Featured by The Edge: Never Waste a Crisis

5 Aug 2020

As businesses work to pick up the pace with bridging the digital gaps within their organisation, there is an increasing need to address the challenge factors that come with digitalisation which includes issues of cost, talent shortage and lack of scale. With the ever-evolving market behaviour, business leaders have leveraged on agility and innovation ton ensure their organisations survive and thrive this pandemic. Recently, Plus Solar was interviewed by The Edge as an alum of EY’s Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year 2019 along with industry leaders on how we have implemented digitalisation to combat the existing economic impact.

Find the media coverage by The Edge below:

One of the lessons the business community has had to learn and espouse during the Covid-19 pandemic is that companies need to be agile. For most, digital transformation was prioritised as leaders pushed their workforce to pivot swiftly and efficiently in response to the rapidly evolving landscape. Some of the stories of innovation and resilience are inspiring attesting to calculated decisions that have made all the difference for the organisations. Here, 12 astute Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year alumni members share the lessons they have learnt during the Movement Control Order (MCO) and the successful steps they have taken, in the hope of aiding other businesses in their drive towards recovery and profitability.


  • Ko Chuan Zhen, co-founder + CEO
  • Poh Tyng Huei, co-founder + chief operating officer
  • Ryan Oh Zhi Kang, co-founder + chief technology officer

A strong foundation alone will keep a business from tipping over, and that is exactly what we need this year. Never waste a crisis. We harnessed the pandemic as a push factor to develop our strengths and capture new opportunities. We realigned our purpose and launched our Artificial Intelligence of Things (AIoT) solutions to accelerate the digitalisation of energy in Malaysia. That meant adapting to audience behaviour and the changing landscape swiftly. With digitalisation as a push, we rolled out our AIoT solutions and leveraged our personalised customer service. These qualities enabled us to deal with the overall increase in enquiries and build better relationships with our clientele. As businesses work to reduce their overall operational costs, energy has emerged as among the primary expenditures. We are working on our AIoT solutions to address this, to enable 20%-30% of energy savings for clients and optimise their overall energy consumption for significant bottom line savings.


Sharala Axryd, founder + CEO

Managing cash flow was among our toughest challenges. In sustaining the business during tough times, we learnt so much about people's ability to work from home and the productivity it yielded. We also expedited the digital transformation of our products and made the transition towards becoming a solutions company. Businesses would not be able to sustain this wave if they do not digitise their business and adopt data analytics. This goes back to financials. Use real-time analytics to see where the revenue will come from, how you can stay relevant, and how you can diversify or optimise your business and cash flow. We are now building the dashboard with the relevant financial numbers — in finance and sales to optimise operations, projects and others in one core source. From there, you can derive your cash burn, revenue projection and operational costs. Analytics is applied to that but it has to be linked to all business activities. Rather than having to rely on data being fed to you, you could access financial information from your very own desktop. This is how I use analytics for a post-Covid-19 economy. With data at our fingertips, we can be predictive rather than reactive.


Dr Lim Li Sze, co-founder + operations director.

We faced the challenge of running a manufacturing facility while adhering to standard operating procedures to ensure the safety of our people. We also had to ensure the timely meeting of customer orders. Thankfully, our incredibly supportive staff members have been doing all they can to meet these needs. Excellent support in the supply chain also helps to ensure everything runs smoothly. In times of need, it is your friends, family and people you know who will come to your aid. When pushed, humankind can generate innovative solutions to solve problems. We have seen a good triple helix interaction, where academia, private firms and the government have come together to create innovative technologies for swift problem-solving. Network. It sometimes takes the collective innovation from networks coming together to solve a problem. It is best to not overpromise but to commit to comfortable figures instead. Being technologically up-to-date is crucial. As Mediven was technologically current, it allowed us to come up with a Covid-19 test kit at short notice. To be able to handle a crisis, it is important to prepare the organisation for change and to be sensitive to the pros and cons of making an informed decision.


Bryan Loo, CEO

We used to launch 200 outlets a year as the company structure was heavily dependent on exponential store expansion. With the pandemic, however, growth was halted — not just locally but also regionally. We evolved quickly. We took our traditional bricks-and-mortar model and ventured into e-commerce, starting with our popular DIY bubble tea kit. We also initiated meaningful collaborations with fast-moving consumer goods brands such as Wall's and created the Special Edition Tealive Boba Ice Cream with them. We will soon launch a specialised bubble tea shop on GrabMart and Pandamart.

It is also important to remember that businesses for people are driven by people. Always instil urgency and positivity in the team as it encourages unwavering dedication when navigating the unknown with you and will eventually lead your business to breakthroughs. During times of crisis, business leaders step up to protect their people, customers and company — and sometimes that means making unconventional decisions. But that is our calling — to push through the obstacles and drive our vision relentlessly.


Dang Tai Luk, founder + CEO

We learnt the importance of building a resilient business that is well equipped with internal infrastructure s and capabilities as this allows for business continuity with less external help in a crisis. With the business world going truly hybrid, the sales of our e-commerce segment have increased several-fold. Bricks-and-mortar businesses must embark on e-commerce to bring in a new stream of sales to supplement their physical presence. Additionally, succession planning is extremely important for business continuity, especially when the risk of infection is high. At the height of the pandemic, we set the aim of business sustainability with employees in mind while serving frontliners in the community. A cost reduction exercise helped us to eliminate substantial overheads. We are using this opportunity to correct mistakes and weaknesses that have been magnified by the crisis. Your organisation will emerge from it more efficient and leaner, and eventually gain in sales due to the wider use of technology. I am not sure if the world will ever return to the same busy streets and malls of pre-Covid-19 days. Consumer behaviour has shifted. Human traffic will decrease as people restrict their movements and work from home. Thus, it is always important to keep your cash flow healthy in order to sustain as long as possible.


Datuk Seri Ivan Teh, founder + group CEO

I call it "ACE" — adaptability, calmness and empathy. These have been the best business lessons from Covid-19 and the MCO. Adaptability has been the key to handling this pandemic and the unprecedented turn of events that has arisen from it. Being a tech company, we have had the advantage of agility in approaching business and developing our offerings. We then established the importance of keeping the management team level-headed. In all of this, empathy has been a value we have espoused to identify with others who are suffering from [the same] predicaments. My toughest challenge was minimising the impact of the pandemic on the company and keeping the staff motivated. Our management decided early on that we would boost staff morale by maintaining salaries, allowing remote work, fostering open communication between teams, reminding them that they are all part of "team Fusionex" and ensuring their families were safe and healthy. Identify and seize the opportunity to boost synergistic partnerships and alliances across the business spectrum since everyone is trying to keep their business afloat. Engage closely with technology partners to work on projects in areas such as AI, big data analytics, blockchain, Internet of Things, e-commerce and so on. Survive the present and take the opportunity to retrain, reskill and re-evaluate to ready yourself for business recovery.


Aaron Patel, founder + CEO

Nothing is a given. Prior to the MCO, we, like most companies, were focused on executing what we thought was a solid three to five-year plan focused on growth just like before. This year is different. We have had to shelve our plans and focus on survival instead. We learnt the value of fostering long-term relationships with both our clients and suppliers, who, in turn, have supported us during this pandemic.

In recent years, we have increasingly paid attention to growing our regional presence. Within hours of th e announcement of the MCO, we had to withdraw our teams who were deployed across four countries. We managed to onboard our teams remotely and they helped us to fulfil projects under remote guidance. Thanks to technology, we are now set up on a stronger and more efficient footing to grow post-pandemic. Entrepreneurs should not take present successes for granted as things can change overnight. Building solid fundamentals in times like these will help companies weather a crisis — and take advantage of the opportunities it presents. Leverage technology to create as much visibility for your business as possible. With increased clarity, you will manage and collaborate better as a team, and you will make sound decisions on real-time information.


Datuk Dr Omar Abd Hamid, president + group CEO

We initially thought that the healthcare business would not be affected at all! That obviously was a misleading perception. With movement restrictions and raging phobia about Covid-19, patients were hesitant to go to the hospital unless in an emergency. Our sales plummeted to 60%- 75% and we faced a severe cash crunch. We could not retrench our staff, who are mostly medical professionals, as it would not be easy to hire such experienced personnel again. Be ready with a strong cash buffer. Manage your working capital and conduct cash flow planning regularly. It helps when manpower costs — ours is 50%-60% of total expenses — are rationalised by leveraging technology. Building a resilient board from the beginning will be helpful, especially in facing this kind of unprecedented business environment.


Datuk Munirah Looi, founder-CEO

Decisive leadership, agility and empathy have been key for us. A committed team pulling in the same direction makes for agility in overcoming adversities. Empathy and connecting on a personal level were lessons for us, ensuring that we communicated efficiently and enabling us to achieve more despite the limitations of the MCO. The most challenging part of the pandemic was ensuring business and operational continuity amid the deteriorating situation and the unknown, but the leadership team was able to overcome the situation through combined efforts and laser-focused execution. Throughout the process, we maintained our collaborations with our clients. Team direction has been the key. We have had to reinvent customer and client services, rethink how and where we work and, more importantly, reimagine our role as leaders. This is our best-performing year in terms of top and bottom-line growth. We planned simulations based on several eventualities and were prepared for the worst — operationally and financially. Being digital and cloud-based allowed us to be 100% ready for the work-from-home environment, with no operational disruptions from day one of the MCO.


Datuk Seri Kenneth H'ng Bak Tee, CEO + group managing director

When the movement restrictions were imposed, it was hard to keep up with the changing legislations as the regulations affected our diversified portfolio of electronics, property, utilities and education segments. Forward planning and spreading risks across different industries, customer spread, and geographical locations have been important factors in mitigating against a complete business standstill. For that, we are in continuous pursuit of IT and utilisation of advanced systems across the board. E-computing for the office and home is the future for unforeseen circumstances. Do not be over-dependent on foreign workers and manually run operations. Automation and e-computing will be key for future industries in Malaysia.


Datuk Azrin Mohd Noor, managing director

I believe every problem is an opportunity in disguise. Understanding the pain points of the community accentuates the need for business agility. If your organisation responds to the current market challenges fast enough, you will bring your business to the next level.

Digitisation is key in today's business. As consumer behaviour has shown a response to digital and omnichannel platforms, it further validated our early belief in digital businesses. Some of my businesses such as ESPL, a grassroots e-sports platform that focuses on online competition and digital interactivity, underwent phenomenal growth during the movement restrictions. Fintech is seeing the same behaviour. Businesses today fall under thre e categories — analogue, hybrid and digital communities. Analogue is almost irrelevant in today's consumer behaviour trends. Hybrid is a 50:50, depending on your business model. Digital is in its prime, although the technology convergence that is underway is unavoidable. Know your business potential early on and realise that digital economies will exist and thrive in the metaverse. Your chief financial officer's stringency and rigorousness is critical in a crisis. Have key account managers across the organisation close the gap in receivables, rather than focusing on selling only. Having a robust framework for financial and crisis management enables business owners to be prepared for recurring and future crises.


Hoe Kian Choon, founder + CEO

During the MCO, we leveraged our digital systems to enable clear and open communication, so that everyone could work towards the same goal. Thankfully, we have a very supportive and strong team to weather the storm. Empowering young leaders has been indispensable in riding out these uncertain times.

Throughout the MCO and its subsequent phases, we implemented many initiatives and launched a series of products through three separate virtual launches. Be open and transparent with your team members because they are the ones who will support you and the business through everything. Clear goals move things along with greater efficiency.


Editor’s Note: For more on Plus Solar’s AIoT solutions which enables you to reduce your operational expenditure by maximising your energy savings, visit SOURCE’s website.

Media Source: The Edge Print – 3rd of August 2020

Author: Cheryl Poo

Photo Credit: Plus Solar

Disclaimer: The contents of the reposted article have been edited to represent Plus Solar’s brand and services to its truest nature.

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