IN THIS week’s Success: The Insight Story column, Yoodo head Chow Tuck Mun (pix) tells SunBiz it is important to harness a person’s strength for the benefit of the individual and the team

Adapt to the environment that you are in

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

In my career so far, there was one period and a role which stand out and have taught me a lot. This was when I started and ran my own technology startup many years ago. Here I was – suddenly an entrepreneur, a leader, the sales manager, the technology manager, the HR manager and others as I tried to build the business.

I was still below 30 at that time and still had much to learn about running a business and had to accelerate my learning because of that. I learnt many skillsets of running a business, some which I apply today. It was a challenging time both from a business and a personal point of view as starting a business takes up financial and emotional resources. It built my character as it gave me experiences on how to deal with setbacks and challenges.

I’ve been in multiple roles and industries, and one learns from every role. A trait which I believe is important and that has helped me is that one must always be willing to learn and be adaptable to the environment that one is in.

What traits do you look for in talent, or how do you decide who is right for a job?

When hiring, it’s important to look at the role and also the level. At times, you are looking for the hard skills and experience so that he or she can hit the ground running.

In general, attitude is one of the more important traits. Having a positive and can-do attitude is something I look for. Other traits include the willingness to learn and help each other. This is because it’s important to have a good team whereby the team members are supportive of each other.

A job is sometimes a marathon although there will be spurts of initiatives. This means that it’s important that a talent also has the perseverance to drive for success. Sometimes, it depends on the company, too. For example, as Yoodo is a digital telco, I look for someone who is digitally savvy, has a lot of energy and someone that possesses the values of the company

How do you think the industry you are in will evolve?

From a technology perspective, we’re going to get more speed, lower latency and reduced error rate with 5G. Telecommunication companies are not just going to be serving communications between humans but also start seeing more human to machine (and vice versa) and machine to machine communications. This means we will start seeing the Internet of Things (IoT) sector having more opportunities to grow due to low-cost connectivity solutions. The increased bandwidth will also allow for better virtual reality and augmented reality experiences.

We will see a more consistent user experience as heavy data games and video content can be streamed effortlessly.

In terms of the consumer, the demands will evolve. We’re already starting to see the modern consumers wanting more say in what they buy. Customers will want more personalisation to the product and services they purchase, and we will see more requirements for the segment of one.

Consumers will be looking at the digital journey. They will want to be able to do everything online so it would be important to have a seamless app and web customer journey. Everything must be in their reach at anytime, anywhere.

Customer engagement will also evolve. If the industry is keen to get the younger generation of customers on board, we will have to be savvy in how we engage our customers. Customers will want to be serviced via channels that they are familiar with, for example via WhatsApp chat.

We all know about the industrial revolution, are we in for a technological revolution? Share your thoughts.

We’re already in the midst of the technological revolution. The Covid-19 pandemic has probably accelerated this as more and more advanced technologies are introduced that require minimal human intervention.

One area is the industrial IoT. We’re starting to see companies integrating devices, sensors and machines in their operations. This means their data is gathered and analysed is every area and in real time. This will definitely bring about improved productivity and efficiency in operations since issues can be detected quickly. The amount of data collected can also be used for improvements.

Another area that is growing rapidly is the aspect of a digital twin. A digital twin is a replica of a real-world asset and allows for integration between the physical and digital worlds. We’re seeing companies like Meta working on the Metaverse whereby, in the near future, one can seamlessly move between the physical form to the digital avatar. This means changes in how they interact with each other. It will allow for people to meet and interact more meaningfully, especially if they are not in the same location, thereby bringing more benefits to many industries.

In the area of 5G, we will see more human and machine interaction where there will be more robotics and automation. We are starting to see more big data and advanced analytics being applied to speed up production and service cycles.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional life?

I’ve not had official mentors but have had a few leaders from whom I’ve learnt a lot and sought advice from. These are some leaders from whom I’ve been able to pick up valuable pointers. Things even as simple as how to run meetings, how they approach different people and how they cared for their employees.

I’ve seen how these leaders develop a strong team and have put some of these learnings into use. Some of the advice has shaped the person I am today. I hope I will be able to have a similar effect to my team at Yoodo.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received on your career?

One piece of advice that I’ve taken to heart, and continue to use every day, is when building and managing my team, I need to focus on the strengths of a person. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, but it helps when we identify a person’s forte and help develop it further. People can do wonders in their role when their supervisor is able to harness this strength both for the individual and the team.

Who is the business leader you admire the most?

A business leader whom I admire a lot is a previous supervisor of mine, Tan Sri Jamaludin Ibrahim. Jamaludin is someone who has built companies. He is responsible for the growth of a local telco and helped it gained strong positioning in the market which has continued until today, and for building a strong regional telecommunications company, Axiata.

He is visionary, someone who is always thinking ahead and planning while still working on the present. He has a calm demeanour which rubs off onto the team. Telecommunications is a fast-changing industry, and there will be a lot of challenges cropping up all the time but he is able to take a step back and clearly identify the challenges. This helps his team focus and thus product results.

Jamaludin is also someone who cares about the development of team. He is a person who believes in cultivating good leaders and will spend resources to achieve that.

How do you stay abreast of issues affecting your industry?

To understand the needs and demands of consumers, and ensure that we are at the forefront of addressing them, Yoodo always needs to be in the know. To accomplish this, we have numerous teams dedicated to various target segments and social media platforms, staying alert for news and updates that are relevant to our industry.

I keep up to date with the on-goings of the industry via news, reading and networking with industry players. It helps also that when you are in the industry, there are many reports that are available. Interacting with people with different backgrounds helps me understand various perspectives about Yoodo and the telco industry in general.

At the same time I am active on social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram to get up to speed on the latest trends for Gen Z and millennials as they are Yoodo’s target segment. Their feedback is what drives us to continually innovate and offer new services and plans.

What man-made innovation confounds you? Why?

I don’t think it’s an innovation that confounds me, but it does impress me a lot. This innovation is the telephone. It’s quite amazing that even at the beginning of the telephone invention, two people were able to talk to each other as if there is no distance between, them even though they could be miles apart.

Now, we have the mobile telephone, which allows people to stay connected wherever they go.

Phones today are more like small computers on the go, with many things being able to be managed on the phone. Today, you don’t even need your wallet anymore as long as you have your phone in your pocket. You can make payments, verify your identity all through your phone. Moving forward, it’s likely that the humble telephone will continue to evolve and confound us.

A must-read for every business owner or manager is ...

One that I’ve liked due to the inspiring nature of the business, brand building and larger than life founder is Business Stripped Bare by Richard Branson. It’s a book that was written some time ago, but it still is one that can help form insights on building a business.

In this book, Branson talks about the theory of business. He touches on the many areas that a business owner or manager needs to focus on – people, brand, innovation, and leadership. His quote “find good people – set them free” is something that I’ve tried to incorporate in my role. I believe it’s important to find good people and they will be the ones generating good ideas and implementing them.