Rentwise Sdn Bhd CEO Leanne Ooi stresses the importance of sustainable computing

The accredited green IT infrastructure services provider extends the lifespan of devices through remanufacturing.

Ooi was only 24 when she established her company (Photo: SooPhye)

Would it come as a surprise if you were told that an average business laptop is responsible for an estimated total of 350kg of greenhouse gas emissions? If the findings from Dell’s 2010 carbon footprint white paper does little to tickle the imagination, it offers a peculiar comparison of drinking 240 litres of orange juice. But perhaps this other analogy would paint a more intelligible, albeit more sober, picture. According to Rentwise Sdn Bhd CEO Leanne Ooi, it would take a tree 10 years to absorb that kind of carbon.

“The environmental damage is tremendous,” she stresses. “A lot of people don’t realise how damaging it is to continue consuming devices endlessly.”

Ooi was only 24 when she established Rentwise in 2001. Strapped with big dreams and an even bigger ambition, the Penangite was inspired during her stint at a local outpost of a British company that had started an IT infrastructure asset management programme refurbishing retired PCs. Frazier International was supported by venture capital outfit 3i Group, but was sold soon after. “I was the business development person and I brought in a lot of the clients. Since they were going to sell the business, I decided it was the right time and place to set up Rentwise.” She initially did so with two partners, but one left at an early stage and the other was bought out.

Rentwise is as an award-winning, accredited independent lessor for end-to-end green IT infrastructure. It operates on a circular business model: The company recovers and remanufactures used IT equipment such as desktops and laptops, in accordance with a stringent 16-step restoration process audited and certified by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, and then offers them for lease or sale. This process extends the lifespan of the devices for up to 10 years or three cycles of use. At the end of each cycle, the company reclaims the equipment for remanufacturing or recycling, making its products an ideal solution for environmentally conscious corporate organisations looking to reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to a closed-loop system.


The company recovers and remanufactures used IT equipment in accordance with a stringent 16-step restoration process audited and certified by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (Photo: Rentwise)

“I looked around the market and didn’t see anyone else doing it,” Ooi says. Back then, the far-sighted lass was already conscious about upcoming environmental issues and thought this would be a noble business to be in. “And I liked working with the clients that I had met.” She placed her bet in the sunrise industry and rests her case 22 years later.

Sustainability is evidently a topic close to her heart, but the obtuse rate at which it is being adopted in this part of the world can be frustrating. Malaysia’s climate promise aims to cut 45% of unconditional emissions by 2030. “We have seven years to go and it’s going to be very challenging getting there simply because the government is still not clear in terms of policy, framework and what they’re measuring,” she laments. “If Asean manufacturers or businesses don’t get there by 2030, in terms of how MNCs (multinational corporations) from other developed countries look at their supply chain, we will have a lot of impact. Or there could be situations where we cannot sell to them anymore because we’re not ESG-ready and we don’t conform to the policies and regulations.”

However, Ooi acknowledges an increased sense of urgency. Though the pandemic had put things on the backburner, lately, the subject of sustainability has been permeating everyday conversation, which is often peppered with words derived from a green glossary that is only lengthening.

During the pandemic, even though Rentwise’s corporate business dropped 60%, it experienced an uptick in projects. One was with Sime Darby, which, through its foundation, engaged the company to deploy 7,500 remanufactured laptops to 60 B40 schools across the nation as part of its corporate social responsibility initiative known as the Cerdik Programme.


Yayasan Sime Darby (YSD) has successfully distributed CERDIK environmentally friendly laptops with 36-month warranty to...

Posted by Yayasan Sime Darby on Sunday, May 9, 2021


This year, Ooi is honing in on taking the business beyond Malaysia. “We want to go into the Asean region and we’re working with relevant regulatory bodies, even the local governments, to see how to scale this,” she says. “We hope to start our expansion plans by the beginning of the next calendar year.”

Asked whether there are plans to build remanufacturing centres outside the country, she replies: “Loyalty to Malaysia. As much as I can, I would like to use Malaysia as our manufacturing base. Give opportunities to the locals. It’s a business where you need skilled workers, so it will create jobs for them.

“When I founded the business, it was a five-person operation. It was a lot easier to manage five people than to manage 80 ,” Ooi says of her responsibilities that evolved over the years. “We had a handful of customers and these were small to mid-sized companies. Today, we’re working with mid to large companies with high compliance that require different skill sets. I went from managing operations and field work (she brought in a professional CEO who ran the business for 10 years), which was the thing I liked best, to doing end-to-end [management]. Not so fun anymore lah.” She also learnt to step back and start looking at the bigger picture.

Ooi credits the few good mentors who have inculcated important lessons in her. “My very first boss was a stickler for accuracy and completeness, so you don’t come to meetings unprepared. You come with the problem, the details of the problem, the recommended solutions, and then we sit down and talk.



“My second mentor was a great business development guy. He can still sell ice to Eskimos. So, through him, I learnt that doing business successfully is about having the right relationships, integrity, transparency and honesty.

“My mentor today constantly reminds me that I need to connect the dots. When we look at strategy, it’s not just about wanting to create your vision, but it has to make sense, it has to be purposeful, so that from the top to the bottom of the organisation, people are aligned and clear of what’s expected.”

The leader values integrity and the ability to continue learning. “I am high energy, very driven, can be impatient, but willing to spend a lot of time to coach and groom people.

“Over the years, the workforce has changed. When I graduated and came out, it was still very old school. You do what you’re told, don’t challenge too much or you’re seen as being difficult. But, today, you want people to ask you questions, you want people to challenge [you]. So, there is a wide range of dynamics to deal with. And I realised that I subscribe to the newer dynamics. If a 22-year-old employee sits down and challenges me, I’m actually happy to hear that rather than they just do what they’re told because that hampers innovation and creativity.”

In 2021, Rentwise won the global WITSA Award for Sustainable Growth/Circular Economy. “I never expected to win it,” Ooi says. “We were competing against people like the Singapore National Environment Agency. When we won, it was a big deal and an eye-opener. Our business and products were recognised and appreciated.

“Clients and customers have become friends over the years. So, when they move to another organisation, and that happens quite often, they take us with them. That’s another feel-good factor we’re doing something right.”


Rentwise won the WITSA Award in 2021 (Photo: Leanne Ooi)

While Ooi is glad to see more women in top positions, her experience was “more of an age issue, where people looked at me and said ‘You’re so young.’” But perhaps it was her youth that fanned the flame of her ambition. “You need tenacity and resilience. Growing a business is never easy. Build relationships with people you can trust. Let them go when you don’t have opportunities for them, because they become allies on the outside. Mentor people. If you want to build a successful business, you need strong people around you.”

A single mum to three young ladies, aged 13, 15 and 18, and a caregiver to several family members, Ooi is constantly trying to find balance between work, family and personal growth. “I’m reading three books at once,” she says. “This is what I normally do! I’m currently reading a book about change management, rereading a book by John Maxwell, and a historical biography that I don’t remember the name of.”

Music is also key for unwinding. “I like jazz, R&B and classical — whatever suits my mood at the time. I’m a movie freak as well. Whenever there is something interesting in the cinema, the whole family will go.”

Asked what sort of advice she would give her three daughters, Ooi is caught off-guard and replies with an “Oh dear!” before quickly recovering.

“Be honest and truthful. Have a heart for people and work hard in life. Don’t expect things to drop in your lap; you have to work hard for them.” Her daughters certainly have the best example to follow.


This article first appeared on Mar 6, 2023 in The Edge Malaysia.


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