Today I present another written interview with Melvin Poh, who is the founder of The Asian Entrepreneur Business Media Group. His company runs a prominent business magazine headquartered in London & Malaysia, called The Asian Entrepreneur.
Checkout the interview:
1. What got you interested in starting up a magazine to help Entrepreneurs, specifically in Asia? Share your story.
Believe it or not, I get asked this question quite a lot, in some form or another, at enterprise conferences that I attend and the media interviews that I receive and I think it never gets old because this is a very relevant story. I believe it is relevant because if one truly understood the circumstances of how The Asian Entrepreneur Magazine was conceived, one would come to truly appreciate the ethos of our magazine. As a result, I believe one would be able to properly approach and utilize the magazine in a way that we had intended them to. To get to the point, for me, it was certainly not an active and an overt decision to get into business media. I did not wake up one day and say, “Alright! I want to start a business media company today because I am quite interested in the media.” Certainly, it wasn’t driven by a profit incentive, as at the time, I was already running several successful businesses. It really came together in a piecemeal way. In fact, I would even dare to say it came about, “organically”.
I am an entrepreneur and like many entrepreneurs, I face and have always faced a major obstacle in many of my endeavors and that is the obstacle of experience. To be very specific, when I speak of experience, I mean the requisite experience of successfully and effectively developing and managing diverse businesses in all its aspects from the standpoint of a business-owner. I’ve always felt like there was a lack of an adequate solution or aid that could help business-owners conquer this obstacle. Of course, there are many books in existence on assorted subjects related to business that could possibly be an aid, but being an avid reader myself, I can say that I find those available to be largely inadequate for an active entrepreneur. This is mainly because of the way many of them are written and just simply because many of them lack the direct focus on very specific aspects of entrepreneurship.
It was matriculating at Harvard University, where I discovered the elusive key that I had been looking for. As a business student at Harvard, I was exposed to the University’s unique approach to developing business acumen, which beyond the case study method was a very particular focus and insistence on the exchange of actual business insights between students. As every student had many business experiences and insights, the discussions were always insightful to say the least. Conversing with seasoned business figures and entrepreneurs and sharing experiences within a structured platform, yield with it immense knowledge growth that you just can’t find elsewhere. I adored this platform but at the same time, I felt it was inequitable, that this should be limited to top business schools of the world. So I embarked on a personal mission to create such a platform but one that was available to the masses, to allow everyone to gain the business school advantage without the cost of going to business school.
The locality of coverage was chosen because of my personal experiences and my understanding of Asia. From my experiences as an equities investor in Asia, there is undeniable empirical evidence that Asia is growing at an exponential rate. Naturally, the startup environments in most parts of Asia have really caught on but nevertheless; comparatively, the scenes are rather ‘behind’ when you juxtapose it with the startup scenes in the West. The entrepreneurial institutions, environments and culture are lacking or derisory in many parts of Asia. So it was more interesting to work within this scene. Especially, so when you meet and talk with entrepreneurs who succeed in spite of all the challenges that developing economies yield. They have got truly insightful stories to tell; stories that I believe would be discerning to entrepreneurs from any locality.
2. What are some key take aways you have learned after interviewing over 100 entrepreneurs?
There are so many take-aways that can be learnt from The Asian Entrepreneur, but I would not like to spoil the fun as I encourage anyone to pick up an issue and see what they can personally take away from it. Regardless, I would like to share a fascinating take-away on achieving entrepreneurial success. It’s quite funny because we’ve actually asked countless successful entrepreneurs the question as to how they’ve achieved their success and surprisingly, what we found is that those who’ve actually succeeded in enterprises of their own provide very similar answers.
Ultimately, we can say that there could possibly be an equation for entrepreneurial success and that equation is achieved by the combination of vision, determination, boldness and discipline. More or less, those who have succeeded often speak of how they began with a simple vision and a determination to realize the vision, the boldness of actually carrying the vision through and ultimately the discipline to sustain their efforts to achieve their success. Many would probably expect a more complicated answer or perhaps be disappointed with such a simplistic equation; but in reality, the secret to success may very well lie in the proper application of simple principles.
3. How have you gone about promoting your magazine and website? Do you do any paid advertising, SEO, social media or other means of promotion?
When we began, we mainly started approaching entrepreneurial networking groups. Our target market was business individuals and entrepreneurs, so it was natural to promote our cause in such places. Initially, we did not actually employ any paid form of promotion and marketing. It was purely marketed through word-of-mouth within entrepreneurial circles of major Asian regions. It came natural because many entrepreneurs needed and supported our cause. The interest for our project gradually increased to a point where we needed to expand our operations.
We decided to set our headquarters in London, incorporate our group and expand our human capital. From that point, we started to approach major distributing networks in Asia and also simultaneously, launch a website which would mean an unlimited reach for what we do. Since then with our incredibly talented marketing team hard at work, our print and digital marketing methods have been intensely diversified. To give you a rough idea, today we engage in print-ads, broadcasted ads, partnerships with business schools and relevant businesses, officially sponsoring entrepreneurial events and societies, organizing business events, to name a few.
4. Of all the interviews you have seen through your company, were there any specific start ups that really stood out to you?
There are so many! We’ve encountered startups from diverse fields ranging from social media to conventional products and truly people can be so ingenious, it is incredible. Perhaps, Scentee, which is a startup we covered recently, takes the top for me personally. The Japan-based startup has invented an attachable device that can records and sends scents to other users who possess the same device. The people working at Scentee are actually making a bold attempt to redefine the way we communicate with one another.
5. What are your future plans for 2014 and beyond?
So we have this massive map of the world in our office headquarters in London, where we would pin the location of entrepreneurs we’ve interviewed. The goal at the inception of The Asian Entrepreneur was to hopefully one day pin every single country in Asia. I can confidently say today, we have finally achieved that goal. However, that only marks the beginning for our journey, as we strive to go beyond just being the main Asian entrepreneurial news provider. We want to directly supplement, facilitate and support the startup scene in Asia.
We see The Asian Entrepreneur as a brand that goes beyond business media, we see diversified operations with the introduction of different products and services that entrepreneurs will deem useful and valuable. We see ourselves driving the scene further than it was before, creating the very infrastructures and frameworks that we would like to see in Asia. For example, along with our corporate and equities partners, The Asian Entrepreneur has recently launched an awards programme, “TAE:Valedictorian”, which features a potential prize of USD $100,000 for worthy social enterprises. We are now working with several corporates to develop an investment platform and human resources platform, which we hope to launch under the brand name in 2014. With all of this being said, I can say, you guys can expect a lot more from us in the times to come.