it's a restaurant business. During the lockdowns of COVID, they basically had no revenues. At first, they were in a real firefighting mode and the team was quite weak at that time. They decided, "Okay, we're going to redo our vision, we're going to redo our core values, we're going to rebuild what this is all about, and even rebuild our team." And that's what they did. Now, they're very strong. They've got everything that's just working for them. If they hadn't done that, they probably wouldn't have gotten through the crisis they were in. But now their vision is so strong. If you go to their office, and you meet the CEO, he insists talking about the vision and the core values. He won't let you have a conversation about something else until you understand what the core values are, which is great because I'm sure he's doing that with his team, and the people he's got choose to be there because that's the culture that they chose.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  21:47

Chris, this resonates so much with how I think. If we're interested in the future, then we'll make responsible choices and investments, which are consistent with the future that we envision. Chris, how does having a clear vision of the future affect your decision-making and the kind of actions you take? 

Chris Freund  22:06

Having clarity about it. Sometimes it's even subconscious. Once we're clear what that future is that we've committed ourselves to, we just naturally kind of go in that direction. But there's times when it just helps for making-decisions, and you think, what is our vision? What are we committed to here? And what's the best decision to make in relation to that vision that always provides clarity? So for example, in Mekong Capital, our vision is that every one of our investee companies achieves their vision. That's paramount. Sometimes we have to make a choice. For example, between growing faster and every company achieving their vision. Whenever we think back to our vision, then the answer is very clear that our investees achieving their vision comes first. And only when that's on track, then we can grow. That helps us, I think, having the vision of the future clear. It just naturally materializes. I also have a personal vision. And I keep it up to date and revise it all the time. And it's been amazing for me just having that clarity. Somehow it all kind of just falls into place.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  23:13

Can you share with us what's your personal vision? 

Chris Freund  23:15

It's quite extensive. I actually have a name for it. It's called New Dawn of the Earth Goddess. There’s some central themes in it: transformation, being present, nature, choice and freedom, healthy. I materializes in different pieces. For example, I really believe in the power of getting enough sleep. And I think people don't fully understand the importance of sleep. So part of my vision is that I'm committed to a future of the world in which people are getting basically eight hours of sleep per night or as much as they really need. The microbiome is very important as well and it's often underestimated. There's been a lot of negative impact of antibiotics and pesticides and other things, and people aren't aware of the health benefits of having a healthy microbiome. So that is also part of my vision, that future of the world in which people are aware of that and being responsible for microbiome health. My vision has about 30 different pieces, the central themes of it will be like integration with nature, being a healthy, choice and freedom, transformation.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  24:25

Wow, that's so inspiring. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  24:30

I'm going to move on to a related topic. It's about spirituality, and where you are in this journey. You studied Buddhism, and you spent some time in India and Thailand, and other Southeast Asian countries. So please share with us how that journey started for you.

Chris Freund  24:48

Well, I grew up Jewish and it just didn't make much sense to me really. I kept seeing a book on the bookshelves at my friends' houses, and the book is called Be Here Now by Ram Dass. And that was a very influential book, I'd say, in the 1970s and 80s. That was written by someone who used to be a Harvard Professor of Psychology who together with Timothy Leary at the same time, he was doing psychedelics at Harvard, and then both got fired from Harvard, and then he went off to India and met his guru and went on a spiritual transformation journey, and then shared that in that book. So that book inspired a lot of people, including me, to be interested in, I'd say at that time, Hinduism and Buddhism. And then I chose, "Okay, I need to go to India and have a similar journey myself."

Chris Freund  25:35

Back then, when I was younger, I joined a lot of different groups, like sometimes meditation groups, like Zen Centers, or Transcendental Meditation. And then I joined a Sikh group called “Science of Spirituality”. I joined a number of different groups. And there was a Sai Baba group that I was part of in Santa Cruz, California, and some others. And I was just exploring. My junior year abroad was to go to Bodh Gaya, India to study Buddhism. It was a great program; it was really good. I got all kinds of exposure to different schools of Buddhist teaching, and I got to practice different traditions. And then it was after that, that I lived at a monastery in Thailand, and then I was backpacking around Asia and that's when I first came to Vietnam. And then at some point, though, I kind of backtracked a bit, I thought, "Okay, I'm not ready to become a monk. So I'm going to pursue more kind of worldly dramas." And I made that choice at some point. It was around maybe 2012, or so and Mekong that suddenly, all the interest in Buddhism started to come back alive, then we learned that a lot of our team members were also very interested in this. So we started to inquire, what about Buddha's teaching can we apply to our culture within Mekong capital or who we're being? And we made all kinds of discoveries. So I'd say that's an inquiry. I wouldn't want to say I have the answers but it's an ongoing place to look. But we did notice a lot of complementary ways of looking about what would Buddha's teaching put our attention on? Who are we being and what are we doing in Mekong Capital? These days in Vietnam, there's a lot of interest in meditation. So many CEOs that I know, they all meditate. And of course, Thich Nhat Hanh is a great Vietnamese leader, and he's inspired a lot of people. So I think there's a great appreciation for Buddhist teaching in this country.

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  27:24

That's right. Are you back actively practicing Buddhism again? 

Chris Freund  27:28

I'm committed to being present and mindful. I don't have like a regular meditation practice. For example, I was going to floatation tanks because near where I live, there's a floatation tank center where you float on saltwater in a dark space. I haven't done that since the lockdowns ended. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  27:47

The lockdowns have changed some of our lifestyle and our old activities. Thank you, Chris, for sharing your spiritual journey from being Jewish by birth to exploring Hinduism and Buddhism. And it was also interesting to hear how you described your personal vision with regards to the New Dawn of Earth Goddess. 

Chris Freund  28:08

Yeah, I have an intention also that, in terms of the energy in the world, I think it's got to shift more towards female energy and female leadership. In the past, including in Vietnam, there were some traditions of Earth Goddess worshipping, or earth mother or something like that. I appreciate that Vietnam has those traditions, too, and they have some temples like that. And it seems to me that the world would be in a better place if we had better balance. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  28:34

Nurturing energy. Alright, great. So do you think it's possible to live a simple life? 

Chris Freund  28:40

I've been able to create the lifestyle that I want. For example, I only work four days per week. I don't work on Fridays, and I'm able to have great discipline with the hours that I work. So I definitely do not bring work home with me. I wouldn't do work related emails in the evening. I don't even feel any temptation to do that. And I'm able to go home when I want to, most of the time, I just make very minor exceptions to that. So I have created the balance that I want to have. So yeah, I think it is possible, but it takes constant inquiry to look at where are we really adding value and where are we not. And be willing to say 'No' to a lot of the things that are just not working or that we're not really adding value, and of course, to look to where we can delegate more and just keep inquiring. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  29:30

If you had to describe 'thriving' or 'flourishing' in life, what would you think is essential for that? What do we need to thrive and flourish as individuals?

Chris Freund  29:41

Well, one is to discover that you have choice in all matters of everything in your life, and you're experiencing freedom, being healthy and living a lifestyle where you can be healthy. And I think included with that as being close to nature. Being too disconnected from nature is unnatural and is unhealthy. Our natural state is to be connected to nature. And when people are too disconnected from that, it's just a miserable life. I think it's a wonderful life to be close to nature, like I have a garden with a lot of plants at my house, and I definitely really enjoy being in that garden and just being out among the plants. It feels good, yeah. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  30:23

I have one more set of questions, and it's actually about your book, the “Crab Hotpot”, what was the inspiration to write this book? 

Chris Freund  30:31

I was definitely something I was experiencing in our company. So, I was in Mekong Capital, there was something going on, and we had different people had different views. They all had good intentions about how to fix it one person's views or people aren't aligned, someone else's views that we should have a workshop, and someone else's views that I'm not responsible for this. It was just I could see that mechanism of everyone, their own individual perspectives. They didn't come together towards getting the situation resolved. And then I thought, I have to write a story about this, and it just popped into my head that, okay, make this into a pot of crabs. Almost every crab in there is really based on a real person and Mekong Capital. I just translated the people in our company into crabs. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  31:20

We do a lot of work with corporate culture transformation. And what you've described is spot on because it describes the kind of conversations that employees have, especially around any kind of change in an organization. And you've managed to convey it in such a simple and clear manner in the guise of a beautifully illustrated book.

Chris Freund  31:42

Yeah, we thought at first, it might be too abstract for the kids, but now they can get it and even about how the crabs can shed an old perspective and choose a new one, just like shedding their old shells and growing a new one. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  31:56

Do you have any specific message for the readers of that book? 

Chris Freund  32:01

Well, one way of looking at it is that you have a choice over how you're going to see things. And if you choose to create a point of view about the future where you're aligned with everyone else - If you align around some shared goal for the future, then you can make it happen. But if everyone's just gonna stay stuck in their own point of view, it's probably not gonna go anywhere. You can apply that to anything, to politics and global warming, to an organization. When there's not a shared committed goal in the future, then, well, it's not going to happen. 

Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  32:34

That's right, the power of the collective. Because if we want to move things, then we have to come together and work as a collective versus being an individual. 

Chris Freund  32:45


Dr. Ramesh Ramachandra  32:45

Wonderful, awesome. Chris, thank you once again, for sharing candidly your experience in entrepreneurship as well as your thoughts and commitments for the future. It was great having you.

Ho Lai Yun  32:57

Thank you, Dr. Ramesh and Mr. Freund. My key takeaway from Mr. Freund is the clarity he offers around the importance of vision, intention, and asking penetrating questions. If you're interested to benefit more from Mr. Freund's insights, do check out his book Crab Hotpot. The links are provided in this podcast description so you can easily click through to get your copy on

Ho Lai Yun  33:23

Thank you for listening today. We look forward to having you join us in our next episode of Thriving in the Age of Disruption podcast, where we'll be catching up with Singapore's favorite firebrand and gentle warrior, Ms. Ivy Singh-Lim, down at BollyWood Farms, which she founded with her husband. You're guaranteed a spirited, no holds barred discussion on entrepreneurship, women and leadership, spirituality, and creating a circle of life amongst other key topics

Chris Freund
Founder & Partner, Mekong Capital
Author, Crab Hotpot

Chris Freund is the Founder, Chairman and Managing Partner of Mekong Capital, the first Private Equity firm focused on Vietnam since 2001. Mekong Capital makes Private Equity investments in consumer-driven businesses in Vietnam, and consistently adds value to those companies using its proven framework called Vision Driven Investing. Mekong Capital applies an ontological approach to Private Equity, focusing primarily on who people are being and how things are occurring for them, leading to new actions and new conversations, and ultimately breakthroughs in performance on the pathway for each investee company to achieve its vision. 

With a team of more than 50 experienced professionals on the ground in Vietnam, Mekong Capital’s five funds have made more than 40 private equity investments in some of Vietnam’s fastest growing companies in areas including retail, consumer products, education, distribution, and manufacturing. Some of Mekong's well known current and past investments include MobileWorld, Phu Nhuan Jewelry (PNJ), Masan Consumer, Golden Gate, Pizza 4Ps, Marou Chocolate, Red Wok (Wrap & Roll, BiaCraft), ICP (X-men), Traphaco, Vietnam Australia International School (VAS), F88, PharmaCity, Yola, FPT Corp., Nhat Tin, ABA, Vua Nem, etc. 

Chris was a co-founder of Vietnam's leading recruitment services firm, Navigos Group, which operates, Vietnam's #1 job recruitment website, and Navigos Search. Chris was a non-executive Director of Navigos from 2001 until the company was sold in a trade sale in 2013.

Chris is Chairman of Pasteur Street Brewing Company (PSBC), Vietnam's multi gold-medal winning craft brewery and producer of Vietnam's best tasting beer.