Digerati50: Roshan Thiran’s unshakeable belief

  • Believes motivation to learn something is highest when there is a pressing need
  • NECOLE, built on 12 years experience delivering leadership training to over 200 clients

Digerati50: Roshan Thiran’s unshakeable belief

Digital News Asia (DNA) continues its series that profiles 50 influencers who are helping shape Malaysia’s Digital Economy, from Digerati50 2020-2021 (Vol 4), a special biennial print publication released in July 2020. The digital copy can be downloaded from the sidebar link.

The following in a version of the article which first appeared in print edition in June 2020.

Roshan Thiran, cofounder and CEO of highly regarded Malaysian based, regional leadership and development company, Leaderonomics Sdn Bhd, like to use “star” and “super star” when referring to people. It is as much a part of his vocabulary as “lah” is for most Malaysians. There is irony here because the same words were used to describe him when he was a fast rising finance executive turned turnaround specialist who then became an Asia Pacific leader at General Electric (GE).

Starting his career in the US, he had various stints in GE starting in finance and then as Sourcing Leader for Europe before he was sent to China to lead GE’s then struggling aviation business which he turned into a unit earning a few hundred million a year. He left GE after spending four years as director of HR for Asia Pacific.

You can say he knows a thing or two about leadership, grooming talent and turning around companies.  And just as much as he loves speaking about leadership and development, Roshan loves the transformative power of technology and is a big believer. But technology hasn’t loved him back yet.

For as much as he is convinced that each year, since 2017, will be the year that HR departments finally get it about technology and use it to grow their leaders, yet each year he is disappointed by the lack of adoption.

A frequent writer on leadership issues, in Jan 2017 he wrote with great optimism: “I believe that we will see digital learning finally gain a foothold in organisations after years of being viewed as a less-desirable alternative to face-to-face learning. New socially-networked Learning Management Systems (LMS) are being introduced and finding receptive, savvy users among millennials who are native technology users.”

Roshan was one of those who built his own LMS as well, which he then spun off in 2018 as a separate subsidiary, Leaderonomics Digital in 2018 that went on to raise US$168,500 (RM711,000) in an early 2019 equity crowd funding campaign with pitchIN.

The market may have a number of LMS’ but Roshan says, “those are built by tech companies which do not intimately understand the pain points of companies, especially large ones.”

Through Leaderonomics Digital he has built a solution he calls “NECOLE” which stands for Needs-based, Contextual Learning. “This is your personalized leadership guide built to address three key pain points culled from Leaderonomics’ 12 years of experience in delivering leadership and training to over 200 corporate clients in Malaysia and Singapore.”

These are, the low engagement of learners which then naturally translates to a low transfer of learning to the workplace. The third pain point is the low relevance of learning content.

This is something Roshan believes not much attention has been paid to and to address this, he is already working on the next level product that he calls “CLAYTON” which is the acronym for Contextual Learning At Your Time Of Need.

“Where NECOLE is a curation engine that pulls content from various sources that you have requested for, CLAYTON is a personalization tool that pulls information from your work emails, your calendar and other productivity tools you use at work to then customize certain content that you will need to know, right before that meeting or presentation,” he explains. The premise here being that the motivation to learn something is highest when there is a pressing need.

Roshan has even been to the Silicon Valley, in 2018, as part of a Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre sponsored trip to pitch his idea of CLAYTON to VCs. The feedback? “They say it is an ambitious and difficult thing to pull off and don’t know of anyone working on it.” Undeterred though, and acknowledging that it will be difficult and expensive to build such a tool, which is called LXP or Learning Experience System, that can be adopted by enterprise clients, Roshan nonetheless believes it to be “very doable”.

As a deeply committed leadership practitioner and thought leader passionate about developing people to achieve their highest potential, Roshan clearly sees this problem at a much more personal level than what a technology company would.

“We’re a technology company with two products. An analogue one with Leaderonomics and a digital one with Leaderonomics Digital.” 

Digerati50 2020/2021 is proudly sponsored by Maxis - Powering Malaysia's 5G era.


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