How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Life has its ups and downs – and in the cycle opportunities will emerge. I saw the opportunity one day and took the risk to enter the bus manufacturing business. While it was not easy, I never gave up on the business – especially during the time of the financial crisis in 1997, when we managed to convince our bankers and suppliers on the viability and potential of our business, and to continue working together.
Overcoming such crises and challenges with patience and a “don’t give up” attitude has made me a better leader and a stronger person.
What traits do you look for in your talent or how do you decide who is right for a job?
First, I feel that it is important to look for people who have an interest in what they do. Interest leads to passion, which then drives a person to learn and grow their skills more quickly.
Second, it is important for a person to be creative, not simply looking at numbers and physics, but also thinking about new improved designs, technologies, and different perspectives when working on a project.
Another important trait is someone who has “team spirit” and is able to work with different types of people (different colleagues, suppliers and clients).
When hiring in GML, these are the traits that we keep a lookout for. That is how we have acquired a well-rounded team who can work well together and come up with innovative solutions to any problems we encounter in a project.
How do you think the industry you are in will evolve in the future?
Renewable energy is a big focus in the future – as people are becoming more aware and concerned about the environment. People are also turning away from carbon emissions and excessive waste (that cannot be recycled). Therefore, the industry will evolve to focus on more environmentally friendly and sustainable buses.
GML is one of the first companies in the region to build and assemble aluminium bodies on buses. Aluminium buses are more efficient – lighter than steel, while still being as strong – and therefore allows all-types of buses (diesel, electric or hybrid) to be more sustainable (in terms of passenger capacity, fuel consumption and maintenance).
What advice can you offer those looking to start their career/own business?
Read! I believe reading helps a lot. It helps young entrepreneurs learn to be creative and to think critically.
It is so important these days to be able to differentiate yourself and your products to others. People are always looking for something different in this day and age where everything changes so quickly. That is also why it is important to be adaptable to change and look at more innovative or new technologies for their business processes.
Reading helps you keep in touch with the latest trends and developments, or what may become the next popular thing.
What do you want to accomplish in the next five years?
I believe that buses will continue to be one of the most popular modes of transport in the world. There is still room for growth for the company and we aim to become the leading bus body assembler for all buses and coaches in our region and, perhaps, globally.
I have also had thoughts on venturing into new areas and investments, such as expanding from buses to possibly train or rail transit bodies.
Also importantly, it would be great if we could succeed in being the main renewable energy solutions provider of all major chassis companies. I/GML work with many renowned chassis suppliers (such as MAN, Volvo, Mercedes, etc) and so plan to continue to work closely with them in order to further develop and improve our final end product and progress the industry into something even bigger.
Aside from our customers and suppliers, it is also our goal to maintain our talented team of employees and continue to appreciate them and reward them for their accomplishments and contributions to the company – hopefully, we can become one of the top employers in Malaysia.
Most-admired business leader? Why?
I would have to say Robert Kuok. He practically started from nothing and now, he is the epitome of a visionary and risk-taking businessman. One of my favourite quotes come from him – “There are risks in every business, if you are not brave enough to grab the first or the next opportunities then you shall be a poor person forever.”
How do you stay abreast of issues affecting your industry?
As I mentioned previously, reading is important to keep up to date with what is popular, as well as what may be issues that need attending to. I also feel that it is important to maintain strong channels of communication with other captains of the industry, such as suppliers and customers, both locally and internationally.
We are grateful to have such strong partnerships with international entities such as Constellium, MAN, Scania, Mercedes, basically other pioneers of the industry who therefore know the industry inside out. Our suppliers and customers have provided us tremendous with insight and feedback, and with these strong partnerships it has given us the impetus to become the company we are today.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced and what did you learn from it?
I must say the biggest challenge I ever had to face was the 1997 financial crisis. It was a time when domestic business sentiments had soured. The company was under increasing financial strain with higher borrowing costs and financial obligations, putting our business and the company at a dire risk of collapse. However, we didn’t give up.
We looked beyond our horizons, which led to us eventually creating our export and overseas business in Singapore and Australia. We faced some tough competition but at the end of it, we pulled through with our insights and vision of the industry trends and requirements. This resulted in us becoming bigger than we ever were before, and the challenge made us into a stronger and more prosperous international business.
We now supply buses and body kits across Australia, Asia and beyond. This includes the US, Middle East, and Africa.
Therefore, sometimes the bigger challenges can lead to bigger outcomes as long as we don’t stay complacent and are willing to explore new opportunities and take risks to grow.
What are the top three factors you would attribute your success to?
First, be confident. Do not sell yourself or your products short. I believed in my vision and my products and therefore upheld my highest standards on it. I made sure to get the highest quality products and surrounded myself with people who would inspire and encourage me to push forward.
Second, I wasn’t afraid to take risk and opportunities when they came. I have always believed that sometimes it is better to have tried and failed than to never have tried and not know what could be.
Last, but not least, always be hard-working.
Another factor, which I believe has been our key to success – is to always be generous with others, but strict with yourself.