What new initiatives is Pulse currently involved in?
CHUA: Pulse is involved in the market intelligence industry. Our current focus is geared towards digital platforms. We are now placing more emphasis on social networks so that we can better understand what brands and issues consumers are talking about. We utilize these networks to gather our data and compile market research.
What is your future growth and development strategy for the next 2-5 years?
CHUA: 2-5 years in a digital agency is pretty long term. We tend to plan on a month-by-month basis because the dynamics of our industry are always changing. With regards to our immediate growth strategy, we are focusing on opportunities that surround the mobile platform. This is important because half of the Internet population is based in Asia and the mobile adoption here is very high. As a result, we have been placing more emphasis on these sorts of platforms. Also, we are looking to expand into other emerging markets throughout Asia.
What is your outlook on the market research industry in Asia?
CHUA: In the past 3 years the market research industry has grown from $28bn to $32bn. It is one of the only industries that has grown quite aggressively. When you look at individual markets throughout Asia, there is a certain correlation between GDP growth, advertising spend, and market research spend. Asia’s economy continues to grow by double digits. As a result, I believe that there is a lot of potential for growth in the digital industry throughout the region. Asia is important because this is where majority of the world’s consumers are speaking about brands and experiences. Pulse Group is positioned quite well across Asia to reach out to these consumers and gather market intelligence. I am bullish on the outlook for the next few years.
What makes Malaysia an attractive destination for companies looking to outsource their research process vis-à-vis other countries in the region?
CHUA: The barriers of entry into the markets of Asia are pretty minimal for companies that deal with hi-tech. Competitiveness throughout the region is different depending on the markets. In terms of outsourcing and digital, Malaysia still represents a very good opportunity. The country’s geographic location, spoken languages, and skilled labor force makes Malaysia very competitive. We are ranked number 3 behind China and India. I do not believe that we can fully compete with China and India because of how large their work forces are. However, we are starting to focus more on KPO (Knowledge Process Outsourcing) rather than BPO (Business Process Outsourcing). KPO is more significant because it cannot be as easily commoditized. I believe Malaysia is positioned quite well for this and has made a lot of progress.
How would you describe the climate for entrepreneurship in Malaysia?
CHUA: When we first started our business, we had a wide range of countries to choose from to set up our operations in. However, we saw a very strong business case to invest here in Malaysia. Malaysia’s business atmosphere is friendly and the talent pool here is particularly strong. Malaysia has a strong global network, English speaking professionals, and a solid infrastructure. Malaysia has all of the elements needed in order to invest successfully and develop a business.
In the past 3 years the market research industry has grown from $28bn to $32bn. It is one of the only industries that has grown quite aggressively.
Why did you decide to publicly list on the London Stock Exchange?
CHUA: Pulse Group went public about 3 years ago to access more funds for investments and growth. We decided to list in London because of the global uncertainty at the time. This was about 2 weeks before Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy. It was probably the worst time to seek a listing. However, we chose a market that had the right valuations, understanding of our business, and investor appetite. The European market was slightly ahead of the rest in terms of understanding our core business. Also, there were already several comparable companies listed on the NASDAQ stock market and AIM. Conversely, there is a large amount of funds that are not being invested right now. Liquidity in some of these markets tends to be an issue. These are the elements that you must take into consideration when you are looking to become a publicly listed company. So far, we are pretty happy with our listing in the UK.
Is the government of Malaysia investing adequately in ICT? What objectives has the government set for 2020? How would you assess this progress?
CHUA: The Malaysian government has embarked on an ambitious economic transformation plan. The transformation plan consists of 3 elements, the Government Transformation Plan, the Economic Transformation Plan, and Digital Malaysia. By implementing these plans, the government is hoping to increase the amount of GNP and GNI per capita. It would like to establish Malaysia as a developed nation by 2020. From a private sector point of view, we have seen some varied progress regarding different parts of the transformation plan. We really want to see a cause and effect relationship from each initiative that is being implemented. I believe that we are moving in the right direction. The main challenge will be in attracting the right investments in order to put more momentum behind these transformation plans.