The concept of a healthy household has never been more important. Wellness has been a vital part of everyone’s lives especially in recent years, which has grown to include fitness, nutrition, and technology that found their way into the space of our homes and offices.
Brands such as Coway is also not novel to Malaysians, with more than 1.5 million families across the nation subscribed to its products and services, we have enjoyed both their water and air purifiers, along with other offerings, allowing us to have a much more affordable and definitely more accessible, healthy lifestyle.
Business Today sits down with Kyle Choi, Managing Director of Coway Malaysia who shares his journey with the company since 2014, its commitment to change lives nationwide and the company’s direction to becoming Malaysians’ top-of-mind and preferred choice in wellness and healthy living.
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
Prior to his start with the brand, which began in Coway Korea all the way back in 2003, Choi served as an auditor in the Big Four. He attributes the financial knowledge he gained from his time then as not only useful at developing Coway Malaysia now but also managing it.
“It played a major role while I was managing other overseas subsidiaries as well and understanding the detailed financial position of the company helped me to make better decisions as a Managing Director,” Choi says, sharing that it helped him plan the entire financial structure of Coway Malaysia and when it came to controlling operating costs and product prices.
“While our financial team is there to provide professional advice, getting to know it yourself allows you to see things in a well-rounded angle and even lets you think out of the box to benefit the customers, stakeholders and employees in the very best way,” he tells Business Today.
Choi also points out that the financial experience he gained as an auditor has only just been one part of the journey. “The experiences and exposures in different departments in Coway has made up who I am today,” Choi says.
Before his start as the Managing Director of Coway Malaysia in 2014, he was also the Managing Director of Coway Thailand and Coway USA. During his time there, Choi says, the most significant takeaways were the need for diversification and adaptability in different environments.
He believed the two things that he learned as Managing Director in two very different market was very applicable in the Malaysian market due to its unique significance of being a huge cultural melting pot.
“It was very interesting yet challenging at the same time, as I always believe that we have to challenge the familiarity and commonise the differences,” he says. Choi believes that cultural differences are one of the key factors that really affects decision-making in the business, for instance, different mix of customers in Malaysia come with distinct differences in consumer demands and needs.
“I think this is what makes Coway Malaysia so unique and able to achieve the most outstanding performance outside Coway Korea worldwide,” he says, further adding that the different exposures gained from previous positions in various countries also helped him to save twists and turns while enhancing their performance in the Malaysian market.
He further highlights that managing a business is challenging, and managing the Coway Malaysian team of about 20,000 people has a chapter of its own. To date, Coway Malaysia has 1.5 million families and corporate clients enjoying their products and services and to cope with the high demand, Choi has a dedicated team of Cowayians to help ensure that the customers are well taken care of.
“I have talked and listened to the voices of our Malaysian employees, encouraging them to convey their opinions as well as allowing them to be part of the decision making process,” the Managing Director says, confident that his ways will foster a sense of belonging and motivation among employees.
MILESTONES, COMBATING COVID-19 AND GIVING BACK
“Since I took up the position as Managing Director at Coway Malaysia back in 2014, there are so many unforgettable moments here, and to pinpoint the single most memorable milestone, it would be our 1 Million Homes Celebration,” Choi claims proudly.
“At the end of 2018, we hit a record breaking attainment of 1 million homes and RM1 billion revenue, with a total of 4 million users in Malaysia were enjoying the benefits of Coway products,” Choi tells Business Today.
Two years on, and the number of users have since grown by an extra 2 million, bringing it to a total of 6 million. Choi held the achievement as a milestone which truly resonated with their aim to make healthy living more affordable and accessible in the country.
The company has also produced more than 200 millionaires within the short span of four years, from 2015 to 2019. The company held a special ceremony – Coway WOW Millionaire event to celebrate Cowayians’ efforts and dedication.
Another milestone that Coway Malaysia holds very high on their list would be the launch of their first-ever water purifier which was designed specifically for the residents of Malaysia in the home appliances industry in 2018, namely OMBAK, as it is more commonly known as, was the result of tons of research and findings that were conducted in Malaysia.
The Coway headquarters in South Korea had also constructed a new production line especially for the OMBAK water purifier to supply the demands in the Malaysian market only. “We aim to bring life-changing experiences to all, from our employees, to the consumers as well as to the environment,” Choi highlighted.
While the company had collected a long-list of achievements and awards along the way, it was not without struggles. Most recently, the arrival of the Coronavirus outbreak and the implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO) had taken a toll on the business.
The MCO in place halted all services which included installation services, reparation, and maintenance services which then lead to a tremendous drop in sales. However, the unprecedented obstacle had not dampened the Cowayian spirit. “We believe tough times never last but tough people do.
All management team, managers and team leaders had back-to-back meetings to craft out new solutions and ways to expand our business in this challenging time,” Choi says. Choi and his team have formulated many different strategies for reaching out to both their existing and potential customers via various online platforms.
The team back in Coway Malaysia conducted a series of interactive social media initiatives to engage with the public encouraging them to live healthily within the safety of their homes. For instance, one of the initiatives was the Coway Home Run.
A virtual run contest which encouraged participants to challenge 5,000 steps in one day. Choi and his team also conducted video contests to keep the team motivated.
“The company is constantly exploring digitalisation, keeping up with the latest trends, as we believe a modern company has to be agile and flexible. We are actually in the midst of expanding various digital channels, which will lead us one step further in changing the way Malaysians used to interact with our company,” the Managing Director highlighted.
And in keeping up with changing times, Coway Malaysia conducted their first-ever online live product launch event for their Coway KECIL water purifier in early July.
According to Choi, the event served as a huge dose of encouragement for his employees to get digitalised. Moving forward, Choi shares that the company will continue to enhance both online and offline business platforms as well as bring more exciting events for Malaysians, as part of its efforts in encouraging everyone to lead a healthier lifestyle, such as the Coway Virtual Run.
“Despite all the obstacles encountered during this period, we managed to achieve another proud achievement of 1.5 million accounts. We are one step closer to this year’s goal of 2 million accounts and RM2 billion revenue,” Choi exclaimed, attributing all the hard work to his dedicated personnel.
Choi and his team also did more than just to ensure his employees were well taken care off during the outbreak, he also stayed true to his principles to play an active role in society. “As a Life Care company, we believe that we play a role in society to help combat this pandemic,” Choi tells BusinessToday.
And in doing so, Coway Malaysia contributed 100,000 face masks to the Royal Malaysia Police force and donated 300 units of air purifiers to public hospitals treating Covid-19 patients across the country.
STAYING DIFFERENT, STAYING COWAY
“We always think from the customers’ perspective. Our products and services are carefully crafted and designed with our consumers in mind,” Choi says. He adds on that it is important to emphasise and prioritise the well-being of the users. And to enhance customer satisfaction, Coway sees heavy investments in many aspects as a necessity.
Coway has the world’s largest indoor water Research and Development Centre in Seoul National University, South Korea. The R&D is recognised by the Water Quality Association in USA as a testing laboratory, and is also the first and only official water test laboratory in South Korea.
The facility is also home to the highest number of certified water specialists in the world. “Our Coway Technicians are also always ready to provide technical support. Not to forget our Homecare technicians who cleans our customers’ mattresses once every 4 months,” Choi shares.
The company’s Coway Lady or better known as Cody also offers the most frequent product maintenance Heart Services in the market, which is once every two months. As of today, the Codys perform an average of 700,000 Heart Service per month throughout the country.
Choi believes that as his team listens to their customers’ needs and reacts accordingly to them, they are also able to stand out in a very competitive market by customising their products and services to cater for different needs of the market or customers.
“Through years of observation and research, we heard the customers’ voice resulting in the birth of our water purifier OMBAK, specially designed for Malaysians’ needs,” Choi tells Business Today.
The Coway team’s recently launched Coway KECIL water purifier was evident of their commitment to look out for their customers’ needs, as it aims to cater for modern urban lifestyles.
“We found out that urban Malaysia households today have an average size of less than 1,000 square feet and so we believe a smart and sleek design will be the solution for small spaces,” he highlighted.
RESONATING WITH MALAYSIANS
“Coway is constantly developing new technologies, products and services to promote healthy lifestyle among Malaysians, to take care of their overall health and well-being,” Choi says. He adds that he and his team aims to make healthy living more affordable and more accessible to everyone via their subscription scheme.
“A healthy lifestyle does not necessarily cost a fortune, a busy lifestyle does not need to sacrifice your health,” he stresses. “Our products could cater people of all ages, accompanying you through every journey.
From preparing milk for your baby, to preparing a cup of coffee, or even a cooling glass of iced lemon tea, all you need is just a push of a button. Our air purifiers are equipped with child safety lock feature, keeping you and your loved ones safe and healthy,” he says.
Coway Malaysia aims to continue its position as a Life Care company and as they expand their business, Choi says the company is looking to constantly create more job opportunities in the market, providing a life-changing platform for people from all walks of life to shine.
“Such as our Cody position, we will provide trainings and encourage homemakers to re-enter the workforce and be financially independent. Many Codys are pleased and proud as they are able to provide a better living condition for their family and support their children to have better education,” he adds.
With the increase of health-conscious consumers in the market, the company is even more dedicated to inspire more people to lead a happy and healthy life.
“Coway Malaysia is determined to be a more holistic Life Care company, always striving to be better than yesterday. We are also looking forward to introducing more innovative products and more well-rounded services to the public, providing a variety of life-changing and user-friendly solutions to all,” concludes Choi.