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12 Strategies of Success from AirAsia’s Founder Tony Fernandes



Who is 49-year-old Tan Sri Anthony Francis “Tony” Fernandes, who has built the publicly listed AirAsia Group into Asia’s largest low-cost airline, with over 120 destinations servicing over 220 million passengers?

AirAsia has been named the “World’s Best Low Cost Airline” in the annual World Airline Survey by Skytrax for five consecutive years from 2009 to 2013. What are his success strategies? Here is our list based on interviews and some research, not in any order:

A good grasp of finance — Similar to Megaworld’s Andrew Tan, Fernandes is an accountant by training and good at numbers. Educated at the London School of Economics, from 1987 to 1989 he worked as the financial controller of British tycoon Richard Branson’s Virgin Records in London. He is from Malaysia’s ethnic Indian minority, with ancestral roots in India’s former Portuguese colony of Goa, which explains his Portuguese-sounding surname.  Fernandes was formerly Southeast Asian regional vice president for Warner Music Group from 1992-2001. No need to become accountants, but we all need a good understanding of accounting and finance.

Determination — During a speech at the Sabah International Business Luncheon Talk 2012, Fernandes was quoted by the Borneo Post as saying nothing is impossible to achieve as long as there is determination. He turned around an unprofitable and small airline company with only two airplanes to one that now has a 160-strong fleet of aircraft in only 12 years!

Do not fear failure — “I don’t care about failing because I do not want to sit down in my older years and say, ‘How come I didn’t try?’ So we did and Malaysia is the country which allowed four Malaysians to go out and make their dreams come true,” Fernandes said.

Take care of key assets, your people — One of Fernandes’ strengths is his caring for and nurturing good employees. He sees people as the “key asset” of any business and hopes to help develop their full potential, passions and dreams. His business offices have no walls and he seeks ideas from his staff. On Dec. 12, Fernandes gave 263 Chopard watches totaling five million ringgit as gifts to 263 staff members who’ve been with the company 10 years. Chopard is a 153-year-old Swiss luxury watch brand. Also, after typhoon Yolanda destroyed Tacloban City, Fernandes reportedly sought out one of his employees whose home was wiped out and I heard the tycoon will help rebuild the house.

Branding — JG Summit Holdings founder John Gokongwei Jr. years ago told me that earning profits is not enough in business, that it is important to create a brand or brands. One believer in the power of brands is Tony Fernandes. He said it took him seven years to consciously and consistently build up the AirAsia brand name and logo as distinct and internationally known.

Marketing — Tony Fernandes invests in and excels in marketing. He said: “If you have a great product but no one knows about it, it’s history.” Fernandes reminds me of his former boss, Virgin Group’s colorful Richard Branson and America’s high-profile realty developer Donald Trump. Like Trump, Fernandes this year hosted the Asian version of the TV series The Apprentice Asia, with the winner being Filipino UP Diliman economics graduate Jonathan Allen S. Yabut, who is now also chief marketing officer of AirAsia Zest.

Support from the government — As in most societies, entrepreneurs cannot go against the government but need their support. Fernandes got his break in 2001 when then Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad heard of his dream to start an airline and advised him to just buy the heavily in-debt, government-linked AirAsia. Fernandes mortgaged his house and got personal savings to buy this firm with two old jets and US$11 million worth of debt. He bought the company for one ringgit (about 26 US cents). After he turned around AirAsia, in 2003 Fernandes lobbied Dr. Mahathir to raise the “Open Skies” idea with leaders of Thailand, Indonesia, and Singapore, leading to these nations giving AirAsia and other budget airlines landing rights.

Use digital technology — Fernandes believes in using digital technology for his businesses. Much of his business comes from In fact, one unique thing about AirAsia flights is its inflight magazine Travel 3Sixty, which has this reminder: “Touch me, feel me and flip me over, but you can’t take me home. Read me online.” I think Fernandes isn’t scrimping on publishing costs, it is part of his clever marketing strategy to make passengers discover and enjoy his website.

Generosity — Fernandes is legendary for his personal and corporate generosity. He gives people big gifts, not only to generate loyalty to the business, but he is also generous in philanthropy, for example, his relief assistance to typhoon Yolanda victims here in the Philippines. His AirAsia Foundation also recently supported the social enterprise Rags2Riches led by Reese Fernandez-Ruiz of the Philippines. Rags2Riches is a genuine NGO helping underprivileged Filipino artisans transform their lives and turn scrap into high-fashion bags and other items.

Passion — Passion seems to be a common denominator among achievers in business, the arts, sports and other fields. Tony Fernandes hires people with passion. He is exceptionally passionate, not only about his firms, charities and employees, but also about sports. He owns a football team in England, an F1 car racing team and is a major supporter of Asia’s biggest mixed martial arts sport, the OneFC.

Bold vision — Tony Fernandes has a bold, global and long-range vision for his various companies. As a child, he dreamt of three things: running an airline, owning an English football club and owning a Formula One racing team.

Dynamic corporate culture — Fernandes said: “In AirAsia we consider ourselves basically a dream factory. We deliberately decided that we wanted a company where people can pursue their passion and we wanted to make use of all the talent that we have in-house.  The culture that we have stems from the fact that we want openness and we want people to be creative and passionate about what they do. In order to do that, we’ve got to inspire them.”

This article was written by WilsonLeeFlores. see more.


Lessons Learnt from The Lean Startup



The Lean Startup book authored by Eric Ries has been sitting on my shelf for quite sometime now, so since I am currently contributing to the making of a startup I figured I’ll take a look into it.

The book is divided into 3 parts, after reading the first two I had my mind blown with the pragmatic and scientific approach to building startups that is described in the book.

In this post, I would like to share some important insights that I gained regarding building highly innovative businesses.

Validating Value Proposition And Growth Strategy Is The Priority

Usually, a highly innovative startup company is working in its most early stage at building a product or a service that will create a new market.

Consumers or businesses have not been yet exposed to something similar to what is going to be built by the startup. Therefore the absolute priority for startups in early stage is to validated their value proposition i.e. to get real data about eventual customers interest regarding their product/service.

The other priority is to validate that the growth strategy that is going to be executed is, in fact, effective.

The growth strategy of a startup is its plan to acquire more and more customers in the long term and in a sustainable fashion.

Three kinds of growth strategies are described in the book:

  • paid growth in which you rely on the fact that the customers are going to be charged for the product or service, the cash earned from early users is reinvested in acquiring new users via advertising for example
  • viral growth in which you rely on the fact that customers are going to bring customers as a side effect of using the product/service
  • sticky growth in which you rely on the fact that the customers are going to use the service in some regular fashion, paying for the service each time (via subscription for example).

These growth strategies are sustainable in the sense that they do not require continuous large capital investments or publicity stunts.

It is important to know as soon as possible which strategy or combination of strategies is the most effective at driving growth.

Applying The Scientific Method

The scientific method is a set of techniques that helps us figure out correct stuff. After making some observations regarding a phenomenon, you formulate a hypothesis about that phenomenon.

The hypothesis is an assumption that needs to be proven correct or incorrect. You then design experimentations that are going to challenge the assumption.

The results of the experimentations makes the correctness or incorrectness of the hypothesisclear allowing us to make judgments about its validity.

In the lean startup methodology, your job as an entrepreneur is to formulate two hypothesis:

  • hypothesis of value (assumptions about your value proposition)
  • hypothesis of growth (assumptions about the effectiveness of the growth strategy)

These hypothesis are then validated/invalidated through experimentation. Following the precepts of lean manufacturing, the lean startup methodology prescribes to make experimentations while minimizing/eliminating waste.

In other words, you have to burn minimum cash, effort and time when running experiments.

An experimentation in the lean startup sense is usually an actual product/service and helps startups in early stage learn invaluable things about their eventual future market.

Sometimes startups learn that nobody wants their product/service, imagine spending 8 months worth of engineering, design and promotion work (not to mention cash) in a product/service only to discover that it does not provide value to anyone.

Minimum Viable Products And Feedback

As we pointed out earlier, an experimentation can be an actual product or service and is called the minimum viable product(MVP).

The MVP is built to contain just enough features to validate the value and growth hypotheses, effectively requiring minimum time, effort and cash.

By getting the MVP launched and in front of real users, entrepreneurs can get concrete feedback from them either directly by asking them (in focus groups for example) or via usage analytics.

Analytics scales better then directly talking to customers but the latter is nonetheless used to cross validate results from the former.

It is crucial to focus on metrics that creates fine grained visibility about the performance of the business when building(or using) a usage analytics system. These metrics are called actionable metrics because they can link causes and effects clearly allowing entrepreneurs to understand the consequences of ideally each action executed. Cohort analysis is an example of a analytics strategy that focuses on actionable metrics.

The bad kind of metrics are called vanity metrics, these tend to hide how the business is performing, gross numbers like total users count are an example of vanity metrics.

The author cites several examples of different startups that managed to validate or debunk their early assumption by building stripped down and non scalable MVPs and even sometimes by not building software at all.

You would be surprised to hear for example how the Dropbox folks in their early stage managed to created a ~4 minute video demonstrating their product while it was still in development. The video allowed them to get more people signed up in their beta waiting list and raise capital more easily.

Closing Thoughts

In the first two parts of the book, the author talks also about how employees inside big companies working on highly innovative products and services can benefit greatly from the lean startup approach, although very interesting this is not very useful for me right now.

The third part, talks about the challenges that arises when the startup gets big and starts to stabilize and how to address them. Basically it revolves around not loosing the innovative spirit of the early days, again, this is not very useful for me so maybe for good future reading.


About the Author

This article was produced by Tech Dominator. see more.

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How to Create Buzz around Your Startup Idea



Chase the vision, not the money, the money will end up following you.

– Tony Hsieh, Zappos CEO

There is something very exciting starting up a business. Startups offer you a chance to do something fresh and take new ideas to the public. But if you’re going to succeed, you need to get it right from the very start of the journey. Creating buzz around your startup’s launch is possible, and here are some ideas to help you do it.

Blog About Your Startup Journey

This is a great thing to do if you want to create a personable and refreshing brand image. People like to see how your business is doing and how it grows from an idea into a fully fledged business. Blog about what you’re doing and how your business is expanding. If you can develop an audience of readers ahead of your startup’s official launch, it will be easier for you to hit the ground running. You can then make the blog the voice of the company as it grows and starts to turn a profit. This is something that you should think very carefully about when starting up a business.

Make Plenty of Announcements

You should try to make a lot of announcements when you are leading up to the launch of your startup. There are plenty of people out there that will be interested in hearing about what you’re doing. You need to start by creating a strong presence on all the key social media sites. If you can do this, you will build up an audience that will then be receptive to your messages. They will also be there to spread the word and share announcements with their friends on social media platforms. This can be hugely important when you’re trying to raise brand awareness and expose your announcements to as many people as possible.

Organize an Event and Invite People

Organizing a real event that people can turn up to and attend can be a great idea. It makes your startup’s official launch feel more real. If you just set a random date for the launch and don’t mark it in any way, it will be much more difficult to create a buzz. Hire a stage, sound system and find bleacher rentals to host the event. Then you can write a speech and make a plan for the schedule of the launch. If you can do this well, you will create a lot of buzz, and maybe get some more coverage for the startup too.

Reach Out to People Who Can Give You Publicity

There are plenty of people out there that might be able to help you achieve the publicity and coverage you crave. When your business is being talked about, people will hear about your brand and what it’s doing. So, you need to make sure that you reach out to many people in the press, the media and the blogosphere who can help you. There are many business magazines and websites that write profiles of new business and young entrepreneurs. If you can contact some of these people, they might be interested in offering you some coverage. Don’t underestimate how important this could be. Hopefully these ideas will help you with starting up a business.


About the Author

This article was produced by SolVibrations is a multi-author self improvement blog, aiming to inspire creativity within.

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