From movies to retail and back

It’s rare enough that someone should make a big change in their career. It’s even rarer for someone to come full circle and return back to their first love. Wan Chun Hung, a successful cinematographer had once left the film industry to go into computer retailing only to return to it when digital technology rekindled his interest in the industry.

Wan had studied filmmaking at the Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, California. Upon completing his studies, he moved to Thailand to start a film production company with a Thai college mate.

“We also brought in a fellow scriptwriter from Brooks to develop the script,” he recalls. “While trying to get funding and backers for the film we shot TV commercials. However, the 1999 Asian financial crises hit.”

Wan returned home to Malaysia without any idea what he’d do next. A chance encounter with a PC retailer sparked the idea of starting an Apple store business. He speaks to Savvy about his move into retailing and subsequent switch back to filmmaking in the digital age.

The leap from making movies to retailing Mac computers is a big one. Were you hesitant or nervous about it?

Although the businesses are completely different, I had the passion and interest in learning this new trade. More importantly, I was partnering with an experienced and well-established PC retailer. It was quite the perfect partnership as he knew next to nothing about Apple at that time and I had absolutely no foothold in the PC retailing business. So, I taught him about Apple and he taught me about retailing.

What made you decide to leave retail to go back into the cinematography business?

Apple had made big inroads into the professional post production market with their video editing program Final Cut Pro. When Apple released this program, it allowed me to bridge my two interests together, Macs and filmmaking. We started selling video editing systems based around Final Cut Pro to production houses. Towards the latter half of the 2000’s, digital HD cameras started making big progress. HD cameras were extremely expensive like the Sony cameras used by George Lucas for the first Star Wars prequel. But like any digital technology, prices rapidly fell to something that was affordable to many more professionals. Prior to HD cameras, you had to shoot on film to get good quality moving images. And those film cameras, because of their high price and maintenance, could only be rented. So with these affordable good-quality cameras coming out, I decided it was time to get back into making movies.

You studied in the era of film and now everything's digital. Some movie makers still prefer film over digital. Are they just sentimental?
I believe it’s a combination of sentimentality and the desire for the best image possible. On the one hand, many of the movie makers wanting to shoot in film actually grew up with film. Film still gives you that sometimes hard-to-find organic quality missing in the sometimes all-too-pristine digital image. That said, digital cinematography has come a long way. Digital cameras now have better low light sensitivity and are approaching the highlight retention that film is renowned for. At the end of the day, it’s the story that drives the film, and the camera is merely a tool and just one of the many tools available to the film maker. Lenses, production design, the colourist, amongst others are just as important.

How did you build up your cinematography business from scratch?
It’s all about staring small and working your way up. You have to pay your dues for the first couple of years. Being dedicated and having the willingness to learn everything on set helps a great deal. When I got back into the movie industry, much of what I learnt prior was very much foggy and rusty due to lack of practice. It helps to have a director who is willing to give you a chance and believe in your abilities to shoot something substantial that will serve as your demo reel to show to other producers and directors.

As a cinematographer, do you have to be tech-savvy?

I think almost every budding cinematographer gets tangled up in the technology, especially camera technology that’s progressing at such a fast rate nowadays, compared to the film days when film cameras just evolved slowly together with the film stock.

How do you keep up to date with latest developments in your industry?

There are many resources on the net that are available. A number of prominent cinematographers are also very open and contribute to discussions on forums as well as providing masterclasses that you can buy. Podcasts are also one of my main sources of knowledge.

Do you study the techniques of some great cinematographers?
Nowadays, you can get in-depth, behind-the-scenes breakdowns from podcasts and online courses available on the net like the ones from Shane Hurlbut. But I should say that many of the great cinematographers’ techniques may not be applicable to the shooting realities of the local production scene because we simply don’t have the budget or array of equipment available elsewhere.

What genre do you like best and why?

I love the dark, thriller type stories. Because anytime anything is dark, you can get creative with the lighting which plays a big part of setting the mood.

What is a fulfilling shoot is like for you?

When the chemistry of the crew gels, the production design is great, and the story is interesting. It’s great working with a director who is in sync and is a truly collaborative process, rather than being a one way street. And if the food catering is great, that’s icing on the cake.

When will the great Malaysian movie emerge?
If you are talking about a blockbuster-type action movie genre, I would say the chances are extremely slim for the foreseeable future. The budgets available are just not there. However, for small movies, there have already been a number of fairly successful ones making the international film festival circuit.

Besides the technology you use for work, what kind of technology do you use for life?
You could say I’m still an Apple guy at heart. My household is almost exclusively full of Apple products. I use the iPhone, which doubles up as my stills camera. I used to use a DSLR but replaced that with a mirrorless camera, but in the end I sold that too and now my iPhone serves as my go-to stills camera. I use a MacBook Pro for work and personal things. The Apple TV plays a big part at home too as that’s where most movies and TV shows are played from.

What movies do you look forward to watching in 2017?
Alien Covenant
Bladerunner 2049
Star Wars: The Last Jedi


The crowdfunder

By Oon Yeoh

Crowdfunding is not a new concept but in Malaysia it’s still at its infancy stage. Still, there are already six crowdfunding companies operating here. One of them was co-founded by Elain Lockman, an Actuarial Science graduate with a Masters in Operational Research who was one of the early employees at MDeC.

She also had stints at iPerintis (now called Petronas ICT) and Malaysia Debt Ventures before venturing on her own as a consultant for tech clients like DiGi Telecommunications, Packet One Networks, Green Science and MSC Management Services. Last year she helped found Ata Plus with two other business partners. Elain talks to Savvy about what crowdfunding is all about and its prospects in Malaysia. 

What gave you the idea to get into equity crowdfunding?
The original idea dates back to 2010 when we wanted to create a shariah-compliant microfinance crowdfunding platform to finance disenfranchised micro-entrepreneurs. We actually secured a Cradle Fund grant to develop a prototype for this. There was interest from Bank Negara and some financial institutions but we were a bit too early in the game as many people were unfamiliar with the concept of crowdfunding then.

Who are your partners in this business and what do they do?
I have two co-founders. Kyri Andreou, who has two decades of experience in strategic planning, marketing and branding, looks at product innovation, education, branding, marketing and communications. Aimi Aizal Nasharuddin, an accountant with over 25 years of experience in business re-engineering, financial restructuring, corporate finance and operations, is responsible for investor management, legal, regulatory and compliance.

And what do you do in the company?
My role is to look into strategic partnerships, operations, deal flow and screening, risk management and entrepreneurship management.

Is crowdfunding something very new?
The concept of crowdfunding is actually not new. Before the invention of the Internet, mobile technology and social media crowdfunding had already existed but it operated within a closed network, limited by personal relationships, proximity and geography. With the Internet we are able to reach beyond borders to people whom we don’t even know, who may have an interest in contributing to some business ideas or particular causes.

There are different types of crowdfunding. What areas is Ata Plus into?
There are basically four types of crowdfunding: Donation Crowdfunding enables the public to provide financial contributions for a certain cause, with no tangible returns other than the feel-good factor. Reward Crowdfunding enables the public to provide financial contributions to an idea, project or business; in exchange for a reward, in the form of product or service. The popular international sites for this are and

Equity Crowdfunding enables the “crowd” to provide financial contributions in a company, usually a private limited entity in most financial jurisdictions. In exchange, the “crowd” will get an equity stake or a certain percentage of shares, in the company. In Malaysia, Equity Crowdfunding is regulated by the Securities Commission, since it is a form of investment, and the funds are solicited from the public. Debt Crowdfunding or P2P financing, allows the public to lend directly to individuals or businesses in return for a predetermined yield. In Malaysia, P2P financing is regulated by the Securities Commission and is only available for business financing. Ata Plus is a licenced Equity Crowdfunding Operator.

Any plans to get into the other forms of crowdfunding?
Yes, we will be launching our Reward and Donation Crowdfunding platforms this year.

How is crowdfunding different here compared to the US other than the fact that it’s very new here?
The crowdfunding scene in the US is the largest in the world but when it comes to Equity Crowdfunding, the US is actually a laggard. This is because regulations in the US on equity crowdfunding only allows investments from accredited investors — high-net-worth individuals. This turns equity crowdfunding sites into online VCs. We feel the regulation in Malaysia allows for true crowdfunding as it allows everyone to invest, be it retail or sophisticated investors.

What are the advantages of crowdfunding over other traditional and more established forms of financing?
There are three key advantage of crowdfunding. Firstly, if a business is funded this way, it would attract lots of media and social media attention. That’s good publicity for the company. Secondly, crowdfunding lets you share your idea to a wider audience which could be a potential not only for investments but also for partnerships, feedback, new customer acquisition and market validation. Lastly, members of the public who invest will naturally become brand advocates for the companies they invested in – again, good publicity for the companies.

What’s your business model?
We charge a processing and administrative fee for application screening – currently at RM3000. For successful campaigns we charge a 7.5% success fee.

How has the past year been?
I’d be lying if I didn’t say it has been a proverbial roller coaster. We are a start-up ourselves with our own funding challenges. So, careful consideration is given on how to optimize the allocation of scarce resources to achieve maximum results.  Also, being a very new concept with minimal public awareness and understanding, it has been a challenge to both attracting investor interest and gaining entrepreneur confidence. However, as success stories reverberate, both those concerns have been slowly eroded.

It’s still early days but what’s been your best success so far?
I would say the successful fundraising campaign for They became the first social enterprise in Malaysia to successfully raise funds via crowdfunding. It’s a big challenge for social enterprises to raise capital in Malaysia because of the perception that social enterprises don’t make money.

Do you favour any particular niche areas to invest in?
Well, I should point out that Ata Plus does not fund the companies. It’s “the crowd” that decided which companies it wants to invest in. That said, as a company we are very supportive of social enterprises or companies that create positive impact. Since such companies are usually under-served by traditional investment institutions, we like to go that extra mile for them. For example, we co-hosted the Social Enterprise Awards late last year with Mercy Mission.

How long do you see yourself doing this?
As long as it still keeps my adrenaline flowing and gives me personal satisfaction, I will continue doing this. I think it will be a while before I move on to something else. 


What's right about Wong

From not knowing what he wanted to do, C.K. Wong is riding high in the e-commerce arena, writes Oon Yeoh.

C.K. WONG didn’t really know what he wanted to do. He studied Mathematics at university because it was his favourite subject in school.

Upon graduation, he joined a software company.

“You can become a good programmer if you’re good at Mathematics because the core of programming is Mathematics,” he rationalised.

Wong ended up spending eight years working in software development. As part of his job, he was required to travel to many countries in Asia including Japan, South Korea and China.

It was during that time abroad that he noticed that e-commerce was starting to take off. It was also during those trips that he began reading about it. Fascinated, he started blogging about it in 2008.

It was just a matter of time before he would make the leap. In 2010, he started his own online store selling a wide range of products including fashion items, children products, baby products and kitchenware.

“It was fairly successful,” he says, noting that at one point he was receiving around 50 online orders a day.

However, selling products to consumers wasn’t his cup of tea. He was more interested in other businesses. Two years later, in 2012, he joined Japan’s leading e-commerce platform, Rakuten, when it set up shop in Malaysia. He eventually started his own e-commerce enabler, Silvermouse.

Wong talks to Savvy about why he decided to start his own e-commerce-enabling business. He also shares his views on the e-commerce industry in Malaysia.

What made you decide to quit Rakuten?

Working in a big corporation helped widen my perspective in terms of knowledge, process and network but my personality isn’t really suited for a corporate job. I like entrepreneurship and even though I was doing well there, I was constantly thinking about how I could start my own business.

How did you source for business when you first started your company?

Even before I’d left Rakuten, I was already blogging about e-commerce ( with a friend.

The exposure and branding that I got from my blogging endeavours allowed me to secure some clients even before I founded Silvermouse. So I actually didn’t have to rely on angel investors or venture capitalists to fund my start-up because I had clients from Day 1.

What does Silvermouse do exactly?

While we have positioned ourselves as an e-commerce enabler from the beginning, these days we’re now more and more like a digital marketing agency.

An e-commerce enabler deals with many facets of e-commerce such as setting up the system, operations, fulfilment, etc.

These days, our focus is on digital marketing via platforms such as Google Adwords, Facebook, Instagram LINE marketing and so on. We also do microsite development and even animation video production for marketing purposes.

How do you distinguish yourself from other e-commerce enablers or digital marketing agencies out there?

It’s true there are many digital agencies in the market but we won a prestigious recognition from Google Partners in 2015. It’s notable because we were the only solely Malaysia-based company to have won that recognition that year. We’re also one of the first agencies in Malaysia to be listed in the official Facebook agency directory.

Who are some of your famous e-commerce clients?

For retail, I would include AEON, Senheng and Caring Pharmacy. For e-commerce, it’s Hermo, Shoppu, IPmart, MDeC and eGHL. Other famous brands include Sony, Stabilo and GSK.

What do you make of the blogshop phenomenon which pre-dated most online store initiatives?

At one time blogshops were hot. They were easy to set up and cost nothing. But these days, that’s not the main way people shop online now. There are so many ways to sell online now. There are so many marketplaces and platforms. You don’t need to set up a blogshop for those purposes.

What would you recommend if an individual or a small company wants to do some basic e-commerce?

I’d say you can first try selling at online marketplaces like Lazada, 11street or Lelong. Get your feet wet on e-commerce using these popular platforms before starting your own online store.

It’s easier to start selling via online marketplaces compared to your own store, as they already have a lot of customers for you to tap. Starting and growing your own store require a bigger investment in terms of time and money.

Lazada seems to be the 800-Pound-Gorilla here. What do you think will happen if Amazon decides to come here?

Yeah, Lazada is the big player here. As for Amazon, I really think it’s too late for it to come into Malaysia now.

There are obviously many key success factors but if you had to list the top three things that are necessary for e-commerce to succeed, what would they be and why?

Firstly, know your products well. Product-wise, it helps to focus on niche or certain vertical markets when starting up.

Secondly, be prepared to work very hard. Online retail has some advantages over offline retail but it is not any easier to do.

Thirdly, become web-savvy. It’s always an advantage if you understand the Internet better, whether it’s digital marketing or the latest web technology.

Do you feel e-commerce is a way for companies to future-proof themselves?

Absolutely. Companies that do not adopt e-commerce may face challenges to remain competitive.

Indeed, e-commerce has the potential to improve productivity over traditional companies that focus only on brick-and-mortar businesses. It also allows companies to vastly expand their market.

Malaysia has 16 million digital customers but the Asean region has 87 million. Firms that can reach out beyond Asean will gain access to more than a billion digital customers around the world.

Where does Malaysia stand currently when it comes to e-commerce?

I’d say Malaysia is at an inflection point. When we trace how other countries — including South Korea and the USA — have matured over the years in terms of e-commerce adoption currently, we can see that they underwent an extended period of accelerated growth. (See diagram, bottom left)

We see similar e-commerce growth trajectories currently in some economies such as China, Taiwan, and Singapore, which are witnessing a rapid increase in e-commerce adoption in their respective countries.

Malaysia is in a prime position to accelerate from its current nascent growth stage to an accelerated growth path for e-commerce.

Do you personally shop online a lot?

Yes I do but it’s not just me. All my team members at Silvermouse are frequent online shoppers. There are parcels coming into our office every day. For local sites, I like shopping at Lazada and Lelong. For niche items, I look abroad to Taobao or AliExpress.

Typical growth rate in respective phases

Multi-talented Marina Mustafa is more than just a foodie

WHEN you hear the phrase “foodie” being uttered, normally the image that appears in your mind is that of a food lover.

Marina Mustafa certainly loves food but she does way more than just sample tasty food. It’s hard to list all the food-related activities she engages in because she does so much.

She writes cookbooks (in Bahasa Malaysia and English), endorses kitchen appliances and food products, develops recipes for clients, contributes articles to newspapers and magazines, hosts cooking shows on TV and online, conducts cooking demonstrations ... the list goes on.

She was a restaurateur too. Together with her sisters, she opened an eatery called Cafe Dania, which became very popular and lasted for 14 years until a health situation forced her to take things a bit easier.

No longer able to take the long hours required to run a restaurant, she and her sisters decided to call it a day.

But instead of giving up on food, Marina found other ways to leverage on her passion for it. In fact, she gives new meaning to the word “foodie”.

If there ever is an all-round food lover, she is it. She talks to Savvy about the wide range of food-related activities that she’s currently involved in and how she manages to cope with the help of her children.


I graduated from Australia with a business degree — not a culinary one — but as it turns out, all the work I’m doing is food-related. And yes, it’s all self-taught.

Well, I come from a cooking family. My mother loved cooking but so did my aunts, uncles and cousins. Cooking was a family activity for us. As kids, we all have our role models and mine was my mum, who loved concocting new and unusual dishes which always tantalised us. She inspired me to learn how to cook.


I loved operating Cafe Dania but it’s not something viable for me at this stage in my life because if I owned a restaurant, I’d want to do the cooking.

I loved being connected with my customers and making them feel like they are eating at home. But this is something that I wouldn’t have time to do and besides, this kind of home-cooked oriented restaurant would not be profitable today.


Personally, it would be cooking for my family, for which there are no plans for retirement anytime soon. It’s something that I take great joy in doing and will continue to do as long as I can.

But professionally, I would say it would be my very interactive cooking demonstrations which many people seem to enjoy.


Endorsing products by international brands.


It’s safe to say I won’t be able to retire on the royalties I get from these cookbooks but I do them because I want to share my recipes and knowledge about cooking. You could say I write books for three groups.

Firstly, I want to do this for my children. This is my legacy for them.

Secondly, I want to have a record of the amazing recipes passed down to me by my mum, aunts and uncles. This is to honour them.

Lastly, I want to do this for the public. I want my recipes to reach as many people as possible. That’s why I do cookbooks as well as all kinds of things online.


All my children are somewhat involved in my food-related activities. My eldest son helped me self-publish my first cookbook many years ago. He did both the photography and the layout.

He also started my Facebook page and right now he’s working on setting up a new website for me.

My older daughter, who is now a cookbook author herself, is the one who helps me make YouTube cooking videos, which is something I’m into these days.

My younger son is the one who helps me behind the scenes during my cooking demonstrations. He also helps buy the ingredients. And my youngest daughter helps me with short Instagram videos.


Yes, isn’t it amazing what can be achieved these days with just a camera phone? I would normally discuss a concept with her and discuss possible angles and settings for the shoot.

Izarra would often introduce new ideas to make the videos interesting and new. Then she just shoots it on her phone and edits it on a computer. Technology has made possible what used to take a whole production house to do.


Actually, I do that on my own. While my son helped with my Facebook page ( and taught me how to use it, I’ve been updating it myself.

Everything about my work is very personal and I think my fans who “like” the page would know if I weren’t updating it myself.


Not as much as I would like to be but I’m okay. My children who are very web-savvy, have been my guiding light when it comes to anything tech-related. They teach me the basics and from there, I experiment.

It’s important to be web-savvy so that you don’t have to rely on others for every single thing you want to do online. My Facebook page is a perfect case in point. Once I learnt how to use it, I decided to manage it myself.


I browse the Net for the latest trends in food. I even look up the latest cooking videos to get ideas on how I could make my videos more interesting visually. And of course there are the recipes — so many of them out there! I usually browse through recipes to get new ideas or to improve existing recipes in my repertoire.


I like both. I am very sentimental about my traditional equipment like the batu tumbuk (mortar and pestle) and the periuk tembaga (copper pots), for example.

I feel these traditional cooking methods produce more flavourful dishes. But I use the pressure cooker a lot too. My pressure cooker has a permanent place on my kitchen countertop. I also love my food processor. So my kitchen is a mix of old and new, traditional and modern.


I have started my own range of sambal (chilli paste) plus several other food products that help to cut down on cooking time for those who are too busy to make these things from scratch.

It’s still early days but I want to eventually have an online store that sells these items.


Nesu: The solo headhunter

What are the ins and outs of the headhunting industry? Oon Yeoh talks to Nesu Pang, a self-employed headhunter, to find out.

IN the war for talent, many companies have to rely on “headhunting” agencies to help them recruit the right executives to fill crucial vacancies.

The advertising and media agency sector is highly competitive, with a very high staff turnover rate.

One of the most effective headhunters in this niche sector doesn’t work for a recruitment agency but is self-employed.

Nesu Pang has worked on both sides of the media sector, with extensive experience working for media agencies as well as for media owners.

Her introduction to headhunting for the media sector came when her manager at a TV production company invited her to join a new regional recruitment company that the manager was helping to set up.

Nesu worked there for one and half years before striking out on her own. She talks to SAVVY about the ins and outs of the headhunting industry and explains why she prefers to stay self-employed than start an agency with staff.

What made you decide to set out on your own?

I didn’t like working for a regional company. They didn’t understand the local scene. I felt I could do a better job if I was running my own headhunting business.

What gave you the confidence to do this?

Having worked in the media sector — both in the agency and owner sides — since graduation, I knew the business well and I had a good network of contacts in the industry. I saw that many media agencies had trouble getting good staff. This was a never-ending problem so there was definitely a demand for this service.

Was it a struggle at first?

Actually no because I had accumulated some savings and I made sure my car loan was already paid off before I did this. Also, my housing loan was very manageable and I didn’t have many other commitments. After about three months, I started making money so I can’t say it was much of a struggle.

What level of employees do you headhunt for clients?

All levels from executive to CEO. The clients tell me what they need. After I understand the culture and vision of the company, I set out to find the right candidates for them.

What’s your success rate like?

If I take on an assignment, I usually get them the right person for the job but sometimes perhaps because the job or the company is not that attractive, I have to say no to the assignment.

I reject clients about 30 per cent of the time. I’m very upfront with them about the issues they have that make it hard or even impossible for me to find suitable workers for them.

How do you make your money? Does the client pay?

It’s entirely on a success basis. I get paid a percentage of the candidate’s annual salary if I successfully place them. It’s the client who pays, not the worker.

How many placements do you do a year and what is the salary range like?

I do between 14 to 18 placements per year. The salary ranges from as low as RM3,000 per month to RM38,000 per month.

To be effective in your job, do you have to constantly network?

Yes, I often meet people for lunch and dinner. So I’m networking all the time. I meet with potential candidates much more than with clients. I’d say the ratio is 70:30 for candidates and clients.

When you’ve met a new prospective candidate, how long can it be before you end up placing him or her somewhere?

Sometimes very quickly if the right opening is there but sometimes the gestation period can be as long as one or two years. That’s because I don’t only meet with people when I have a job for them. Sometimes it’s just pure networking for future opportunities.

How do you go about approaching prospective candidates?

Oftentimes it’s just cold calling. I tell them I’ve heard good things about them and then I ask them if they are open to exploring new options. If they yes, we meet up. If they say no, I won’t disturb them.

What do you talk about when you meet them purely for networking purposes — meaning you don’t yet have a job for them?

I try to find out what they want to achieve career-wise. Once I understand them better, I am better able to match them with the right clients. This might sound cliche but what motivates me is that in helping these people, I feel I’m effecting positive change in their lives.

What’s a typical day like for you?

One of the best things about being a one-person show is that I have a lot of flexibility in my schedule but I do try to stick to a standard routine. I wake up at around 7.30am, walk my dog, do some exercises, read a little and then eat my breakfast. My working day starts at around 10am.

I spend a lot of time communicating — making calls, returning calls, e-mailing and working on proposals. Lunch time is spent networking — usually with candidates. In the afternoon, I get back to work, do a bit of exercise and walk my dog a second time. Come evening, I’m off networking again, usually with clients.

You obviously love your job. What’s the worst thing about it though?

When you meet a not-so-good client or candidate, you really hate it. At times like that, I really wish I was not in this line. It can be emotionally draining.

How do you plan to expand if you don’t want to build an agency with employees?

I envision growing a network of associates. Already I’m working with another freelancer whom I think is quite good. When he helps me out, I offer him a profit share. I prefer working with associates who are self-employed as they are essentially entrepreneurs. I don’t want to have staff.

Do you plan to go regional?

I have a few regional clients. I prefer to focus on local business because regional work requires travelling which is quite disruptive. This kind of business can’t be done purely via e-mail or Skype. You need to meet face-to-face.

What do you think was the biggest factor in your success?

I think parental influence is important. I grew up in an entrepreneurial environment as my parents were business people. And entrepreneurship is something my father really encouraged.

When I told him about my plan to leave my job to start my own business, his response was, “What took you so long?”