The Peak (Malaysia) - - Contents -

Datuk An­drew Lim Tatt Keong, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of Sogo (KL) Sdn Bhd, tells ThePeak about the chal­lenges of the re­tail de­part­ment store busi­ness.

Look­ing back, what do you con­sider the defin­ing mo­ments after your de­ci­sion to em­bark on the re­tail de­part­ment store busi­ness? The defin­ing mo­ment for me was way back in 1999, when the op­por­tu­nity arose for us to en­gi­neer a man­age­ment buy­out of our Pe­nang GAMA Group of Com­pa­nies and KL SOGO Group of Com­pa­nies. At that point in time, SOGO Ja­pan had re­struc­tured its over­seas busi­nesses to fo­cus pri­mar­ily on its home mar­ket.

After we ac­quired 100 per cent in­ter­est in both Pe­nang GAMA Group of Com­pa­nies and KL SOGO Group of Com­pa­nies, we have been man­ag­ing the stores in Pe­nang and Kuala Lumpur since 2000. Both groups of com­pa­nies have been able to en­joy year to year suc­cesses due to the strong sup­port of our reg­u­lar cus­tomers in Ge­orge­town, Pe­nang, and Batu Road, Kuala Lumpur.

Con­sid­er­ing the busi­ness you are man­ag­ing, what do you re­gard as the cru­cial fac­tors for you to stay on top of your game? What’s cru­cial for me has al­ways been our fully com­mit­ted and com­pletely ded­i­cated man­agers and fel­low col­leagues – the tal­ented hu­man re­sources in our TeamSogo – who help me man­age our de­part­ment store busi­nesses so that we stay on top of our game.

Look­ing into your crys­tal ball, what do you fore­see are the game-chang­ing chal­lenges fac­ing your in­dus­try? The chal­lenges that the Malaysian re­tail in­dus­try is fac­ing in­clude meet­ing up to the de­mands of the In­ter­net savvy gen­er­a­tion of mil­len­nial cus­tomers as well as the im­pact of e-com­merce plat­forms that have al­ready ar­rived in Malaysia. In or­der to at­tract the mil­len­nial cus­tomers of to­day, we will adapt all our brick and mor­tar stores into life­style venues and ful­fil­ment cen­tres. As hu­mans, we are ba­si­cally gre­gar­i­ous, we need to go out and so­cialise.

Sin­gle out a leader in the cor­po­rate world you wish to em­u­late. Steve Forbes of Forbes mag­a­zine, which cel­e­brated its cen­ten­nial last year, said that his fam­ily’s guid­ing prin­ci­ple, as laid down by his grand­fa­ther BC Forbes, was (to para­phrase) “…busi­ness is not about mak­ing a pile of money, it is about mak­ing peo­ple happy.” We have a data­base of ap­prox­i­mately 500,000 cus­tomers un­der our CRM pro­gramme and we lov­ingly call them our dear ‘So­go­ri­ans’. We want to em­u­late Forbes’s fam­ily’s say­ing. If we can sat­isfy and ren­der our es­teemed So­go­ri­ans happy, we will have a bright fu­ture.

Why do you think CEOs need a dose of James Bond in their lives? We need to be like James Bond (with­out the ma­cho sex ap­peal) for get­ting things done, and over­com­ing chal­lenges and cre­at­ing ef­fec­tive prac­ti­cal ‘work­arounds’ in or­der to achieve our ob­jec­tives and at­tain suc­cess. As Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, what ex­cites and wor­ries you most? The most ex­cit­ing part of my pro­fes­sion is to deal with peo­ple and ren­der to them their heart­felt wishes; what wor­ries me most is the im­pact of ris­ing in­fla­tion and, con­se­quently, the di­min­ish­ing pur­chas­ing power of our dear So­go­ri­ans.

What are your strate­gies to make Sogo (KL) Sdn Bhd the most suc­cess­ful com­pany in your in­dus­try? We greatly em­pha­sise hu­man re­source train­ing and ed­u­ca­tion. We have tied up with Santa Clara Univer­sity in Cal­i­for­nia as well as the Open Univer­sity in Kuala Lumpur. We en­cour­age our man­agers and fel­low col­leagues in TeamSogo to un­der­take fur­ther adult ed­u­ca­tion to up­grade their busi­ness knowl­edge and pro­fes­sional skills. We have also in­vested heav­ily in both our hard­ware and soft­ware com­puter sys­tems un­der our ICT De­part­ment, and we are spend­ing a lot of man­age­ment time in data min­ing and tar­get mar­ket­ing.

Share with us any im­pact­ful ad­vice you re­ceived that still in­spires you to­day. I be­lieve one of the best mar­ke­teers alive to­day is Sir Richard Bran­son, who our very own Tan Sri Tony Fer­nan­des con­sid­ers as his idol and icon. Sir Richard Bran­son fa­mously said (to para­phrase) that his “pur­pose in busi­ness is to help make peo­ples’ lives eas­ier”. I ver­ily be­lieve in Sir Richard Bran­son’s wis­dom and I rec­om­mend it to one and all.

Michael Oh is chair and CEO Coach of Vistage In­ter­na­tional Malaysia, a global CEO re­source and net­work of chief ex­ec­u­tives.

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