Seah Liang Chiang had a rocky start to his entrepreneurial journey, but with the belief of an individual Seah has now successfully started another IT venture.
What’s your story
When I was 25 years old, I started around 20 companies, most of which have folded. But I’ve had a few successes as I managed to IPO one and sold off another one. Today, I am an investor in 7 companies. I became a millionaire before I was 30 and almost became a bankrupt the following year because I got fired from the company that I started! That was the most difficult period in my life as I was in debt to the tune of $100k and had no money to even cover my rent! But an investor believed in me and lent me $100k to start my second business which became successful.
What excites you most about your industry?
I’m in the Automatic Identification and Data Collection Industry (AIDC). To keep it simple, I’m in IT and we provide solutions to companies within their entire supply chain. I’ve been in this industry for 27 years and though it may not be as exciting as Fintech or AI, it’s tech that we all need and use on a daily basis. As an example, the humble barcode was invented and put to use over 40 years ago in the US. Today, it’s part and parcel of every single product that we use on a daily basis.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Malaysia but came to Singapore to get a university degree. Being on government grant meant that I had to work in Singapore after graduation for a minimum of 3 years. But that was many years ago and since then, I have decided to make Singapore my permanent home. In the course of running my companies, I have opened offices in Singapore, Malaysia, China, Indonesia, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore by a mile. Singapore has a small domestic market as compared to other Asian cities so it is an ideal launch pad for companies. The facts speak for itself; Singapore has held onto its decade-long place at the top of the World Bank’s ranking of the easiest places to do business, according to its latest survey. Though we may be based in Singapore, our markets are in South East Asia. So its geographical location is perfect for companies wishing to reach out to Asia.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
I remember participating in my very first triathlon. I couldn’t swim well and I had a fear of drowning. So I engaged a swim coach and learnt how to swim but I still had a fear of swimming in the open sea. Just before the race, a guy standing next to me noticed the fear on my face. He said that instead of fear, I should enjoy the sea and the race instead. He said that if I enjoy what I do, I will be able to conquer my fears. His advice made sense to me. Since that day, I’ve learnt to apply this thought process to the challenges in my life.
Who inspires you?
I am truly inspired by Jesus Christ. To me, he is the perfect role model. He is kind, loving, tender hearted, forgiving, patient, obedient, respectful and truthful.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
It recently dawn on me that I never want to retire and that I want to run a few businesses until I am physically unable to.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
If I had to do everything again, I would have spent less effort on my personal needs and wants and more effort in seeking what God wants from me. I would try to be less selfish, less greedy, less egoistic and would take less things for granted. I would try to be a better man, boss, colleague, friend, son, brother, father and husband.
How do you unwind?
I am beginning to understand the peace and joy associated in serving others and to help the poor. A few friends and I recently pooled some funds together and started Bamboo Foundation Singapore. We conduct business training programmes for the poor in Cambodia, invest in their business ideas and mentor them. By doing so, we hope to do our small part in alleviating poverty in Cambodia.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Personally, I do not enjoy going on holidays. But considering that I feel a sense of peace whenever I go on a mission trip, I would say that Cambodia is my favourite Asian destination.
Everyone in business should read this book:
Accounting for Small Business Owners by Tycho Press
Shameless plug for your business:
Hey, if you guys want to know how you can leverage on existing Barcode, RFID and Smartcard solutions for your business, check out www.allid.com.sg
How can people connect with you?
Email me at [email protected]
This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:
Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.
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