Looking back, what do you consider the defining moments after your decision to embark on the retail department store business?
The defining moment for me was way back in 1999, when the opportunity arose for us to engineer a management buyout of our Penang GAMA Group of Companies and KL SOGO Group of Companies. At that point in time, SOGO Japan had restructured its overseas businesses to focus primarily on its home market.After we acquired 100 per cent interest in both Penang GAMA Group of Companies and KL SOGO Group of Companies, we have been managing the stores in Penang and Kuala Lumpur since 2000. Both groups of companies have been able to enjoy year to year successes due to the strong support of our regular customers in Georgetown, Penang, and Batu Road, Kuala Lumpur.
Considering the business you are managing, what do you regard as the crucial factors for you to stay on top of your game?
What’s crucial for me has always been our fully committed and completely dedicated managers and fellow colleagues – the talented human resources in our TeamSogo – who help me manage our department store businesses so that we stay on top of our game.
Looking into your crystal ball, what do you foresee are the game-changing challenges facing your industry?
The challenges that the Malaysian retail industry is facing include meeting up to the demands of the Internet savvy generation of millennial customers as well as the impact of e-commerce platforms that have already arrived in Malaysia. In order to attract the millennial customers of today, we will adapt all our brick and mortar stores into lifestyle venues and fulfilment centres. As humans, we are basically gregarious, we need to go out and socialise.
Single out a leader in the corporate world you wish to emulate.
Steve Forbes of Forbes magazine, which celebrated its centennial last year, said that his family’s guiding principle, as laid down by his grandfather BC Forbes, was (to paraphrase) “…business is not about making a pile of money, it is about making people happy.” We have a database of approximately 500,000 customers under our CRM programme and we lovingly call them our dear ‘Sogorians’. We want to emulate Forbes’s family’s saying. If we can satisfy and render our esteemed Sogorians happy, we will have a bright future.
Why do you think CEOs need a dose of James Bond in their lives?
We need to be like James Bond (without the macho sex appeal) for getting things done, and overcoming challenges and creating effective practical ‘workarounds’ in order to achieve our objectives and attain success.
As Managing Director, what excites and worries you most?
The most exciting part of my profession is to deal with people and render to them their heartfelt wishes; what worries me most is the impact of rising inflation and, consequently, the diminishing purchasing power of our dear Sogorians.
What are your strategies to make Sogo (KL) Sdn Bhd the most successful company in your industry?
We greatly emphasise human resource training and education. We have tied up with Santa Clara University in California as well as the Open University in Kuala Lumpur. We encourage our managers and fellow colleagues in TeamSogo to undertake further adult education to upgrade their business knowledge and professional skills. We have also invested heavily in both our hardware and software computer systems under our ICT Department, and we are spending a lot of management time in data mining and target marketing.
Share with us any impactful advice you received that still inspires you today.
I believe one of the best marketeers alive today is Sir Richard Branson, who our very own Tan Sri Tony Fernandes considers as his idol and icon. Sir Richard Branson famously said (to paraphrase) that his “purpose in business is to help make peoples’ lives easier”. I verily believe in Sir Richard Branson’s wisdom and I recommend it to one and all.
Click here to read more CEO Dialogue conversations.