An Interview with
Tropical Consolidated Corp Sdn Bhd
Tropical Consolidated Corp Sdn Bhd or TCC was established in 1971. Today it has more than 8,000 employees worldwide and is one of the world’s leading food processor headquartered in Malaysia with 35 companies in Malaysia, Thailand, Australia, USA, Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong, Vietnam, UK, Greece, China, Chile, Indonesia and Japan. It has 10 manufacturing facilities producing seafood, petfood, baby food, soup and tissue paper. It contract-packs for some of the world’s leading brands in food and petfood. Some of the in-house brands under TCC are Safcol, TC Boy, Snappy Tom, Mummy’s Kitchen, SAGF, Supreme American Chef, Tropical and many others. Besides manufacturing, its other businesses are in properties development, retail and distribution.
Tell us about your background, and what are you most passionate about?
Trained as a chartered management accountant, I have been working in various industries such audit, investment, manufacturing, trading and distribution and properties development. I currently lead a few companies involving in manufacturing, trading and distribution and brand building. I am also sitting on the board of various companies in Malaysia, Australia, China, Hong Kong, United Kingdom and Canada. I am most passionate about my job. Which is to grow the business through our quality, innovation in products and services. These will be communicated through the brands that we built and my colleagues who work along me.
How has your industry been changing in recent years? What are the biggest challenges you think your industry will face in the next 3-5 years?
Most nations were experiencing lackluster economy in the past few years and now with the Covid-19 pandemic it has turned into a recession. Consumer confidence was at its lowest exacerbated by lower disposable income of the people. Although food is recession proof but consumers are looking for cheaper alternatives or cheaper substitutes. This has challenged the companies to produce the products at even lower costs despite inflation and other factors which increase the costs of doing business. Cashflow management will be the key to survival. In the next 3-5 years the challenges are firstly the retail industry will undergo a major transformation especially the hypermarkets where the smaller retailers which are leaner in their operation and e-commerce will grab a major share of the business from the hypermarkets. Secondly, the aftermath of the Covid-19 will see a lot of major brands consolidating their positions which will be a threat to smaller or emerging brands in the market. Retail price will be continue to be under pressure on the back of increasing costs.
What personality traits make you such an effective or influential leader? In a few words, how would you describe your leadership philosophy?
DICE – Decisive, Clarity, Inspire, Empowerment
How would others define your communication style? Do you prefer to be close to your employees or maintain a healthy distance, and why?
Assertive. And sometimes probably aggressive. It depends on the different types of people that I will be communicating to and I change my style with different groups of people. Generally I prefer to be close to my employees but there must always be a boundary. How close to the employees or how wide is the boundary depends on the type of employees that I am dealing with. By being close to the employees I will be able to know their aspirations, what motivates them, their challenges and with this knowledge I will be able to manage them more effectively.
Can you describe a time when you had to make a tough decision (e.g. budget cuts, organizational restructuring, market withdrawal, etc.)? What did you do and what was the result?
When I had to withdraw my products (petfood) from the supermarkets. We were a small brand in the petfood market and 80% of our revenue came from the supermarkets. The offtake was low due to us being a relatively new brand. Faced with high costs of maintaining distributorship in the supermarkets and low revenue, I decided to withdraw completely from the supermarkets and reformulate the strategies. We rebuild our distribution network by having a new and young sales team who shares my passion in building the brand and business. The team focused on expanding the network through petshops and newly appointed distributors. We reviewed everything from product pricing to promotional activities to product offerings. Probably the smartest thing I did was to set SMART targets and not being unrealistically ambitious. The results? Our revenue has been experiencing high double-digit growth for the past 5 years and having a healthy bottom line.
What does the future hold for your company after the COVID-19 pandemic? How will the “new normal” look like in the next 1-2 years?
Technology will have a big impact on how the business will be run or conducted. My company has been undergoing digital transformation but I expect the pace will pick up in the near future. As for the manufacturing division, there will be increased automation and subsequently embracing the IR 4.0. Besides that, product innovation and solution will be our focus.
What is your advice to other leaders on how to ‘thrive, not just survive” in the face of economic difficulties and tough business environment?
Be calm and focus on the end result. Your employees are your foundation. With a motivated workforce and when you lead with clear objectives, you will thrive in whatever challenges the world throws at you.