Dr Maren Schweizer is revolutionsing the automotive industry and believes Singapore is at the forefront of automotive innovation.
What’s your story?
From an early age I was fascinated with aviation and eventually decided to follow my dream of earning a pilot’s license while pursuing my engineering degree. I joined private jet company Dassault Falcon Service in Paris after my studies as a sales director and as an aviation captain. I learned so much working for Dassault: Understanding the differences and needs of our target markets, restructuring and growing a company. In 2005, I joined the family business. Success didn’t come easy, and we had to adapt quickly to change and evolve our business mindset to survive. Since then, the company has grown into a global tech company focused on revolutionising the automotive industry.
What excites you most about your industry?
Disruptive, technology-driven trends that are already on the horizon, creating new challenges and opportunities for the automotive industry. The industry is working furiously to adapt to these changes and it’s definitely going to be an interesting ride.
What’s your connection to Asia?
As a child my parents brought me to Singapore, where my father had started his joint venture Pentex-Schweizer. I will never forget my first shopping mall experience in Singapore. We visited a Chinese pharmacy in People’s Park, Chinatown to buy a tub of Tiger Balm. For many years thereafter, I was in Singapore twice a year and fell in love with the fast-paced, exciting environment which has inspired many aspects of my life. I really couldn’t get Singapore out of my head and moved here four years ago with my children.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
It maintains its edge as an innovation-driven economy. Singapore will slowly but surely become the Silicon Valley of Asia.
Autonomous cars will transform the passenger experience. Passengers will get to kick back while vehicles drive them to their destinations. Singapore is at the forefront of the move to driverless cars primarily because it has a strong ecosystem needed for these type of innovations to thrive.
To sustain this momentum and retain pole position as an innovation hub, the city-state needs to continually ramp up its efforts in:
IoT – the future of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies
R&D – on elements, devices and functions required to support self-driving capabilities
AI ecosystem – large corporations have in-house Artificial Intelligence departments, SMEs can use crowdsourcing platforms to get secure, customised AI solutions.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
My father and grandfather told me as a kid that it is important to focus on a win-win for everybody in a company. Focus on the people that work with you. Make employees and their families happy and they will contribute to making our customers happy and the company successful. I believe in the importance of working for a company also benefits your private life as well.
Who inspires you?
Winston Churchill. He once said; “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” He was a great leader and managed to bridge the gap and reconcile the differences between communities in conflict. Also, Oscar Wilde who said; “Be yourself, everybody else is taken.” We need to have the courage and commitment to be our authentic self – to stay in alignment with who and what we really are.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
My unexpected “promotion” from CEO to DEO in February this year and joining the club of “Dismissed Executive Officers.” I’ve embraced it as just another test of character and see it as life offering me a new path of possibilities and choices.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have focussed on finding myself earlier and adjusting my choices and decisions accordingly.
How do you unwind?
I look for inspiration. I love going for walks, people-watching, discovering new places. I also read a lot and love creating mashups of electronic songs during long-haul flights.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
The Maldives. I have wonderful memories as a teenager. It was here that I started scuba diving at the age of 15 and where I experienced feeding the sharks. Little did I know I would be in a corporate shark tank later in my life.
Everyone in business should read this book:
“Good to Great” by Jim Collins and “Stumbling on Happiness” by Daniel Gilbert
Shameless plug for your business:
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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’.