ASKING people what they would like to drink has never been something Mr Kenneth Choo would feel shy about.

The regional director at Heineken Asia Pacific for Singapore, Indochina and Exports said this is the result of growing up around a coffee shop - his grandfather owned seven and they lived above one when he was younger.

For two years in primary school, Mr Choo would serve coffee for about 45 minutes before heading to school.

Today, he constantly does market research for the brand and would not hesitate to ask a stranger why he drinks the beer of a competitor's brand.

"I find out how often he drinks, would he switch and what would make him switch... I ask distributors as well, why would they distribute one brand against another," said Mr Choo.

His interest in consumers has not waned, even after more than 10 years in Heineken Asia Pacific. He joined in 2003 as a director in regional finance and business development, and became senior director of regional finance last year. He was promoted to his current role at the beginning of this month.

Prior to joining Heineken, he spent about six years in business development for Royal Ahold NV, then the third-largest supermarket company, and the owner of Tops supermarket chain here.

"At the end of the day, once you start being interested in how consumers view things, you can apply the same kind of knowledge to management-level discussions," said Mr Choo.

"How do you attract customers? What kind of story do you want to tell them? How do you make a deal they cannot resist? It's not always about how can you sell the cheapest but, more importantly, how you market (the product)."

In moving from a finance role to his current position, Mr Choo finds himself taking on new challenges.

"Previously, part of it was telling people not to overspend, not to do this or that... But now, it's about how can I motivate teams and people to go the extra mile and get better results."

Heineken Asia Pacific has 120 people in its Singapore headquarters and 400 more in its Tiger Beer brewery in Tuas.

Beer from the brewery is exported to 60 countries around the world, to as far as Canada and the United States.

Mr Choo said he will motivate staff by being clear on goals, with their tasks linked to the goals of the company in various markets, and by promoting respect.

"When we went through integration (the acquisition of Asia Pacific Breweries by Heineken) a year ago, during which I was one of two persons leading (the process), the first word I reminded expatriates about was 'respect'."

"The value is very important in Asia. It's not just about adding 'lah' at the end of sentences, it's also about understanding people and what touches them at all levels. When you respect them, people are more motivated."

Mr Choo noted that the transition has been smooth, with the same person at the top - Mr Roland Pirmez, president of Heineken Asia Pacific and chief executive officer of Asia Pacific Breweries (APB).

"We are now stronger. APB is no longer just APB, but part of Heineken, the world's third-biggest brewer. It also offers opportunities for our Asian colleagues to take their careers to other parts of the world."

Post acquisition, both brands have grown. Heineken enjoyed a volume of 6.1 million hectolitres (mhl) in Asia Pacific last year, up from 5.4 mhl in 2010.

Tiger's volume was 5.1 mhl in Asia Pacific last year, up from 4 mhl in 2012 and 2.9 mhl in 2011.

Mr Choo noted that with the total volume of over 11 mhl, Heineken Asia Pacific far outshines competitors in market share in the premium category of beers. The firm also has large stakes in many local brands in various markets, such as Bintang in Indonesia and Kirin in Japan.

Overall group revenue for Heineken Asia Pacific grew to €2.4 billion (S$4.1 billion) last year, up from €1.2 billion in 2011.

The company has different priorities in different countries, Mr Choo added. "In some, we go for market share. In others, we go for profit."

In Singapore, Mr Choo aims to expand the company. As the export hub for Tiger, and with the beer quality already established, Mr Choo intends to improve productivity by investing in both equipment and technology.

"We want to be more cost competitive... At the same time, maintaining quality."

He also intends to grow the sales of Tiger in the countries it is exported to.

Outside of work, Mr Choo likes visiting supermarkets with his wife, a former polytechnic marketing lecturer, and his four children - three daughters and a son, aged between six and 14.

It is partly an "occupational hazard", he said, of the interest he has in supermarkets. But he also plays games there with the children, challenging them to find "something that is red and less than $3", for example.

At home, the chartered accountant unwinds by teaching them mathematics, using an iPad to draw models.

"Having four kids is a joy, really. I'm proud to call myself a family man," he said.