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Ivan Pun

Founder

Keeping up with Ivan Pun is a project in itself as the businessman — who divides his time between Myanmar, Hong Kong and the rest of the world — has so many projects in the pipeline, under construction or successfully running, including, for example, the furniture brand Paribawga (part of his Pun + Projects portfolio) and the TS 1 pop-up in downtown Yangon he founded to support local artists. Meanwhile, in Hong Kong there’s Hawkr, a venture in Quarry Bay (alongside chef Mina Park and private-equity principal and restaurateur Jake Astor), bringing Southeast Asian fare to the island ... and there’s more.

“There are two new restaurants in Yangon that will open in the first quarter of 2019,” Pun says. “I’m also working on a restaurant project in Hong Kong that’s in the pipeline — well, all three food projects are going to be great and will open one after the other in early 2019. I’m always excited about food.”

Then there’s the art. “Yes, the Wong Chuk Hang space that I share with McNamara Art Projects is currently being used to use host art pop-up shows with other design companies from around the world,” he says. “In June, we did a pop-up with Ulysses de Santi [Brazilian furniture from the 1950s and ’60s] and we did another with The Artling on Asian collectible design in October. With TS1, the arts initiative in Yangon for which we only did pop-ups before, we finally have a home for it. A new permanent space in downtown Yangon opens in March 2019.”

Phew. All that and not a moment to spare — he’s just landed in Hong Kong after the final paperwork on the aforementioned development. “It’s always wonderful to be in Hong Kong and do projects here as it’s so much easier done. It’s home, so it’s obviously smoother sailing, and a completely different set of challenges, while nothing is easy in Yangon — I can safely say that.”

Many businesses in Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar, took a hit this year with the inescapably bad press surrounding the Rohingya crisis. As the tourism industry saw a massive plunge in arrivals, Pun ponders carefully before speaking about the growing tensions that are still simmering in the militia-ruled region, “Look, I’m apolitical, my merchant family has nothing to do with the politics, and government and private enterprise are separate, but we do employ hundreds of people in various enterprises in the city and they’ve all been affected. The bad press has made everything difficult — we’re going to have to take a hit, which was inevitable, but there will be light at the end of the tunnel,” he says. “I’m so hopeful for a resolution and that things will go back to normal. It has been projected that Asian tourists will come to Myanmar more and help kick-start the economy again.”

To yank him back to Hong Kong on a lighter note, we mention he’s been on our annual 40 Under 40 list since its inception. “I’m honoured and grateful to be included by Prestige because I feel our generation has really come together to do something interesting to contribute to the city. There’s a great dynamic energy and we want to add and build further than the previous generation.”

For those who only see Pun and associates on the event and gala circuit, he’s aware of appearances, but his life isn’t an endless reel of tuxedo-clad sit- down dinners. “The division between work and play is more blurred for some people, more separate for others,” he says. “There’s no formula. I’m not the least bit bothered by what people think — everyone has a different approach. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter as long as the end result, our work, our contribution to society, is a positive one.”

 

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