The current pandemic has affected every industry we know and it seems like the home industry is in the mix. No stranger to change, these brands are making the best out of the situation and moving forward from the after effects that came with the COVID-19 crisis
1. HOW HAS COVID-19 CHANGED THE WAY YOUR COMPANY DOES BUSINESS?
Jack Lee, Vasari Malaysia: As COVID-19 has refrained us from performing offline activities such as meeting customers, conducting face to face presentation or having internal meetings, we too have leveraged on online platforms as much as we could since MCO, mainly for the pre-site-visit activities.
Mark Alban Collar, Cosentino: The COVID-19 crisis has impacted the whole world in so many ways that everyone is taking safety precautions in all that they do, and it’s no difference to Cosentino. We have come up with our company protocols for our team members on what we need to do in this New Normal as we call it. During this unprecedented occasion, we have been very active in dealing/liaising with our clients via online platforms which I must say, is very helpful in this kind of situation to get our message across to them.
Elvin Tay, Armarior: Working from home has become the new norm for our design team, with the help of latest technology – like with cloud storage, video conference, we can work and communicate internally and externally. Besides that, social media marketing has become a must-have tool to build branding, to connect with new and old clients, product demo and introductory media.
Kyo Chong Chee Hou, DML Products: The demand from clients has decreased because most of our client can’t operate their company. Moreover, since many construction sites are still not running yet, it affects our company too.
Jeyalatha Ganeson, Isofu: This crisis was an unforeseen incident that had taken place and we were equally stunned as everyone in the industry. But thinking proactively and positively we ventured into social media branding. We are looking at it as a short-term halt. This mode is keeping us alive even during these tiring times.
Diego Jolis, Roca: Since returning from the MCO, we have adapted quickly to the new normal. Despite the lack of visibility of what will happen in the future with the COV19 pandemic, our priority has always been the safety of our employees and business partners. We have extensive business information systems in the company and our employees are able to work from home to communicate with each other. It’s now it’s quite normal for us to communicate remotely instead of having face-to-face meetings.
“It has been a challenge to meet with clients during these uncertain times”
2. WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES YOU’VE FACED RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS, DURING THESE UNCERTAIN TIMES?
Jack Lee, Vasari Malaysia: While we try to do as many activities as we could online, unfortunately, due to the nature of our business, some key activities such as site visit, product delivery and installation must be conducted offline. Due to MCO, we were refrained from operating and therefore it has impacted our business substantially.
Mark Alban Collar, Cosentino: The main challenge will be the impact on sales which everyone is facing. Due to the virus outbreak, all forms of sales movement has been put on hold until the MCO is fully lifted. We look forward to being able to bounce back in the coming weeks.
Elvin Tay, Armarior: Due to stagnant of factory production, cash flow will become the main issue of the company if the economy is not fully opened soon.
Kyo Chong Chee Hou, DML Products: Inability to meet and serve our client during these uncertain times.
Jeyalatha Ganeson, Isofu: It would definitely be income going out but minimum income coming in. We are considerate towards others as everyone is in the same boat. Our motto is compassion before business as this attribute takes you through the long run.
Diego Jolis, Roca: The MCO has hit us very hard in terms of our bottom line. Now we are operational, speed is critical for us to move forward and take advantage of the closed borders, as well as find new growth opportunities based on the current market.
We had just started our digital marketing strategy at the beginning of 2020 and now we need to hit fast-forward in this area to take advantage of e-commerce platforms and other digital channels, to benefit from the changing customer behavior and meet their needs digitally.
” Our company has always used IT as a means to be more efficient and effective in our business operations, where possible. ”
3. WHAT ARE THE NEW WAYS YOUR COMPANY HAS IMPLEMENTED TO HELP RUN THE BUSINESS MORE SMOOTHLY?
Jack Lee, Vasari Malaysia: Our internal meetings are being carried out on Zoom. We keep in touch with clients via Whatsapp. We try to prepare as much marketing materials and videos as we could in softcopy so that we can send to our clients for ideas and references. We broadcasted live demo conducted by our principals so that our customers, can learn new skills and ask live questions directly to them.
Mark Alban Collar, Cosentino: The new ways of running our business has been shifted to a digital platform, as this will be the best way for us to stay connected with our clients and share with them on our new launches and promotions under our very own Cosentino WE platform.
Elvin Tay, Armarior: We apply more social media marketing to help to generate more sales, and with the help of video conferencing technology and the high-speed internet solution, it helps to maintain our ability to serve the client on time and quality. Moreover, we started working with our German partner, Nolte kitchen, to launch a virtual showroom to serve our client with the ease of online shopping experience.
Kyo Chong Chee Hou, DML Products: Take care of employee’s health as we suggested, check the temperature when getting in office. Employees must wear masks & sanitize hand all the time. Workplace must be kept cleaned. Also, explore new products.
Jeyalatha Ganeson, Isofu: We have engaged a media influencer to help us with content that supports our client’s businesses as well as ours. We will go into more in depth post crisis. Interesting content is the key essential in social media marketing. Creating a lifestyle more than just a product and influencers collaborating makes it more impactful to the audience.
Diego Jolis, Roca: Our company has always used IT as a means to be more efficient and effective in our business operations, where possible. So in this respect we were lucky that we are ready to work in a new way with our customers and business partners. Until the pandemic is under control, we still have reduced working hours in certain areas and this means that it’s easy for the team to work from home when needed.
“latest video conferencing tools like Zoom”
4. HOW HAVE YOU BEEN KEEPING IN CONTACT WITH YOUR CLIENTS AND EMPLOYEES?
Jack Lee, Vasari Malaysia: We have been keeping in contact with our clients and team members using Zoom and WhatsApp.
Mark Alban Collar, Cosentino: We have been in constant contact with our members/clients via our online Teams’ platform where we hold our meetings, discussion and also our new launches
Elvin Tay, Armarior: By using the latest video conferencing tools like Zoom.
Kyo Chong Chee Hou, DML Products: By social media due to the change of market, as needed.
Jeyalatha Ganeson, Isofu: After all these years, we went into video conferencing calls through Microsoft TEAMS, Skype and WhatsApp. It has become an everyday norm. A good learning experience as we become more tech savvy which will bring us benefits in the long run.
Diego Jolis, Roca: Everyone in our team has access to email and other remote methods of communication. We kept in touch with our teams via remote meetings, emails and phone calls. It is the same with our customers. We all have become experts in MS Teams and Skype now! It’s definitely not the same as face to face contact, but it was the best alternative to keep in keep in touch and manage the business operations with our teams, and support our customers.
5. WHAT ARE THE WAYS YOU’VE BEEN KEEPING UP THE SPIRITS/MORALE WITHIN THE COMPANY?
Jack Lee, Vasari Malaysia: During this period, we have launched several new series and even online promotion campaign as a way for us to keep going and keeping the morale high. We would like to send a message across internally and to our customers that we have more exciting things to offer. This is not the time to be stagnant but to keep going and power through.
Mark Alban Collar, Cosentino: I have been contacting with them via phone calls/ WhatsApp and via our Teams’ platform in keeping them updated with any updates and letting them know that I’m always available should they need talk to me in anything they need regardless whether its work or personal related issues.
Elvin Tay, Armarior: As a leader, we must always keep ourselves focused and stay positive. We also keep in touch with our employees and share positive energy with them, update the company’s situation to everyone and encourage them to learn and practice new skills.
Kyo Chong Chee Hou, DML Products: Listen and try to understand employee concerns or needs. To show our employees that we care about their health and their situation. Besides that, we keep things clean in the work environment.
Jeyalatha Ganeson, Isofu: Being a positive person through many ordeals, I took into my stride, to pass on this feeling to my team, reminding them this is not a stop but just a pause!
Diego Jolis, Roca: We are lucky to have a very strong team and our remote communication during the MCO was an easy transition for us to continue our strong bond with each other. During the MCO I sent a weekly message to everyone in the company to keep touch with them with a positive message.
An unexpected benefit of having remote meetings from home has meant we that we had the chance to meet some of our team’s spouses and children. For example, I was having a remote meeting with a colleague one morning, and her husband passed by in his pyjamas without realizing the camera was on. She shrieked at the time, and of course we now laugh about it a lot. This was a unique and great way to connect with our teams.
“It has affected our countries financial movement in more ways than we know”
6. HOW HAS THIS AFFECTED THE HOME INDUSTRY IN YOUR COUNTRY?
Jack Lee, Vasari Malaysia: There is both good and bad impact on the built and design industry. While the industry may see a slowdown due to the economic downturn, the good takeaway is that we will see much more innovation in the offerings or ways of conducting business.
Mark Alban Collar, Cosentino: COVID-19 has slowed down the design and build industry as all forms of work have stopped to help fight the virus to spread further. This restricted our industry from moving, thus, project handovers are delayed due to the previous MCO restriction. It has affected our countries financial movement in more ways than we know.
Elvin Tay, Armarior: It definitely affected interior and build industry during the MCO, factory can’t be operated, lack of income, major projects has been called off and so on. Due to lockdown for almost two months, it created a big impact to our industry in terms of cash flow, contractual issue and so on. Also, it will add more cost to our industry due to the need of new hygiene SOP in place.
Kyo Chong Chee Hou, DML Products: Contractors need to comply with the onerous health and safety requirements, fear and anxiety of infection, elements of uncertainty and the reduction of foreign workers; the morale of the workers would have taken a heavy hit and their productivity disrupted in the process.
Jeyalatha Ganeson, Isofu: The main part affected is the construction of new developments as it has all been put to a stop and till now the foreign workers are not allowed to work in full capacity. Hotels have been affected drastically through this period but I still look at it as a longer pause than a total stop.
Diego Jolis, Roca: As with many other industries the pandemic has hit us hard. Since coming out of the MCO some construction sites have yet to commence operations, and once they do we will be able to normalize our deliveries to these sites. When the pandemic started in China many factories there stopped supply to Malaysia. Fortunately, our customers did not have any problems, and there was no disruption to their supply as our factory is based here, and we were able to meet all their requirements.
7. HOW WILL THIS CHANGE THE WAY THE GLOBAL HOME INDUSTRY DOES BUSINESS IN THE FUTURE?
Jack Lee, Vasari Malaysia: The world has become flatter. What we can see in our industry of wall finishes, suppliers around the world are bringing as much as they can online, since cross border travelling will reduce. This will improve the transparency of information, efficiency of information dissemination, cross-sharing/learning as well as bringing the world closer together. Taking a simple example of conducting a live demo of a product, it allows anyone from anywhere in the world to be able to know about a new product as quickly as possible. The good thing about this is, it will facilitate more global trades and it will spur more innovation and creativity. But the bad thing about this is the barrier of entry is becoming lower, hence more competition too.
Mark Alban Collar, Cosentino: I think this has taught us to be more pro-active and to be more safety-conscious in more ways than we normally do – social distancing, self-hygiene, protective measurements have been introduced to all of us. So, this is something that has changed the way we will work from now on and is something we will follow for many months to come.
Elvin Tay, Armarior: The only change I think will be the way of communication between people through technology, design software enhancements for easy communication by using video conferencing. However, build industry will still need to have people managing on-site installations, so I think it would not have much change in the future.
Kyo Chong Chee Hou, DML Products: Businesses will be forced to rethink their global value chains, shaped to maximize efficiency and profits.
Jeyalatha Ganeson, Isofu: Designers will start improvising their designs to suit the current situation or the trend of the near future. It would have a more modern look with necessary spacing which means bigger areas required. I am looking at it as a major pandemic with a short-term impact on design.
Diego Jolis, Roca: Our digital strategy needs to be a key component in our customer-engagement model. Many of our internal business processes have already been automated and integrated within the company to drive our productivity. We now need to leverage on this internal strength and extend this model with our distribution channels with virtual showrooms and e-commerce.
“we are actively recruiting partner applicators”
8. HOW CAN THE HOME INDUSTRY HELP THE ECONOMIC SITUATION IN YOUR COUNTRY, POST COVID-19?
Jack Lee, Vasari Malaysia: In our case, we are actively recruiting partner applicators who wish to earn extra income on top of their existing renovation jobs. We provide free training to make sure they are qualified before allocating jobs to them.
Mark Alban Collar, Cosentino: Once the businesses have started back, it will help our economy to progressively move forward as this is where the buying and spending will start back.
Elvin Tay, Armarior: Build industry will always play a very important role in any country’s economy – as the Chinese saying goes, “Clothing, Food, Home, Transportation.” Build industry falls in the third needed essentials items. So, during or post MCO, it will also contribute an important role to the country’s economy.
Kyo Chong Chee Hou, DML Products: Manufacturing in construction is a key sector for Malaysia. It drives a lot of our trade receipts and also helps to boost GDP and employment.
Jeyalatha Ganeson, Isofu: We should continue unperturbed but with some changes to suit the current situation with reduction of budgets but without compromising quality. Design must not be compromised but with specifications that will be useful in the long run. This is a temporary situation so the industry must not look into major changes but a lesson for improvisation.
Diego Jolis, Roca: We are very proud of our Made in Malaysia brands and we provide employment to about 400 employees. We have annual trainee programs to build local talent in the factory to produce sanitaryware, which is of course good for the industry in general. Once the construction sites start operations again, we will be able to supply our brands locally which of course helps to stimulate spending. We also export our products to various countries in Asia which brings revenue into the country. We are locally based and when our business thrives it helps provide jobs locally.
9. WHAT ARE THE CURRENT PRACTICES YOU HAVE ACQUIRED IN YOUR BUSINESSES DURING THESE TIMES THAT YOU WILL BRING FORWARD AND IMPLEMENT IN THE FUTURE?
Jack Lee, Vasari Malaysia: We will continue to leverage on technology and online platforms to provide convenience to our customers. For example, we will continue to make sure our marketing materials are completed in soft copy so that we can send them to customers for reference.
Mark Alban Collar, Cosentino: I would say our digital platform, this is a tool that can be used and brought forward to the future.
Elvin Tay, Armarior: Work from home model, new hygiene SOP. Focus more on social media marketing, for branding and generate new sales channel.
Kyo Chong Chee Hou, DML Products: · Prepare a marketing plan for growth and also use innovation to grow the business.
Jeyalatha Ganeson, Isofu: Mainly we saw the power of social media and we will continue to pursue this practice but with more interesting and updated content which will keep the clients tuned in and excited.
Diego Jolis, Roca: We have been able to adapt to “the new normal” relatively easily in our business operations and will continue to do so for as long as it’s needed to protect our employees and business partners.
“STAY POSITIVE & WELCOME TO A NEW ERA!”
10. WHAT HAS INSPIRED YOU DURING THESE CURRENT TIMES?
Jack Lee, Vasari Malaysia: The current times have inspired us to keep innovating and to keep challenging the norm. Trends can quickly change from time to time. Therefore, we must be agile enough and embrace a continuous “do-better” mentality to adapt to a new way of doing business and new ways of meeting customers’ needs.
Mark Alban Collar, Cosentino: The importance of teamwork and bonding with families, as we have been working from home and spending valuable time with our families, as I believe many of us have been taking our families for granted and during this time, it taught us to be more appreciative.
Elvin Tay, Armarior: Even during good times or bad times, there is an opportunity, during the bad time like now, we have been inspired by the action taken from entrepreneurs who take immediate action to adapt to the situation. Using new technology in their businesses. Especially those entrepreneur CEOs are moving into live broadcasting on social media, to share and to sell their products.
Kyo Chong Chee Hou, DML Products: Study how to make work better, such as redesigning job to make employees more motivated and try to make the entire organization more productive. Learning from experiences like these comes with reflections.
Jeyalatha Ganeson, Isofu: I was inspired with the fact when things dropped to ground zero but I could see the light and come up with new practices with a new mindset on how to handle a critical situation for the business.
Diego Jolis, Roca: The pandemic is a defining moment for our business. My team has been very resilient during this time and we will forge ahead together as we have done for 50 years in Malaysia. I am from Argentina and been in Malaysia for about 2 years. I have been very impressed with the way the government and the Malaysian people have worked together to managed the pandemic, and have been able to flatten the curve relatively quickly.
11. WHAT POSITIVE OUTCOME WILL COME OUT OF THIS CRISIS?
Jack Lee, Vasari Malaysia: From this crisis, I believe businesses will come out stronger and more resilient to crisis.
Mark Alban Collar, Cosentino: A stronger mindset and a broader view of how we see or do things from now on.
Elvin Tay, Armarior: In the build industry, I foresee that there will be positive demand due to the property market getting soft, it leads to the demand on fully furnish requirements to add up value to the property for them to get better sales result.
Kyo Chong Chee Hou, DML Products: Innovation. COVID-19 is a major market disruptor that has led to unprecedented levels of innovation. Due to the lockdown, so many businesses have had to reinvent themselves with a new ‘business as unusual’ philosophy.
Jeyalatha Ganeson, Isofu: We will not take anything for granted and keep a healthy cashflow for a rainy day. We will set more flexible rules for clients.
Diego Jolis, Roca: Our personal relationships. It has always been our strength, and not being able to meet with our colleagues, customers and other business partners face to face during the MCO was difficult for us. We now have a much greater appreciation of our personal contacts with everyone. We took this for granted and now we know how valuable it is.
12. WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO THE MOST ONCE THE SITUATION SETTLES DOWN?
Jack Lee, Vasari Malaysia: Definitely can’t wait to get back in business and start providing beautiful walls!
Mark Alban Collar, Cosentino: A much more positive journey and a healthier GDP growth for our country and to our building industry.
Elvin Tay, Armarior: We will move forward to implement the business crossover plan that we started before MCO with our business partner. To be more secured in pushing forward Armarior in the fully furnish brand positioning.
Kyo Chong Chee Hou, DML Products: We’re going to launch our new product after situation settles down. We’ll also work closely to follow up with the clients & projects to make sure that we can catch up with the work.
Jeyalatha Ganeson, Isofu: I am looking forward to the uplifting of rules where we can all be together in events, networking, and sharing ideas again. Also, I wish to be in the great outdoors again to create impressive content for our clients!
Diego Jolis, Roca: Globally I hope we find the solution soon so that the suffering will end.
For the company, we want to resume all our operations and recover our financial results. We are also looking forward to having face to face meetings with our customers and to start a new beginning together with them.