As we enter the third phase of the MCO, five young leaders share the ups and downs of managing teams and meeting deadlines from home

While no one can escape the effects of the Covid-19 health crisis and the MCO, running a business in this challenging climate raises interesting questions about teamwork, leadership and working remotely.

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Despite the uncertainties in recent weeks, these five young corporate leaders from various industries share how they have adapted to the new normal, and what it has taught them about resilience, mindfulness and empowering others.

Ko Chuan Zhen, CEO of Plus Solar

Known for his 'roll-up-your-sleeves' work ethic and principle-driven leadership, Ko Chuan Zhen was busy implementing WFH arrangements for his team in the days leading up to Malaysia's movement control order. 

Although the entrepreneur has been busy with video calls and virtual meetings, he has much to be thankful for during these unsettling times. 

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How have the past weeks been for you and the Plus Solar team? 

For me, one of the biggest perks of working from home is spending time with my wife and son. The downside is that I work even longer hours now and find myself hopping from one meeting to another, sometimes skipping meals. We have managed to launch our kick-off meetings virtually and it's wonderful to see over 140 team members still going strong even while working from home. 

I believe in keeping positive and I've told my team that this too shall pass. It's a blessing that we're healthy and safe, but like many businesses - well, let's just say we could be busier.

How do you stay connected with your team at this time? 

Technology has become our strongest ally, now more than ever before. To keep up the engagement and motivation among our staff, we regularly conduct activities such as bingo sessions and quizzes virtually. Leaders are in constant communication with their team members, conducting regular one-on-one engagements. We believe strong human connections create a foundation for stronger impact for businesses.

What about staying connected with clients? 

We've been in constant contact with customers and suppliers, either directly via audio or video calls or through social media. We're closely monitoring their energy consumption via our smart energy management solutions. 

What lessons has this crisis taught you about the future of your industry? 

Digitisation plays an important part in the new normal, post-MCO. This has motivated us even more to ramp up our smart solutions. We see this as an opportunity to tell business owners that despite all the uncertainties, there is one thing they can control, which is their bottom line expenses like electricity, one of the highest contributors to overheads. Electricity will, in fact, increase in consumption during these times. What better way to optimise and save on this than by looking into solar energy? 

Ultimately, we're preparing our team and clients for the bounce back. We will all recover from this as better, stronger and wiser people. There is nothing greater in the world that can be done than what can be done together. 

Jonathan Weins, CEO of dahmakan

No stranger to times of crisis, dahmakan CEO Jonathan Weins hails from Asia's bustling tech start-up scene where flexible work practices and atypical management ideas have prepared him for the current events in ways he had never before anticipated.

How have the past weeks been for you and the team at dahmakan?

These last few weeks have really pushed us to reshape our concept of work in many aspects. I’m glad that at dahmakan, we’ve always prioritised output. Our teams have always been given the liberty to work remotely and they have adapted very quickly to the work-from-home setup since the MCO was announced.

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How has dahmakan adapted and responded to current challenges?

When this pandemic hit, we had to very quickly reprioritise our strategies, taking into account two key aspects: employee welfare and customer-focused campaigns. We maintain our weekly catch-up even whilst working remotely to ensure open communication.

It was from these discussions that we gave birth the idea of deploying a Ramadhan E-bazaar where our communities would be able to retain the nostalgia of their favourite Ramadhan delicacies from the safety of their own homes.

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Valerie Ong, CEO of KIP Group

As a busy female boss, Valerie Ong had little time in her schedule for reflection – until now. At the start of the nation's partial lockdown, the young CEO was understandably flustered and anxious about the future before stepping back to see the bigger picture. 

How have the past weeks been for you?

It was very restless at the beginning. But after seeing how our frontliners are working tirelessly without complaining, I decided to set daily goals for myself to do the things I've procrastinated over the years.

My daily routine now comprises my morning coffee, going through work emails, and conducting daily virtual conferences with colleagues, tenants and board of directors via Zoom, Microsoft teams, Skype or Webex. I've also been cooking every day and exploring different types of cuisine. The most satisfying part is putting smiles on the faces of my loved ones (with my cooking).

What are you most grateful for in this partial lockdown?

Throughout the entire MCO, I've had a lot of time for self-reflection, and I've realised that if there’s one thing I must improve on, it is to manage my time wisely, to be in the moment, and to be present.

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How has KIP Group responded to present challenges?

We foresee that 2020 is going to be a challenging year for the tourism industry globally. In light of this, we've registered many of our properties as accommodation for quarantine purposes, housing staff, doctors and nurses from nearby hospitals and medical centres.

Re-invading the current space in the tourism and retail industry is important to us. Regarding the latter, all of our KIP malls have been following strict guidelines set by the Ministry of Health, and our mall management teams have been doing an excellent job of maintaining social distancing and practising good hygiene and safety. 


Iqbal Ameer, CEO of Livescape

Resilience has seen Livescape's Iqbal Ameer bounce back from some pretty insurmountable crises. Today, the maverick behind hugely successful festivals like It's The Ship is once again forced to find solutions to overcome the new challenges that threaten his company and industry.  

How have the last few weeks been like for you and the Livescape team?

It's been a tough time for all of us in the live entertainment and events industry. Our team has been working tirelessly reaching out to our communities from our festival brands and clients, and ensuring clear transparent communication across all levels.

We've also diversified our business models to adapt to the situation, and we've been seeing the fruits of our efforts blossom with existing and new clients seeking to do the same – a lot of our clients have never been in this situation before. We're thankful for the opportunity to have helped a few brands with some great campaigns during the MCO. 

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What are some positive changes that the MCO has brought to your team at Livescape?

Our team productivity level has remained high, if not higher! We've adapted to the situation quickly because of early planning. This has also allowed us to quickly create 'circles', new ideation groups focusing on different business pillars.

These 'circles' consist of different members from different departments, tasked to innovate, pivot and execute. We've also kept certain rules - laptop camera is always on during calls, meetings on time - feedback is instant and we have moved really quickly. The day goes by very quickly, so we know we're doing a good job.

Raja Jesrina Azlina Arshad, CEO of PurelyB

More than ever, Jesrina Arshad's digital wellness platform PurelyB has had to rise to the challenge of keeping customers engaged in more creative, innovative ways.

As the demand for health solutions increases, PurelyB's biggest concern is helping its customers maintain their well-being – be it through accessible wellness products or engaging live sessions.

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How have the last few weeks been like for you and the PurelyB team?

We've had to adapt very quickly to the new consumer landscape and behaviour. But working remotely hasn't been a difficult transition for us. We've always been digitally savvy and used online communication and project management tools like Slack, Asana and Zoom to optimise remote teams, even though our team members were mostly in the office prior to this.

Since the MCO, our team is much more diligent in using these tools 100 per cent of the time. There is greater transparency and we communicate better with one another, which only cultivates stronger bonds within the PurelyB team.

How has PurelyB responded to the present challenges?

We have changed the way we approach our health and wellness content, products and services, and how we communicate to our audience to best address their immediate needs like immunity boosting and prevention. 

We understand it's a time of financial constraint for a lot of people, thus we have lowered the prices of our Pegaga by PurelyB traditional Asian Superfood products by 40 per cent so that our customers can still enjoy their benefits. We're also looking at more ways to collaborate with and help other small local businesses and provide stronger offerings to consumers through cross promotions.

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How have recent circumstances changed your social media approach?

While e-commerce, email marketing and social media have always been the main platforms of communication with our members and consumers, we are also conducting more live Instagram and Facebook chat sessions where you can discover health tips, healthy recipes and remedies to nourish your body.

What are some positive changes that the MCO has brought you?

Work-wise, it's been a rollercoaster ride but it has also been an exciting time for our business, particularly as a digital health company.

Personally, I'm grateful that we're forced to slow down in our lives and be more mindful in everything that we do, taking more time to reflect on what really matters and spend quality time with our loved ones. Despite the uncertainties we face, we will all come out of this stronger and better people.

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