Elton Kuah’s admiration for Jack Ma and his university lecturers has inspired him to help those who have not had is advantages.
What’s your story?
My background is as an engineer turned entrepreneur. I term myself as 3D Skillset person digital marketer.
The first part of my story of entrepreneurship is highlighted in the 2013 interview in Empirics Asia at the below link.
My current story is embarking on the next phase of the interview coined “Entrepreneur Next” in which I would entail the stories of my work during the pandemic year.
What excites you most about your industry?
My excitement around my industry revolves around the application of digital technology and how it could potentially impact society.
For instance, I am exposed to how technology can underserved communities in emerging markets due to the lack of existing services and solutions.
What drives you in business to push beyond what other people consider normal?
Remembering my customer words and action that show appreciation of how my business has helped them to achieve better impact would be something that drives me. Also, the value of how our real teamwork and cultural diversity (the majority of our team are not from China) to competed against local China-based team in a Greater Bay E-Commerce Competition and this led our team to obtain the first prize. Additionally, as the revenue of our online sales from the competition were donated to help local Chinese tea farmers to upscale their livelihood, this created a shift of perspective of the benefit of being altruistic.
What have been the most useful skills you have learnt and applied in your journey?
I have learned the skills of being more empathetic, resourceful, and flexible in my journey. This enables me to tackle the hurdles head-on in the pandemic, especially when I was forced to find new ways to connect with clients as many activities were cancelled.
Instead of working on training and services in a conventional method offline, I began to collaborate with a community of content creators, logistics, and digital technology online to ensure that the needs of my customers are served well and we can scale the benefit of my work to help more people to achieve their desired impact.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Some of the best advice I have heard is that “Be consistent with your values to serve the right customers who appreciate them, earn the right to be helped and thinking long term” ( from Jack Ma in the context of what he thinks the direction of Alibaba’s future for the next 10 years with respect of digital landscape uncertainty will be).
This advice is helping me to shape values that help attract business partners, stakeholders and to ensure better focus and lifestyle that I am content to build and nurture, moving forward.
Who inspires you?
My teachers in the Sun Yat-Sen University, China for teaching me things about life and changemaker such as YSEALI and Alibaba Fellows, 10×1000 Tech for Inclusion as well as Pat Flynn INcome Stream and Quaranteam communities. All these communities (which I term as a human community library).
All the relevant communities have brought me a renewed sense of belonging, and constantly redefined my sense of purpose or my “why” which helps me to stay committed to my dream and helps others with the same vision get on board.
What have you learnt recently that blew you away?
I have learned how to judge the dedication of someone by the value of the work that they show, rather than the job title or experience. In my case during the pandemic, I have grown tremendous respect towards my teachers in China who not only reached relevant technology in business lesson context but also helped to enlighten the values and relevant Chinese culture on why applying the technology can help empower the local society to uplift their lifestyles.
The teachers help to answer or facilitate student questions (sometimes up to midnight) without much complaint shows a tremendous work ethic dedication.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would learn more from peers and famous people’s success stories on what they would do when they face certain challenges and how they deal with the mistakes that occurred in the situation.
Also, I would tell to my younger self on key values: not to be obsessed to think of things from my own self-interest only and how to practice servant leadership, learn to earn the right to be helped. All this value if practiced consistently would create a better impact on my future and help to serve others in a more fruitful relationship.
How do you unwind?
A few things, I go to self staycation (at times), talk to friends that are not in my industry field, and do ad-hoc meditation at times. Also, I believe in doing things that relate to my other passions such as having a good meal, volunteering to serve others helps me to refocus, to relax for a bit and enables me to have a better focus to solve my business problems and challenges at a certain time.
What is a major mindset change, belief shift or ‘ah ha’ moment that you’ve experienced in relation to your business?
A major mindset shift is that I learned from China this year mainly to advocate the great culture that shapes their characteristics: ambitious, hardworking, caring for their families and communities well being and relentlessly pursuing good education and success.
Also, from my key learnings from Alibaba and YSEALI Fellowship in Digital Transformation, the examples of application and impact to help the underserved society to be uplifted are possible with technology and inclusion, which have lead to my life mission to reduce society divide through effective usage of digital technology.
Everyone in business should read this book:
I would recommend a few books (with the pandemic and my choice of material consumption, I also mix reading around with podcast listening and Youtube videos). Some books I would recommend starting to read for entrepreneurship series are as follows:
- The Startup of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career by Reid Hoffman
- Founders at Work by Jessica Livingston
- The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss
- For online courses, do read Start From Stratch and Build Your Own Brand by Pat Flynn would be recommended too
Shameless plug for your business:
Working on a project for South East Asia, known as The Smart Connector, an information platform that would facilitate the risk assessment of how investors can have better decisions in how to invest in high-risk early-stage startups (ie spin-off from university and research labs and social- impact-driven) to be championed by stakeholders in the SEA region.
This initiative is stemmed from the U.S.-ASEAN Innovation Circle — Challenges of
“How to address the lack of access to early-stage funding, so that investment does not come too late for start-ups in Southeast Asia?” which I am the challenge winner.
How can people connect with you?
They can connect with me via LinkedIn or by email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Social Media Links?
This interview is part of the CallumConnects series.