Digerati50: The high tech success from Klang

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].

  • Doesn’t believe he should be a Digerati50, but no denying his impact as role model
  • Has embarked on and is key participant in initiatives to spur E&E ecosystem here
Digerati50: The high tech success from Klang

KLANG is home to many ‘old economy’ entrepreneurs, especially in the logistics and transportation sector, it being a port city.
 
Yet one of its most famous sons plays in the digital space, with a listed IC (integrated circuit) chip design company in Taiwan, Phison Electronics Corp, that is among the world leaders making micro controllers.
 
It is safe to say that no tech company controlled by a Malaysian has sales anywhere near what Phison has. Total revenue for 2012 was RM3.52 billion, with RM897 million of cash in hand and a market cap of RM4 billion. [RM1 = US$0.31]
 
This is the company Pua Khein-Seng or K.S. Pua, 40, founded in Taiwan in 2000 with four others. He is the chairman and chief executive officer.
 
When talking about Pua, the Malaysian media has taken it upon themselves to anoint him as the founder of the pen drive but this is not true. “Let me make it clear that I did not invent the pen drive,” he says.
 
The inventors were actually IBM engineers, who used multi-chip 8MB memory, which cost US$200 per pen drive – that limited the market, says Pua.
 
How Phison’s invention came about was that Fujitsu-Siemens, an IT company at that time, asked it to  come up with something that would replace the floppy disk as a storage medium.
 
“Because of our knowledge of the compact flash and USB interfaces, and flash memory, we were able to deliver to Fujitsu-Siemens a USB drive with a single instead of multiple-chip solution, and it was the first time this had been done. This was in May, 2001,” he recalls.
 
Fujitsu-Siemens liked what Phison had delivered and thus began a string of successes for the company that led to its eventual listing.
 
While his success has entirely been made in Taiwan, beginning with his engineering education to early work experience to then becoming an entrepreneur and enjoying the benefits of a dynamic and supportive ecosystem, Pua has taken the first step to making a contribution in Malaysia.
 
In March, 2012 he launched an R&D subsidiary PhisonTech Electronics Malaysia, in Penang, with the intention of creating a pool of talented IC design engineers.
 
A year later, he got Phison involved in the Creative Product Development Programme for Malaysian designers that was launched with five industry partners and the Malaysian Investment Development Authority. The other partners are Pensonic, Fusion Wave, Emtec and Cari.com.
 
To Pua, the Creative Product Development Programme is all about creating Malaysian success stories. His experience in Taiwan has shown him what a powerful motivator success stories can be.
 
“From nothing, we will try to create everything,” he says, meaning creating an ecosystem for the E&E (electronics and electrical) sector that is Malaysian-based.
 
The design element of this programme is thus an important component. The programme is targeted at the over 35,000 creative entities defined as companies and individuals involved in various design work – that is, fashion design, industrial design, branding, public relations, 3D modelling and R&D.
 
Curiously, Pua feels that he should not be considered a Digerati 50 for Malaysia. “You should pick a Malaysian who is building his business from Malaysia. I think that person would be a better choice.”
 
But we believe that Pua, through the talks that he gives to universities when he is in town, is already a role model who inspires his fellow Malaysians.
 
As for himself, “We keep getting pushed by our customers to come up with innovative products and this inspires and keeps me working hard.”
 
There is another source of motivation too. “We keep hiring fresh engineers every year and I have a responsibility to give higher bonuses to staff so that they can buy homes with smaller loans from banks.”

 
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