Ganesh: MOL co-CEO move is for the ‘long haul’
By Goh Thean Eu April 2, 2015
- With new role in MOL Global, Ganesh seeks better work-life balance
- Co-CEOs: Ng oversees operations, Preecha oversees business development
FOR MOL Global Inc founder Ganesh Kumar Bangah (pic above), the decision to vacate his chief executive officer (CEO) post and to appoint two co-CEOs is for the long haul, and will benefit the company – and to a certain extent, himself.
“At first, I thought it was going to be tough (to vacate the CEO post), but I think it is a timely decision,” Ganesh told Digital News Asia (DNA) at his home in Kuala Lumpur recently.
Late last week, MOL Global announced that Ganesh will now assume the role of executive director, while Charles Ng Chee Chau and Preecha Praipattarakul had been appointed co-CEOs. Ramesh Pathmanathan was also appointed chief financial officer.
With his new role, Ganesh, a DNA Digerati50, will now be focusing solely on the strategic direction of the company.
He said that the decision was made after several months of “serious consultation’ with various stakeholders. He had discussed the matter with his team, major shareholders, and the board before coming to the decision.
“After the discussions, we decided that this is the best way forward,” he said.
One company, two decision-makers
When Ganesh was MOL Global CEO, his role mainly involved three areas: Strategy, operations, and business development.
Strategy involved setting the company’s long-term directions; operations involved handling the day-to-day matters; and finally, business development involved handling games developers, managing partnerships and merchants, and other tasks.
“Today, MOL has a presence in about 13 countries and across various business lines. There needs to be someone who can focus solely on long-term strategy and not to be bogged down by day-to-day operations and other activities,” Ganesh said.
By appointing Ng and Preecha as co-CEOs, the three main roles that would drive the company over the near- and long-term would be addressed, he added.
With the founder focusing on strategic directions, Ng will be responsible for MOL Global’s day-to-day operations while Preecha will be in charge of business development.
In fact, Ganesh said that appointing Ng and Prechaa as co-CEOs was a natural decision, mainly because both of them have been handling the group’s operations and business development respectively for some time.
“Over the past one year or so, as I was busy in preparing for the IPO (initial public offering), Charles [Ng] had been handling the day-to-day operation while Preecha had been handling the business development side. They are very good at it,” he said.
E-payment enabler MOL Global listed on the Nasdaq exchange last October, making history as South-East Asia’s first technology IPO on Nasdaq in over 10 years, and making it the first South-East Internet company to list on the exchange.
Unfortunately, its public debut was less than sterling. MOL Global shares opened at US$10.75, or about 14% under their IPO price, and closed at US$8.14 on the first day.
Worse was to follow when in November 2014, it announced that it would delay reporting its third quarter 2014 financial results and that its chief financial officer Allan Wong had resigned due to personal reasons.
Having two co-CEOs is not uncommon. Currently, Whole Foods Market Inc, Deutsche Bank AG and Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc are managed by two co-CEOs, as are Oracle Corp and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd when it comes to technology companies.
Some co-CEO moves have been successful, others not so. Loss-making smartphone maker BlackBerry Ltd, formerly known as Research In Motion Ltd, at one point also had two co-CEOs.
“BlackBerry is a very bad example. Whether it had one CEO, two co-CEOs or five, it was already doomed. With strong competition from Apple Inc and Google Inc, it was very hard for BlackBerry to compete,” Ganesh argued.
Not a stop-gap measure
When asked if it is in the company’s plan to appoint one of them as the company’s only CEO, Ganesh responded with a quick, “No.”
“This is not a race or competition. This not a stop-gap [measure]. It is the solution. We are not doing it for the short-term,” he stressed.
Under this structure, it would also mean that Ganesh will be playing less of a role in decision-making – something he said he is comfortable with.
“I will be only focused on strategy. One of the things I don’t want to do is to get too involved. My CEOs will make the decisions, not me. I provide the advice and set the priorities, but the ultimate decision will be jointly made by the CEOs,” he said.
“I am comfortable with letting go of control. You cannot say you are letting go of responsibilities if you are still making decisions. If you want to give away responsibilities, you got to give away the decision- making,” he added.
Nevertheless, Ganesh said he understands the concerns of MOL Global’s critics who are sceptical about the co-CEO structure.
“Only time will tell. It may work, it may not. But based on the company’s current operations, we believe the co-CEO structure is the way forward,” he argued.
Time to get married, settle down
Ganesh also admitted that after spending 15 years building MOL Global up from scratch, it is about time to have a slightly more balanced life.
“I have been doing this for the past 15 years. I think I need to start having some time of my own ... perhaps find someone and get married or something,” said the 34-year-old, who is currently single.
“But one thing is for sure: It will be very difficult to have a balanced life if I were to continue with the role of CEO and with the schedule that I have,” he lamented.
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