I had a confession to made.
I had been an avid gamer teenager. My parents had locked my PC numerous time. They even had to go to the arcade center drag me away by pulling my ears in public. I had been a bad child.
Thus eSport (Gaming) Industry really psyche me up. I always had emotionally connected to eSport.
I envied those which dare to continue their passion in gaming. I danced in pride when I learned Mushi won 4th Place in International Dota in 2014. He is my nephew in law, and I am one of the person which suggested to his mum to let Mushi be what he want to be. During my stint in Huawei, I vouched and covered for a Malay Fifa Gamer by approving him extra leave to participate in a competition in France.
Later I had the honor to meet DAVE which is also passionate in gaming, and now built beautiful art piece of arcade machine, in ARCADE BUILDERS in Ipoh. Another person I must mentioned is BENNY TEH. He inherited a well-known cakoi business which were featured many times in mass media. However, he never gave up his passion in eSport. Currently he is one of very limited group of organizers and connectors in eSport Events.
I thought I had seen it all, but until this moment:
“ Hi, You are Koh right. I read some of your blog, not bad.“
That it’s how I met Tommy, COO of SEA GAMERS MALL (SEAGM) in recent MECA dinner.
Of course, with beaming face (not many recognize me, haha), I was very happy and quickly exchanged card with him. Upon seeing his card, I just felt an electric pulse thru my body, like we were destined to meet.
Love at first sight hahaha, and of course I quickly dated him to have an interview after Chinese New Year. Tommy agreed to it without much hesitation.
So, What did I learned from Tommy & SEAGM?
FIRST TIP: Follow your heart and passion.
I love gaming but I regret totally one thing, I gave up.
I gave in to my parents and society pressure and enigma that games are not good for sturdies and the future.
It’s not their fault, as they want the best for me. It is me who gave up. My Fault.
However it isn’t the same for Mr.Wong, Founder of SEAGM. He like games so much, that he went back to Sitiawan, setup a computer shop cum cybercafé.
He loved gaming and want to make a living out of it. PERIOD! It happened earlier than Mushi first appearance. Due to his tenacity, he opened another path for himself. DIGITAL GOODS huge market. The start of SEAGM was because Mr. Wong followed his heart, his passion and did what he loves, when most were condemning eSport like my parents at that time.
And the result?
An eSport business reaching annual turnover of a quarter of BILLION. Yes, it is not million, it is BILLION. If you want to put it in million, it is RM250 million. And this happened right in the small town of Sitiawan in slightly more than 10 years.
Now, if anybody will to tell me that eCommerce business will not be successful in Ipoh, I will ask him to go fly kite!
Tip 2: Trust and share with others.
Mr. Wong had another winning characteristic. He is willing to share and stay true to the promises he made. During my chat with Tommy, I genuinely detected his undying loyalty and respect for Mr. Wong.
Just after one and half year working in SEAGM, Mr. Wong saw Tommy potential and had a napkin chat with Tommy.
“Tommy, you have great potential. Let’s do it together and I will make sure the business is yours also”.
Tommy in reflection, felt that it was one of the pivotal moment which determined the future of the company. He felt Mr. Wong sincerity, TRUSTED HIM and never look back. TOMMY went all out for SEAGM, contributing more than 15 hours a day in the early stage of the business.
After few years when the company was in better footing, Mr. Wong make Tommy his partner. It is very hard to find a small business founder willing to hold to his words from a promise make years before. It is not an agreement signed but just a promise and trust between both.
Mr Wong and Tommy are that kind of rare person in the world. It takes two to tango. As a result, both are now partners not competitors.
They avoided the Founder trap of not trusting others not in the family. Often small startup could not grow further after initial success because the Founder just could not share their business. They are suspicious of others learning their business secret and becoming their competitors. True talents will not stay long in an unfair and no trust environment.
You just can’t be good in everything. You need talent, and when you found rare talent, you need to be willing to share your business.
Not enough? TIP 3: Execute, Make Mistake, Learn then Execute again, and DO IT FAST!
"All kungfu in the world had weakness. Only FAST had no weakness."(translation)
Prior to meeting with Tommy, he had an online debate with me, about planning. The debate started as he commented that he will smack anybody which tells him that they had a great idea but keep it a secret in fear of competition.
I argued that sometimes it is normal human nature to hold on to a great disruptive idea, having fear that others might copy it. Also, it takes time to create a business model and proposal for a startup.
Tommy argued that in this billions of people in the world, it is hardly possible that only you had the disruptive idea. But what makes the difference is if you can execute it fast enough.
The difference of success and failure is execution. Execute fast and swiftly as if you don’t, your competitor will overtake you. The world is changing too fast.
Thus, in SEAGM, they seldom had organized meetings with prepared proposals. The company embraced chat groups. Anybody in the company can raise any issues, any time thru the chats for a solution. Solution were identified quickly for the team to execute without further delay. The culture is always speed in execution, not detail in planning to avoid mistakes.
Mistakes during execution is learning opportunity and nothing to be fear.
This was how SEAGM solve each issue one by one in speed, by executing on different method as soon as possible, rather than spend time analyzing which solutions to be taken.
Again and Again, TIP 4: Customer Satisfaction and Experience is TOP PRIORITY in eCommerce and Online Business.
Many businesses outsource customer service call center to 3rd party.
SEAGM created the whole customer service call centre in Sitiawan.
First, they created job opportunities for Sitiawan young people. Average age of SEAGM 100 work force are lower than 25 years old. In fact, some parents had followed their children for interview, because they didn’t believe in Sitiawan had such eCommerce Business and afraid that it is fraud.
However the most important reason is that CUSTOMER SATISFACTION is TOP PRIOIRITY for them.
This business is a red sea industry and brutal. Anybody can easily become a seller for digital goods and price war is common.
SEAGM differentiated themselves by solving all customer issues fast and effectively. 24 hours, 3 shift staffs are available on call, online and on chats to answer any customer questions and needs. When customers had issues with digital goods purchased, they want an answer immediately. They will get it IMMEDIATELY from SEAGM, really.
One of the key issue in this industry is scams. It is much harder to look for enforcement legally in digital goods scam. When they saw customer got scammed frequently, SEAGM engage top online authentication and security company. They had successfully reduced the risk of scams for customer thru many ways such as detecting abnormality in customer account and suspending it, while not affecting other customer accounts.
Customer always prefer to pay from their local currency and bank, SEAGM had took the trouble to setup more than 100 payment method for their client. Just in Malaysia alone, SEAGM had bank accounts in top 9 Major Banks for customer to do intrabank online banking, manual cash and ATM transfer directly. Compare this with other businesses which request their customer to do interbank transfer as they had only one specific bank account.
All this were huge amount of efforts and money spent. But SEAGM do all this for their customers. And I guess that’s why the Customer came back in droves and help drive SEAGM tremendous growth.
TIP 5 sounds cheesy, but I detected honesty from Tommy when he said this.
Profit Is Important but PEOPLE is more important!
Benny joined me in this trip. In the car, he shared with me his experience seeking sponsorship and support from business and corporates on eSport events.
Business needs strict and tough justification to sponsor any sports. All sports are competing for the limited sponsorship available.
During our chat with Tommy, he informed us that SEAGM was sponsoring a eSport Team for the Mobile legend game. Strange enough, Tommy described only on the difficulties of Malaysia team in earning a living. He didn’t touch on the KPIs and the benefits of the publicity from the team results in justifying the sponsorship. He just discussed on how he help the team to able to live comfortably enough to practice full time and compete internationally.
At the end I had to ask, what about the justification of the investment. He smiled and said. “We just want to help them. If people know about us organically thru the team success, that’s fine. But if the team doesn’t win, it doesn’t matter. It is not about drive for corporate publicity. Its giving back to the industry which helped us”.
Such is another culture of SEAGM regarding people.
In order to strengthen the people value in SEAGM, they implemented the 3F (Fitness, Family and Financial) values. Company treats their employees as family not just by saying. Staffs are encouraged to keep their fitness from wellness programs sponsored. The Employee must balance work with families. Team building and family day was held to understand each other better. Lastly, Tommy plan to also sponsored financial education for all employees so that they are able to obtain the needed financial knowledge for their future.
After taking care the employee, Tommy always emphasized that the Company, Employees and Customer is a cycle of business. When employee felt the true appreciation from the company, naturally the employee tried their best to improve customer experience and satisfaction. As a result, the Trust Pilot shown an increase in customer satisfaction and its now at 9.3/10. Read the reviews here. https://www.trustpilot.com/review/seagm.com.
I did asked: “Aren’t you concern on employees taking advantage of company benefits”.
His Reply: “If people want to take advantage, it will be only one time for that person. However, it won’t make me suspicious of everybody else. We will never stop taking care of our family just because of suspicion due to one or few untrustworthy person”
That’s it, the 5 tip which I am able to dig from Tommy.
For me, there are really not much inspiring stories for Digital entrepreneurs from small town in Malaysia, to encourage people like us to continue the journey outside the vicinity of KL and Penang. SEAGM definitely is one of the shining examples.
Lastly, when we were leaving, Tommy said
“Something it also depends on luck. We are lucky to be able to reach this stage”
Sorry Tommy. I beg to differ.