Monday, March 28, 2011

Social Responsibility 2

I wrote Social Responsibility in my blogspot last April when Google announced its decision to withdraw from the China market. I continued this topic this time around after the two seemingly not related disasters struck early this year.

Egypt's Jasmine Revolution

The political Jasmine Revolution sprouted beginning of the year in Tunisia and widely spread across North Africa and Middle East countries; successfully ousted the president of Tunisia, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and Egypt, Muhammad Hosni Sayyid Mubarak. The heat continues to influence and arouses the people of the neighboring countries, Yemen, Iran, Libya, and Saudi Arabia etc to go on the protests. The street chaos, affecting some of our partners like Al-Azzahra in Yemen that had to stop their order, as they’re afraid that they might not be able to claim their consignment from the custom.

A mother tries to talk to her daughter who has been isolated for signs of radiation after evacuating from the vicinity of Fukushima. (Reuters)

Later on 11th March, an earthquake of magnitude 9.0 hit Japan, and the devastating Tsunami it triggered, paralyzing four of the six reactors in Fukushima's nuclear plant, radiation risk quickly becoming a domestic catastrophe in Japan and later on spreads across the ocean as a foreign threat.

There is a dotted line that ties these two different political and natural disasters in nature, when we look at them in social responsibility perspective.

After the first disaster, my question is, why the governments in the West showed their support to the dictators in the past but when push came to shove, put pressure on them to relinquish power? Why did the foreign banks help the dictators to stash their corrupted money in the past, but were so quick to freeze their assets now? Why did they not do all these much earlier to help the poor people? The answer is simple; the social responsibility issue was not a priority at all until the chaos started to snowball, which in turn might hurt their interests in the long run.

And on the nuclear energy threat issue, we witnessed combinations of governments and corporations whom teamed up to "educate" the people of the importance of nuclear power to generate cheap and efficient energy for the country's future development. They always downplay the risk in their propaganda.

Under the name of development, nuclear power may benefit the country, but it also benefits the corporate or some individual politicians staggeringly. When the same power causes an environmental failure, it is collectively borne and rescued by the ordinary people.

One of the common examples I like to quote is the Kuala Lumpur flash flood problem that hits the city whenever there is a heavy rainfall. It is obviously the impact of inadequate city planning, where the involved companies are happily enjoying the profits, but eventually the government is left to solve the ongoing problems it causes using the taxpayers’ money to improve the drainage system. For this recent nuclear power leakage disaster, the Japan government does not only have to utilize the taxpayers’ money to clean up the mess, but more disastrously, millions of lives, humans, animals and plants are now endangered by the radiation.

Jared Diamond, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, discusses why do some societies make disastrous decisions in his bestseller, “Collapse – How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed”. One of the reasons he said was the clash of interest between people. That is, some people may reason correctly that they can advance their own reasons by committing behaviors that are harmful to others.

He analyzed, “A frequent type of rational bad behavior is ‘good for me, bad for you and for everyone else’ – to put it bluntly, ‘selfish’. A further conflict of interest involving rational behavior arises when the interests of the decision-making elite in power crash with the interests of the rest of society. Especially if the elite can insulate themselves from consequences of their actions, they are likely to do things that profit themselves, regardless of whether those actions hurt everybody else.”

We know that all companies have three groups of people that they need to serve—customers, employees, and shareholders. We also know that most companies would prioritize shareholders first, customers second, and employees the last. If a company keeps the ranking list that way, I doubt that their claim of concerning social responsibility carries any weight. Even their charitable activities or good deeds they may have done are more for the purpose of maintaining their company image, rather than to sincerely fulfill their social responsibilities. Also please bear in mind; the so-called public listed companies are actually serving the minority public rather than the majority. For example, the shareholders for the affected listed power company, if given a chance, would still woo the hike in electricity rates; regardless of whether it will hurt the entire country's economy or not.

Jack Ma, the Chairman of once proudly announced that he ranked customers first, followed by employees and then shareholders, but to me, this statement was meaningless, merely a hypocritical pretense. Because I always believe, as part of cause and effect, that employees should come first rather than customers. Just as the ISO9000 is a standard to improve product quality, you should ensure the quality of your staff is improving as well; only then will they produce the targeted quality of products or services to benefit customers.

Customers first?

Jack Ma’s way of “priority ranking” backfired last month when found that over 100 employees are suspected of abetting fraud. And the CEO David Wei and COO Elvis Lee had to take the fall and tender their resignations.

I always think that a responsible company has to arrange their priority to put employees first followed by customers, and profits should only come in the end to benefit shareholders. From how a company places its priorities, we know how seriously a company takes its social responsibility on its shoulders.

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ

Monday, March 14, 2011

Preparedness For The Nature

A scene in a flight headed to Tokyo from Kuala Lumpur: Those who were reading books are mostly Japanese, only a few Malaysians were seen with books on their hands.

The similar scenes were observed in metro trains in Japan, passengers were absorbed in their readings. Hardly you’ll find such scenes in metro Hong Kong, or in Moscow, Russia. In Hong Kong, passengers are into mobile phones.

reading in the metro train
Japan is a nation with a high percentage rate of reading habit amongst its population, a culture that yields hope. Despite the country facing economy stagnation for over two decades, the city of Tokyo still looks vibrant with radiance and exquisite civilization omnipresence.

I believe that a nation that has a high reading rate will never run out of stamina.

I was in Tokyo last Wednesday attending a Security Trade Show, to survey the market opportunity of civil and commercial biometrics industry. And I was in a similar famous situation that marketing gurus like to quote when motivating their students:

Two shoe salesmen were sent to Africa. The first reported a problem - all of the natives went barefoot - and thus he believed that there was no market in Africa for shoes. The second salesman reported an opportunity - all of the natives went barefoot - and thus he believed that Africa held a tremendous untapped market for shoes.

Of course, when there is a forked outcome likes this, marketing gurus would appraise the latter, encouraging the students to take the problem as an opportunity to be seized, because “positive thinking” always prevails in any marketing teachings.

But I despise this conclusion out of sheer simplicity. Because when we go deeper, you know you have to invest a lot of money and time to change the habitual barefoot culture of the natives with no guarantee of success. Are you prepared for this? And even if you have successfully changed their lifestyle, but footwear is a low-tech products, other footwear companies would easily foray to seize on the emerging opportunity, which may not necessarily benefit the early birds.

Big Sight, Tokyo International Exhibition Center
The Security Tradeshow confirmed my view that Japan is "barefoot" for the commercial biometrics market, despite it was commonly deployed at the government level.

I dropped by at the only two small booths that were displaying China and Korean fingerprint products respectively, and both affirmed the lukewarm response. Other countries can easily draw a larger crowd with more biometrics exhibitors. Japan is a unique and closed market for foreigners, with privacy concerned, it takes extra ordinarily hard to penetrate into this market. That’s why our online marketing activities draw a large pool of inquiries from other countries from all over the world, but very little comes from Japan.

Our permission marketing strategy discourages us from taking an aggressive approach. And I would not want to forgo this market either. I would rather use some softer approaches and let the nature takes its course. If there is a need in biometrics products, I always believe we will get a knock on our door.

That's how we expanded our business to over 100 countries. And we have to always get ready, even for the Japanese market.

A devastated Earthquake (magnitude 9.0) struck Japan on March 11th, Friday, during my stay there and had caused the worst Tsunami in a part of Japan as well as in a few countries along the Pacific rim.

The violent water, Tsunami Japan
The earthquake has caused major damage in broad area in Northern Japan; I felt the building where I stayed shook rigorously during the quake and the aftershocks. The death toll rose to more than 800 now and it's still rising.

From the TV, I could see the violent water swept away houses, cars and ships, fires burned out of control. Power to a cooling system at a nuclear power plant was knocked out, forcing thousands to flee.

But I have to admire the resilience of Japan in facing geological disasters. It shows how efficient and effective their government is and the cooperation and discipline of the people to minimize the destruction.

The second day, most of the activities and subway operations in Tokyo were restored, and I observed the Japanese with their reading habit as usual like nothing major happened yesterday.

FingerTec Alert:
Kindly take note that due to the thermal power plants on the coast that are damaged by the Tsunami, leading to an unprecedented shortage of its power supply capacity in Japan, this has affected FingerTec production in the coming two months, as we are using 40% components made in Japan. This incident may cause an unexpected shortage of our stock in the following months.

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Music to My Ears

It’s music to my ears when a customer, Tim left his comment on June 26, 2010 on FingerTec TA100 at

“Best Time clock
I bought this time clock about a month ago & never had such a good experience like this, Very simple Software & easy to use . I recommend it for every business .... Great price & fast Shipping .... & FREE TEC SUPPORT IN GUIDANCE..............”

Another two customers, Mobilitytheraphy and Mike, reviewed on FingerTec TA300 on Nov 13, 2010 and Jan 31, 2011 respectively:

“Fingertec - Great Time Clock Machine, Superb Customer Service
This is a great machine! It's affordable, easy to use and superb customer service. Just one phone call to customer service and they did the whole set up configuration to our computer system.”

“Very user friendly; Amazing customer service
Though the initial software install was a little tricky--2 phone calls to technical support fixed it right up. Surprisingly tech support answered after almost no wait time, took the time to help me set up the entire clock schedule for my employees. Entering fingerprints is a breeze. This should solve all my payroll woes.”

All the three reviews with full 5-star rating thrilled me two weeks ago when I bumped into our own products in, whereas some rival products received harsh and thumbs-down reviews. I attributed the credit to the diligence of our partner in the US and also our effort to deliver good quality products.

I have a friend who owns a factory in Penang, a Northern state of Malaysia. Whenever I visit him, he would proudly show me his new machines, or new expansions of the manufacturing building. But one of his customers whom I happen to know complained about his stagnated service and product quality despite his business growth. We reckon his success is mainly due to his right investment at the right time for some emerging technologies. Yes, a lot of monopoly or oligopoly businesses are still making tons of money even though they do very little to improve the product and service quality.

What good is it to the customers when you buy a new building to yourself? What benefit is it to the customers when you install a new production line to boost the output? A picture of a swanky office block printed on a brochure or on the web would certainly impress customers, but they welcome high product and service quality even more.

With the introduction of TeamWeaver in February to support our customers, we took another step further to improve our service.

And this is how we impress our customers.

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ