Carrying off from his article yesterday, in Part 2 of Business Circle’s Q&A with Datuk Seri Stanley Thai, the CEO of Supermax Bhd talks about the importance of branding and innovation while also expressing his frustration over the inability of Malaysia’s world-beating glove makers to sell directly to public hospitals.
Some of your competitors have gone into planting rubber to ensure supply. Is this a path Supermax will eventually explore too?
No, Supermax will not go into upstream such as rubber plantations but instead will focus on glove manufacturing, marketing and distribution to strengthen and streamline the supply chains.
In addition, the demand and consumption of medical gloves going forward will be more towards synthetic nitrile gloves instead of natural rubber latex gloves.
What is the idea behind the National Distribution HQ you are building in the US?
Supermax started marketing and distributing our gloves in the dental and laboratory industry in the year 2000 and having our own warehouse and distribution facility located in Chicago, USA. To date, we are the market leader, achieving more than 11% share in the dental industry.
We currently operate two warehouse facilities but with the completion of the new National Distribution Headquarters, we will consolidate the existing two facilities into a large distribution facility with room to expand storage in the future.
It is interesting that we never hear about our glove makers talk of innovation or IP. Does Supermax invest in R&D? Is being innovative important to your survival?
Most glove manufacturers are mainly OEM or contract manufacturers except for Supermax where we are the Own Brand Manufacturer or OBM. In addition, we hold several patents on our glove products. A large portion of our capacity is produced under our own brand for distribution in over 146 countries.
In regards to the engineering, our suppliers are the patent holders such as for the former holders and the conveyor chain etc. There are more than six patent holders in Malaysia holding the patents for the double formers line.
I remember you telling me once that the leading glove makers in the country cannot seem to get into doing business with our public hospitals. Is that still the case and what is the challenge here?
It is a great shame that Malaysia being the world’s top medical glove supplier with more than 65% of the global market is itself still not buying directly from its glove manufacturers!
None of the top 10 glove manufacturers operating in Malaysia are selling directly to the public hospitals in Malaysia. This is because connections to political parties and cronyism are at work to the maximum. From our understanding, most of the public hospital tenders for supplies are negotiated behind closed-doors among the 5 or 6 pre-qualified and pre-selected service providers.
The current procurement policy continues to enrich the political well connected and companies owned by cronies under the disguise of discriminative policies based on ethnicity.
You were once Malaysia’s Entrepreneur Of The Year and enjoyed a lot of exposure including going to Monte Carlo to meet and network with other country winners. How have you since become a better leader and manager?
I was very proud to represent Malaysia for the World Entrepreneur of the Year Awards in Monte Carlo in 2011. As for my leadership abilities, I always say the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!
What do you do to relax?
Sipping a glass of red wine after meals, especially over the weekend. When I am travelling overseas on business, then it is about being able to browse the Internet, YouTube, social media. I also like to watch politicians making crazy statements with some even lying openly during public functions!
How do you try to achieve some balance between work and family?
It is about give and take and to be prepared to make sacrifices under certain circumstances. When the kids are growing up, we parents need to follow their schedule instead of them following our schedule.
It has always been my intention to guide them to be independent and be street smart to handle all situations they face in society.
This is Part 2 of Business Circle’s interview with Datuk Seri Stanley Thai. Part 1 of the interview – “Wary of government intervention” – can be found here.
Photo credit: Flickr user Chawnce!