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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

Jace Koh, Founder of U Ventures

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Jace Koh believes cash flow is the lifeblood of your business. Understanding it will enhance your ability to run and manage your business.

What’s your story?
My name is Jace Koh and I am the Founder of U Ventures. I’ve always been inclined towards investment and entrepreneurship. I’ve played a hand in starting businesses across these industries – professional services, cloud integration, software and music. I believe that succeeding in business is tough, but that’s what makes the rewards even sweeter.

What excites you most about your industry?
Everything excites me. These are my beliefs:

  • Why is accounting important?
    The accounting department is the heart. Cash flow is like blood stream, it pumps blood to various parts of the body like cash flow is pumped to various departments and/or functions in a business. It is vital to the life and death of the business.
  • Is accounting boring?
    Accountants are artists too. They paint the numbers the way they want them to be.
  • What makes a good accountant?
    A good accountant can tell you a story about the business by looking at the numbers.
  • Why is budgeting and projection important?
    Accountants are like fortune tellers, they can predict the numbers and if you wish to understand your business and make informed decisions, feel free to speak to our friendly consultants to secure a meeting.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore, and here’s where I want to be.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore is my favourite city. We have great legal systems in place, good security and people with integrity. Most importantly, we have a government that fosters a good environment for doing business. I recently went for a cultural exchange programme in Hong Kong to learn more about their startups. I found out that the Hong Kong government generally only supports local business owners in terms of grants. They’ve recently been more lenient and changed the eligibility to include all businesses that have at least 50% local shareholding. But comparing that to Singapore, the government only requires a 30% local shareholding to obtain government support. In the early days of starting a business, all the support you can get is precious. It’s great that we have a government that understands that.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
The best time ever to plant a tree was 10 years ago as the tree would have grown so big to provide you with shelter and all. When is the next best time to plant a tree? It is today. Because in 10 years time, the tree would have grown big enough to provide you shelter and all.

Who inspires you?
Jack Ma. His journey to success is one of the most inspiring as it proves that with determination and great foresight, even the poorest can turn their lives around. I personally relate to his story a lot, and this is my favourite quote from him, “If you don’t give up, you still have a chance. Giving up is the greatest failure.”

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I’ve faced multiple rejections throughout my business journey, and recently came across a fact on Jack Ma about how he was once rejected for 32 different jobs. It resonated very deeply and taught me the importance of tenacity, especially during tough times.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. I live a life with no regrets. Everything I do, regardless of whether it is right or wrong, happy or sad, and regardless of outcome, it’s a lesson with something to take away.

How do you unwind?
I love to pamper myself through retail therapy and going for spas. I also make a conscious effort to take time off work to have a break outside to unwind as well as to uncloud my mind. This moment of reflection from time to time helps me see more clearly on how I can improve myself.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Taiwan! Good food with no language barriers and the people are great!

Everyone in business should read this book:
I don’t really read books. Mostly, I learn from my daily life and interactions with hundreds of other business owners. To me, people tell the most interesting stories.

Shameless plug for your business:
We’re not just corporate secretaries, we’re “business doctors.”
U Ventures is a Xero certified advisory firm that goes beyond traditional accounting services to provide solutions for your business. You can reach us on our website: http://uventures.com.sg/

How can people connect with you?
Converse to connect. You can reach me via email at [email protected] or alternatively, on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jacekoh/

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

Ray Ferguson, Founder of Caber Partners

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Ray Ferguson left the banking world and returned to Asia to explore exciting fintech opportunities.

What’s your story?
I am the Founder of Caber Partners, a Singapore based MAS Licensed Fund Manager and Financial Advisor investing and working with companies focused exclusively on the intersection of finance and technology. I work specifically in the areas of payments, insurance, wealth management, alternative lending and blockchain.

I am also Chairman of Singapore Life which was founded last year. It is the first new local life company in Singapore. Concurrently, I chair Youtap a business which is creating a cashless e-money processing backbone providing real-time interoperable settlements of all consumer e-money payments to the merchants, e-money providers, retail and FMCG distribution groups, and banks across emerging markets.

My 30 year journey as a banker had its main leg with Standard Chartered Bank, where I held multiple country chief executive and regional leadership roles across four continents. I spent 6 years as Regional CEO, South East Asia and Chief Executive, Singapore. After Standard Chartered, I moved to Bank ABC, Bahrain and assumed the role of Group Chief Banking Officer where I took care of the group’s banking businesses worldwide.
Last year, I decided to step down after 3 years from my role with Bank ABC to return to Asia to pursue interesting and exciting opportunities that fintech disruption was providing.

What excites you most about your industry?
The sheer pace of technological innovation in the financial sector, and how it is up-ending the traditional models and traditional players. There are huge implications and benefits for efficiency, transparency and importantly financial inclusion which will drive growth in emerging markets.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I have lived in and worked in Asia for more than 30 years. I first came to Singapore in 1994 and today I am a proud Singapore citizen, and to me Singapore is home.

Its an invigorating environment. Asia is in the middle of an historic transformation. If it continues to follow its recent trajectory, by 2050 its per capita income could rise sixfold in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms to reach Europe’s levels today. It would make some 3 billion additional Asians affluent by current standards. By nearly doubling its share of global gross domestic product (GDP) to 52 percent by 2050, Asia would regain the dominant economic position it held some 300 years ago, before the industrial revolution. This is a big deal and I’m excited to be part of it!

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Definitely Singapore! Singapore is known for being a business-friendly country and it was crowned the best country in World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business List” and ranks as the top 3 in the World Economic Forum’s “Global Competitive Index.” Singapore is an attractive hub, for both businesses and has a great community to live in.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Listen intently and you will know what you don’t know.

Who inspires you?
Nelson Mandela

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
That the global mobile wallet market was valued at approximately USD 594 billion in 2016 and is expected to reach approximately USD 3,100 billion by 2022, growing at a CAGR of around 32% between 2017 and 2022.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have learnt to code.

How do you unwind?
Exercise, golf and sailing large catamarans.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Phuket. Easy to reach, Thai people and service, breadth of choice of locations/accomodation and great sailing weather.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Good to Great – Jim Collins. It’s about how companies transition from being good companies to great companies, and how and why most companies fail to make the transition.

Shameless plug for your business:
Caber Partners team is uniquely connected with our networks and experience in fintech markets, investing and banking and business growth solutions throughout Asia and across the emerging world.

How can people connect with you?
Come connect with me through my LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/rayfergusonscb

Twitter handle?
Rayferguson888

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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