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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

Rishabh Singhvi & Varun Saraf, Co-Founders of Why Q

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Surprised by the lack of delivery services available for local Singaporean hawker stall foods, Rishabh and Varun started their own delivery service.

What’s your story?
Varun and I moved to Singapore in 2008 and soon turned into foodies. After completing our studies at SMU, we worked in corporate offices in the Singapore CBD for 4 years. Here, we faced the problem of long queues and found it hard to find feasible delivery options on a day to day basis. We made it our goal to help others like us, so they don’t face the same problem of finding affordable yet tasty options to eat their daily meal. The name asks all those queuing up at food courts and hawker centres a simple question – Why Queue … when we can bring Singapore’s favorite hawker food to you?

What excites you most about your industry?
The Hawker culture is the most exciting and intriguing part of the food industry in Singapore. It is deep-rooted in the local Singapore culture. There is rich variety of cuisines available under one roof, food is delicious and very affordable. We were very surprised how this part of the food industry was completely ignored by other food deliveries.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and brought up in India and have been staying in Singapore for the past 10 years.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
The ease of running a start-up and the professionalism makes Singapore my favourite city for business. It has the most business-friendly regulations, low start-up costs and takes only a week to register and get your business going.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful.” – Jeff Bezos

Who inspires you?
Hawker Uncle and Aunties are our Hawker Heroes. Most of the stalls are family-run businesses. The dedication and hard-work that they put in is commendable. They come to the hawker centre at 3am to start preparing food for the day and leave only in the evening after cleaning and washing everything.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
We are leaning so much about our hawker partners through our #HawkersOfSG series, inspired by #HumansOfNewYork. For example, one of our hawker partners was into advertising (until the 2008 recession started, after which he started one of the most popular hawker stalls in the country) while the other used to sell and ride Harley Davidson bikes (and now sells black pepper rice bowls). Their stories and how they turned into our Hawker Heroes continues to inspire us and blow us away.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I think I haven’t reached that stage in life yet where I look back and want to do things differently.

How do you unwind?
Watching and playing football 🙂

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bali, definitely. One of the most beautiful and chill places.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Zero to One by Peter Thiel

Shameless plug for your business:
Cheapest and largest Hawker Food delivery in Singapore.

How can people connect with you?
On whatsapp at 90268776 or email at [email protected]

Twitter handle?
We’re on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/whyqsg/ and Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/whyqsg/

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

Norman Tien, Founder of Neuromath and Early Math Matters

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From a young age, Norman Tien, found his passion helping students as a math tutor and went on to translate that into a successful business.

What’s your story?
From the age of 14, I knew I would be in business for myself and started designing my company logo.

Growing up in a poor family, I worked part time while I was in school. That’s when I started tutoring and realised I had a gift to help students “see” mathematics. I delivered good results, and my students started to love math as well.

A turning point was when I was down with dengue fever and I realised I had to grow my business to the next level. I started a learning centre and that was the beginning of Neuromath. The initial years were tough as costs went up while my personal income took a dive. I almost gave up, but I pushed through.

Today, we have 3 specialty math enrichment centres managed and delivered by my dedicated team of teachers.

What excites you most about your industry?
“How to win” has always influenced how I position myself in the industry. I researched the psychology of learning, why some students are so naturally good at math, while others struggled. I managed to find the connection, and have always sought out niches to position myself so I can win.

In the beginning, I fused academic delivery with psychology to differentiate my services. Now I have a good team of teachers fully equipped with a psychological skillset.

In the next evolution of our business, we will incorporate technology into education in order to customise each student’s learning experience based on his or her needs.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and educated in Singapore. One key driver why I started a business was, as a youth, I witnessed how my dad struggled daily as a taxi driver trying to make ends meet.

That said, I am very blessed to be in Singapore and to be given the right education. I see this as a very important factor to my success today.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore – well, for one, most of my businesses are here. Singapore is convenient for business and is very well governed. There are rules and systems that make the entire entrepreneurial journey more secure here. One big plus is the location: Singapore is a hub that allows us to connect to the world.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
船到桥头自然直 –
There is a Chinese saying that when a boat goes near the pier, it will automatically align itself (with the current). It means we don’t have to worry too much, that things will take care of themselves.

A mentor once challenged me: “But who can guarantee you can even reach the pier?”

It is such a highly competitive world we are in, who can guarantee success? This is the ONE question that has been etched in my mind for decades. The Chinese saying always comes to mind when I am positioning, designing and strategizing for my business.

Who inspires you?
Mr. Lee Kuan Yew – The fact that he started ruling the country just like a startup. With limited resources, he was able to find a strong positioning to differentiate his country from the rest of the of Asia. With hardwork and proper planning, he transformed Singapore from a fishing village to a prominent financial hub in Asia.

Because Mr. Lee Kuan Yew positioned Singapore so well, government owned companies, such as Singapore Airlines, have emerged as the best in the world.

His story inspires me, spurs me to understand that success is not by chance but by design – every little step, all the strategies are all planned out. Not at all by chance.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
My business coach, Marshall Thurber, shared with me the power of the “Trim Tab” – a small part of the rudder system in a ship. This Trim Tab, despite its small size, is able to influence the entire ship’s direction by turning it.

This metaphor helped me see that a man can influence the entire world if the right effort is applied. We are now living in an entirely new world, the way we commute with an app on the phone – that’s the power of the Trim Tab at work.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would embark on the same journey but I would seek a mentor at a very early age.

I have been through many hard knocks along the way, and I definitely could have shortened the learning curve if I had a mentor to advise me on the many aspects of entrepreneurship.

How do you unwind?
Driving down long highways helps me unwind, that’s when I let my mind relax and wander.

I love long distance driving and riding. My wife gave me a Harley Davidson Tourer for my 50th birthday and we intend to embark on riding holidays together in Asia.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Hong Kong – I love the fast pace and the vibrance of the city. I love the cars there and it’s a very unique and exciting experience for me. And of course, I love the food there too!

Everyone in business should read this book:
One Minute Millionaire – this book highlights the mindset of an individual that is the key determinant for success in whatever we embark on. As long as we know we have a very strong reason why we need to do it, we can do it!

Shameless plug for your business:
I am the CEO and Founder of 2 Math enrichment brands:
Neuromath is a Specialist Math Learning Centre that helps students from Primary 1 to Junior College, empowering them with strategies, skills and a strong desire to learn and problem solve. We use technology to train students to avoid careless mistakes reclaiming 30 marks or more in Math exams and achieve their full potential in math.
www.neuromath.com.sg

Early Math Matters is a premier Mathematics and Cognitive Development enrichment centre for preschool children aged 3-6 years old. Through purposeful play and our renowned EMM approach, we help learners build a strong foundation for problem solving at an early age, and instil in them a passion & love for math that will stay with them for life.
www.earlymathmatters.com

We are actively seeking passionate teachers, entrepreneurs and investors who are keen to grow the education business with us.

How can people connect with you?
I speak regularly at workshops for schools, parents and platforms demonstrating the use of technology for peak performance in education.

Do contact me at
www.NormanTien.com

Alternatively, you can connect with me:
www.NormanTien.com/facebook
www.NormanTien.com/linkedin

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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