Dare to Change

CC Ngei, Managing Director of Feruni Ceramiche Sdn Bhd

Taking risks and leaps in innovation are not common traits among Malaysian CEOs. But CC Ngei, is a fine example of one who dared to change and is now enjoying the fruits of his labour. Avant-garde designs, branding and customer service have transformed his company Feruni Ceramiche into a market leader in the premium ceramic tile industry.

Going against the grain is never easy. Four years ago, CC Ngei, Managing Director of Feruni Ceramiche Sdn Bhd, ignored many objections, and went ahead to sell only one brand of tiles. He also introduced avant-garde tile designs, built the Feruni brand and streamlined the buying experience for customers. While the initial going was tough, his critics have been proven wrong. Sales are six to seven times higher than before and Feruni Ceramiche is now the market leader in the premium ceramic tile market.

CC Ngei, a Vistage Chief Executive (VCE-22) member, is driven by the mantra of “Think Different” after being in the tile industry for 20 years. He started as a kid helping his father, a tiler, and continued to work in his father’s business, picking up all the tools of the trade. After 11 years, he ventured into his own tile trading business with partners. Nine years on, he realised that there was hardly any innovation in the industry in terms of products and service to customers. “I wanted to change the industry”, he proclaimed and set up Feruni Ceramiche, with new partners in 2010.

To CC Ngei, change meant making it simple, convenient and pleasant for customers to purchase tiles, plus endearing them to one and only Feruni tiles. “I wanted to simplify the process for customers and make the buying process a happy one,” he points out. His vision became reality with the debut of the thoroughly modern Feruni showroom in Petaling Jaya in 2010. The trendy, two-storey showroom has a lifestyle feel, where only Feruni tiles are installed in various settings like bathrooms, kitchens and living rooms. Information and specifications of tiles – shapes, texture, sizes and colour options – are neatly displayed. More than a fancy showpiece, customers get to see and feel the innovative changes that Feruni has introduced.

Walking the talk on innovation, CC Ngei displays the company’s Signature products, E-shape tiles in seven shapes and sizes that break the traditional square shape of tiles.

These come in shapes like jig-saw puzzle, cross, hexagon and circle. These unique shapes open up many ideas to decorate walls and floors. It can be seen in the showroom that the joining of these irregular-shaped tiles can be so well done.

Also innovative is Feruni’s marketing of “mix and match” tiles where different colours, patterns and sizes of tiles can be combined in an endless array of designs. How do you know whether it looks good or ghastly in your brand new house? A special interior design software and in-house consultants enable the customer to see in 3-D drawings how the mixed and matched tiles fit and look together. Selections and re-arrangements can be made with just a click of the mouse, at any of its seven retail outlets in Malaysia.

Another first in Malaysia is the sale of tiles in a pre-packed box called Modular. The modular box contains a combination of a few sizes of tiles that form an exceptional pattern when installed. There is no need for complex calculations and pre-order as the boxes are ready and the packed tiles are made to fit into 1.44 sq m of space.

Thriving on ideas and style, CC Ngei chose “designed for luxury” as Feruni’s brand identity. He explains that luxury does not always imply high prices. The onus is adding “oomph” to plain walls and floors with good designs and decorating ideas for residential, retail and commercial customers. Feruni has a team of designers who come up with several product ranges every year. The company also collaborates with famous foreign designers to capture the world’s latest tile trends. All Feruni tiles are made by OEM factories in Malaysia, China as well as Italy and Spain.

Besides daring to be different in business, CC Ngei, 42, is also very serious about changing himself. Acknowledging his lack of formal education, he has set himself goals to better his command of English and hone his management skills. “I have to be three times more efficient to catch up,” he asserts. On his to-do list are reading 20 books a year, allocating 30 days in a year for professional courses and exercising three times a week. Also included is quality time with his family and Bible study.

Joining Vistage has enabled him to have 12 days of intensive learning in a year (when he has one-to-one sessions with his Chair Lai Keong). “I get inspiration from the members too,“ he adds as he enjoys the interaction with other CEOs in his Vistage group and learning from their experience. “When you are alone, you have one problem and one solution. But in a Vistage group, you can have one problem and 13 solutions”, he illustrates.

CC Ngei finds that Vistage has “opened his mind” to many situations, like the way of doing things, facing challenges and accepting criticism. He says he gets positive energy to perform and grow because other CEOs are constantly sharing and showcasing their achievements.

What lies ahead? CC Ngei notes that the earlier challenge was building the hardware (products, system, warehouse, showroom). Now the challenge is software where the focus is on people. He emphasizes that people and passion are very important, besides profits. “With passion, you can do anything,” he reiterates. He has planned many types of training programmes for his 180 staff to better themselves in product knowledge and leadership, using internal and external trainers.

For himself, he is keen to learn how to build a good corporate culture as well as how to continue to innovate so that his company keeps growing. He has already set his sights on the company going global, in the next five years.