It’s been said that life is like a blank canvas and it’s up to the individual how he or she wishes to paint it. These sentiments are shared by Yaw Seng Heng, Group Managing Director of the reigning total coating solutions provider in Asia, Nippon Paint Malaysia. In an interview with the peak, yaw reveals his secrets to staying on top of his game:
Every work day is different, especially when you are managing multiple countries with different stages of business growth that provide a different set of challenges altogether. Sitting behind a desk is also not my cup of tea, which is why I spend almost three weeks a month out of the country. I prefer to be where the action is, which means spending most of my time tackling daily operational issues, attending trade and market visits, as well as engaging with our stakeholders, customers and suppliers. I am also a firm believer of systems and ensuring that these systems are optimised and running smoothly, which is part of my responsibility. This includes continuous engagement with my team members, through project reviews and providing guidance and support whenever necessary to ensure that all our strategic plans are properly executed and well on track.
I started at this company on 1 April 1985 and it was my first job. There have certainly been some challenges along the way. A decade ago, we were the challenger brand while the top spot was dominated by a competitor with a very strong brand heritage. Back then, the market was almost stagnant and saturated with many players with similar offerings. Since we couldn’t beat them on their playing field, it became clear that I would have to create a new playing field – one that thrives on innovation, provides variety and more value to the customers, while having the potential to expand the coatings market. We decided it was time to take a bold step in changing the paint landscape through brand and product innovations. Since taking over the market leadership in 2008, our business has quadrupled. Another challenge was to drive efficiency and productivity within the organisation through systems, which means the ISO 9001 Quality Management System, the ISO 14001 Environmental Management System and the OHSAS 18001 Occupational Health and Safety Assessment System. We did this by developing an optimised supply chain management system as well as ensuring the seamless integration of all business functions through SAP, an enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. My 32-year journey with Nippon Paint has been truly a fulfilling one – and I truly learnt a lot from my team as well as from various business practitioners.
Designation: Group Managing Director, Nippon Paint Malaysia Group.
Education: Bachelor of Chemistry from University of Malaya.
Best Business Advice: “Obtain the right and relevant information before making a decision! That’s why it’s critical that in Nippon Paint, we’ve streamlined the information flow and worked using systems that provide us with a birds-eye view of the organisation to facilitate an efficient and effective decision making process.”
It is through these strategic efforts and our consistent commitment in serving our target markets that I have been able to witness the Group’s multiple industry recognitions. This includes the Reader’s Digest Trusted Brands Award Malaysia (for 11 consecutive years), the Platinum Award for the highest recognition under the Paint Category for Reader’s Digest Trusted Brands Award Malaysia in 2016, the Paint Company of the Year Award by Frost & Sullivan 2016, and the New Product Innovation Leadership Award 2016 for Nippon Paint VirusGuard, which is Malaysia’s first anti-viral paint that inhibits the growth of virus responsible for H1N1 and Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD). //As the number one Total Coatings Solutions Provider in Asia, we offer a comprehensive range of coating solutions that can cater to endto- end market demands, which include aesthetics, wellness, costefficient as well as green solutions. In 2006, we were the first company to introduce odourless paint in Malaysia, which has since become an industry standard. We’ve have also succeeded in spearheading a series of industryfirst innovations, including Nippon Paint Odour-less AirCare®, which can improve indoor air quality by absorbing formaldehyde, and Nippon Paint Weatherbond Solareflect®, which helps reduce surface temperature indoors. There’s also our 3D textured paint known as the Momento® Special Effect Paint Series, which offers a more creative finishing compared to ordinary wallpaper and can also be used for both the exterior as well as interior – we see a growing opportunity to share the practicality of this series, especially amongst home décor aficionados and interior designers. Nippon Paint has also been in the forefront of championing green solutions, which has led to the introduction of its Green Choice Series, which offers waterbased coatings that have no added lead or mercury, and near-zero Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC).
Although we have firmly positioned ourselves in the architectural segment, we have also realised that the automotive segment is another area of growth for us, with technology playing a vital role in bolstering its automotive refinish solutions. Back in 2009, we launched the automotive refinish business as an after-market coating solution to complement our OEM business that was launched in the 1970s. We have also introduced the Nax Crystal 9905, which provides an unrivalled glossy finish and armour-like protection that increases durability and scratchresistance. The automotive segment is definitely an area that we hope to introduce new technologies and improved solutions in the near future.
Nippon Paint has a strong driving spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation – both of these form an integral part of our company’s culture. These two driving principles also define who I am, which in turn empowers me to make decisions on what’s best for the company and its business. This includes setting up systems, developing innovative products and expanding to foreign markets. As long as the ideas benefit the company and its business, I will pursue them. I’m also motivated by the fact that Nippon Paint is the top coatings solution provider in Asia and among the top four in the world. I enjoy this intense competition as it drives us to constantly innovate and evolve our business model, which in turn will enable this company to continue to achieve greatness. Taking the brand to a more dominant position is the next logical step and, in order to achieve this, we must continue innovating not just to drive our brand, products and services, but in everything that we do. Innovation is only at its peak once it is harnessed for a single goal, which in this case is to bring a smile on our customers’ faces.
At Nippon Paint, we strive to stay ahead of the competition by placing strong emphasis on R&D activities as well as the spirit of innovation – both of which are the company’s core priorities. Adapting the Japanese kaizen work culture has also greatly influenced the company’s management style as these principles are what have helped shaped the leaders of our company to consistently ‘change for the better’ – a mantra we live by at Nippon Paint! This is a daily commitment that, when done correctly, improves productivity and eventually humanises the workplace – which is something that we have held close to our hearts throughout our journey in these last 50 years. Our work culture promotes transparency, trust and confidence amongst employees across all management levels. As for teamwork, it is reflected through various decision-making processes in which we ensure that these required discussions are supported by relevant data while strictly adhering to legislations and good governance.