Cover Aaron Chin and Roberto Guiati

In this special feature with Omega, we check in with two enterprising gentlemen on what 2020 meant and how 2021 is shaping up for them

To say that 2020 has been tough would be an understatement. The things we once take for granted like travel and gathering with friends and family were put on pause—and there's no telling when it would be safe for us to roam freely again. Most of us are also spending more time at home than ever before and learning to adapt to working from home. Business owners are forced to adjust their strategies according to the new norm with big plans put on hold as they work to stay afloat.

But humans are resilient creatures and challenges reveal opportunities one might not have considered during the good times. Restaurateur Roberto Guiati and managing director of Gamlite IT Aaron Chin are two entrepreneurs who have taken it all in their stride, keeping an optimistic outlook for 2021. Wearing Omega Constellation Gents 41mm watches, these dapper and dynamic gentlemen clue us in on the year that was. 

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Looking back on 2020

What were the big plans you had for the year but couldn’t see them through?

Roberto Guiati: On the business level, we were lucky to be able to complete our projects albeit with some delays. On the personal level, we had to cancel our trips to Europe. 

Aaron Chin: Several business plans had to be pushed back because of the pandemic. The launch of our hotel in Kota Kinabalu has been postponed to at least the middle of 2021. Initial plans to launch plant-based vegan restaurants in Kuala Lumpur were also delayed. 

What have you learnt in 2020?

Guiati: I tried to be positive, seeing opportunities in these times of uncertainty. I wouldn’t say it changed me but I adapted on both business and personal level, and trying to get the best out on these ever-changing situations. 

Chin: The one thing that 2020 has taught me was to realise how little we actually need in order to sustain life and find true, lasting joy.

How has the enforced isolation affected your perception of time? 

Guiati: The idea of limited liberty was hard to grasp at first but like I said, I quickly adapted. Frankly, it was a quiet period that I actually enjoyed. I needed to slow down and appreciate what we have rather than what we want.

Chin: I've heard people saying that time passed so slowly for them but my experience was quite the opposite. I felt the year flew by faster than ever before.

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Turn back the clock

If you knew how 2020 would pan out, how would you have spent your 2019?

Guiati: Probably the same way—growing my business, and spending quality time with family and friends.

Chin: There would be no difference except maybe warn as many people as possible so we could be better prepared for it. 

Let's go back even further. Do you remember your first impression of an Omega watch?

Guiati: The one thing that remains vivid in my mind was its involvement with the moon landing.

Chin: I think it was an Omega Seamaster Calendar that belonged to my father. I remember that it has a clean dial and a timeless design. 

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Let's talk about the Constellation Gents 41mm that's currently on your wrist. How does it resonate with your personal style?

Guiati: Omega's reputation, long lasting reliability, consistency and innovation are principles that I respect a lot and resonate with me in my daily conduct. As for the watch, the 41mm is the perfect size for me.

Chin: I’m transitioning from bigger watches (44mm-48mm) to smaller and dressier timepieces. At 41mm, it feels just right sitting on my wrist. I like how elegant the watch looks with a suit and tie but at the same time carries an air of sportiness suit a more casual outfit. It's a very versatile timepiece.

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The one thing that 2020 has taught me was to realise how little we actually need in order to sustain life and find true, lasting joy
Aaron Chin

Tackling business challenges on limited time

What do you take away from the year's challenges and how will you turn them into opportunities for growth?

Guiati: This year has been a rollercoaster of emotions. I lost my father and not being able to travel to Italy and be with my family was hard. But then you realised that there are so many people who really care about you—my friends and family in Malaysia, my colleagues at Petra Cucina and my teams at the restaurants have been amazing and supportive.

All these push you to do even better. Focusing on work and not being able to travel much gave me time to come up with new ideas. If you stay positive and open-minded, opportunities appear.

Chin: One of the key takeaways this was the importance of building greater resilience and not just focused on growth. The ability of the company to learn, adapt, pivot and change was being put to a real test during this pandemic.

How did you overcome the challenges?

Guiati: We adapted and accepted that small sacrifices were needed. We managed our costs well. 

Chin: I believe in clear and honest communication with my team all the time. I find that if you make an effort to create a safe and open environment for everyone to feel comfortable to share information and honest opinions without repercussions, you will be able to find solutions before the problems get any bigger. It’s important to instil a culture of learning and growing together.

How have you been navigating the challenges in the F&B industry?

Guiati: You have to adapt and try to fulfil a gap in this situation. The pandemic reminded us of the importance of self-care and wellbeing. Authenticity and healthy food became more important. Zenzero and Luce were already known for it. With the new Roberto’s, we've brought that concept to a part of KL that was missing this concept.

We also recognised an opportunity in the market that is ready for a new dining and entertainment concept with stylish urban interiors, fresh authentic recipes and a service that recalls the warm hospitality both Italy and Malaysia are known for.

Chin: The pandemic delayed my plan to open vegan restaurants but at the same time, it accelerated digitisation of many industries, and F&B was no exception. We have since adjusted our business models and are looking to launch several plant-based brands online and building more cloud kitchens.

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Omega's reputation, long lasting reliability, consistency and innovation are principles that I respect a lot and resonate with me in my daily conduct
Roberto Guiati

Looking ahead

What's your life philosophy and how would you like to see it unfold in 2021?

Guiati: I want to do good and I want everyone around me to be positive, dynamic and forward-looking. We're very proud of the fact that even in these trying times, we've been able to hire Malaysians and support businesses with our expansion. We want to grow by doing good.

Chin: I’ve always liked what Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh once said: "No mud, no lotus." It reminds us that the lotus flower only grows in mud. In the same way, life's "mud" offer nutrients for our hearts and souls to grow. I hope we all learn to be conscious of our daily actions, face our sufferings, dare to change for the better, and always find the strength to keep going.

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  • ImagesCourtesy of Omega
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