Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Beyond Biometrics

(This is my Foreword for Beyond Biometrics, FingerTec annual publication)

I always had the dream to build a world-class brand. And, I believed that full-fledged execution is the only way for me to get closer to that dream. Over the years with FingerTec, we have been building, improving and strengthening not only our products and services, but also our system and our people, in our way to achieve this ultimate goal of building a renowned brand.

When we created a vast pool of online resources based on practical branding that leveraged on Internet technology, we promised our customers that we would Make Things Easy. User friendliness is the priority in almost everything that we do, starting from leading-edge products to support systems. This strategy had brought us hundreds of loyal resellers and ten-of-thousands of customers in more than 120 countries around the world.

Our 2011 recorded a growth of 15% as compared to the previous year, which I'm proud about considering the volatile world's economic situation. Even though the coming year's economy would still be enveloped in a gloomy outlook from the likely spread Eurozone debt crisis, we particularly optimistic about the future ahead of us.

Let's welcome 2012 with the publication of Beyond Biometrics. This annual magazine contains FingerTec's past activities, and the retrospect of the brand's highlighted events. we also give you a hint of what's in store for the year 2012 by FingerTec.

Beyond Biometrics is not merely a title for our magazine, it has become our new slogan, succeeding We Make Things Easy, marking the arrival of a new era that focuses on technology transformation of FingerTec products, and the changes in our business approach simultaneously. The recent debut of our web-based and mobile TimeTec system has the market excited, and we expect to expand our platform to cloud computing technology and to offer it as SaaS (Software as a Service) in the short future would definitely stir another round of excitement.

Furthermore, we will continue to lift the slogan to a higher ground, to become our philosophical guide that blends into our strategic planning and daily operation.

With all that we have in plan and the team that we have onboard, I am confident that the FingerTec brand will soar to a new height.

It is my pleasure to present to you Beyond Biometrics and let's stride towards the promising future.

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Persistency in Execution is the Key to a Successful Plan

Recently, during the IFSEC Arabia Exhibition, I had a talk with one of FingerTec distributors from Saudi Arabia.

“Since you make cold calls to get appointments, how many prospective customers do you meet in a day?” I asked, after he explained about his sales activities.

“Approximately three to four, about a hundred a month.”

“That’s a lot. Then how many readers you can sell in a month?”

“I reckon about fifteen to twenty. It varies from month to month, festive months would be less, and if there was a project, the sales would be more.”

“That’s quite impressive,” I replied. “How about next year, would you foresee that you could meet more potential clients in a month?”

My question caught him off-guard and he started to calculate the possibilities. He then raised his head and said, “Probably not. Because I think I would see less (customers) but selling more readers.”

Exactly. He saw the logic by getting more referrals and more quality potentials.

“But still, time is limited for everyone. Why don’t you try some new strategies?” As usual, I started my “routine lecture” to persuade him to look into Internet marketing as an alternative method to improve his company’s image and boost sales.

I began to explain how to tap on our resources, to use monthly newsletter as an effective tool to spread the influence and to reach the maximum target audience by a single click.

“And you virtually meet more prospective customers not by hundreds but by a few thousands every month. The mailing list will get longer much easier, and you will experience the days when customers will be calling you instead of the other way round.” Of course, I told him that rule of permission marketing is applied.

I received positive responses from his boss, who joined us later in the conversation, and him.  I sincerely told them that the Internet marketing might look simple, but without persistency, many had failed in adopting the strategy.

I recalled three years ago when I visited a distributor, I noticed that some ineffective conventional methods were being used by them to handle both sales and support in a vast country, I told them that they have to make a few changes to prosper.

I later spent a month writing FingerTec Distributor Guidebook as a reference, and urging more resellers to follow our successful strategies in expanding their business in the local market.  Because, I really don’t think that to increase sales amount, the workforce size needs to increase at the same rate.

Since FingerTec Way has been proven to work fine in expanding business to cover the worldwide market, I strongly believe that it should fit into other local markets effortlessly with some minor modifications. Even if resellers make use of the same concept and include some other products that they carry, I think it should work fine too.

Alas, although some distributors agreed, acknowledged and  implemented the idea, it was done in a perfunctory manner.  For example, they may set up Facebook accounts, but updated them once in a few months, not to mention tougher tasks such as sending newsletters with some of their own contents periodically, which I think would be a highly efficient way in yielding maximum advantages in the long run.

Persistency in executions is the key to ensure a successful plan; that is what I have learned over the years. In fact, relationships between FingerTec and its partners can be more intimate than just buyers and sellers if they were to implement the FingerTec Way. They are free to use our plentiful resources to grow their business. The persistency in execution is everything that they need.

The FingerTec Way is still in its infancy. Hence, wherever I go, I feel it is customary to promote it to the resellers that I met, hopefully to gain more followers. This has become my new persistency.

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ

Sunday, November 27, 2011

IFSEC Saudi: Religion As Brand Identity

I couldn't help but to compare what I had observed in the two Islamic stronghold countries that I had visited, Iran a few years back, and Saudi Arabia just last week. 

Wearing of headscarf is compulsory for all women in Iran but their pieces of clothing and headscarves can be fashionable and colorful. This headscarf ruling is applied to foreign women too. But black is the only permitted color for women in Saudi; they put on black headscarves, black veils, shapeless Abaya black gowns covering from head to toe, exposing only a pair of flickering eyes, and some even covered their eyes with black veils too. But for foreign women, while headscarf and veil are not enforced, black gown is obligatory. With Saudi men wearing their traditional white robe and their women put on the black ones, such contrast is so eye-catching in Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi, and located in the middle of Arabia in a desert environment.

Alcohol is forbidden and entertainments are scarce in both countries but you get more Western TV channels in Saudi than in Iran. Facebook is banned in Iran, but I could gain access in Saudi. It had made my stay in Saudi slightly entertained.

Segregation of different sexes is a common scene at the food corners in Saudi. All shops are closed during prayer times which did not happen in Iran.

Segregation of sexes at the food corner

Generally, Saudi women are not allowed to work and they are not allowed to drive by law. Even at the women cosmetic counters at the shopping mall, only salesmen were around to serve you. The IFSEC Arabia observed the similar scenario, the religion extended its grip to bar all female exhibitors from entering the hall, making the exhibition the all-male show.

IFSEC Arabia was relatively small, occupied only a small hall with less than 100 exhibitors. Since FingerTec is a famous biometrics brand in the Kingdom of Saudi, and we already have a few active and performing resellers, our participation's purpose was mainly to meet with them and to understand this unique market better. 

Visitors gather at our booth
ItQan's Mr. Mohammed Naiem Ewidah (right)  and Mr. Mohamed Adbulmoniem Abdul Mustafa (left)

To name a few who came include Global System's Technical Manager, Mr. Mohamed Abdelatif from Jeddah who came on the first day, ItQan International's Project Manager and Sales Engineer, Mr. Mohammed Naiem Ewidah and Mr. Mohamed Abdulmoniem Abdul Mustafa from Dammam who came on Day 2 and 3 to help us at the booth. We also had a good conversation with ZulTec’s Sales Manager Mr. Mohammad Munir and SecuTech Arabia’s Pre-Sales Consultant and Sales Manager Mr. Mohammad Shahzad and Mr. Rauf Anwar Mohammad and Proline UK’s Assistant Manager Mr. Nasiruldin Y. Sulaiman who dropped by our booth. We also took the opportunity to meet Innokat Saudi’s Deputy Managing Director and e-Business Director Mr. Ali S. Al-Farhan and Mr. Naser Abu Al-Haji who become our partner this year, and active in government projects in Riyadh.

Islam was originated in Saudi Arabia in the 6th century, and spread fast to the Middle East and later to the rest of the world. With over 1.5 billion followers as of 2009 or over 22% of earth’s population, Islam is now the second largest and one of the fastest-growing religions in the world.

Over centuries, the major religions have evolved an astonishing ability to extract loyalty, unswerving devotion and financial contributions from their adherents, which must make them a fairly appealing business model to emulate as to yield brand identity and brand loyalty. 

The iconic tower, Burj Al Mamlakah or Kingdom Centre

And, if we see FingerTec in a religion perspective, the logo as the religion symbol; the philosophical ideology as a fundamental principle; the global reseller program as a basic teaching; the online resources as a doctrine to instill beliefs; and the resellers as evangelists, we have no doubt why our brand has religiously spread in over 120 countries.

The different of Islam between Iran and Saudi, and in other different countries, as Graham E. Fuller, a political scientist has put it, there is one Islam, but many different ways Muslims live and interpret it that differ greatly from country to country, age to age, issue from issue, person to person. In fact, Islam is what Muslims think Islam is, as well as way they want it to be. And they differ, as do adherents of other faiths.

And I see our localization efforts and product customizations to fulfill certain requirements fit into this explanation, but FingerTec still remains as One Brand. 

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Economic Crisis Yet Again?

All eyes are on Euro Zone crisis. If the dangling Greece debt turmoil could not find its way out which seems quite likely, the crisis which has been plaguing the Euro Zone could be spiralling as an enormous hurricane that would hit the world's economy anytime soon. This pessimist analysis by some experts masks the world's economy with a layer of dark clouds.
Belt tighten during downturn?

When some companies look out the window, frown at the gloomy skies and decide to cut costs to prepare for their years ahead, thankfully our plans for next year would not be affected.

We have hired more programmers to speed up our research and development works; aggressively preparing for new software and hardware products for the coming years. We continue to recruit a few more technicians and we have extended the support hours to include midnight to early morning, and with this decision, we have reduced the gap of 'support staff unavailable online' to three hours a day, and prolonged the technical assistance to 19 hours per day.

If the sky is gloomy, it's alright, have your umbrella ready. We are not immune from the economic slowdown. When the subprime crisis hit in 2009, our turnover was recorded only slight increase as compared to the previous year, but while being prudent we carried out all activities like normal and we didn't even cut the annual trip to Shanghai.

This year, as usual, our staff who receive an incentive trip to Gold Coast, Australia is about to depart this evening. On advertising and promotion, we just signed up for advertisement packages on two prominent security magazines, A&S International and Detektor International for the whole of next year, and we plan to take part in more than ten tradeshows worldwide.

More new products are in our pipeline, with one particular 7-inch touch screen new iKiosk that runs on Android platform to excite everybody and I. This would mark a new milestone to our product line, because besides the bundling of standard applications, customers can now have more control of their own terminals, and download Apps they feel useful from the Google Android Apps Store. It would serve as an amazing administration kiosk that does multiple purposes for office environment.

Artist impression for our upcoming new iKiosk

When you are a start up company, struggle is normal even during the economic booming years. But for established companies, if you are only making good money during good times and losing money, having to cut costs and retrench workers during bad times, then I don't think you are competent enough companies.

To continue making money during bad times, a company should take various aspects other than only sales figures into account during good times. Instead of focusing on only sales growth, one should think of its biological growth as well. Without one holistic perspective, your business field may remain barren even during the harvest season.

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What About Changing The World

We all know that a great man has died earlier this month. We have little doubt the company he led; Apple Inc would overshoot Exxon Mobil to become the largest market capitalization company in the world anytime soon. We all know the reactions to his death were awe-inspiring, with mourners leaving candles and flowers outside Apple stores around the world and the Internet was humming with tributes.  As consumers, we all like the gadgets that the company produces be it iPod, iPad, and iPhone that are managed by iOS, iTunes and iCloud.

Yes, Steve Jobs indeed was a great man, and he had made the world a better place with his incredible electronic products. But if anyone says that he had changed or reshaped the world, I think it is an overstatement. Without Apple, the world would still be conquered by smartphones, tablet PCs, cloud technology, voice-command devices and digital music players, perhaps by different brands with a slower pace. Jobs perfected these gadgets; either he took the lead or fell behind in the game, eventually he succeeded in arousing consumers with a vast magnetic impact to the market.  

Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

The Economist concluded that Steve Jobs had ignited a revolution in sparking a trend towards personal technology. The weekly also praised his non-engineer background as an advantage, which redirected him to be obsessed with product designs and aesthetics, and made advanced technology simple to use. He took the readily available yet half-baked ideas i.e. the mouse driven computers,  the digital music players,  the smartphones,  the tablet computers – and he showed the rest of the industry how to make them properly. In the process, he triggered upheavals in computing, music, telecoms and news business that were painful for incumbent firms but were welcomed by millions of consumers.

He combined an emotional spark with computer technology, and made the resulting products felt personal. Despite all these achievements, he still didn’t change the world even if his fans would like to think so.

If I have to quote a person that had really changed the world in the modern history, Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee would definitely be the person.  Born in 1955, the same age as Jobs, he is a British computer scientist and MIT professor, credited as the inventor of the World Wide Web, making the first proposal for it in March 1989. On the 25 December 1990, with the help of Robert Cailliau and a young student at CERN, he implemented the first successful communication between Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) client and server via the Internet.

Sir Timothy John Berners - Lee (1955-      )

How the Internet has changed the entire world since then? How many Internet giants have emerged or companies like Apple have reemerged on the foundation of the World Wide Web? It is needless to mention because the rest is history. Although Berners-Lee is the director of the World Wide Web Consortium (M3C), which oversees the Web’s continued development, and holds many other positions as far as the Internet is concerned, he remained anonymous to many people. If he has to claim IP rights over the Internet licenses, he would probably become the richest man on earth.  

When we mourn Steve Jobs, we shouldn’t be overzealously deified him and forgetting the real heroes behind all his successes. I always feel that changing the world shouldn’t be our ambition. Anyone can make the world a little different, but it should come with the intention to make the world a better place. Sir Isaac Newton who discovered the gravitation had changed the world, and Albert Einstein who developed the theory of general relativity also had changed the world. Those incidents were accidental without an attached ambition to start with. A man who had the ambition to only change the world could become as ruthless as Hitler.  

We are not that ambitious to be as great as Steve Jobs, but we can make little positive differences in the company or in the industry we serve. And with all the little differences we gathered over times, we could improve our products to be great products and help our company to emerge as a great company, and eventually we could become a great person in the process. That’s the way FingerTec soared beyond Biometrics.

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Charity Work

An audit officer from the Brand Award Committee asked us whether we were committed to any charity work in the past three years. And if yes, they needed us to show them proof. In fact, I kept no proper receipts even though we have regularly donated to some organizations and on and off sponsored some charity activities.

Back in the day, I came across bitter experiences when soliciting donations during my school days. “Can my donation be exempted from tax?” was the very first question most company bosses that we approached would ask even though they donated to our extra-curricular activities.

During my university years, the funds allocated by the authority to each society were peanuts for the whole year’s expenses, far too low to meet the balance for the largest and most active society, which I joined and was a committee in my sophomore year. And the state-owned university made the fundraising harder when all societies were prohibited to open their own bank accounts, and all public donations had to go to a centralized university account.

Channeling the donated fund back to your society was the hardest process, we needed to file a lot of papers and answered a myriad of queries; furthermore the Student Affair Council had the rights to redistribute your fund to other societies.  Even when you were lucky, the “discounted” fund would reach you definitely long after the activities had ended.

To solve the ‘problem’, we had to use our personal bank accounts when soliciting donation. There were some donors who agreed to donate without tax exemption letter but they would eye us suspiciously when we told them to issue the cheque to a personal account. As a result, we always had to work harder or on a tight budget to support our activities. 

Hence, when big corporations make some annual tax-exempted donations usually to the orphanages and old folk homes, or much willingly participate in some high profile charity events that would be placed their photos in the papers, I choose to donate to societies and activities that are under privilege and low profile, or to some NGOs that promote human rights or some minority rights programs. And of course, the society that I joined during my university days is also in the recipients list. But it was sad to learn that after so many years, their predicament persisted. 

Yes, I have more to say when it comes to charity work as part of the integral social responsibility. For example, the world applauded the formation of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation initiated by Microsoft boss Bill Gates with an endowment of USD33.5 billion as of 31 December 2009, to enhance healthcare and reduce extreme poverty, and in America, to expand educational opportunities and access to information technology. Nevertheless, I still think it would be better if Bill Gates can do more with the resources his company owned.   

Become a philanthropist only after retired?

In fact, the devotion to charity work shouldn’t have come only after Bill Gates retired from his corporate life. It can always be a part of it. For instance, why not have Microsoft give away their older versions of the operating system and software to the people of the poor countries to narrow the digital gap between the rich and the poor? As Microsoft has still been dominating the PC market in the last two decades, this would be a more practical aid to help the world.

You might be a nobody or a somebody, you might earn only a little or you might be a multimillionaire, but when the conscience bell is tolled, don’t wait until someone entices you with a tax exemption letter, and don’t wait until you become a retiree; contribute in whatsoever way that fits you. Just like the Google Executive Wael Ghonim took the online activism to a new level when the revolution erupted in Egypt earlier this year, he doesn’t wait when his countrymen needed him.

And, I joined the Bersih 2.0 mass rally to call for a cleaner and fairer election in Malaysia on 9th July. Who says a Chief Executive Officer can’t take part in a street protest?

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Who Is Your Customer?

Who is your customer? I still remember this question asked by the consultant who coached us to obtain the ISO 9001 certification in 1998.  

Our staff knew the customers well enough to blurt out their names effortlessly. The consultant then stopped and questioned one staff, asking him whether his daily duty was to serve the customers directly, or some other immediate “customers” within our own company? After one round of the same question, our staff finally found that indeed, they had “customers” within the company as well. Even the sales and technical staff that are constantly in contact with our regular customers have other “customers” that serve their priority list within our organization.

Definition of Customer

So, who IS your customer? Eventually, the answer points to your superior within your department, or the peer that you report to in the next department. Anyone who demands something from you is your “customer”. Anyone who has some expectations of your work is your “customer”. The job you’ve just completed and handed over to the next guy - this next guy is your “customer”.

You have to ensure that the quality of your job consistently meets your "customer’s" requirements. I like this definition of CUSTOMER in a wider context. We often hear companies claim to deliver quality products that meet customer satisfaction as their mission statement, but more often than not, we see finger-pointing flying around, with blame for other departments or co-workers for some fault or the other. If the internal “customer” satisfaction couldn’t be achieved within a company, the mission statement is just another blurt-out slogan without any substance.

When our ISO 9001 certificate expired in 2007, I decided to forgo renewing it as the changes and growth in our internal quality system is occurring way too fast to be picked up by the documentation requirement of the ISO 9001. In my view, it wasn’t a big deal to acquire the certification - our blood constantly flows strong with quality management regardless.

This Monday, a group of officers under the Ministry of International Trade and Industry of Malaysia came to our office to conduct an audit-visit, as part of their procedures for the Brand Excellence Award short-listing companies. After the factory tour, one officer observed and mentioned that we should have implemented the 5S methodology. My response to her was that as of now we don’t specify, we have learned and adopted all kinds of good practices that benefit the brand.

With Matrade Brand Excellence Award audit committee 

And that’s the concept of Jeet Kune Do that I have written about in my previous blogpost , ….. style without style, moving fluidly instead of following rigid styles and patterns.

Yes, learn how to satisfy your other “customers” within the company; only then will you achieve the real satisfaction for your customers in a broader perspective.

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Jeet Kune Do

I have re-acquainted Bruce Lee (1940-1973) from an iconic fighting Kung Fu star to a more complex personality. What was new for me was, he studied philosophy in university, and had a book collection of around 2500 pieces, which was apparently more than mine. He authored 3 books to introduce martial arts. He definitely had the brains AND brawns, ironic to the image we normally know and accept for a Kung Fu star.

My sudden interest in reading his biography was aroused by the new book entitled, “Political Jeet Kune Do”, written by my friend, Dr. Hew Kuan Yau, who has committed himself in the opposition political movements, and is also known as a huge fan of Bruce. 

Political Jeet Kune Do, a book written by Dr Hew

Jeet Kune Do is a hybrid martial arts system and life philosophy founded by Bruce Lee, with direct, non-classical and straightforward movements. Tapping on the cultural symbols that are broadly recognized, and the concept of Jeet Kune Do believes in minimal movements with maximum effects - Dr Hew has definitely picked up a good weapon to attack his political opponents.

And, he is quite successful in this area. A few smartly re-edited and re-dubbed excerpts from Bruce Lee's films that ingeniously associated with some hot political issues have showed a high view rate and plenty of thumbs-up comments on YouTube. Some of his strategies have proven effective in the Sarawak State Election in April, as the head of Publicity Bureau, he had helped his political party make the biggest breakthrough gains in constituencies in history.

A re-dubbed excerpt for Bruce Lee's film 

Dr. Hew, apart from an avid martial arts lover is also a cartoonist, an eloquent speaker and an author for several comics and commentary books. Before he pursued his Master’s Degree in History and Doctorate in Philosophy studies in Guangzhou and Hong Kong, we had the opportunity to co-author and published a comic cum critic book. While in Hong Kong, he led the fan club initiating a project to erect a Bruce Lee statute with a classic pose, at Avenue of Stars, near the waterfront at Tsim Sha Tsui in 2005, which has now become one of the major attractions for tourists to admire the legendary Kung Fu star and definitely a photo op spot.

Unlike most of the traditional Chinese martial arts that highlight specific moves and methods, Jeet Kune Do is not fixed or patterned; it was named for the concept of interception, and it is more like a philosophy and a guiding thought. The techniques of kicking, punching, trapping or grappling are smoothly flowing in whenever they are needed in a fight. Bruce Lee believed that combat was unpredictable and swift, a good martial artist should "be like water", a style without style, moving fluidly instead of following rigid styles and patterns.

Bruce Lee statute with a classical pose in Hong Kong  

One of Bruce Lee famous quotes, I have not invented a "new style," composite, modified or otherwise that is set within distinct form as apart from "this" method or "that" method. On the contrary, I hope to free my followers from clinging to styles, patterns, or molds. Remember that Jeet Kune Do is merely a name used, a mirror in which to see "ourselves". . . Jeet Kune Do is not an organized institution that one can be a member of. Either you understand or you don't, and that is that. There is no mystery about my style. My movements are simple, direct and non-classical. The extraordinary part of it lies in its simplicity. Every movement in Jeet Kune-Do is being so of itself. There is nothing artificial about it. I always believe that the easy way is the right way. Jeet Kune-Do is simply the direct expression of one's feelings with the minimum of movements and energy. The closer to the true way of Kung Fu, the less wastage of expression there is. Finally, a Jeet Kune Do man who says Jeet Kune Do is exclusively Jeet Kune Do is simply not with it. He is still hung up on his self-closing resistance, in this case anchored down to reactionary pattern, and naturally is still bound by another modified pattern and can move within its limits. He has not digested the simple fact that truth exists outside all molds; pattern and awareness is never exclusive. Again let me remind you Jeet Kune Do is just a name used, a boat to get one across, and once across it is to be discarded and not to be carried on one's back.

The easy way is the right way. Ah, how it coincides with FingerTec philosophical guidance, we make things easy.

Be it political arena or commercial world, the environments are constantly and rapidly changing, reacting to the changes shouldn't rely on some rigid methods, and it should be like water, move fluidly within some external constraints, more importantly, maintained a "fighting" spirit. Dr. Hew applies Jeet Kune Do to achieve his political ideal; in fact, the concept is suited to companies that want to expand their brand markets too.

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Technology Transformation

I lost my digital camera, a Canon Powershot in my last trip to Hong Kong & Shenzhen in May. I didn't feel sorry, but in reverse, I felt relieved because I don't have to carry an extra charger and an adapter for the memory card to transfer photos into my notebook.

Of course, if your smartphone can do the job as good as a digital camera, why do you need to burden yourself with an extra device and some accessories for the same purpose? If you aren’t a professional photographer or enthusiast that needs a Nikon D90 plus its special lenses, you really can say goodbye to a digital camera. No doubt, when digital camera versus smartphones, we are almost certain that sales for the former decline and the latter prevail smartly as a result of technology convergence.

The Information Technology has started revolutions in many industries, ruthlessly killing and wiping out the dominant players of the old market. Even in photography industry, the two big names, Fujifilm and Kodak that once monopolized the film industry, have been buried forever in the history when photographs were no longer need to be developed, but simply downloaded from cameras and uploaded them to the computer or website or even send them to direct printing.

When the new players for digital cameras were still excited about the technology transformation that brought them lucrative profits, and flooded the market with all kinds of choices, suddenly the boon became a bane. The foray was from other industry players. When the cell phone makers started to include camera as a standard feature, and the boom of smartphone indirectly declaring the doom of digital camera.

Technology transformation is a cruel fact, fast reshaping the marketplace and creating new opportunities. At present, we witness the PC and Notebook sales in a stagnant stage; and a new tablet, or we can call it the enlarged version of smartphone, led by Apple iPad, followed by Blackberry PlayBook, Asus Eee Pad, Samsung Galaxy Tab, Motorola Xoom , HTC Flyer, Viewsonic ViewPad, HP TouchPad, Acer Iconia Tab, and plenty more, thoroughly sweeping the market. And Apple iOS and Google Android becomes the new dominant operating system replacing Microsoft Windows for the new breed of products.

The digital storage is in transition too. Floppy disk is a bygone. And under the cloud-computing concept that promotes cloud-drive, even CD, DVD or USB flash disk would soon extinct, when the new tablets and notebooks are shipped bare without such ports and drives.

We are fortunate to enter the security and office automation industry that transformation occurs much slowly. But we did notice some subtle changes like communication from RS 485 to TCP/IP, and some adoption of IT advancements that benefitted the industry.

As a market leader, you have to embrace and spearhead the technology transformation instead of sit back and wait for the changes. This year, we schedule to phase out some black and white models like AC100 and TA100. And for some models, the coreboard would be upgraded to a more powerful CPU to improve the speed and capacity. And to reduce the FRR and FAR in our readers are also continual effort to improve the algorithm.

And, I recently added a new paragraph in our Vision and Mission Statement, which stresses Technology Transformation as our major focus to envision our next 5-year roadmap perspective.

"To further strengthen FingerTec's global position, the third phase 5-year plan was introduced in 2010 with a transparent objective to achieve business and technology transformation. We aim to climb the vertical ladder to provide comprehensive solutions for access control market, and to employ cloud-computing technology for deployment in time and attendance industry. The use of Android platform and other Biometrics features such as face and vein recognition would be a part of FingerTec technology transformation plan to enhance our new product lines."

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ

Friday, August 5, 2011

Casual Sales Approach

I encountered an unstable Internet access at my hotel in Paris and the problem wasn’t resolved until I left the country nine days later. My problem is, I couldn’t be totally shut off from the outside world, even during my family vacation.

Lo and behold! An Apple Store across the Paris Opera House, nearby the hotel where I stayed, saved me.

In the evening, after we completed our daily excursion, and emerged from the subway station, my daughter and I headed straight to the Apple Store. We picked our devices to go online from the many Apple Macintoshes, MacBooks, iPads, iPods that were displayed on the simple wooden benches, with each device being wired to a charger and a theft alert alarm.
Outside Apple Opera Store

Inside Apple Opera Store
Although the “customers” took most of the devices for all kinds of purposes, often times we managed to find ourselves the unoccupied iPad or MacBook Air to go online. My daughter went straight to Facebook, and me, got into the business of reading and replying tons of email. As long that there was no alarm being triggered from your unit, no Apple staff would come and bother you, or sales talk you into buying any of the products. After the store-closing hour at 8 pm, the WiFi signal was still strong for my smart phone to tap on it outside of their building.

The same experience we had in Carrousel du Louvre, where one of the high-profile flagship Apple Stores is located. Right after our Louvre Museum’s visit, the moment we stepped out of the historical and ancient artifacts, we indulged ourselves into the modern and technological artifacts the next.

The casual style in the Apple Store is appealing. Alas, the Apple retail outlets in Malaysia that are run by distributors, do not replicate the casualness of the Apple stores owned by Apple. Earlier this March, I missed my opportunity to enter the Apple Store in Ginza due to the earthquake that hit Japan so badly.

No cashier counter, no sales person cajoling around, the staff were wearing casual blue T-shirts, and they would only attend to your sales or technical enquiries as and when needed. In short, they let you minded your own business, be it listening to music, playing games, or doing some serious stuff with the Apple devices, renewing the typical rigid image we used to have for the conventional retail shops.

And the casual environment in the retail outlets that Apple created is able to generate sizeable income rather than “casual” money to compliment their serious business. According to a report, the largest Apple Store located on the Regent Street London was the first outlet opened in Europe in November 2004 and also the most profitable shop in London with the highest sales per square foot, taking £60,000,000 pa, or £2,000 per square foot.

The Apple Store’s current design with the wood tables and stone flooring, and Genius Bar for technical supports and repairs, were the collaboration results of some outside design firms and Apple’s in-house design team. Originally, the Apple Stores contained dedicated Point of Sale stations. However, in 2006, the new store design replaced the POS stations with the handheld EasyPay system.

I like the casual and cozy sales environment as offered by the Apple Store, where you are welcome by a nod and a smile from the sales person and he/she lets you walk around freely to browse through the shop without interruption. A shop that makes a sales person follows you around from the moment you stepped into the shop, disrupts your shopping experience the moment it happened.

Apple does not really need any sales person to talk you into buying their products; the casual atmosphere in the retail outlets that they shaped just fit to promote their products even more, and stretching their brand influence to a greater extent.

At FingerTec, our Sales and Marketing personnel are not tuned to conduct conventional sales, they are encouraged to help the partners understand the products, the brand, the support system, the value, and guide them to tap on our online resources to expand their business. They spend time helping resellers to produce successful installation stories, encourage them to create Facebook and Twitter for better communication with the local clients.

The casual approach never fails to deliver satisfactory sales performance for us. I always believe that a good brand doesn’t need a lot of convincing; it sells itself so to speak. And in reverse, too much of sales talk normally carry some hollow promises.

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ

Monday, July 25, 2011

Philosophical Guidance

My wife, daughter and I arrived for a vacation in Paris on the 15th of July; a day after the French celebrated their National Day.

In 14th of July 1789, exactly 222 years ago, the people of France staged a rally to storm the notorious Bastille fortress-prison to release the political prisoners, and the date was celebrated as a notion of uprising of a modern nation, and sparked a Revolution that resulted in the collapse of the French monarch (although democracy republic of French was truly achieved in 1875), and eventually sent Louis the XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette to the guillotine 4 years later.

I stayed within walking distance to the Paris Opera House, the Phantom of the Opera echoed beautifully in my ears

The modern era unfolds in the enlightenment of the French Revolution. The growth of the republics and the liberal democracies, the equal opportunities and the human rights, the spread of secularism, are all the outcomes of this Revolution that took place 200 years ago.
When a lot of people admiring the magnificent edifices that are left behind by the rulers such as Palace of Versailles in 1682 by King Louis XIV, and Arc de Triomphe monument commissioned in 1806 to celebrate the victory of Austerlitz by Napoleon Bonaparte, or the iconic Eifel Tower to mark the 1889 World’s Fair, where tourists snap pictures to prove their presence in Paris, it seems to me that the real contribution to the development of modern civilization lays in the four volumes of book, The Social Contract, or Principles of Political Right, written by a French philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), which heavily influenced the Revolution, and became the ideology guidance to the French people.

Philosophical guidance is always present in building of a great nation, and it is true for the successful brands too. For example, the French-made famous top fashion brand Louis Vuitton or largely referred to as LV, leading the trend for more than a century, persists in its own brand as the philosophical guidance, taking pride of the only leather-goods firm, for instance, it never puts its products on sale at a discount. It destroys stock instead, keeping a close eye on the proportion it ends up scrapping, which they called “destruction margin”.

Because of the persistency of its own brand, LV never gives licenses to outside firms, to avoid brand degradation. Besides, its factories adopt techniques from other industries, notably car making, and even hired quality supervisors from auto-parts suppliers to oversee the quality control. The result is fashionable handbags combined with long-lasting utility.

At FingerTec, We Make Things Easy has become our philosophical guidance. Our vision and mission are centered-around this ideology, to ensure easy deployment of our products in different levels of users and in almost all kinds of industries. With a clear guidance, the marketing and technical supports strategies also can be smoothly drawn and formidably followed by the FingerTec team.

The new Arc de Triomphe in La Defense?

One Finger Solve it All
In July, the weather in Paris was unexpectedly cold. We have particularly enjoyed the French’s culture, exquisite culinary and breathtaking scenery. I spent two days in the labyrinth of mammoth Louvre Museum for the Renaissance’s art paintings and antique sculptures, half day in Orangerie Museum mainly admiring Impressionist artist, Claude Monet (1840-1926) collections - Water Lilies series, depicted in varying time and weather. We also didn’t miss the opportunity to join a local tour group to visit Monet’s mansion at Giverny, where we found the garden pond filled with water lilies that inspired his painting works.
Monet's Water Lilies in Orangerie Museum
When most of the modern cities around the world compete to build the tallest skyscraper, Paris keeps the old and the new separated, and its buildings low (except for the La Defense business district at the Westernmost part of Paris) to maintain its legacies. I assume a proud nation with a wealth pool of history and culture, when heard about a tallest building being built somewhere in the world, can simply disregard the news with an enigmatic smile just like its invaluable painting collection, Mona Lisa, in the Louvre.

How I lost appetite to admire Mona Lisa in the Louvre

In fact, when we decided to create our face recognition reader, some suggested that we upload a high-tech look of digitalized human face as the startup image and when the reader at the idle mode. But Mona Lisa immediately prevailed without a second thought. And when our new Face ID 3 model is about to take its debut, we will maintain the tradition. Whose face would be more recognizable than the classic Mona Lisa?

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Unfair Competition

Yellow badges inscripted with the word 'Bersih 2.0' (a mass rally planned on 9th July, also known as the Walk for Democracy) flooded Facebook, since a large number of Malaysians responded and supported the call for a clean and fair General Election, and added the yellow badges onto their profile pictures.

Bersih rally in 2007 to call for a clean election
The first Bersih rally was organized in 2007, and ten of thousands of Malaysian citizens joined the march to the Palace to hand over the memorandum to the King. This version two is jointly organized by over forty non-government organizations for the same objectives. Despite the government's clamped down on the pre-launch activities and arrested dissidents and detained opposition party leaders on top of imposing threats, the call for a clean election is still well received by the people.

When the Jasmine Revolution aimed to topple the corrupted governments in many countries in North Africa and the Middle East at the beginning of this year, this yellow Chrysanthemum movement in Malaysia is not a drastic political action, but rather to urge the Election Committee to ensure that no dirty tactics and to create a fair ground for the people to elect a government that truly represents their choice.

Fair ground, that is the punch line. Without the fair ground, there would not be a fair competition. Unfair competition twists the ballot boxes, which would result in political power to fall into the wrong hands.

In the business world, if an entity or a few entities control over the market through monopoly or oligopoly, consumers would be the victim of substandard products or services, or we are forced to pay a higher rate for the same products or services.

When there is an unfair competition, ethical issue would normally arise. Fraudulent, deceptive, or dishonest trade practices are the main causes that give rise to the unfair competition. Competition creates incentives for businesses to earn customer loyalty by offering quality goods at reasonable prices.

And I always thought that the business world was much cleaner than the political arena. My jaw dropped last week when Norana Johar, our COO passed me a document she got from one of our overseas distributors. It was about a Chinese biometrics supplier that launched a poison pen email attack to another Chinese biometrics supplier, with the intention to switch the rival's resellers over to them.

But I dare say that even if the strategy worked, the resellers that this company recruited would not be of any good quality. The malicious attack might damage the competitor's image at a certain extent, but it could also backfire to ruin one own's reputation. Furthermore, accusation without solid ground would expose oneself to some legal risks too.

Even if there are some truthness in the allegations, the market would soon find out. The better way of winning customers to your side is never by assaulting your competitor, but to build on your own competitive strengths.

Innovation is the key element for technology industry, where one has more options to draw out his plans and directions, and build his own blue ocean strategy market more easily than other industries. I always believe that if a technology company sought to use unethical strategies, they chose to walk on the dark side of the moon, never would they see the brightness of the sun.

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ

Friday, June 24, 2011

Frugality in Exhibitions

Many were huge and luxurious. Over the years, I've been to numerous shows and I always observed some extravagant booths erected for the pleasure of the visitors. At the ISC West Security Trade Show in Las Vegas in 2007 for example, before the Subprime Mortgage Crisis, exhibitors competed to show who could play it bigger, regardless the risks of the impending storm. My opinion has always been this - It was a huge waste for just a three-day show.

Some giant companies, mainly through mergers and acquisitions, went a great length to entertain their invited guests and some really turned their booths into a mini casino, or into a lounge to serve beers and snacks. They were putting up a show, convincing everybody that they were still in good shape, and business was still burgeoning. But was this represent the true picture of the situation?

Extravagant booth
A few hundred thousand dollars good money was poured into the gutter just like that. These companies certainly would not agree with my opinion and may simply rebuke it as my defense mechanism.

But the truth of the matter is, many of the companies that were putting up extravagant booths were no Microsoft, Apple, Oracle or Google. Most of them debt-ridden, have poor profitability, some even have red ink in their books. Throwing a big party, inviting their clients to Vegas for networking purposes? When there could be other economical means to achieve the same objective. Some argues that it has always been the business culture to establish 'close-tie' relationships with their clients in the project-based business. But I think for a good sense of a corporation is the ability to stand firm, and have the responsibility to right the wrong. Was it necessary to commit 'sin' in the Sin City?

There is a simple psychological logic for organizers to entice exhibitors into having a larger commitment. Are you sure you want to look modest when your competitor is setting up a huge booth with grandeur design just next to you? Many were not willing to admit 'defeat' and ended up with bigger booths, taller renovations, prettier and sexier models walking around the booth.

For me, I'm okay with having humble exhibition booths, mostly we book 9 square meters, or sometimes 18. There are some of our partners that took larger space than us for their exhibitions.

All we needed to complete our shell scheme booth included a gorgeous backdrop, a few appealing posters or buntings, some FingerTec readers with display stands, a laptop computer, some gifts, product catalogues and two stand managers to take care of visitors. Simplicity. This is what FingerTec strives for. You may call it frugal; I prefer to call it the "Zen" concept.

FingerTec's exhibition booth

I encourage our staff to stay longer to tour and explore the country for a few more days on leisure at the company's expenditure. What a waste to rush back for such a good opportunity to travel overseas! Traveling light makes them easy to move around especially after the show, with brochures all gone and sample units all sold. It is my belief that one has to admire and understand the culture of a country and be able to absorb the findings to improve the products and systems to better be accepted by the local people. That's one of my goals for having my people take part in overseas exhibitions, besides gaining the global market exposure for some technology trends.

It's a common belief that a smaller booth would help sending away the prospects to your opponents; simply because the booth is not visible enough and it doesn't project enough confidence. I can't dismiss this statement all together as totally nonsense. But you can't judge a book by its cover, and furthermore, unless more values are added, nobody can deny that the overall impact can be expected from an exhibition is declining.

When information can be obtained easily and instantly from a website, through Internet anytime and anywhere; surely exhibition is losing its ground. But even though in the Information Age, you would see how little some businesses spend in Internet, but willing to churn out big buck for some less effective expositions.

I don't have an exact figure for the number of customers we yielded from exhibitions, but no doubt it would be much lesser than our Internet marketing efforts. And nowadays, nobody will just hear the bragging in the exhibition and signed up some contracts without thoroughly checking your background in the Internet. But in reverse, a good website alone can deliver sales. We sold our products to 120 countries, only participated exhibitions in less than 20 countries. The virtual power now is much stronger than the brick and mortar.

We have two exhibitions in this month-end. SME Solutions Expo 2011 in Kuala Lumpur and SecuTech in Bangkok, Thailand. “Since FingerTec is making money, debt free and cash rich, why don’t you book a bigger booth?” Please, don’t ask this question again.

We welcome you to come meet us, talk to us, feel our products. Never mind our booth's size, we are whole-heartedly present to serve you, our esteemed clients.

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ