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Dato Sri’ Dr. Eric Yap, CEO of Technology Revolution On-Net (TRON)

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This dynamic CEO of Technology Revolution On-Net Sdn Bhd (Tron) is undeterred by competition amongst giants in the technology arena. In fact he relishes the challenge and sees it as an opportunity to engage in technology- related businesses. His mind does not cease to amaze those who work closely with him.

Born and raised in Kuantan, to parents from Fujian, China, even at a very young age, Dato’ Sri Dr Eric Yap’s thirst and passion for lifelong learning helped set him on a path as a serial entrepreneur which led him to various industries, including insurance, property, construction, travel, security and telecommunications. He attributed the success to his mother who had set high expectations for him from his early days. After passing all his exams in the country, he continued his higher education in the United Kingdom.

In June 2014 he was bestowed an Honorary Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Business Administration by an American University for outstanding achievement in his business career and contributions to society.

In 2012 he was conferred the title DIMP (which carried the title Dato) and in 2013, the SSAP (which carried the title Dato’ Sri) both by His Royal Highness the Sultan of Pahang. It was in October 2015 that he was awarded the First Diamond Entrepreneurship by the Sultan of Pahang on the occasion of His Royal Highness’ 85th birthday.

On 10 March 2016, Tron was awarded the SME’s Corporate Award Best Brand in ICT by the Brand Laureate SME’s Best Brands Award 2015-2016 and Dato’ Sri Dr Eric Yap was awarded the SME’s Brand Leadership Award. He attributed his leadership style to the many articles he read from books and management articles, singling out Jack Ma as the person he most admire and who inspired him most.

Dato’ Sri Dr Eric Yap started his career at MAA Bhd as a life insurance agent and quickly rose to up the ranks to Agency Supervisor and subsequently Agency Manager. That earned him the much coveted Million Dollar Round Table membership where only the industry’s top 1% is recognized. From Insurance he went on to Property Trading and established two companies dealing in investment and property holdings in Malaysia and Hong Kong. It was inevitable for him to diversify his business to furniture and home furnishing as well as an interior design firm having managed property trading since he was in the property line. Later he went on to set up a travel and tour agency, a security company and recently Tron.

“I don’t believe in doing things halfway as it is a waste of my time, money and efforts. I always push harder telling myself that I’m nearer to my goals and success is just within my grasp.” Holding on to this principle, he transformed Tron into a lean and mean team with just 46 people when he took over the company. The revamp, including successful partnerships with different partners, set Tron on the right path and it is looking good today.

Rather than jumping into the price war game, Dato’ Sri Dr Eric Yap believes in leading with innovations and providing more value added rewards to Tron subscribers. Tron is the first Telco to offer unconditional 365 days validity without extra charges to subscribers so long as they reload on a monthly basis. Besides that, Tron subscribers will also receive Tron Points for every purchase and these points can be used to redeem reload coupons and other offers from Tron and partners. Hence Tron’s tagline ‘It’s Good to Share’ is to consistently provide economical and value added services such as incentives and promotional plans to Tron subscribers. Tron was also the first in the country to launch a 4G Global SIM that allows ultra-fast browsing and downloading. Tron is constantly looking into introducing new products to the public. “We are also expanding our network to South East Asian countries like Thailand (already started operations), Indonesia and the Philippines.”

Dato’ Sri Dr Eric Yap’s stand on ‘leadership by example’ proves he is a leader to be reckoned with when he made the first RM500,000 sales for Tron after he took over the reins. In his books, nothing is impossible “if you set your mind on it.” He had to make some pretty tough decisions and set goals and objectives for all his employees to accomplish. He even had to sacrifice his own personal time and learn as much as possible about the MVNO industry which was totally new to him then. A firm believer in providing opportunities to all his employees to grow and shine, he looks to loyalty, dedication and teamwork. His tenacity paid off when the route he took was not the usual MVNO way and that made some of the competitors sit up and take notice. In fact he even promoted his personal assistant to the position of Assistant Vice President of the company.

Corporate Social Responsibility is a term that is dear to Dato’ Sri Dr Eric Yap and he has a soft spot for the less fortunate, especially orphans and the elderly. He takes pride in being able to give back to society and what better way than to engage the entire company on CSR activities where 10% of the proceeds from sales of reloads will be contributed to selected charitable organizations on a monthly basis. Tron is the first in this region to embark on such a CSR initiative. The first project kicked off in January this year with festive gathering for the less fortunate both young and old.

Crime prevention is another topic close to his heart. He wants to educate the young and old alike on crime prevention and security. As part of this initiative, Tron has sponsored CCTVs to Sekolah Kebangsaan Batu Lima in Kepala Batas Penang in the beginning of 2016 and sponsored festive dinners for ‘warga emas” and orphans. Tron also launched and introduced a GPS tracking device that will enable parents or guardians to keep an eye on their children and the elderly. The device allows parents or guardians to check their children’s whereabouts and whether they are in a safe surrounding. For the elderly, the device allows SOS calls during emergencies.

On a personal note, Dato’ Sri Dr Eric Yap believes that everyone has to shape his or her own destiny. “When writing the story of your life, don’t let anyone else hold the pen” and “that means you are in control of your own life and the directions you take.”

Callum Connects

Benedict Heng, Founder of Mr. Farmer

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Benedict Heng is bringing back the ‘kampong’ days of having the Ho Liao (good ingredients) for Ho Jiak (good tasting) food.

What’s your story?
I’m Ben from Mr. Farmer. Mr. Farmer is an online grocer dedicated to supplying the freshest produce to our customers. We believe in sustainable and ethical farming. Since a young age, I have always been an avid food lover (especially meats), developing a strong interest in all things delicious. That is why I ventured into the F&B industry, working as a junior cook for 3 years.

Midway through my career, I made a move to the finance industry to pursue monetary rewards. I dove into high-risk investments and I made lots of money from these investments. However, the good fortune did not last long and all these came crashing down when I suffered a tremendous loss. This coincided with the time that I had just started my own family and it was a huge blow to me both materially and mentally. It was this crash that made me realize that this life wasn’t for me. I went on a hiatus and eventually, it was only through the strong support from my family that I managed to tide over this tough episode.

I went back to help the family business and this was how Mr Farmer came about. My family has been in the food industry for many decades and one thing they noticed from years of experience is that sustainable farming practices are not as developed as in Europe. This is why through Mr Farmer, we hope that we can provide the best quality products to families out there who want the best ingredients for their loved ones.

What excites you most about your industry?
Delicious and wholesome food excites me. I believe food is a critical component of life and it brings people together. The opportunity to serve the community with fresh produce for a healthy life, that brings me joy.

I feel that there is still so much more we can do to improve the quality of food and bring it to the masses. One of the key components of ensuring greater quality of food is to support ethical and sustainable farming. Due to commercialization and urbanization, most farming practices these days are no longer the way they were in the old “kampong” times. Shortcuts are taken, standards are compromised, all in the name of profit. At Mr. Farmer, profit is important too but we want to focus on the concept of One Welfare – sustainable farming directly impacts our health. Our vision is to bring back the ‘kampong’ days of having the Ho Liao (good ingredients) for Ho Jiak (good tasting) food.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore. I call Singapore my home as it’s where my family and close friends are. I also travel frequently to Malaysia and APAC for work.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
It’s definitely Singapore. There is just so much this tiny city can offer! Singapore has been globally recognized for its top-notch business environment providing its residents with developed infrastructure, political stability and excellent connectivity. These factors have given us an outstanding support system for businesses to strive.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Surround yourself with people that inspire you, challenge you to rise higher, make you better and, keep them in your life.

Who inspires you?
I draw inspiration from my uncle, who is the head of both the family and business. He takes care of our family matters at home and manages hundreds of employees at work. Handling both the family and business side of things can be tricky, but he has shown me that success can be sustainable and done with a conscience. His guiding philosophy of handling business and family is simply, to have a big heart.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Even just one day of separation from the day the meat is slaughtered, makes a world of difference to its flavour.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I have come to learn that awareness is the beginning of everything. If I had my time again, I would have probably spent more time figuring out who I truly am and with that self-awareness, begun to lead my life with more purpose and meaning.

How do you unwind?
I like to spend my free time sipping white coffee at my favourite coffee place. I enjoy taking in the surrounding sights and letting my mind wander freely. It allows me to unwind and gain clarity at the same time. It also helps me organize my thoughts to prepare for the week ahead.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
It would be Bangkok as the people there are genuinely friendly and hospitable. They say people are what defines the city and I couldn’t agree more with this. I also enjoy the ‘laid back’ vibe of Bangkok. Not to mention Bangkok has all the good food and awesome shopping choices too!

Everyone in business should read this book:
“Spin selling” by Neil Reckham. It’s an amazing book that teaches you a process designed to help you successfully sell your products and services to business buyers.

Shameless plug for your business:
We at Mr. Farmer have the best tasting meats in Singapore, do a blind test and you will know why it’s Michelin chefs’ preferred choice. Not only are we very confident about the taste, we are also proud to say that all our products are chemical, hormone and antibiotic free. We also focus a lot on supporting ethical and sustainable farming practices believing in the ‘One Welfare’ concept. Do check us out if you enjoy good quality food like us!

How can people connect with you?
[email protected]

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started,
built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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Callum Connects

Zac Chua, Founder & CEO of The Kettle Gourmet

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Zac Chua’s popcorn business validated itself straight away and fast tracked him to the startup world. Zac now employs 11 people and shifts 500 bags of popcorn daily.

What’s your story?
It’s a crazy one. It was an accidental startup. If you think about it, no university graduate would ever dream of becoming a popcorn seller. We crashed our first tech event to validate our idea and it took off from there. I bought a logo for $7 from a designers marketplace, printed some cheap name cards, and built a 1 page landing page. Sales started pouring in and eventually, we were serving B2B clients (corporate pantries) and we have never looked back. Today we move about 500 bags daily, we have 11 employees and we are growing. Talk about a validation that worked in our favour.

What excites you most about your industry?
It’s food! Everybody loves food! In Singapore the F&B scene is brutally competitive and it spurs me on to fight and compete for market share and to prove to myself that I can do it. It keeps me going and I won’t stop until we become the market leader.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Singapore, and have traveled to most of Southeast Asia.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore! Even though Singapore has a high cost of living, the Government is actually very supportive of startups. They provide grants for us to tap into, and the technological infrastructure makes it possible for us to compete on a global scale. I believe if you can succeed in your business in Singapore, you can succeed in most of Southeast Asia.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
You only need to be right once, and the rest is history.

Who inspires you?
My father, who was a VC. In fact he was the one who gave me the best piece of advice which I shared above. Having one successful exit, he showed me that it’s okay to fail a million times – all it takes is just one time for you to win in business and in life.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The power of compounding.

  • Mary and John are the same age.
  • Mary saves $2k annually from the age of 19-25 – so she puts $14k into her portfolio
  • John saves $2k annually from the age of 26-65 – so he puts $80k into his portfolio, but 7 years after Mary.
  • If both are able to generate 10% per annum, who would have more at age 65?
  • John of course! But how much more?
  • Mary will have $944,641 whilst John will have $973,704
  • Think about it! Mary puts in only $14k but John delays for 7 years and puts in $80k.

CRAZY RIGHT!?!?

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing, my mistakes taught me how to become a better me. But if I really must choose, I’d say take more time to find the right business partner.

How do you unwind?
Poker, Mahjong and Dota 2.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Vietnam! Things are cheap, people are warm and friendly, and their coffee fills up my life. I would love to retire there if possible.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The richest man in Babylon

Shameless plug for your business:
We don’t need a plug. Just try our competitors and you’ll understand why!

How can people connect with you?
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chuazongyou
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/zacchua

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started,
built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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