Entrepreneur

The Story Behind One Of The Most Challenging Interviews I’ve Ever Done

As a writer who interviews entrepreneurs regularly, I’m quite confident in my ability to get the story and angles out.

Last week was a painful exception.

Even after a 60+ e-mail thread with eGHL, we were still going back and forth with ideas and headlines, only to have them shoot us down.

“Can we think of something else?” they’d say.

They then asked to meet up (for the third time), so I brought my editor with me because heaven knows I needed moral support.

A good hour at their office, we were still trying to agree on an angle.

“I don’t want to piggyback off other people’s names.”

“I’m okay with approaching a niche audience but I want it to be exciting for people to read.”

“I think too many quotes from me is just like me writing the article myself.”

“It’s too shallow. Isn’t there anything else we can work with?”

It was borderline aggravating. Halfway through pitching an idea, the Group Head would reject it immediately without giving us a chance to explain. We tried multiple times to convince him on how well those angles would do on our platform but his eternal response was just, “I don’t think it suits us”.

At one point, it even felt like he was taking charge of the discussion, refusing to answer questions because they were “too boring and typical”. I felt like I was being told how to do my job.

“Why don’t you talk to my intern?” was the last straw.

I thought he saw us as so incompetent that he didn’t even want to bother with us, and was passing us off to some intern.

But he anticipated my thoughts and explained.

“In our company, you’re just an eGHL employee and you’re treated equally with everyone else. We don’t care what position you hold.”

So despite being the Group Head of eGHL, Tee Kean Kang prefers the company image to be carried by the entire team instead of just him.

Their Operations Manager, Elsa, agreed. It’s not in their culture to have a management label and this has been the practice since eGHL’s inception.

When I asked what makes them different, they candidly admitted that their product itself wasn’t that different. Payment gateways aren’t what you would consider “exciting” technology in the market after all.

But eGHL believes they’ve gotten good at what they do in offering a simplified payment experience for merchants and customers alike.

Their struggle now is getting their name out there in a competitive scene.

“We’re late to the market, but it’s okay.”

eGHL have been offering their payment gateway services since 2003, targeting larger and more established brands. But it was only in 2013 that eGHL was formally established and they went into the mass market.

While others fight to be the best in terms of price, e-GHL doesn’t want any part of that.

“It’s more important to maintain what we’re doing and think of what else we can deliver. Customer UX is what matters most to eGHL,” said Tee.

When approaching merchants, they’d talk about value-added services rather than haggle on price. Safe to say, they got shot down a lot.

But it’s fine, according to Tee. It’s a painful struggle but one worth facing.

They targeted a different market—those who have potential to go online but don’t.

An example is government agencies. e-GHL’s looking at helping automate the entire payment process so it’s convenient for payees.

“Rather than fighting with competitors for the existing market, we looked at it from another angle.”

“We go in, educate them, create the needs and that’s where we can penetrate in. That’s how we deal with this challenging market,” said Tee.

But they’re not limiting themselves either.

They may target an extra market, but they prefer to dip their hands in many bowls.

e-GHL selectively attends and sponsors events to push their branding while the sales team goes through their channel partners to reach out the mass market.

“It’s these little steps we’re taking to position e-GHL the way we want to and we’re not restricting ourselves in our options,” said Tee.

The rest of the team feels the same and it’s all down to their hiring practices.

Their policy is getting “youngsters with eager minds who think with no boundaries”. A background in payment gateways isn’t necessary but they all share a passion for their jobs.

That’s why Tee’s proud of his team and continues to speak fondly of them.

He went on and on about this young “genius” named Chris who he pulled from being another finance guy in GHL to now handling important funds like next year’s e-GHL budget.

“There is a certain type of pressure but the experience is worth it. When you’re alone handling a department, you’re exposed to a lot of things which you usually don’t get in corporate worlds,” said Chris.

Another employee named Farhan said he was given the flexibility of trying out a few different areas in e-GHL before settling down into what he wanted.

“When I met Tee, he told me about e-GHL and e-commerce, which interested me. I wouldn’t be stuck in one department to learn one thing. He helped give me a lot of opportunities,” said Farhan.

I was curious to what drew these young people into what is normally seen as a yawn-worthy industry but they all begged to differ.

“I wouldn’t say payment gateway is a boring industry—it’s actually a very fun one. Currently we’re experiencing globalisation where the payment industry is one of the key factors in linking everyone around the world together and that’s amazing.”
– Chris

The team culture was the biggest surprise of the interview for me. I thought they’d be a stodgy bunch, because of the stereotypes of finance people.

I spent 3 hours in eGHL—talking to a 22-year-old who is in charge of all transactions (which in total are worth millions); a 23-year-old guy who dropped IT to handle the main operations; and a 32-year-old who previously left the company but returned because of the positive work culture.

Not to forget the boss who’s been with the company for just 18 months (but we thought was the founder) and didn’t want the limelight all for himself. So much so that we don’t even have a picture of just him, and he isn’t even in this article’s feature image.

That pretty much sums a company that is built on loyalty, talent, and passion.

This article was written in collaboration with e-GHL.

 

Subscribe to Vulcan Post Newsletter

Stay updated with our weekly curated news and updates.