All posts by EZ Malaysia

Discover Malaysia Art

Malaysian Art Showcases In Melbourne

From 11 to 18 November 2013, Australian art lovers, collectors and the public had the privilege of personally getting acquainted with Malaysian art at a special exhibition titled ‘Arts Kuala Lumpur – Melbourne: Discover Malaysia Art’ that took place at the prestigious Melbourne art gallery, MiFA Events.

Datuk Dr Wong Lai Sum, CEO of Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE) officiated the exhibition on 14 November in a festive ceremony that served authentic Malaysian delicacies such as the satay and teh tarik.

The official opening was also attended by The Hon. Bruce Atkinson, President of the Legislative Council of Victoria; and Deputy Lord Mayor Susan Riley, Deputy Lord Mayor of the City of Melbourne. Also in attendance was the Malaysian Consul General to Victoria Dato’ Dr Mohamad Rameez Yahaya.

Wong, on behalf of the Malaysian Government, presented Riley a special Melbourne edition of Ch’ng’s ‘Salam’ sculpture as a gesture of friendship to the City of Melbourne. A second sculpture – ‘Salam – Victoria’ – was presented to National Gallery of Victoria.

The unprecedented event was the largest of its kind ever held and featured the works of 30 artists, ranging from Malaysian pioneer artists since the Independence to the young contemporary artists of modern Malaysia. Curated by Ch’ng Huck Theng, the exhibition was successful in generating great interest among art lovers in Melbourne.

Heels to Hills

EZ goes up the tranquil hills of Balik Pulau in Penang in search of one heritage gem – the Balik Pulau Lodge. A traditional Hakka settlement that is more than 200 years old, today it is a vibrant relaxation spot thanks to one enterprising and history-loving Maggie Fong.

Like the migration stories of many cultures, the story of the Hakka people in Malaysia follows in the same vein. Well before the reign of the British Empire in the Malay Peninsula, the first Hakkas to set foot on this soil arrived during the earlier part of the 18th century. It is said that they first set foot not in the East Coast of the Malay Peninsula, but on the shores of what is known to us today as Balik Pulau, on the island of Penang.

Later on, as the demand for workers in the tin mines grew, the British brought in labourers from the southern provinces of China, many of them being Hakkas. These early Hakka migrants not only brought their language – Hakka – to this new land, but also their own culture, traditions, cuisine and way of living. This wave of migrants made their wealth in tin mining, with the most famous Hakka in Malaysian history rising to prominence and developing Kuala Lumpur as Malaya’s economic and mining centre. Yes, the legendary Chinese Capitan Yap Ah Loy was a Hakka.

Today, almost a quarter of the Malaysian Chinese population is Hakka. Even in Penang, which is better known for its Hokkien community, it is home to a sizeable Hakka community. However, through the centuries, Hakkas have slowly lost their language and the culture is not as visible as the Chinese community at large has adopted Mandarin as their language. But there is an exception to the rule: among the many Hakkas living in Malaysia, is one feisty lady who has taken a bold step in the preservation of a part of the Malaysian Hakka story.

Maggie Fong, a proud Hakka, runs the Balik Pulau Lodge – a Hakka-themed homestay. Setting the Lodge apart from other ‘themed’ homestays and hotels, this place is actually a Hakka settlement that was built by migrants who came to cultivate the hillside of Balik Pulau hundreds of years ago. Right in the middle of the Lodge is what Fong calls the Hakka Big House, around which most of the activities of the homestay are centred.

Built on a rocky slope, the Hakka Big House is a testament to the resilience of the early settlers. As one enters the perimeters of the Lodge and go up the driveway, they will be met by huge boulders lined against the steep cliffs, a barricade of sorts. Not a barricade of the outside forces, but a barricade to contain the hilly slope and to prevent erosion. These acted as terraces for farming, and on which today remains a fruit orchard that produces tropical fruits in the plentiful.

‘The centuries old stone walls with 200 years of history are evidences of the Hakka ancestors who travelled here, leaving their motherland behind. They are also a reminder of how the early Hakka settlers had a hardworking and resilient spirit. Balik Pulau was undeveloped in that period and the valley was too steep, without much flat land for farming and growing crops. They worked together very hard to develop the place, and finally after years of hard work, the Hakka hill farming land was developed,’ quipped Fong.

Fong who grew up in Johor in a typical Hakka home loves to relate stories of her childhood – the stories of her people and the way they live. ‘Hakka people are very hardworking, their food is different and their home is different from the homes of other Chinese communities,’ she said, adding that the typical Hakka home is built on stilts. ‘The first generation of Hakkas lived on the hills, so, to prevent from animals entering their homes, they built their homes a few feet above the ground. So if someone knocks on their door, they could look down to see if it was their friend or enemies.’

‘After 20 years of staying in Penang, I wanted to find a place that I could do up like my kampong in Johor. So I started looking for a piece of land to build a Hakka house like the one in my hometown.’ It was in Balik Pulau that Fong found her piece of heaven. ‘I thought I can have it for my private use, and on Saturdays and Sundays, I could invite my friends to come and eat durian, to have a barbecue, to hold functions and home parties. So I bought the house and the land,’ said Fong of the 12-acre land on which the Hakka Big House stands.

She had purchased the land and the house some years ago, but it was only towards the end of October 2012 that Fong got the idea of opening the place for public. This is how the Lodge came to be established. The inspiration came to her when she went on a safari trip in Africa. Seeing the African tents and how everyone was one with nature sparked the idea to bring this concept to start the Lodge at her Hakka Big House.

‘I just wanted to retain the place’s history, to keep its heritage and to have a green place. I wanted to have a Hakka lodge on the hill, to serve Hakka food and to serve durian,’ said Fong. The Hakka Big House can house up to 30 guests. Next to it is a camp site that is fitted with 10 African-style tents and 20 mobile tents, six mosquito net hammocks, and a field camouflage yurt.

‘We have 12 acres of orchards with durian trees and cardamom trees and 40 local tropical fruits in the Hakka traditional old house. Visitors get to enjoy the cool mountain climate, the air is fresh and surrounded by greeneries, spectacular mountains and sea view,’ she said. And the Hakka Big House, it is the very same house that was lived in by the settlers, giving the visitors more than just a unique experience but also to see a slice of local history.

‘You know, we Penangites, when it come to holidays, there is nowhere to go, only shopping. I wanted a place where they can go to relax, where they can experience the fruit farm. So in October of 2012, I decided to open it to the public. After a few months of preparation, we opened to public in December 2012,’ she explained. The Lodge has been attracting numerous visitors and has been featured in many travel sites.

In the vein of her other business ventures, this one is also a resounding success. Fong, a journalism graduate who briefly flirted with the world of reporting, has always had a passion for business. ‘A business person can attain financial freedom. Even when I was a little girl, I had always wanted to be a businessman. I don’t want to be a worker – a worker has a fixed salary but not fixed expenses. But a business person has fixed expenses but not fixed income, you could have more income in one month if you wanted it,’ said Fong.

Fong is best known for the flyer distribution empire she founded with her late-husband. Flyer King was, and still is, the largest professional flyer distributor in Malaysia. While still managing the flyer distribution business  – Fong is the CEO of Flyer King – and running a stellar tourist and heritage attraction, Fong finds the time to seek adventures around the world as she backpacks to exciting locales off the beaten track. After all, the lady has kicked her heels for the hills.

The Charging Bull: Lamborghini’s bold move to mark its 50th anniversary

You know a car is a big deal if it is launched on board a warship. No regular tarmac or showroom is good enough, and the only dramatic backdrop for a super sports car of such stature is a modern engineering marvel. Which other brand can make such a bold statement than the loud and flamboyant Lamborghini?

The Lamborghini Veneno Roadster made its public debut on board an Italian aircraft carrier in the kingdom of black gold, Abu Dhabi.  A limited edition model with only nine units slated to be produced in 2014; the Veneno Roadster is a speed demon that is a super expensive status symbol. With each priced at EUR3.3 million excluding taxes, it takes the cake of being one of the most expensive cars in the world. Mind you, that’s almost RM15 million, and that too, without the taxes included!

Designed to truly optimize the aerodynamics of the roadster and matched with stable handling through fast corners, driving the Veneno Roadster is akin to being in the simulator of an actual racing car. The roadster is open in every sense of the word; there is only a strong rollover bar for optimum safety.  Its body is sharp and overtly aerodynamic, complete with the trademark lean, mean, chiselled muscular edges of Lamborghini. This is the closest you can get to a racing prototype that is road legal.

The Veneno Roadster is powered by a 6.5-litre V12 engine, which gives the car the extreme energy it needs to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in just 2.9 seconds. With a top speed of 335 km/h, the car can easily outdo other super sports cars in its category. Moreover, it is equipped with fast-shifting ISR transmission with five modes, permanent all-wheel drive and a racing chassis with pushrod suspension and horizontal spring/damper units.

Adhering to the racer prototype, the Veneno Roadster is lightweight with its body built carbon-fibre reinforced polymer monocoque. Its body is designed to allow for perfect airflow and downforce with the front end working as a large aerodynamic wing. Its stunning rear wing and fenders that are reminiscent of racing cars add to the aerodynamic of the flow.  This functional design flows on to the wheels of the Veneno Roadster, which are fitted with a carbon-fibre ring around the rims. These work like a turbine to deliver additional cooling air to the carbon-ceramic brake discs.
 

The closest you can get to a racing prototype that is road legal!
The closest you can get to a racing prototype that is road legal!

Just like the engine and the exterior, the interior of the Veneno Roadster employs a hi-tech approach. The pair of lightweight bucket seats are made from Lamborghini’s patented Forged Composite, while the entire cockpit, including part of the seats and the headliner, is clad in woven carbon-fiber CarbonSkin. This fine-looking carbon-fiber matting fits perfectly to the form of the interior and reduces the weight of the vehicle, which adds to the performance of the car.

Even though Lamborghini has debuted the Veneno Roadster in the intense red ‘Rosso Veneno’ paint colour developed exclusively for the car, future owners of the nine cars would be able to personalize it to suit their individual preferences.

‘The Lamborghini Veneno Roadster is one of the world’s most exclusive cars with the most extraordinary performance,’ said Lamborghini President and CEO, Stephan Winkelmann.

So, if you want to be one of only nine lucky persons in the world to own the Veneno Roadster, you should get moving right now! 

Making the Fire Work

EZ has a chat with Asia’s most recognised firework maverick, Joe Ghazzal, who has orchestrated some of Malaysia’s most iconic fireworks events.

Up in the sky, breaking the treacle dark expanse, bursts of colours shoot from the ground, loud and shrill in their accent only to break out into a thunderous explosion of magical proportions. Such is the beauty of the firework, a human invention that combines the science of pyrotechnic with the aesthetics of art.

Fireworks, like many other endeavours of human expression, have over the centuries taken on various forms to produce what is known as the three cornerstone effects fireworks – the sound, the light, and most importantly, the effects.  So sophisticated are the fireworks of today that they can burn with flames and sparks of a wide range of colours and in spectacular effects with distinct sounds.

Though it may trace its roots back to 7th Century China where they were invented, fireworks have become a form of entertainment of its own.   Mind you, we are not talking about run-of-the-mill consumer fireworks that can be purchased by the public during major festival seasons but professional grade fireworks used in world class events; fireworks that have become a symbol of grandeur and prestige. These are fireworks that stretch the possibilities of pyrotechnics while continually seeking to perfect its art and science.

One such fireworks event, which also happens to be the largest international fireworks competition, is the Danang International Fireworks Competition (DIFC). Held annually in Danang, Vietnam, DIFC surprisingly has a Malaysian connection which began at its conception through the Malaysian and Hong Kong based Global2000 International Ltd. At the helm of Global2000 is the enigmatic Joe Ghazzal – a leading figure in the entertainment and events industry.

‘We were invited by the Vietnamese Government to produce the Danang International Fireworks Competition in Vietnam in 2008; we have been producing and choreographing (the competition) since then,’ said Joe. ‘DIFC is a complete success and it attracts a million visitors to watch the event over two nights.’

Prior to being invited to produce DIFC, Joe’s Global2000 was already making waves in the region for its spectacular fireworks shows and also for organizing world class events. In 2007, Global2000 organised, produced and managed Malaysia International Fireworks Competition (MIFC), which was the first ever international fireworks competition staged in Malaysia. ‘MIFC was the key and major event for Visit Malaysia Year 2007 and 50th Merdeka celebrations,’ explained Joe. ‘MIFC was hosted and supported by Ministry of Tourism in 2007 and 2008 for Visit Malaysia Year and it was a huge success that attracted 3.5 million people to Putrajaya.’

Joe’s involvement in the fireworks industry happened quite naturally. Having been involved in the entertainment industry since his university days, Joe has seen it all and conquered it all, that is, until he went full force in producing world class fireworks competitions and events. He started deejaying in Singapore during his university days and would then go on to recruiting and supplying DJs, records and equipment to new clubs, first in Singapore and then expanding up to Kuala Lumpur. ‘Whilst I was in the clubbing scene, I got into producing special events for product and brand launches in these clubs. Then I moved on and opened an event management company in 1994,’ said Joe on his venturing into event management.

‘I have done over 100 events for Petronas; I did the Launch for the Mercedes cars, produced and launched (events for) Astro, Measat, KLSE new building, KL Tower, Putrajaya, Cyberjaya, Sepang’s F1 circuit, Formula 1 opening ceremony, F1 Gala dinner and produced and managed the official Millennium celebrations at KLCC Petronas,’ said Joe. ‘I wanted to create a legacy for the new Millennium, so I produced a mega party at the Subang Terminal One, which was called ‘Zero’ – One World One Party.’ The airport, according to Joe, was a symbolic choice – it signified the departure of the old and arrival of the new Millennium. ‘It was the biggest party ever held in Malaysia that attracted more than 100,000 revellers!’

This is where the fireworks connection comes in. According to Joe, all his past major outdoor events capped off with a bang with a fireworks display. ‘As the finale was important to the event, I personally choreographed the fireworks so that the fireworks display would sync with the actual events.’

The lure of such fireworks displays is undoubtable. Elaborate fireworks displays are fascinating and quite magical. As Joe elaborated, it is ‘the creative side that is the wonder of fireworks. It is a combination of curiosity and emotion that lead us to watch these shows of explosive art. The one reason everyone continues to be fascinated with fireworks is that they remain incomprehensible. They are a chain of reactions that begins with a spark on the ground and ends in flashes of light several hundred meters in the air.’ This adds to the magical allure of the firework, which he said makes us ‘appreciate fireworks much in the same way as we do art – well-choreographed fireworks displays take us on a magical journey!’

While it may seem enchanting to the spectator, a lot of work by a large team of experts goes in to producing a wow-worthy fireworks event. ‘A major event like DIFC, requires writers, content producers, lighting designers, sound engineers, technical and safety specialists and event production team and logistics planners. To produce (the event), it takes months of planning; a team of good skilled and talented men and technical crew – which Team Global has – months of communications with clients and the selected participants,’ said Joe. On the technical front, stringent quality standards and procedures need to be adhered to.

For Global2000, which is capable to provide A to Z services for large scale international fireworks events, the gamut of its involvement in events such as DIFC and MIFC is indeed vast. ‘We implement the scheduling and format of the competitions and we also manage the press conferences, radio and television programs; receptions and other public events prior to the events,’ he said.

‘In some cases, we supply all supporting hardware and technical equipment; Mortars, Racks and firing system that is required for the fireworks competition as well as produce and manage all logistics,’ he added. ‘It’s a lot of work and many man-hours because we provide a complete turn-key production from start to end.’

The Malaysian-born-Singapore-educated Joe professed a deep passion and fascination for fireworks that goes beyond just a professional interest. ‘Fireworks have always fascinated me since I was a kid. It’s the sound of the massive explosions followed by a barrage of bright colours that makes me happy! I think it has to do with the many patterns of the fireworks because they are all different and unpredictable, just like life, and they explode in various directions and it just looks amazing above the night skies. People just love the explosions in the sky and love bright giant glowing paintings in the sky. The sky is a large canvas and fireworks allow me to paint the sky with my art.’

The sky is a large canvas and fireworks allow me to paint the sky with my art.

To Joe, everything he does seems to come from the heart. Outside his work, he is all about having a wonderful time with his family and friends. While his tastes might veer to the extravagant (a penchant for fast cars, globe-trotting and putting off at golf courses all over the world), Joe is very much grounded and humble. ‘I am a very normal fellow. I have a wonderful family just like the ordinary Malaysian Joe! I have a lovely wife and a beautiful daughter. They mean the world to me. I have a bunch of good friends and I love them too,’ said Joe. As for his work, Joe has only nice words to say, ‘I enjoy the work I do, so, it’s my hobby more than work. I put my heart and soul into my hobby.’

This hobby of his in which he has made the sky as his canvas has proven to be more than just a spectacular form of art; it has helped transform the way tourism is done. Joe and Global2000’s contribution to the region of Danang has not gone unappreciated. ‘We were presented with a special certificate awarded by the Danang Government for significant contribution to socio-economic development, international friendship promotion and humanitarian activities for the city of Danang,’ said Joe.

The God of Quality

EZ caught up with Tumi Holdings, Inc’s Senior Vice President and Managing Director of Asia Pacific, Tom Nelson, when he was in Penang for the official opening of the brand’s first flagship boutique in the luxury lifestyle mall, Gurney Paragon.

In a world where the jet-setting elite are not only growing in numbers but also in sophistication and discernment, the need for excellent travel gear has generated a lucrative industry. With many brands vying for the attention of the well-heeled traveller, there is one brand that has been revolutionising the way people travel.

Taking its name from a Peruvian god, Tumi is a world-renowned brand that began almost 40 years ago, built around the basic philosophy of creating products that make people’s lives easier. The 1980s saw Tumi’s innovation – the soft, super functional, black-on-black ballistic nylon travel bags – captivate the consumers and sow the seeds for an astronomical growth. The last two decades has witnessed Tumi’s conquering of the luxury travel segment and leading the trail with its superior quality luggage, business cases, handbags, small leather goods, executive accessories, electronics, gifts, pens and watches. That the brand holds 25 patents for its design and engineering developments is no coincidence nor is being recognised as the brand with the best products in the travel and business categories.

While in the past, Malaysians could only purchase Tumi products in the brand’s flagship boutiques overseas, the last couple of years have seen a marked increase in the brand’s presence as Tumi sets up its boutiques in Malaysia. With four boutiques in Kuala Lumpur and one in Johor, Valiram Group which exclusively manages and operates Tumi in Malaysia brought the brand to Penang in October 2013. EZ caught up with Tumi Holdings, Inc’s Senior Vice President and Managing Director of Asia Pacific, Tom Nelson, when he was in Penang for the official opening of the brand’s first flagship boutique in the luxury lifestyle mall, Gurney Paragon.

As the SVP and MD of Asia Pacific, Nelson’s job covers a wide region. ‘I am responsible for the Asia Pacific region, which extends from India in the west, down to Australia and New Zealand in the South Pacific, all the way up to Northern Asia, China, Japan and then, actually, up to Hawaii. And so, that sort of is the market in the region of Asia Pacific, and I am responsible for the sales, business development, and marketing of the brand,’ explained Nelson on his role.

Nelson was seen totting a Tumi backpack, which he says has been with him for over a decade. He regards the brand and its products with great respect, something that tells us he would still be a fan of Tumi if he was not working for the company. ‘I have worked for a number of premium, high-end consumer goods brands over the course of my career, and I knew about Tumi well before I was with the company. When I was asked to meet in an interview with the company executive, I was very interested because I deeply respected Tumi,’ confessed Nelson.

‘One of the wonderful qualities about Tumi is that we appeal to clienteles we like to refer to as global citizens and these are discerning consumers who appreciate the Tumi difference and who are successful in their careers; men and women, who have a very fast-paced career who in many cases fly frequently. And so we find that the end users are truly global consumers, not just travelling but living everything. In Malaysia, just like other countries in Asia and around the world we find that Tumi began with the global citizen,’ he said, shining the light on one of the main factors that has made the brand such a success.

‘Tumi is essentially comprised of five founding characteristics and I’ll name them for you. They’re excellence in design, functional superiority, technical innovation, outstanding world-class quality and world-class customer service. Those five founding principles have always been with us within this company and this brand, and I was interested in them. On top of it, throughout my career and life, I have a passion for travel, and a portion of Tumi’s business and heritage is in travelling, so that’s very much something that appealed to me as well.’

It is the travel part of Tumi along with its continual development of good performance products that draw Nelson. Born and raised in West Virginia, US, Nelson professed to having the wanderlust even when he was a young boy. His family, he said, travelled together, often. ‘My mother in particular; she has a deep-seated love of travel, and so she would often get us out on the road,’ he related. ‘We travelled quite a bit and that’s what I think, created a thirst that I have and I still haven’t really satisfied for getting out and being in the world.’

Tumi is essentially comprised of five founding characteristics and I’ll name them for you. They’re excellence in design, functional superiority, technical innovation, outstanding world-class quality and world-class customer service.

With his job taking him around the world, Nelson has spent a wonderful 14 years with the company, which he says is quite hard to believe that it has been that long. ‘I have spent most of my 14 years either travelling to and from the US, but in the last four years I’ve actually been based in Asia, in Hong Kong,’ he answered when asked where he is based. ‘I’ve actually lived in many different places, and the great thing about that is when you live somewhere, you really get to know the city. I thought I knew Hong Kong during all the times I’ve travelled there; you really don’t know the place until you’ve lived there.’

‘But I also like to say I’m based on an airplane,’ he joked, ‘Because I’m so often on an airplane.’ Family, he said, is another reason why he travels so much. ‘I do have a family and I am married, and my family lives in the US while I live in Hong Kong so that’s one of the reasons why I travel around so much. My family shares my love of travelling as well.’

Nelson, who was flying off to a trade show the very next day, said that cities have a sort of effect on him. One of his favourite cities is Munich, Germany. ‘I love that city for its beauty and its architecture, and so I really enjoy cities that are low-hassle, that are visually beautiful, that work well and I think that sort of reflects how I like to conduct my life. My life is complicated, but I really seek to improve it.’

It would not be too far-fetched to postulate that it is with this philosophy in life that Nelson connects most with the company he works for, the brand of which he has chosen to represent. Tumi, at its core, strives to make people’s lives easier, just as how Nelson seeks to improve his complicated life. Tellingly, Nelson attributes the most rewarding aspect of his job to a very tangible experience – seeing people carry Tumi products. ‘It really is the key, the acceptance around the world of the brand and the execution of the Tumi difference. When I’m travelling around and I see other people carrying our brand, it feels very rewarding to me because it shows that we have a product that people appreciate.’

One of the very most exciting aspects of working with Tumi is also getting to work with hardworking people ‘who have such great passion for a good brand, because they recognise the authenticity of the brand’ said Nelson. According to him, Tumi is a very creative organization that is placed on the high end of entrepreneurship, making it an ideal workplace for Nelson.

‘We’re a recent public-listed company and you see the impact of your decisions straightaway. It’s not like you have to go through layers of management to see your decisions get implemented. You can make a decision today and see it implemented tomorrow. Sometimes that’s really the passion and creativity of entrepreneurship.’ Perhaps it is with these intrinsic qualities that Tumi, and its key personnels such as Nelson that have made possible for Tumi to have carved a name – a very respectable one at that – as the premier brand of high quality and luxury travel and business gear.

Rooted in Innovation

Fujifilm is an institution as much as it is a brand that has made a connection with countless people all over the world. Its constant innovation and high quality products that cross multiple fields are highly regarded in the business world; and so is the prominence of Fujifilm as a brand that is reliant. EZ talks to Paul Ho, the Senior Executive Director of Fujifilm Malaysia to find how Fujifilm has managed to diversify its products through the digitalization era and how the company has managed to conquer the global market

Photography, over the past century, has experienced quite a change. Combining principles of science with the aesthetics of art, photography has progressed from the days of creating images chemically through light-sensitive material such as photographic film to digitally capturing images electronically. Along the way, elements of photography have been used in diverse fields like medicine, sciences, art and so on. In its revolutionisation, the field of photography has seen many developers and brands rise to great heights and it has also seen the demise of many such great names. Among those who have not only survived the dawn of the digital era in photography but also to go on to become one of the biggest names in the industry is none other than Fujifilm.

Fujifilm, which started as Fuji Photo Film Co, Ltd, was established in 1934 in Japan. It was the first Japanese producer of photographic films. The first decade of the company saw the production of produced photographic films, motion-picture films and X-ray films, after which it expanded to produce optical glasses, lenses and equipment.  The decades that followed saw Fujifilm diversify into medical (X-ray diagnosis), printing, electronic imaging and magnetic materials fields. Driven by original research and development, the Fujifilm name boldly entered and conquered the digital revolution with its continuous innovation and leading-edge products. Today, Fujifilm is a world leader in the fields of electronic imaging, photofinishing equipment, medical systems, life sciences, flat panel display materials, and office products, based on a vast portfolio of digital, optical, fine chemical and thin film coating technologies.

Just as it is a prominent brand internationally, Fujifilm has been the leading name in Malaysia for a wide range of products such as photo and electronic imaging, data storage media, graphic arts, medical, information systems and life science products for over 20 years. Its marketing and sales operations include a service centre, warehousing, and technical back-up services with branches in key markets across Malaysia. For the company to have grown in Malaysia in the way it has, as much credit goes to the steering of the growth as it is with the quality and likeability of the products. Competent leaders would be able to recognise the tide of change and to lead the company along with the waves, not against them, which is clearly how Fujifilm – be it worldwide or here in Malaysia – has been managed.

Fujifilm Malaysia’s Senior Executive Director, Paul Ho, has been with the company for over 2 decades. He has seen the company grow exponentially in the heyday of film and is now steadily steering the Malaysian branch of this global powerhouse towards a digital future that looks only looks bright for Fujifilm. The key to excelling in the digital world is to be innovative, which Ho says is the fundamental principle behind Fujifilm’s success.

‘I think the whole principle is that you must continue to be very innovative. For Fujifilm, our R&D programme is consistently coming up with new products, no matter in which business domain. This keeps the company going; you cannot stay at one product. Every product that Fujifilm looks into, we invest in its R&D.  That is how we move along,’ said Ho before adding, ‘You cannot be satisfied at one product and say ‘oh, this is the one that will give us our next hundred years.’ You can always predict what the changes will be in three to five years, and you keep innovating.’

To be innovative and to come up with good products that will sell well, it is important to invest in research and development. More than just a buzz word, R&D, as it is more popularly known, is the hallmark of every successful company. ‘That’s why Fujifilm is very successful in entering the digitalization era; we’re continuing to move out across the region because of R&D,’ he explained. Recognising the need for a strong R&D department, Fujifilm reportedly spends over a billion dollars a year on R&D for the various fields it is involved in.

For instance, from its medical branch, the brand will soon see its new pharmaceutical product – the endoscopy – launched, and in the printing side, not only is Fujifilm content with providing digital printing services, it also produces digital printers, printer plates and even the ink used for printing. The direction to progress in this path comes from the top, in Fujifilm Tokyo, said Ho. ‘This is how they think – if  you just stick to one good product, say film paper and you do not progress, you just stick to it for the next hundred years, today you would surely be gone.’

This change was most prevalent in the area of printing, which was a ‘cash cow’ for Fujifilm during the days of analogue photography and film printing.  According to Ho, the future of printing is moving in two directions – a personalized form for consumers and the wide-format for businesses. Consumer printing has become much personalised. ‘People now have the option to either go to our shops to print their photos or buy their own equipment for printing,’ said Ho. It has become people-centric with a demand for variety in printing, such as calendars, event posters, photo cards and so on. This, in return, has led to the demand for big prints, which Fujifilm is able to meet. As for the business category of printing, Ho explained, ‘Outdoor advertising and images, this is where the future of printing is heading … into wide format. It has become very prominent. Fujifilm has developed equipment that can print very big, outdoor images that can get to 60-feet by 100-feet in high-resolution.’

It is important, said Ho, for the sales and marketing leg to follow in line with the direction of the company. Regardless how the advancements in product development, if the products are not marketed and sold well, any company would flounder. So when Fujifilm started moving away from film photography and more towards its wide range of products in the consumer and business segments such as digital photography, printing and medical imaging (Computed and Digital Radiography, Endoscopy, etc.), it was of utmost importance that the sales and marketing leg widen its focus and to recognize the areas of target or market.

The concept of diversification that Ho said needed to be understood from the ground up. ‘If we don’t accept the change in concept, we would have problems because this concept is very important for the company. As the leader there, if you see any changes happening, you have to really change, not just in terms of sales, but also in the timing. Let’s say after you have had good years with the sales of film, you wait until the very last year when you see the downturn which is not good – only then you start doing the changing, it is too late,’ explained Ho. ‘It took me three to four years to change the mind-set of our people.’

Human resources, Ho said is another key aspect of ensuring the growth of a company. In his professional life, he has only worked with 2 companies, one of course being Fujifilm, so to him loyalty is not only a principle he holds on to, but also how he leads his life. However, with the younger and newer crop of employees entering the workforce, Ho said that he has noticed a shift in attitude. Ho, who joined Fujifilm as a salesperson has worked his way up the management ladder and today handles the running of the company in Malaysia.

‘I started at the company as a salesman. I’ve gone through all the low and troubling times, but because of my attitude I continued to stay at one company,’ he said, adding that the current generation of employees ‘don’t believe in staying in one company. Like a tree, you grow roots and you become stronger. The young ones, they come in and then they go. That’s because they want to see a quick improvement in their career within a short period of time. If they don’t see it, then they leave it to look for another green pasture to progress. However, they will finally find that all the grass in the world is the same colour.’

The difference, Ho said, lies within them. ‘The only thing is their attitude – the attitude of working. Everything boils down to the attitude – how a person works. If someone is not a team player and they want to have a fast progress without putting in the hard work, then it won’t work anywhere,’ Ho elaborated further.

To tackle this human resources problem, Ho said the key was to recognize those who show the potential and those who were loyal. ‘For every ten workers, you can find three good ones – the three good ones will prosper faster than the rest. You continue to train up the new people, because they’ll still be good out of the group there. The majority of them won’t receive the training well, but there will be some good ones that we can groom,’ Ho revealed.

From the manner in which he conducts his life and the way he leads, it is clear that Ho is a person who is rooted in loyalty with clear ambition for the innovative aspects of business. It is through loyalty, diversification, innovation and pure calculated progression that both Ho and Fujifilm have sailed into the era of digitalization successfully.

Artful Living For the 21st Century

For some people, luxury is a way of life rather than an occasional indulgence. Only those residences, cars, wines, watches, jewels and gadgets that live up to the highest standards of quality and style can ever win their approval. These are the people for whom EZ was created. Thanks to the magazine’s unique distribution, these are the people who read it. With a vibrant mix of luxury, fashion and people, EZ is the essential lifestyle companion to Malaysia’s ultra-discerning society.

Published quarterly, EZ can be found for your reading pleasure at the following establishments:

  • major hotels and hospitals
  • selected upmarket boutiques and prominent art galleries
  • food outlets such as restaurants and cafes
  • major bookstores such as Borders, Popular, and MPH
  • selected local and international airports