Jonathan Ng, CEO of NavInfo Datatech. The largest mapping and telematics company in China
What’s your story?
Spent close to 10 years in advertising for FMCG – selling face wash and shaving cream is way more complex than it looks (or needs to be) but enjoyed the process as it helped develop critical observation skills and reasoning, and also honed a sense for what would or would not work in consumer and enterprise settings. I was keen to apply these philosophies to emergent mobility fields, early in the technological life cycle, where the right consumer and business insights can propel entire business models.
What excites you most about your industry?
Mobility is the engine of globalization and modernization, but inherently fragmented and lacking scalable innovation. Opportunity abounds to optimize transport models and systems and make a tangible impact on commuters, and, ultimately, quality of life for a localized population or regional business.
What’s your connection to Asia?
Born and bred in Singapore, with most of my career focused on clusters around the APAC region. Love the nuance across countries (and even cities) within Asia, working on culturally-diverse teams striving to find common ground and mutual understanding.
Favorite city in Asia for business and why?
Within SEA, it has got to be Singapore for its reliability and transparency, and for North Asia, a lot of cool things are happening in Seoul, powered by their incredible broadband penetration and speeds.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
I read to my 3yo boy every night and one of his favorite books features Mattie the monkey who has a curly, knotted tail and tries everything to straighten it out, but to no avail. He is an extremely kind-hearted monkey, which compels all his animal friends to purposely make their own tails curly and knotted so he feels less conscious about it. The book ends with this gem – ‘Tails straight or curly, wear them with pride, for what’s really important, is who you are inside’. Serves as a good reminder to hold true to your personal values and continually work to improve them.
Who inspires you?
My team and business partners are a big source of inspiration for me as we work together to push the boundaries of smart mobility.
What have you just learned recently that blew you away?
It would take 5 days to count to a million, and 15 years to count to a billion. Puts into perspective the sheer scale of our population as we surge to 8 billion. The first 1 billion took 200,000 years, and the next 6 billion took only 200 years. Transport will be front and center as urban planners, agencies, and companies strive to serve the needs of the people in more efficient ways.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Take more calculated risks early on. Mistakes are the ultimate learning tool.
How do you unwind?
I’m reading the Wim Hof method now and sitting in a tub of ice water is more therapeutic than I expected it to be!
Favorite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Hokkaido for its amazing produce and ski slopes.
Everyone in business should read this book:
Never eat alone, by Keith Ferrazzi (though I’m guilty of it on hectic workdays!)
Shameless plug for your business:
NavInfo DataTech provides a class-leading GIS platform with proprietary positioning and mapping capabilities to deliver business-relevant insights and results.
This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connects’ series of more than 500 interviews
Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder and CEO of MBH Corporation PLC. He is the author of two best-selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.