The Sun (Malaysia)
Go niche, deliver value to customers
This week, it is ECS ICT Bhd CEO Soong Jan Hsung’s turn to dispense advice to SunBiz readers
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I will have to credit my mother for shaping me to be the leader I am today. Since my kindergarten days, she constantly reminded me to work hard, be competitive, and have the determination to succeed. I believe that after many years of her constant reminders, it has become habitual that I give my best effort in every task that I carry out.
How has your previous employment experience aided your current position?
This is my first job since I left university.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at ECS ICT Bhd?
Being in ECS for more than 28 years, I have witnessed ECS weather numerous economic downturns, as well as the highs and lows of the ICT industry.
Notable highlights during my tenure at ECS include being part of the team that grew ECS Malaysia from a small distribution company with RM2 million sales to be Malaysia’s leading ICT distributor with revenue of RM1.6 billion in 2014. Today, ECS is the number one ICT distributor listed on the Main Market of Bursa Malaysia.
Among the challenges we face are the dynamic and superfast product lifecycle of ICT products, and the need to read the future trends in the industry. Building and maintaining a strong and committed team to meet these challenges on a daily basis is one of my foremost critical tasks.
What advice can you offer to budding entrepreneurs/women/youths who want to start their career/own business?
The ICT business can be very competitive and unforgiving. As Intel’s previous CEO Andrew Groves said: “Only the paranoid survive”.
Even the world-class ICT brands find it challenging to compete and consistently do well in this fast-changing industry.
My advice to those who want to start a business in the ICT industry is to find a niche for your business and have value propositions for your products and/or services. There is no room for those who plan to compete in the red ocean.
How do you maintain work/life balance?
My daily working life can be very stressful, as I will have to handle vendors who enquire on project statuses and want our commitment on forecasts. Thankfully, I have a capable team to help me ease some of the pressure and allow me to “switch off” when I am at home. I also ensure that my weeknights and especially weekends are spent with my family.
The only improvement I need at this moment is to make time to do more exercise.
What do you want to accomplish in the next five years?
In the next five years, my goal is to bring ECS to even greater heights. Having started 30 years ago as an ICT distributor supplying personal computers, printers and peripherals, we moved on to add servers, enterprise network equipment and finally mobility products such as tablets and smartphones into our products portfolio.
To be ready for the next wave of ICT trends, we aim to add wearable technologies such as health bands and smart watches into our portfolio by end-2015, and also introduce products for the Internet of Things (IoT) era as early as next year.
We predict that with more devices connected to the internet, the potential for the IoT market is enormous. We will also build up the back-end enterprise infrastructure like cloud services and security solutions and even explore smart city solutions within the next few years.
Best piece of advice you ever got on your career?
In the distribution business, we either grow big or go niche, and we must provide valueadded services to differentiate us from the rest. The ICT industry is a crowded space with many brands and competitors, so the only way to survive is to plan ahead, run faster and read the moving trends in the industry.
Most admired business leader? Why?
None other than the late Steve Jobs. My admiration for him started since I owned my first Apple 2 during my school days.
Jobs will always be remembered as the legend that brought us the most likable computer and single-handedly created the demand for tablets and smartphones.
How do you stay abreast of issues affecting your industry?
My best and most reliable source of information is from the ground when I listen to my vendors, customers and staff.
What was your biggest failure and how did you learn from it?
I’ve faced many challenges since I started work but I guess I’m lucky that I have not encountered any major failures worth sharing.
What man made-innovation confounds you? Why?
The current wave of smart devices and social media apps have really changed the way we live our lives. I believe that going forward there will be more killer apps and/ or smarter devices that will further change our lifestyles.
The biggest challenge you’ve faced?
So far, my working life has been smooth sailing; hopefully, it will continue that way.
Blue or red ocean strategy? Or neither? Why?
We have adopted both strategies in the ICT distribution industry. We have the popular products in the red ocean that give us the volume to compete with many others, but we also represent products and markets in the blue ocean that give us the niche and value-add. However, we have to be quick as once the product becomes mainstream or popular, it will enter the red ocean.