Thursday, 16 January 2020

Be bold, do the right thing

Throughout history, mankind has struggled to establish a socioeconomic system that is fair to all. This despite centuries of human history evolving into the capitalist liberal democracies, that is accepted as an end to the evolution of governance.

Socialism, while being noble at addressing issues of fairness and equitable distribution of wealth, is marred by two key problems—the determination of fairness is done by a select few, and most importantly, it works against the basic human nature of achieving self-actualisation. We live in a world that has evolved into a global economy where the power of self-actualization is given to all, where the most competitive thrive and the value of a commodity is set by market forces.

The system is far from perfect. This is most evident when we saw the British people voicing their grievances by voting to leave the free trade system of the European Union. They had opted to sacrifice their market access to the bloc in return for self-actualisation within their borders. It is at this point in history we have, perhaps, reached an impasse between the laissez-faire economy and government policies that intervene when the equilibrium on economic access reaches an imbalance.

While the capitalist economy presents opportunities for all, equal opportunity often does not equate to equal access to the said opportunities. Social upbringing and exposure to ecosystems, as well as inherited personal burdens may render some people unable to thrive, despite continuously working hard.

The dilemma emerges in addressing such imbalances, where the main points of contention lurk between regulation and installing economic freedom with the issue further exacerbated by limited resources within government coffers to establish fair economic distribution through state-sponsored welfare and development programmes.

The key to solving the problem is inculcating social responsibility in our society. In a capitalistic world, where it is every man for himself, we tend to forget that the access to opportunities is never something we can credit solely to ourselves. Along the path to success, something or someone pushed us in the right direction, gave us a resource to stay ahead, or taught us something we never knew would help us attain an upper hand.

We must realise that it is in our best interest to sometimes step outside our comfort zone and uphold the principles of helping others to improve themselves as it is the right thing to do. Business owners and managers that bring out the best in their staff will also bring out the best in their productivity, and eventually their profits.

However, taking a profit-first approach and looking at investments from a monetary point of view will cost more in the long run. In advanced economies, the disenfranchisement of those with limited access to the capitalist economy has led to the emergence of new concepts, such as social enterprises and circular economies.

These ideas bridge the harshness of the unhealthy competitiveness of the laissez-faire economy with new business ownership models that promote corporate social responsibility as a product towards profit, rather than a by-product of profit. As explained in my previous articles, the automotive sector will evolve into the “mobility sector”, and with that comes a premium on human talent to emerge a leader among a vast pool of players in a multitude of sectors. Therefore, we must prioritise human developing. After all, we must be bold in changing our mindset and do the right thing for everyone’s sake, including our own.

The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute

Thursday, 9 January 2020

Change requires defying norms

In 2007, an interview with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Apple Inc co-founder Steve Jobs, which delved into the thoughts of two of the most influential people in modern history, was aired.

It had not only revealed the business thinking of these two entrepreneurs, but also looked into an important side that most people might not have seen.

While they were fierce competitors, visionaries and innovators — they were also friends, and most importantly humans that were subjected to the same physical and emotional challenges we all go through.

The question is — how do normal humans gain the strength and ability to do things that are considered impossible? The answer to that is the reason for the fast-paced technological innovation we have seen emerging throughout the modern era, and yet for many it is difficult to grasp how it can be possible.

Without over-quoting Jobs, I was attracted to his explanation on how he pushed himself to achieve. He said the very foundation of achieving goals was passion — those who were successful in the eyes of society loved what they did because they persevered when things get tough.

If you are doing something you do not love, you may instinctually give up as it is considered the “sane” thing to do.

However, the key point from the conversation between Gates and Jobs was their fearlessness in taking risks.

To get to the position that they were in, they took calculated risks and believed in their products so much that they knew these were worth the risks, and that as they went through adversities and challenged norms, they tweaked their strategies and adapted them to the environment to survive.

Most importantly, they did not implement their strategies based on the existing market alone, but also demand they expect in the near future.

This gave them a first mover advantage — despite them being risky, the rewards were immense, and when there were risks, they worked on mitigating them.

Taking the safe route is not wrong as it is human instinct to survive.

However, we must look at the opportunity loss and cost that govern our decisions as they impact our success over the long term.

 I believe it is important that people start taking risks.

Great success comes to those who spend a lot of their time on research and analysis, as well as possess the desire to challenge societal norms to make a difference.

When the mobile phone was invented, not many saw that being bounded by wired communication was a problem. It took a smart idea and a risk-taking venture to say that communication limited to the length of the phone cord was a problem for humanity.

It took a breakthrough technology, collaborations with network operators, new manufacturing methods and tremendous advertising and promotional efforts to change the way we communicate with each other.

It was tough and risky, but at the end, change happened.

I would be insane to say that creating the largest company in the world did not require some luck.

However, not all things need it, and change can happen at different levels.

Even a small change can be considered an improvement, but the important thing is the culture of challenging tomorrow and dispelling complacency.

To move forward and to be the finest, we must be bold enough to act like the best. They are where they are because they refuse to act or think like everyone else. That is the essence of innovation.

German mathematician and physicist Albert Einstein once said: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”.

Let’s take some time to ponder this.

The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute

Thursday, 2 January 2020

Do not be afraid to share

At the end of 2016, I wrote a three-part series on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry
4.0) and future global landscape.

The series discussed the development of big data management and the Internet of Things
(IoT) framework — something that was still an elusive concept within the domestic
boundaries at the time.

In only three years, Malaysians, in particular the youths, have become well versed with on-
demand ride-sharing, food delivery, shopping, workshop services and other activities using
cloud technology driven by big data analytics and IoT. Such is the speed of technology
development, driven primarily by bold companies such as Apple Inc, Samsung,
Inc, Microsoft Corp and Tesla Inc, which have aggressively created market demand by
planting the need for a digital lifestyle — from being a luxury to a necessity.

All of those companies, now valued at billions of US dollars (Apple and Amazon were the
first trillion-dollar companies), started with humble beginnings — they weren’t born into
riches or plentiful opportunities, yet in just a few decades, built the digital wonders of the

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak started Apple with US$1,350. In fact, they sold off their
possessions to raise the small capital. The question is: what made the difference? If it was
education, then Steve Jobs and Bill Gates did drop out of their tertiary education. If it was
inheritance, many of the founders were not even sons of millionaires.

I would argue that it is self-belief and exposure — in our thinking, actions and the setting of
our strategies—that make a difference between staying comfortable in the middle class and
having the will to push the boundaries.

This year — actually, this new decade — we need to re-examine our values and what we
should value. For example, the many seasons of the American Idol franchise were
interesting, not just because of the great talents who won the competition, but also those
who came to the auditions believing they could sing and make something out of the
opportunity that was given to them. While it was entertaining to watch, it also underlined
an important aspect of the people in the American society — they believed in their abilities.

Because of this strong self-belief, those with the right capabilities and talents became
winners in what they did, moving on to become mega stars on the world stage.

The American brands I mentioned above were products and testaments to the
aggressiveness shown by the Americans. Frankly speaking, the inverse often takes place
within our borders. Ambition is often met with ridicule and negativity, retarding and
suppressing further progress or improvement.

In this decade, let us change this. Let us create an ecosystem where one can be aggressive,
progressive and innovative. Let this person get the right support if he or she is good, or be
met by constructive criticism and improvement opportunities if otherwise. The inverse is

the same for those trying to achieve greatness — speak not of what should be done for you
but take new steps, create new ideas and implement aggressive strategies without fear of
ridicule or rejection. To change our paradigm, we must change our ecosystem. That does
not just mean to change the circles we are in, but also expand our circles to get involved
with people who achieved greatness.

Aim high, because even if we were to miss our aim, the result would still be better than
what we expected. Do not be afraid to share our knowledge, wealth and progress — there
will be a time when our own resources render us irrelevant and we will rely on others to
share theirs with us. Shared prosperity must be preceded by shared ambition, shared
innovation and shared assertiveness.

The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute.