Johnny Huang Shih Chia

Johnny Navigates His Way To Business Success

Johnny navigates his way to business success - Article Image 1
Johnny Huang at his service centre in Delta House. Customers going on motoring trips abroad can download onto their GPS device, the road maps of the destination country

HELPING people navigate their way anywhere in the world has been the formula for Johnny Huang Shih Chia’s success in selling his Marbella GPS device.

Johnny, 31, believes that business success lies in identifying a need, set a vision, design the product that meets the need, sell it, collect the revenue and diversify into new products to meet new needs.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Business (Entrepreneurship) in 2005 from SIM-RMIT, Johnny went on to start a business the following year buying and re-selling GPS receivers. “I bought them in Taiwan and resold them on Internet forums, offering prices that were 40 percent cheaper than other similar products,” he said. “My stock was snapped up and I sensed that this could be the start of a viable distributorship business.”

His current GPS models have a USP or unique selling point that makes them popular – if you have a Marbella GPS and you’re planning on a driving holiday abroad, the company will load a road map of your destination onto the device. You pay a deposit which is refunded when you return the software program after your trip.

Learning business at RMIT

Johnny who was born in Taiwan, went to secondary school in Melbourne, Australia, and completed two years of his RMIT Bachelor programme in the home city. He moved to Singapore and completed his third, final year of study at SIM campus.

He recalls a study module where he was required to prepare and present a feasible business plan to his lecturer who was herself an entrepreneur. It was certainly an experience that he put to good use when he went into business.

Other subjects he learnt which serve him in good stead in the real world were business law and HR practices.

Looking out for new products

He is co-founder and group general manager of Maka Technologies Group, overseeing business strategy and planning, and identifying new consumer electronic products. “In 2013, we diversified with an in-car road camera, available in four models. In-car cameras were hot from 2011-2012 but we held back for a year as we evaluated and tested the models. Now our in-car cameras make up 50 percent of sales revenues.

“We’re now looking into action cameras that you fit onto your helmet to record sporting activity, such as mountain climbing, mountain biking and other forms of extreme sports.”

Even when a need is identified, launching a new product is not as straightforward as it seems. For Johnny, it also means testing the product and, in the case of the GPS devices, tweaking the design so that it can work well in Singapore’s hot weather.

“Sometimes we have to re-design an existing product and then have to look for a suitable manufacturer. We might even need to form a new company just to market the new product.”

This kind of innovation is crucial in the consumer electronics trade. People’s tastes are fickle and what was a hot seller yesterday is discarded today, which some former handphone giants learnt too late.

But Johnny finds such challenges fulfilling. As a new product takes hold and the business grows, he derives an enormous sense of satisfaction, he says. His own business which comprises four companies enjoys an annual turnover of $4.3 million and a nett profit of roughly 10 percent.

Passion to innovate

And for students and others who want to step out to be entrepreneurs, he tells them that “it is about passion to create something new, to shape the world in ways you believe it should be, and to lead those around you.

“You always need to be incredibly positive despite being surrounded by negative people who seem rational in saying why things can’t be done. It is also about the willingness to work extremely hard; to be relentless and persistent while still being flexible as you listen and learn.”

CEO must sell

Johnny strongly feels that a business leader must be also good in sales. “As you go down the entrepreneurial path, you must be successful in getting customers to buy your product. It means you’ve to know how to gain trust, convey value, and extract commitment. You need to be able to convince any third party to buy your product or idea no matter what it is you’re selling.”

Doing business and making money is not an end in itself, however. Johnny says, “Don’t forget your community and society. Your business grows out of your community, so you should always align your goals to ensure that the community benefits from what you’re doing.” 

— Posted online, October 2, 2014