CEO Series

"Don't Blame Foreign Talent" And Other Truths About Success - FinTech Mogul Asad Jumabhoy

Asad Jumabhoy is one of Singapore’s leading entrepreneurs as CEO of The Scotts Group.

As the son of entrepreneurs (Scotts Holdings), he had a clear vision for his future. Starting up The Scotts Group and UTU, a platform without geographical boundaries on shopping loyalty points, Jumabhoy is rife with lessons to learn from, so we’ve picked out a few for your reading.

1. The Glass Ceiling Myth

People see family businesses as being deterrents for outside talent, but Jumabhoy disagrees. Rather, a family business empowers one with a “good or an even better chance at attracting better talent”.

It’s about the attitude and business angle. If there’s potential in a region, it’s about sending the talented people, and “whether that person is your family member or not, frankly speaking, is irrelevant.”

“If you’re mentally organised to understand and respect other people’s contribution to the firm, why should there be any difference? I’m a firm believer in paying for talent and paying for performance,” Jumabhoy emphasises.

Some of the world’s largest companies are family businesses, such as IBM and Coca Cola.

“[They demonstrate how] you can cross from small businesses to big businesses […] from startups to professionalisation and I think professionalisation is really a frame of mind as opposed to a degree that you earn somewhere.” 

As for attracting and retaining talent, Jumabhoy reveals that he looks for people with “high energy, high integrity and the ability to be flexible.”

Talent comes in with those who knows things you don’t, as well as those who are aware of their own lack of knowledge, but know where to acquire it. The most important ingredients he uses to attract talent is to provide them with opportunity, to help them develop themselves.

2. Motivate People With Sports

As innovation progresses, there are also people resistant to change. To motivate and mobilise them, Jumabhoy recommends sports.

“You learn so much [from it]. The biggest one is team sport […] We’ve got to read each other’s minds and that’s the whole thing about starting a business and innovating. Sports is a great way to get into innovation for the younger folk.”

Just like in winning at Polo, all the important factors needs to come together – “the preparation, the hard work, the right teammates and a cool head. Exactly like doing business.”

Asad and Ameer Jumabhoy / Image Credit: ajpolo

3. Stop Complaining About Foreign Labour

It’s about the education and skills level, Jumabhoy notes.

People should say “I’m as good as the foreigner that comes in. I’m probably better-educated. I’m happy to compete.”

It’s about how far Singaporeans are willing to go to improve themselves. He sees people from all backgrounds “knocking themselves out learning […] so don’t come and tell me foreign guys came in and took my job. It’s a question on how much you’re willing to put out and how hard you’re willing to work.”

On foreign workers accepting lower salaries, Jumabhoy states that it’s just market practice. “It’s not just Singapore, every country. […] If you have a feeling your talent is worth more than what you’re being paid, go do something else. Go start your own business.”

“If the market is saying, “Asad, I’m not willing to pay you so much for this job” then I have two choices – either I change my job and change my focus or I stick with this and accept my position.”

4. A Sandbox Learning Style

“Everything I learnt in the sandbox: don’t throw sand in people’s face, wash your hands before you eat.”

The biggest lesson for him is when he’s dealing with family. His and his son’s background in management, as well as his other son’s law education allowed him to pick up corporate professionalism.

Next, take the “best out of entrepreneurship and blend it[You’ll] have all the governance, right structures and the right ways of doing things. [You’re] not over-bureaucratic whereas at the same time, you’re also infusing a spark of entrepreneurship into the mix.”

On the working relationships with with family, Jumabhoy reflects that while you think you can lean on each other because of the second relationship – don’t.

“Treat them with the same respect and care as you would treat any professional working in the firm because they are professionals and they deserve that.” 

Image Credit: eternalmewar

5. Try And Try Again

“Try, and if you fail, try again, that was the lesson my father taught me,” Jumabhoy shared, as he elaborates on his late mother’s “if you’re going to try, at least use your brain and get yourself ready.”

In Singapore, the attitude toward success and failure needs to change – “If people fail, it’s not because they’re not doing the right thing.”

Image Credit: mitsloan

On UTU’s tech team, there’s a guy who failed to build a loyalty system in his own country because he lacked a robust business strategy. But combining his tech knowhow with the team’s business strategy, and the “gentleman is a success“, Jumabhoy states.

“If it’s a failed effort, it’s a failed effort, move on. If the business issue didn’t work out, it didn’t work out. But never stop learning and trying. Try, try, try again.”

You can read the entire interview transcript here.

Featured Image Credit: ajpolo

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