Digital News Asia (DNA) continues a weekly series that profiles the top 50 influencers, movers and shakers who are helping shape Malaysia’s Digital Economy. These articles are from Digerati50, a special print publication released in January 2014. For information on customised reprints of Digerati50, email [email protected].
Even competitors acknowledge that he’s the one who laid down the groundwork
Challenge is finding talents with the same hunger and passion for the product
IF Paul Tan was to ‘close shop’ today, he would still be included in this list because few people have moved and shaken the digital economy as much as he has done, disrupting two industries in the process.
His name is iconic within the automotive and media industries, and as so many classifieds go to the online space, even his competitors have been known to say, “Paul Tan laid down the groundwork; we’re just reaping what he’s sown.”
Not bad for what started out as a blog in 2004, at a time when blogs were online personal diaries and journals.
Paul was doing what other bloggers did – writing about themselves and their passions – when he noticed the most buzz was created when he wrote about cars. So he retooled his personal blog to focus on cars, and that quickly gained traction.
Within a few months, PaulTan.org had become the de facto authority on all things automotive.
The company Driven Media (now Driven Communications) was formed, a team brought together, and now the website has gone beyond being a blog to combine news, reviews and videos that no car-lover – or auto company, for that matter – can afford to miss.
And the company has gone on to other things, launching a consumer tech site and Driven+, a digital magazine for tablets, as well as acquiring a Malay-language celebrity news portal, all the while expanding its horizons to become digital media consultants to car companies.
[Update 1: The digital magazine has been discontinued; and Driven has also parted ways with the Malay celebrity news portal OhBulan!, which has since been acquired by Rev Asia.]
And he’s done it all without having to go through the startup funding path.
Indeed, Paul has a very old-fashioned way of running his new economy venture: “Spend less than what you earn, and you will get money. Don’t spend millions every year, where you burn your shareholder’s money and then have to go for a second round of funding – and on and on,” he has said.
Indeed, when asked about his plans for the future, he says, “We intend to keep it 100% self-owned for as long as we can.”
“We just started a Malay site. We will launch more features soon to truly help car-buyers in Malaysia beyond just informing them about what cars are being launched and how they drive. We want to build our event management portfolio, get more jobs and clients, especially from outside the auto industry,” he adds.
[Update 2: To help car-buyers, Driven Communications has since launched CarBase.my.]
It hasn’t been easy, especially in the last couple of years as deep-pocketed competitors have come on the scene, while the traditional competitors – the large ‘old media’ organisations – have begun to see the value of digital and keep pouring money into it.
“I suppose we have helped this particular industry accelerate towards going digital, gave it a big push. There were many websites that came before us but they didn’t do it right. Now everyone wants to start websites.
“And I think we are giving Malaysian car-buyers the proper fast and unbiased reference that they didn’t have before this,” he adds.
But when asked what has been his biggest challenge, Paul says, “It’s been a long journey with many challenges so far … but the challenge now would have to be finding people to work with you who share the same passion that you have towards your product, and who can keep up with the pace that you want to go at.
“You cannot do everything alone, but if you work with people who will just slow you down, that is bad as well. As a partner, Harvinder is the only one I have met so far who is as hungry as I am to push forward, perhaps even hungrier than I am,” he says of long-time partner and former school chum Harvinder Singh Sidhu.
Still, you can’t imagine Paul Tan doing anything else except driving Driven Communications, and giving car lovers what they need and want.