Sunday
Feb122017

The write stuff

The write stuff
By Oon Yeoh
12 February, 2017

JOHN Lim, the editor for AskMen Southeast Asia (the regional edition of AskMen), began his journalism career dealing in both print and web, had a stint in a print environment for several years and now works in a fully web-based publication.

A graduate of Environmental Management at Monash University, Lim realised halfway through his study that he was better at writing than researching. He tested the water working as a freelance writer for KLue magazine and website (now defunct), and became a full-time editorial assistant in 2003.

He subsequently joined a couple of local newspapers and was also editor at local print magazines. He joined AskMen in May last year.

Lim shares his views on multimedia content and the future of magazine publishing. He also gives an insight into what it means to work in a purely web publishing environment.

AS A JOURNALIST, YOU’VE TOYED WITH PODCASTS AND RADIO. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF AUDIO CONTENT?
Audio, printed, visual media — all have inherent strengths and weaknesses in telling a story. To me, an audio format can be used as a way to convey a person’s thoughts and story using their own voice directly to the listener as opposed to, say, a journalist having to describe the person’s tone and voice in a written piece. An audio format can also be more passive compared to the other two mediums, which requires more active attention. This allows the story to be more discursive, organic and transparent. That said, audio content has no visual component so it’s much more challenging to have a radio/podcast show on food, art or fashion. I’m not saying that it can’t be done but audio programmes of visual subjects need to be structured in a way that it pulls away from the narrator needing to describe the subject and instead focus on the creative process of the subject. For instance, when I hosted the OmNomShow on BFM a few years ago (circa 2010-2011), we’d talk about the process, science and history behind a dish, rather than describing how the dish looks or tastes.

HAVING STARTED AS A WRITER, DO YOU STILL PREFER TEXT-BASED CONTENT OVER AUDIO OR VIDEO?
It’s not a matter of preference for me but understanding which medium serves the story best or how the story is best served by a medium. One subject can be told in a variety of ways. For instance, a story on how to dress well can be told through various forms. Through video, we can show how a person can dress better; in text-based stories, we can break down the process in a convenient step-by-step guide — that’s great for people who like to save links for later — or even provide links of things to buy. And in the audio format, we can have a discussion with a style expert about his/her thinking process when it comes to styling someone. In deciding which medium to tell the story, it’s also important to remember who you’re telling the story to and how to best serve the audience. If your audience is young and consumes media through Instagram, Facebook or Snapchat, you’d want to deliver the story through short bursts of information that are less than a minute long. You might also consider doing livestream telecasts via Facebook Live that are unfiltered, interactive and transparent. Conversely, if your audience likes to consume long-form think pieces, you might want to tell the story on an online platform like Medium that facilitates a pleasant long-form reading experience or a print magazine.

YOU’RE CURRENTLY AN EDITOR OF A WEB MAGAZINE. HOW IS THAT DIFFERENT FROM BEING EDITOR OF A PRINT MAGAZINE?
It’s different in the sense that I have to think about delivering the stories through different mediums and formats, and having to cope with the demands of a quick turnaround news cycle. In the latter respect, it’s important to realise the need for both timely and timeless stories, and focusing one’s limited time on what makes the most impact and helps your site deliver its promise. Being digital also allows us to monitor which stories are more appealing to our audience and it helps us keep track of our readers’ habits and preferences. Having a deeper understanding of how, what, when and where they consume the media helps us a great deal in planning out our editorial content.

SINCE IT’S A SMALL SET UP, YOU PRETTY MUCH HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING.
The Southeast Asia editorial team is small, with me as editor, along with a video production crew to handle our video content. However, we do work with a network of freelancers locally and have the support of AskMen’s global editorial team. My day starts with curating and clearing the stories provided by AskMen’s global team — which include AskMen US, UK and Australia, among others — followed by managing the social media properties (Facebook and Instagram). Then it’s off to meet interviewees, write stories, attend events and meet clients.

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNT ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA SINCE TAKING ON THIS JOB? Facebook is a double-edged sword. It’s amazing to think that a new magazine/site can come out of nowhere and within months, with a few thousand ringgit in advertising, become known with thousands of readers thanks to Facebook. Best practices? Be smart in promoting your content, place your ad dollars carefully, know what kind of audience you want to reach out to. On the other hand, publishers live in Facebook’s world. They play according to their rules and algorithms that can change literally overnight, making it hard for us to plan ahead. For instance, what happens if Facebook decides that Facebook Live isn’t working too well or that 360-degree stories are a flop? What would happen to the investment made in procuring the equipment and dedicating entire teams to producing such content?

WITH ONLINE ADVERTISING STILL AT its INFANCY IN MALAYSIA, DO YOU THINK THAT HAVING RELATIVELY LOW-COST OPERATIONS WHERE IT’S LITERALLY A ONE-MAN SHOW OR JUST WITH A VERY SMALL TEAM, IS THE WAY TO GO?
It’s about playing it smart. Having a small team may not necessarily be a detriment if you have a wide network of freelancers that can support your editorial goals. It’s probably better to start off small. In that way, you can be nimble and progressive, without being too much of a risk factor to investors. Online advertising is growing and the sales team also need to change their mindset when it comes to approaching advertisers. They need to sell the strength of the media brand, its understanding and influence on its readers — not content — to clients.

CAN YOU SURVIVE WITHOUT THE INTERNET?
If I still want to be in a job, I probably wouldn’t be able to survive for a week. But I was out at sea for a few days last November and being disconnected from the Internet was refreshing. It allowed me to focus on the slower things in life like reading, writing and contemplating.

Oon Yeoh is a consultant with experiences in print, online and mobile media. Reach him at oonyeoh@gmail.com

Sunday
Feb052017

From favourite drink to business

From favourite drink to business
By OON YEOH
5 February 2017

Sumita J.Singam-Takacs has made a business out of her favourite beverage, tea, writes Oon Yeoh

SHE’S the founder of The Tea Republic, both a physical cafe and an online store specialising in tea. Sumita J.Singam-Takacs did not plan to go into the food and beverage business to begin with. As a student, she was looking at a career in architectural design. After getting a Diploma in Fine Arts in Interior Design, she went on to pursue a degree in Interior Architecture, followed by a Masters in Architecture. She was serious about this topic and looked set to pursue a career in it.

But then a fateful tasting of a French gourmet tea called Mariage Freres while she was holidaying in Seoul, South Korea, changed her outlook. “It had a hefty price tag of US$26 (RM115.40), which really intrigued me as I had never spent more than US$5 for a cup of tea before,” she recalls. “The blend was completely new to me. It was a rooibos tea flavoured with Bourbon vanilla. I still have the tag from the tea infuser which I keep as a memento.”

That tea got her looking up other finer tea blends and before she knew it, she was hooked on the idea of starting a specialist tea cafe.

Sumita talks to SAVVY about her thirst for tea and success in running an offline and online business relating to her favourite beverage.

WITHOUT AN F&B BACKGROUND, WAS IT TOUGH GOING AT FIRST?
I wouldn’t say it was tough but more of a challenge, mainly having to think on your feet and solving problems of all shapes and sizes as they crop up. Having the support of family and friends was crucial. One of the first major challenges was having a full-time staff, whom we had invested a lot of time and energy training, not show up for work the day after the shop was opened!

WHAT MAKES YOUR CAFE DIFFERENT?

Beverage wise, we serve only tea and nothing else — unless you count water. And the majority of the tea labels we started with weren’t even available in the market. We introduced a lot of different tea to the local scene.

WAS HAVING AN E-COMMERCE SITE ALWAYS PART OF THE PLAN?
Having a website was always part of the plan but not necessarily an e-commerce site. I envisioned the website as being just a source of information on tea and about the shop. The e-commerce part came later.

BUT IT’S NOW THE BULK OF YOUR BUSINESS, RIGHT?
Yes, it might be hard to believe but today, revenue from our online business is bigger — double to be precise — than our physical outlet.

WHAT DO YOU OFFER ON YOUR WEBSITE?

We currently have 18 tea blends on sale through our website http://ttr.com.my. As each order is freshly packed, the process is quite labour intensive, especially with larger orders. The ability to customise the tea range with personalised themes, messages and visuals appeals to many of our customers.

HOW DO YOU PROMOTE YOUR ONLINE STORE?

We do online advertising mainly through Facebook and Instagram. We also send out newsletters, especially when the festive seasons approach, updating our customers on the latest offerings as well as sharing articles and sometimes, even recipes with them. I enjoy sharing information on tea, gathered from tea journals, blogs and other tea websites that I frequent.

IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME AND START YOUR BUSINESS ALL OVER AGAIN, WOULD YOU FOREGO THE PHYSICAL OUTLET AND JUST DO EVERYTHING ONLINE?
Hindsight's 20/20 but you have to remember that when I started out, e-commerce wasn’t that commonplace yet in this country and I also didn’t have my own tea brands to sell. So, having a physical outlet made sense then. Of course, if I were to start a brand new tea business today, doing something purely online is certainly viable.

WHERE DO YOU SOURCE FOR THE DIFFERENT TEAS THAT YOU SELL ONLINE?
I attend trade fairs, where I get to meet different tea suppliers. Tasting the various blends is the best way to decide what to carry. I trust my taste! But it’s better to have a group of tasters to give you feedback. Right now, I import tea from various countries, including China, Taiwan, South Korea, India, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Tanzania, Germany and Brazil.

AS A TEA CONNOISSEUR, DO YOU READ VORACIOUSLY ABOUT THE TEA BUSINESS?

I don’t consider myself a tea connoisseur, just a tea aficionado. I read tea journals quite a bit to keep myself informed and updated on tea and social media channels like Instagram make it easy to connect with other tea fans from around the globe. I have about 10 books on tea but 99 per cent of my research is done online.

WHAT WOULD BE A FASCINATING TEA FOR SOMEONE WHO LIKES TO BE SURPRISED?
You don’t have to enjoy tea in its pure leaf form but can have it as an infusion with natural flavourings like our Tiramisu Topaz, which is like a dessert in a cup without the calories.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE TAIWAN BUBBLE TEA PHENOMENON?
There are versions of Taiwanese Bubble Tea made with real tea and those can be rather refreshing. I’d consider those to be variations of iced tea. But I’m not a fan of their non-tea versions like fruit or dairy-flavoured drinks.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE TEA?
My favourite continually changes as I discover new ones. Currently, I enjoy pure Honeybush tea from South Africa. This is a caffeine-free, herbal tea similar to rooibos but with a sweeter aroma and taste. This might be a future offering at The Tea Republic!

Sunday
Jan222017

The Entrepreneurial Journalist

The Entrepreneurial Journalist
By OON YEOH
22 January 2017

What does it take to become one, wonders Oon Yeoh.

THERE was a time not too long ago when journalists focused on reporting while entrepreneurs focused on business — and never the twain did they meet.

It’s interesting that these days, entrepreneurs have to become better at writing because of social media and content marketing. At the same time, journalists need to become better at branding themselves and marketing their stories.

Just as it’s difficult for businessmen to get used to the idea of content development, it’s also not easy for reporters to think along entrepreneurial lines. But with the publishing industry going through tough times, being business-savvy will allow journalists to pursue the kind of meaningful assignments that they’d find fulfilling. One such journalist who’s gone down this route is Zan Azlee, who started out as a traditional print journalist working for an established newspaper. Today, he’s a multimedia journalist working for himself.

Zan Azlee talks to SAVVY about his long career in journalism and his journey to becoming an entrepreneurial journalist.

Did you study journalism?
No, I have a degree in accounting but I knew even before I graduated that I’d never practice it because I found it so boring. I just did it because I didn’t know what else to do at the time. Shortly after I graduated, I decided to give journalism a try because writing was something I had always loved doing. I was just trying it out. I didn’t know then it would eventually become a career for me.

But you eventually got a journalism degree, right?
Yes, I got a Masters in Broadcast Journalism. I went into broadcast because I wanted to explore more avenues beyond text for telling stories. From there, I experimented with all kinds of media and I consider myself to be truly a multimedia journalist. I’ve done it all: print, TV, radio and online. I can’t really say I have a preference actually, I like them all.

How did you end up becoming a freelance journalist?
I was working full-time and was stuck, doing the same thing at a TV station. There was no opportunity for me to try out the different platforms I was curious about. So I decided to quit and become a freelancer so I could pursue the kind of projects that really interested me.

Freelancing is tough. What’s the secret to making it work financially?
Initially, I had to work harder and longer hours than when I was a full-time staff because I was new and nobody knew who I was. But I persevered and eventually made a name for myself in the industry. I think the key is to take on projects that you really believe in and to execute them so well that they can’t ignore you. Eventually the money will come.

The phrase “entrepreneurial journalism” is unknown here even though they teach courses on it in the US. What does that phrase mean to you?
I think of my journalism skills not just in artistic terms but also in business terms. Journalism is my craft and I charge for it. It’s just like any other business. You provide a service and someone pays for it. In my case that someone isn’t an employer per se but a client or sponsor.

A few years back you re-joined the daily workforce as a producer for a mainstream broadcaster. Why?
That broadcasting company was actually a client that had bought my content — video documentaries that I’d made myself. Many of the people working there were friends whom I got along well with and whom I respected. So when they offered me a position, I thought it might be worth giving it a try.

What made you decide to leave it and resume the life of a freelancer?
It was a good experience but I guess being a free spirit, I wanted to continue exploring and expanding. Big organisations aren’t the best places for experimentation and the pace was really a little too slow for me.

What’s a typical month like for you?
I write different columns for several news organisations, mostly online. I also contribute as a freelance journalist for various news organisations locally and internationally. At any one time, I have at least one big project going on that would take two to three months to complete. All my work involves creating non-fiction multimedia content so I write text, create videos, record podcasts, shoot photos, etc. I also teach journalism part-time in college, something I’ve been doing since 2004.

Do you work from home?
Actually, a lot of my time is spent outside as I have to go out to observe, report and do interviews. But of course I do my writing and audio/video editing at home.

What equipment do you use?
I have a DSLR camera, a normal HD video camera, a small GoPro camera, a drone, a shotgun microphone and a wireless neck microphone set. Of course I also have a laptop and mobile phone. This is what I’d call a basic multimedia setup.

Is the Internet a big factor in what you do?
The Internet is the main platform for the content I produce these days. All my stuff is online. I can’t imagine being able to do what I do without the Internet.

Sunday
Jan152017

The hardest decision of her life

The hardest decision of her life
By OON YEOH
15 January 2017

Some journalists are freelancers because they can’t secure a full-time position and some because they got retrenched. But a few are freelancers by choice. One of them is Zaleha Khairene, who opted to leave her full-time position at an established TV station to have more control over her time so she can expand her wings.

A career in TV didn’t seem to be in the cards for Zaleha. As a child she was rather shy and reserved, and in college she didn’t take journalism or mass communications but computer science. On a lark, in her second year in university, she tried out for a part-time newsreader role and actually secured the job despite being very nervous at the audition. “A lot of family members were surprised when I told them I was going to be on TV,” she says.

She found a natural affinity for TV work and rose through the ranks. But in 2008, rather than settle into her job, she decided to go freelance. “Some days I slept at the office because I had to wait for my turn at the editing machine,” she recalls. “There was no time to see my loved ones and relationships were hard to keep because of my hectic work schedule.”

Although it has worked out remarkably well for her career, which is now multi-faceted, it wasn’t at all risk free. Looking back, Zaleha calls becoming a free agent “one of the hardest decisions of her life” and reveals that her father was so upset at her choice that he didn’t speak to her for a week after that. “He worked in the same job for 30 years, so to him the word ‘freelancer’ is synonymous with ‘starving artist’ but it was something I had to do,” she says.

Zaleha talks to Savvy about her life as a free agent in the TV and media world. 

You had no background in media. How did you prepare for the job?
I had no formal background in media but I didn’t just wing it. Even before landing the news-reading job, I had already scoured YouTube clips to see how other journalists did it. And it wasn’t just local journalists I was looking at but foreign ones as well. I didn’t want to confine myself to the local style of reporting.

Any regrets about turning your back on computer science?
Ha…ha… not at all. It’s been a pretty amazing journey so far. I’ve hosted morning and prime time talk shows, and anchored programs ranging from by-election commentary and Independence Day telecasts to special coverage that involved the royalty and the prime minister. I don’t take any of this for granted and treat my career with great love and respect because I know I’ve been given a great opportunity. Since we are looking back, I should mention 12 years ago NST interviewed me just when I was starting out as a reporter! So much has happened since then.

What was the most interesting assignment you've ever had?
Filming a fly-fishing show at Kiritimati Island in the South Pacific where I got to experience catching the elusive bone-fish on a fly-rod. Every single spot was so breathtakingly beautiful that no camera can do it justice – nothing but beautiful blue water, white sand and marine life. There was no cellular coverage and I was rather surprised how calm I was despite not getting updates for a whole week.

Your most challenging role?
Covering the tabling of the national budget, which I’ve done for several years now. Even though the budget is tabled in October, I start preparing for it in January because there is absolutely no room for error when it comes to hosting a show like this. The statistics and facts have to be spot on, and the hosts have to be familiar with the economic performance of not just Malaysia but all the countries that we use as reference points. I’m normally a very cheery person but come budget time, I'm completely in a no-joke zone.

Your most harrowing experience?
Reporting the aftermath of the tsunami in Acheh. It was physically and emotionally draining seeing so much loss and devastation. I stood at mass graves where hundreds of bodies were being buried. I saw body bags lined up along the roads and parents carrying their dead children. I saw rescue teams carrying body parts out of the rubble to do DNA tests so they can be identified. It was the first assignment where I had to tell the cameraman to stop recording because I just broke down and cried.

Your most fulfilling experience?

My crew and I went to Indonesia, Nepal and the Philippines for a documentary about the hardship faced by migrant workers. We interviewed the immigrants who were working here in Malaysia and then we went to their home countries to visit their family members there. When we showed them footage of their loved ones in Malaysia, their reaction was priceless. Imagine, they only get to see each other once a year. So, it was really touching and a really nice experience.  

What’s the hardest thing about your job?
Back when I was full-time with a TV company, I was heavily into pre-production. Sometimes there were moments when commercial considerations superseded editorial ones, and to me that was hard to take.

What was the final straw that made you go freelance?
There was this voice inside me that kept saying: “There's got to be more to life than this”. At one point, I kept hearing that voice. So, I quit and approached another TV station to see if they had any openings for a freelance presenter. I was offered a spot on a contract basis and I haven’t looked back since. It was the hardest but also the best decision I ever made. That was about nine years ago.

What’s a typical day like for you?
On the days when I have morning shows, I wake up at 4.30am and head to the studio. I go live at 8am and finish by 10am. I then have the rest of the day to myself for other things. If I get called up to host an evening talk show, I’ll have to be at the venue by 6pm for sound checks and rehearsals.

What's the biggest misconception about TV hosts?
That everything is fed to us and all we do is read the teleprompter. That’s not true at all. The amount of hard work and planning that we have to put in is crazy. There's so much coordination and mental discipline at play when we host talk shows. Script-writing takes up a tremendous amount of time and the telecasts doesn’t just involve reading. I constantly receive cues in my ear from the producer while I am conducting live interview, so it’s quite juggling act.

Is it true that being on TV doesn't pay much but it gives you exposure to do other things like emceeing, which pays a lot better?
There are two types of presenters: salaried employees and famous celebrities. Their pay scales are way different. But yes, being on TV can definitely lead to emceeing opportunities. Some presenters even get appointed as brand ambassadors and some use it as a launching pad to venture into acting, singing and other entrepreneurial efforts. But if you are a full-time employee, this might not be possible as some TV stations do not allow their employees to take on part-time jobs.

Do you do a lot of emceeing?
I do some emceeing for government and corporate events due to my familiarity with protocols. I also get invites to host press conferences, product launches, concerts, international conferences, annual dinners, fashion shows, award nights, high-profile weddings and birthday celebrations. One of the highlights of my emceeing career was a Milan fashion show for MATRADE where I hosted the show in English and Italian.

You have a book that’s just been published and two more in the works this year. Since you are obviously capable at writing why did you opt for broadcast journalism as opposed to print journalism when you started out?
I wouldn’t say broadcasting was a preference. TV was just an opportunity that came first. It was only later when I was temporarily living in China that I had some free time to explore writing. I got a nudge came from a friend, Sayed Munawar, who happens to be the CEO of Kota Buku (a government agency that promotes book publishing) who said, “If you have a manuscript, send it out to publishers.” My first book, co-written with my partner and entitled “Lessons Beyond the Classroom”, was published last year. This year, I have a Malay novel and a book on journalism coming out. So, yeah, writing is a new thing for me now.

Are you a news junkie?
In my line of work, I have to be. I need to know what’s going on in the news locally and globally – not necessarily the full details but enough to talk about them. I get my news alerts through Twitter which updates me throughout the day. Prior to going on air you’ll find me scouring through Twitter to look for any news that might be relevant to my show.

What else do you use the Internet for?
Everything! Traffic reports, navigation guidelines, restaurant reviews, gift ideas, piano chords, online shopping, video streaming, cinema listings and of course social media to keep in contact with friends and family members. Two of my siblings live abroad so social media is how we stay in touch. 

Are you more a laptop person or a mobile phone person?
I use the laptop more because of script writing and watching stuff online but my phone actually plays a bigger role in my life. It holds my contacts, work schedule, reminders, photo albums, songs and notes. Plus, I check up on social media and do postings via the phone.

What’s in store for you this year?
I’m one of the latest additions to the TV2 news team and I’ve got those two new books coming out this year. I’ll also be doing a lot more anchoring of radio segments, which is something I’m looking forward to. Never a dull moment!

Sunday
Jan082017

Model entrepreneur 

Model entrepreneur
By OON YEOH
8 January 2017

E-commerce will play a big part in any digital economy. But what does it take to run an e-commerce business, asks Oon Yeoh.

IT wasn’t too long ago when e-commerce was something alien to Malaysians. We were wary of using credit cards online. A lot of nascent e-commerce activities were conducted via blogshops where payment was done through bank deposits or cash-on-delivery rather than via credit cards.

But times have changed and now many Malaysians are happy to shop online using credits cards. It’s a booming business as can be seen by the success of e-commerce sites like Lazada.

Michelle Chuah, a model-turned-Internet entrepreneur, is taking full advantage of the e-commerce trend and selling something she knows well — beauty products. As a model, she had to use plenty of beauty products and a chance situation that could have easily bankrupted her led to the creation of a new business which she’s now fully entrenched in.

Chuah talks to Savvy about her career switch from modelling to online retailing.

HOW DID YOU GET INTO MODELLING?
Some models start really young but I worked in a few different corporate jobs — in logistics, IT, pharmaceutical and advertising — before I switched to modelling, and that was only because of the strain those jobs had on my left eye. I’m effectively blind in my right eye due to an infection contracted when I was young. My corporate jobs all involved a lot of computer work and that was too stressful for my left eye. In my fourth year in the corporate world, my eye doctor told me, for the sake of my remaining good eye, to quit my job and marry a rich man instead. That wasn’t exactly my career plan though! I was browsing on Facebook one day and saw a posting about a modelling job and decided to give it a go.

WHAT WAS MODELLING LIKE?
Modelling was fun. I enjoyed learning to pose for different ads and learning how to do the catwalk. However, there’s also a lot of peer pressure. For instance, many models go for plastic surgery, which was something I was against. But what got me out of the modelling business was something that happened by chance. I was assigned to do a photoshoot for a Wacoal calendar when I realised I’d lost some beauty products that I needed for the shoot. I went back to the store I’d bought it from but they had no more stock and I couldn’t find it anywhere else. I managed to find a Chinese supplier on Alibaba but the minimum order was for 1,000 units. I was taken aback by this but I really needed the product so I bit the bullet and put in the order. The shoot was a success but I was stuck with 999 units of the product. I decided to sell these through a simple blogshop. In two weeks, I made back all the money I had spent on the order. I realised there and then that selling online had great potential. HOW

DID YOU GO ABOUT STARTING THE BUSINESS?
I did everything on my own as I didn’t have a business partner to rely on. I wish I had had a partner as the journey was very tough and lonely at times. I had to learn everything from scratch, using Google to search up things. I even learnt how to code in HTML to build my first proper website.

WHAT WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON YOU LEARNT?
Market research is important. When I first started out, I’d buy things based on my own preferences, the things I liked to use. Most of the time this worked out well and people bought the items. But there was this one time when I bought 3,000 units of a product that I liked without doing any kind of market research. That product sold poorly and we lost money on it. After that incident I never again buy huge quantities without market research.

HOW MANY STAFF DO YOU HAVE AND WHAT QUALITIES DO YOU LOOK FOR IN THEM?
Currently we have nine staff, 10 if you include me. The qualities I look for most is attitude, not academic qualifications or even impressive resumes. I believe if they have the right attitude, skills can be learnt. I really believe in the notion of hiring for attitude and training for skillsets.

WHAT KIND OF MARKETING DO YOU DO FOR YOUR BUSINESS?
A lot of online marketing primarily through social media such as Facebook and Instagram. I also use Google Adwords and I am Adwords-certified. We also work with local celebrities and social media influencers to get more exposure and branding. Recently, I was asked to do a fair bit of public speaking about e-commerce, which I’m very happy to do as I like to share our experience.

HOW DO YOU COMPETE AGAINST BIG PLAYERS LIKE LAZADA WHICH SELLS EVERYTHING?
You don’t fight them but join them! I’m on Lazada too. It’s important to not put all your eggs in one basket — in this case, our online store — but instead to sell through multiple channels. Our website is the main store but we also sell through social media and through online marketplaces like Lazada, eBay and Amazon.com. That way, we spread out the risk. If sales are bad from one channel, we balance that out with sales from other channels.

DO YOU HAVE TIME FOR HOBBIES OR A SOCIAL LIFE?
I don’t have time for hobbies now. I used to love pole dancing as a sport but I don’t get to do that these days. I’m pretty much married to Supermodels Secrets, literally working seven days a week and often well into the night. But I do take some time off too. Last year, I went on three overseas vacations, to Japan, Indonesia and Singapore. I also took my team to South Korea on a company trip.

WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
I hope to grow Supermodels Secrets by expanding internationally. Since our ringgit is not strong, it’s time to earn more in US dollars. And with e-commerce it’s possible to sell abroad without having to invest too much capital. We’re also expanding by empowering individuals as well as SME businesses to become resellers of our own branded products.