The CEO of Signature Market, Malaysia’s first online marketplace that focuses on natural and organic products, talks about navigating the curveballs thrown by Covid-19 and staying motivated during these uncertain times.
Options: Congratulations! How does it feel hitting the seven-year mark for Signature Market?
Edwin Wang: I feel proud of my young and 100% Malaysian team. Previously, I had this self-limiting belief that Malaysia was five to 10 years behind things in the tech industry and that overseas talent and overseas investors were superior. After selling off my previous tech start-up to a big US tech company, I realised, in many ways, Malaysian talent, technology and investors were not only on the same level but also have their unique strengths.
Has Signature Market’s growth trajectory been what you envisioned when you first conceptualised the idea?
Scaling a tech business is not foreign to me as I have been in the tech industry for over 20 years. At Signature Market, I want to have an impact on as many Malaysians as possible in upgrading their lifestyle. Our initial initiative is to solve the obesity problem among middle-income groups in Malaysia by improving their physical well-being. Today, we have expanded our impact area to educate Malaysian consumers on conscious living so they can be healthy physically, mentally and spiritually.
How has the past year and a half affected business?
Covid-19 definitely affected our expansion plans. After our success in Malaysia, we wanted to make an impact on other developing countries in Southeast Asia. Due to the pandemic, we decided to close down our business in Thailand. Instead of focusing on expansion, we optimised all our key metrics here. This paid off and the Malaysia unit finally broke even in 2020 and is even profitable in 2021.
In a nutshell, what has the pandemic taught you?
To slow my pace, focus on my strengths and go back to my purpose and vision. Before Covid-19, I was always chasing specific results to meet investors’ expectations. The more I chased, the harder it was to achieve the results. When I calmed down and focused on being myself and doing the things I wanted to create, I started to see results. I learnt that being myself is my biggest strength.
How have you been keeping yourself and your team motivated and inspired in these uncertain times?
For me, doing less is more. Regardless of the environment and circumstances, I always focus on the goal, living in the present and never having a Plan B. When making a decision, my thought process is: Am I focusing on not losing, or am I in creation mode? I always empower my core team to make their own decisions and be responsible for their mistakes. Mistakes are not a big deal, and they need to learn from them through experience. Everything they do is a learning journey for them. I am committed to their growth rather than trying to minimise failure.
Which tech tools have proven most useful and why?
Facebook, LinkedIn and Clubhouse are the apps I use every day. These three tools are personally great for me to show up and spread my teaching. I use Apple Music every day and my choice of ‘television’ is Netflix and YouTube. As for Clubhouse, I am co-moderator of the gratitude room there and we have sessions every day at 10pm. We have been running this room for 210 days since January and it is a space for people to end their day by practising gratitude.
How do you relax and unwind?
I do breathwork meditation twice a month, which helps me clear ‘stuck’ energy so I can be whole again. Whenever I feel lazy, down, low in energy or distracted, I know there is stuck energy, and meditation is the fastest way to clear it. I also practise journaling and gratitude every night on Clubhouse and my gratitude journal book. Lastly, I place enormous emphasis on my hobbies. I love plants; the act of growing and arranging plants helps me to unwind and it also invokes the creative side of my brain.
What are you reading right now?
Karma by Sadhguru. This book teaches about conscious living. Bringing consciousness to everything I do allows me to control my life outcome. Every single thought affects my habits and behaviour, and by being conscious about it, I attract or push people away from my life.
Which books do you find yourself reading over and over again?
I love all of Brene Brown’s books. Her teaching is about vulnerability, belonging and showing up. Everyone wants to have a sense of belonging. No one wants to survive in this world without any purpose or meaning. Her teaching is about embracing our imperfections. Brene Brown gave me the courage to show up in this world.
What are you listening to right now?
My alarm clock is set to club dance radio so I wake up to that music. In the office, I like Apple Music’s office playlist. Lastly, to wind down before sleep, it is either soft jazz or rain music, which gives me the illusion that it is storming outside while I am tucked comfortably in bed.
Where would you travel to once the world looks safe again?
I love Japan. I love the Zen culture in Japan where everything is about the small details, which always delivers a wow experience for me.
Describe a perfect KL weekend for you.
My perfect weekend in KL starts with a morning walk in the park, followed by a lovely brunch in an interesting café. An afternoon nap is the best luxury I enjoy every weekend. I always make an effort to try a new restaurant and its signature dishes for weekend dinner. Having time for a hobby project is also a priority as I believe that creativity can solve all the problems in this world. And I always end my weekend by reflecting on my week and how amazing it was. I always try to put a positive narrative to each of those events and then set my intention for what I am going to achieve the following week. This has long been a part of my routine.
This article first appeared on Sept 13, 2021 in The Edge Malaysia.