Feature Story – Nicky Wong

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The themes in this issue are Entrepreneurship, Franchises and Technology. What do these three disciplines have in common? In two words – Nicky Wong.

Nicky Wong, a serial entrepreneur and the founder of Infindo Technology started his career as a freelance web designer in 2000 and was able to gain experience in an array of web and mobile businesses. With his dedication and entrepreneurial leadership, Infindo which is a venture capital (VC) funded company is currently the leader in mobile application development in Brunei and Malaysia delivering media apps for mobile devices. Having won numerous local and international I.T. awards and recognition, Infindo is also a virtual incubatee at iCentre.

Nicky oversees the company’s overall growth and development strategy and works with a team of experienced, energetic and talented employees. This Brunei based visionary company focuses on two tiers of markets and clients. Building customised complex apps for the government and big corporations, as well as catering to small and medium-sized enterprises (SME).

To-date, Infindo has developed more than 70 mobile applications for Apple and Google Android powered range of devices. Over 1.5 million Infindo non-enterprise apps have been downloaded globally on various app stores. These apps primary focus on Apple iPhone, iPad and Android smartphones and tablets. In the long run, the company’s mission is to provide a service that enables businesses of all sizes to grow with the ability to transact full business via mobile phones. Nicky believes that smartphones and mobile apps are an important channel and an essential tool for businesses today. These devices will enable anyone in business to reach out to customers for branding, marketing and business transactions (mobile commerce) with the iBeacon technology by Apple and the near field communication (NFC) push services.

Some of the local companies that Infindo service include Baiduri Bank, Telbru (e-Fon), HSBC, Setia Motors (Hyundai), Brunei Meteorological Department, RTB, KFC, B.Mobile, Bossini, Vincci, Honey CarsMart, Pastamania, Tony Moly and APICTA and others. Infindo’s international clients include Astro Malaysia, Maxis, iProperty, Kurnia Insurance, MAAKL Mutual, Sepang International Circuit (SIC), Excelforce and many others.

Nicky actively consults and mentors new startups and students by sharing his experience in the business world as well as his knowledge of web and mobile technology. His vision for Infindo is to continue supporting and enhancing the Brunei web and mobile industry; to take the company international and to place Brunei on the map in the world of Information Technology (I.T.).

Nicky, the winner of the most promising entrepreneur of Brunei in 2012 and the BIMP-EAGA Asia Pacific Entrepreneurship Awards (APEA) 2014, is also the founder of 365eStore.com (a.k.a QQeStore.com or “QQ-e-Store”). QQ-e-Store is the leading E-Commerce provider in the country and is commonly known as Amazon Brunei. It initially started selling electronic products and later expanded to a wider range of popular products from fashion, shoes, jewellery, watches, baby and kids products to toys.

nicky3With an average of 4,000 visitors browsing its website daily, what makes QQeStore unique is that it allows buyers to browse through an entire online inventory from the comfort of their home, order and then pick up their purchases from the retail stores located at Kiulap, Centrepoint and Times Square. Walk in customers or those who are not very technical minded can also utilise the multiple computer kiosks in-store to make instant purchases. The advantage of the QQeStore is that it is able to offer customers all that they need without having to keep stock or pay the hefty rental fees of a departmental store.

QQeStore is currently heading into its 8th year of business and continues to grow from strength to strength keeping its focus mainly on attracting more online customers. This company continues to demonstrate good progress, in view of the fact that it is operating in a small market where many believe that E-Commerce will not work.

On the frontier of the brick and mortar business, Nicky is also one of the founding team members of the popular CheezBox restaurant in the Mall. The CheezBox, famously located where DOME (the Australian cafe franchise) used to be, has managed to make a name for itself by offering an ambience and food which caters to the local palette. This has made CheezBox both popular and profitable.

Nicky’s latest venture, Gong Cha, completes our checklist making him the only businessperson in Brunei that we know of who has a successful business presence in all three areas which are being covered in this issue. Gong Cha, which originated in Taiwan, is currently the leading bubble tea international franchise in the Asia region with over 200 premium outlets globally. Gong Cha outlets can be found in countries like Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, Indonesia, Hong Kong, China, Macau, Philippines, Cambodia, Taiwan, USA, Canada and Australia.

In spite of the large number of local and international bubble tea franchises existing in Brunei today (total of seven), Gong Cha, which has been operating for less than a year in the Sultanate has managed to quickly gain popularity amongst both the youth and older generation. Besides its marketing and branding approach, one of the key reasons for its success is the daily freshly brewed premium tea leaf which is used (their tea is freshly brewed every four hours to make sure that it tastes its best) and the tasty and healthy halal tea selection with optional sugar levels which is available.

In less than a year, Nicky has opened four outlets, something that has never been seen in the Brunei Food and Beverage Industry. In the upcoming months he plans to continue expanding, opening more outlets in other strategic locations. With his extensive experience in both IT and food and beverage Nicky has ambitions to combine his knowledge of modern technology with his unique business model to build his own franchise group of globally recognised brands.

What drives Nicky?
A year ago, Nicky attended a business course entitled, “Miracles of Capital” and according to him, this course changed his entire perspective about doing business. In fact, he openly admitted that within the first few hours of the course he thought about shutting down his existing businesses because he realised that he was going about it all wrong as he didn’t have a concrete business model. He learnt that “any investment put into uncontrollable-outcome is of high risk” – which is what most startup and traditional businessmen are doing. On the other hand, “any resources put into a controlled-outcome is called an investment.” In addition, “anything that does not comply with your logic is called a miracle.” Nicky also learnt how to use ‘mental displacement and disposition’ to convey business ideas, techniques and methodologies.

With his brand new venture coming up, Nicky has applied what he’s learnt which is, for a venture to have a higher chance of success, it must have a solid workable business model; the right and long term corporate structure; financial engineering with strong financial road maps; as well as forward looking term sheets in company valuations – these elements are crucial to the success of the venture.

Business Model?
Nicky believes that one of the keys to having a successful business lies in having a business model which allows you to “think outside the box”. Many startups do not understand the importance of business models and some don’t realise that these even exist.

He further explained that the 7-11’s business model is not so much about the selling of groceries and making profit out of it, a large portion of the revenues come from the rental of shelf space to suppliers such as M&Ms and Coca-Cola. McDonald’s business model is not about hamburgers but about real estate.

“The traditional way of doing business is too difficult and ineffective. There must be a better way out there.”

And what many people don’t know is that Apple is virtually one of the biggest mobile operators in the world.

His point?
“The traditional way of doing business is too difficult and ineffective. There must be a better way out there.” Nicky added, “Most of the entrepreneurs are working too hard for too little, and few succeeded.”

Even in these tough economic times, it seems that Nicky senses what others don’t, that Gong Cha is a great business opportunity.

Advice for businesses

Personal Development
Embrace continuous learning, never think you are the best as there will always be someone better than you out there. If you don’t improve yourself, you will be left behind. This is an era of fast moving business markets with new creative ideas and unpredictable consumer behaviour which will affect your business future. “You must truly understand yourself, especially your strengths and weaknesses, and try to understand others, be it your partners or customers. This attitude, together with a good business model is critical to building a successful business and company in the long run. Protect your shareholders, share your knowledge with others and be patient in all of your dealings.”

Work smart or work hard?
Nicky suggests that one must know how to work smart to start with and then focus on working hard.

Passion
Do something that you are passionate about. Never chase the money. Money is the byproduct of doing a good job. And you can’t do a job well without being passionate about what you do in the first place.

Travel
Lastly – be observant and travel and see the outside world. Nicky first discovered Gong Cha a few years ago when he saw a long queue of people lining up for their bubble tea in Singapore. And later on, he saw many of his Bruneian friends posting up their Gong Cha experiences on social media. If he hadn’t been more observant when he traveled, he would have missed a great business opportunity.

This article was published in the Jul-Sept 2014 issue of Inspire Magazine. Download it here!