Coping with ‘Happy’ Problems – Low Han Sin
Successful CEO – Low Han Sin. While many bosses grapple with slow sales, staff turnover and production hiccups, Low Han Sin tackles the problems associated with success such as turning down customers and fighting copycats.
Low Han Sin, a mechanical engineer, is the founder of Watertec (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd, a company that is in the forefront of the polymer and plastic plumbing products industry. He first designed plastic taps and valves carrying patents in the 1980s. The company has since captured a huge share in the middle and low-cost housing market in Malaysia. It has also found success overseas with a wide range of products exported to 20 countries around the world. When Han Sin joined Vistage 13 years ago, company turnover was RM10m. Today, group turnover stands close to RM75m.
How does a successful CEO benefit from Vistage? Han Sin Says he finds value in the interesting training programmes and professional resource speakers brought in by Vistage. ‘I won’t look for them, there are thousands of speakers in the market… Vistage sieves through them, which is good,’ he elaborates.
The other plus point is the Vistage Chair. ‘He is well trained, a captain of industry who understands bosses’ headaches. I can talk about company matters that are private and confidential, which I would not share with a walk-in consultant,’ he explains. Han Sin has worked with three Chairs and is able to tap their different strengths and experiences. ‘Even if they don’t know the subject, they can recommend someone. Whenever I run into problems, there is a solution ready,’ he assures.
Han Sin talks of the advantage of seeing the big picture, even when customers are rushing in . ‘We need to revisit the little empires we have build, see how others see the picture.’ He was made to realize that he had to turn away certain customers for the long-term betterment of his company. His company had earlier made money serving contract manufacturing companies. Most of them were Japanese corporations who took advantage of his company’s efficient production capacity. But the slim margins and demanding schedules were drawbacks. ‘I had to tell them to fly kite,’ he reveals
The reduced focus on contract manufacturing meant that Watertec could concentrate on making its own products. Volume increased and exports followed. The company has penetrated many markets from Asean to Middle East. Here, Han Sin notes that the company has to be careful not to be carried away with export success. The Vistage experience has made him more aware of the need to do homework and be more thorough before stepping into new territory.
Han Sin’s biggest headache in overseas markets is tackling manufacturers who copy Watertec’s products. The bulk of the culprits are in China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India. He spends a lot of time and money meeting with a battery of lawyers to protect intellectual property. It is a tedious process that has produced some results. ‘ We have earned a reputation where Watertec is not a company to fool around with when it comes to copying designs,’ he declares.
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