What made you return to the Samsonite family in 2016 and how have things been since?
I have always been passionate about Samsonite, at which I have spent more than eight years. Working in such a dynamic organisation stimulates and challenges me to think of what’s next for the group and our brands. What makes the travel-goods business exciting is how products are being engineered through a combination of technology and fashion. Over the last two years, we acquired Tumi and eBags, and have been growing our women’s category.
What are your goals for Samsonite in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East?
Our primary goal would be to keep delighting our customers with our products and services. We are already a market leader but what will be sweeter is to also be a leader in newer categories, such as bags for women.
How has your training as an engineer helped in your roles in sales, marketing and management?
Marketing has a reputation of ‘producing pretty advertising pieces’. However, it is so much more. The ability to set goals, measure metrics and apply data-driven skills to create the right strategy appeals to my analytical, problem-solving side. Being an engineer, I am able to look at a product from both the aesthetic and functional points of view.
What is your management style and how do you stay calm in a crisis?
I believe in being happy. If I am happy, I can keep my people working happily. Many creative ideas get lost and many hours of work become unproductive simply because people are unhappy in their workplace. All the stresses of the workplace become manageable if people are happy. They become more innovative and encouraged too. As a leader in a company, people will look to you in times of crisis. We need to show them that we are in control. The first thing would be to find the root of the problem and understand where it is coming from. Once you do that, you will be able to put in place a proper plan to address the problem.
What have you learnt most from handling different consumer products over the years?
Every person brings something unique to the table. What’s important is to appreciate this and acknowledge each person’s unique [qualities] and channel them to the key areas that will help drive the company’s goals.
When you travel, what makes your trip memorable?
Meeting new people and knowing and understanding the culture. Each place has its own social and cultural nuances, and that interests me a lot.
Is there one place or country that you never tire of revisiting, and why?
Australia, which I often visit for work. I went for my first holiday in Melbourne and Sydney. I love the country for its energy and the people’s enthusiasm for life.
Any favourite authors or books? Do you always pack a book when you travel?
I love Eric Berne’s books. In fact, I read his Games People Play a few times. I recently read Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman. Having read To Kill a Mockingbird in my growing up years, it was interesting to read this second book of hers, published after more than four decades. When I travel, I will always have two books — a light read and a serious read.
This interview first appeared on Oct 8, 2018 in The Edge Malaysia.