Vincent Chow has developed an Energy Management System to engage people in saving energy. Based in Asia, he is hoping to educate about energy conservation to large numbers. “With 4.5 billion people in Asia, we’ve only just begun our journey – bigger things await us and we’re ready for them!”
What’s your story?
In 2012, my team and I developed our first real-time, Energy Management System for schools to inspire and engage students to understand when, where and how they are using electricity in their school. This concept achieved instant success and was quickly adopted by hundreds of schools in Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau.
Emboldened by the positive market feedback, we further developed an enterprise version in 2013. This was awarded the Hong Kong Green Innovation Award. En-trak was formally incorporated in August 2013.
En-Trak continues the mission to build innovative solutions to create a more sustainable future including En-trak™ Paper Management System to encourage users to reduce paper wastage. Our latest invention is our patented En-trak™ Smart Lighting which was awarded the Best Innovative Research & Development conferred by the distinguished Singapore infocomm Technology Federation (SiTF) and in 2016, the company was awarded the Singapore Apex Sustainability Award.
What excites you most about your industry?
Our team works incredibly hard to design in the most effective manner to present boring technical energy data to a non-technical audience. It is only when people can understand the impact of their action, will they then be able to take action.
We conduct lunch-time seminars with our clients and when we see their reaction from their energy usage data, their expression tells us we are doing the right thing. As a result, many of our clients achieved energy savings of up to 30%, almost effortlessly. This is what excites us the most.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I am a Singaporean based in Hong Kong. Our company is very Asia focused – we are currently in Singapore, Hong Kong, China, and Australia. We’re now well positioned to be the leader in the Asia Pacific region for energy IoT.
Our energy management solution is tracking 100+ million kilowatt-hours annually, sending out alerts and reports daily to help our customers reduce energy use. Our new, patented Smart Lighting solution is rapidly breaking the paradigm of zonal, offline lighting control for businesses, opening up huge new possibilities for lighting optimisation through wireless control of individual fixtures.
We are confident that our committed adherence to creating practical, scalable and sustainable solutions will be the core driver for our growth as a company. With 4.5 billion people in Asia, we’ve only just begun our journey – bigger things await us and we’re ready for them!
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
We are currently active in six cities in Asia – Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, Melbourne, Shenzhen and Guangzhou. Each city offers unique challenges and opportunities and each have their good and bad sides, so it is difficult to pinpoint my favourite.
I enjoy the convenience of Hong Kong where one can have really quick and easy access to various business support services, including proximity to a large manufacturing base in south China. In Hong Kong, there is a very strong “can do” mentality. Whenever there is an issue or problem that needs resolving, Hong Kong people tend to start cracking on their own without waiting for help.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“We have no money, we have to think.” We have this internal motto in our company to remind us that every problem can have multiple solutions and we should think hard for a solution, as if we haven’t got the money. It is easy for people to solve problems with money.
For example, when En-trak first started, we were very careful with what and how we spent our money. I believe there is always a workaround solution. I am not saying we shouldn’t spend or invest. I am advocating that one should spend wisely and always know why we need to spend.
Who inspires you?
Richard Branson. I read a lot about his story and that of other successful business people. What intrigues me about him is the story about him making use of the British Telecom telephone operator to make free calls to get in touch with big corporate guys. When he was bootstrapping, he found a loophole where if you tell the operator that you were trying to dial a number and it fails somehow, the operator would help to make the call for you and even tell the other party that a Mr. X from Company X is calling you on the line. This not only allowed him to make free calls but also sounded like a big corporate guy calling.
I think in life, we have to have some ingenuity and be a little ‘street smart.’ I am not advocating we should break the rules, but one should not be afraid to try things out.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
In our view, too many companies focus on making the largest possible impact while using cool new technologies but they neglect business common sense. For example, in a recent project our Smart Lighting solution helped a major multinational company reduce their office lighting use by over 70%. A competitor claimed they could reduce their lighting energy use by 90% – but at five times the cost!
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. I don’t believe in turning back time. Some of my friends ask me if I knew I would do well in business, would I have ventured out earlier? In short, my answer is no. I learnt a lot about corporate management and business planning when I was working in large corporations. These experiences taught me how to do or not do certain things.
How do you unwind?
Travelling and golf are some of the things I do in my spare time. Travelling often opens new perspectives and inspires me to try new ideas. Golf, on the other hand, allows me to tune out the noise in life and just be in the moment on the fairways.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Japan – the attention to intricate details and the amazing food. The Japanese take pride in the work they do and food they prepare, I marvel at their dedication to their crafts. I can travel to any part of Japan to see beautiful designs incorporated into their everyday lives and enjoy meticulous meals anywhere.
Everyone in business should read this book:
Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days by Jessica Livingston. It is a relative old book. It talks about the many lesser known journeys of co-founders of many technology startups from the early 70s. The lessons described in the book are still relevant to those who want to start the business journey. I recommend everyone who wants to enter this adventure to read it.
Shameless plug for your business:
Return on investment is key – so we maximize that return and minimize the investment with smart product design for our clients within 2 years. We at En-trak have a firm belief that sustainability is for everyone. That’s why we created solutions that are practical and scalable. Our clear value propositions do not require a customer with a green heart, a windfall source of funding, or special government regulations. We focus on a common element across the globe – cutting operating costs.
Whether it’s about energy efficiency or employee productivity, all organizations have a fundamental interest in reducing costs while maintaining or increasing output. By ensuring our customers cut operating costs, we make it possible for every company to become sustainable.
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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