Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Young Corporate Malaysians 28th CEO Series of Talk - Ahmad Izham Omar

Live blogging for the 28th CEO Series of Talk for Young Corporate Malaysians - Ahmad Izham Omar, Executive Director of 8TV. 

You can follow Ahmad Izham Omar at and Young Corporate Malaysians at . The hash tag for tonight is #ycm. There would be live tweeting there as well.

8TV broke even in a record of 18 months. Izham became the COO of 8TV, before being CEO of 8TV. Recently, he was promoted as Executive Director of 8TV. He is also the CEO for Radio Network.

Izham's main theme is "Making a Difference". He now works in TV, Radio, New Media and Music. He would be sharing a story about his journey.

Back in 1998, when he was 28 years old. He was in charge of a company, called Positive Tone. He wanted to grow the artists in his company, and EMI heard of his problem of funding, so EMI wanted to own the company 100%. It is a company that is part of Izham. The EMI people are very professional and have done extensive studies on Positive Tone. 

The EMI people talked about Net Present Value, due diligence, cash flow of Positive Tone and EMI, and it really overwhelmed Izham. They told Izham that they loved him, because he was different.

Music/content comes first and then comes marketing/communications. Without great music, nothing else moves. Usually if lack of sales, it is due to bad product, and not due to bad promotion.

Back in 1995, he was hanging out with a 31-year-old guy, Tony Fernandes outside Dynasty Hotel. Tony Fernandes shared with him that "if you have one million dollars, but if you have bad music, it won't sell." So, product/service comes first, then comes marketing/communications.

The first P of Marketing Mix is Product. So, that is the most important thing. 

The typical record industry infrastructure back in early 1990s are divided into Malay songs, Chinese songs, International/English songs. The TV, Radio, Press, Retailers, Record Companies all do the same, where they have different divisions/departments for it. The Mostpit said that the infrastructure is wrong.

In the 1970s/1980s, people start to gradually move into urban area, and move beyond their parents' generation. They are the urban group, who tend to be more racial blind. The urban people tend to have aspirational values. They tend to aspire to move up the value.

Then they produce OAG, which is different from the typical records. They were laughed by the infrastructure back then. Izham brought the album to MCA (which is now Universal), BMG etc. However, people can't see the value of this music.

Izham brought the song to a music shop, where the owner told Izham that he didn't know where to put the cassette. It is neither Malay songs, nor Chinese songs, nor English/International songs. People can't appreciate this different form of music.

So, at that time, Izham decided to go straight into the urban market. He decided to go straight to the indie market. This was the time he worked the hardest. He had to make flyers, distribute flyers outside the mall. He even went into toilets to stick flyer of buying OAG. 

There was a time when Izham did not have money, so he even had to go back to his mother to ask for money. He finally found a distributor, who was a pirate, and it became into triple platinum. It even outsold Sharifah Aini and KRU.

However, in the end he had to turn down the distributorship, as it was a pirate.

He shared on his newsletter back in 2002. The database grew to 20,000 in a year, and then 70,000 after 3 years. He replied to all emails that he got. Izham shared that most marketers missed the main ingredient of it. Marketers today rely on others to win over their customers. Marketers often felt surprised that Izham won over his customer one by one. Izham shared that often those marketers would filter the information that is supposed to reach the top management, so all those information has been "scanned and filtered".

Izham shared that his biggest success of music industry is to transform the infrastructure of music industry. He managed to urbanize the market.

People often said Positive Tone is an innovator. Izham said that it is not original, but copied from other companies, like Motown, which has artists like Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross etc. They made Black music for White People.

Do look for clues from around the world. Learn from around the world, but not just fight within Malaysia.

Izham eventually sold Positive Tone entirely to EMI. He became EMI staff and took charge of artists like Sharifah Aini. 

One day, he received a call from Abdul Rahman Ahmad, which he didn't know who he was. He found that he was CEO/Group Managing Director of MRCB. He brought along Sharifah Aini and KRU CDs when he went to meet Abdul Rahman Ahmad at Crown Princess Hotel. He was not intimidated by him, as Izham had more hair.

First thing Abdul Rahmad Ahmad said to Izham is "Dude, are you interested to start a new free TV Station". Izham's reaction "Are you mad? Are you nut?" Abdul Rahman Ahmad said that he wanted Izham because he didn't know anything in the field, so won't make the same mistake as others in the industry. The mission is to start a new, cool, free terrestrial TV for the urban young adults.

Abdul Rahman Ahmad told him to do the same thing as he did for Positive Tone, but on TV. Izham stayed cool when in front of Abdul Rahman Ahmad.

Immediately after that, he called out his friends in TV Industry. Everyone said that he won't succeed. There won't be money in it. He remembered his moshpit's days, and he asked those people who are crazy of TV, and they were excited. He took the offer.

He created a free TV, never like this before. At that time, Astro's penetration was 25%. So, he showed MTV for the first time to the remaining people who were not on Astro. He used the content strategy, and show the best shows from around the world. He got Grammy Awards, Oscars, F1, Euro 2004. He went to Hollywood a week before to get the shows, and created innovative local content, like Quickie, So you think you can dance etc. 

Izham went on the street to get the publicity. In the Star youth 2 Cool Pool 2005, 8TV won 40% of the votes, and AXN was the 2nd channel at about 18%.

Izham let the young people run the show, and he stayed aside to let them make the difference. 8TV was the no.1 station for the target music, and broke even in 18 months.

Abdul Rahman suggested to start a couple of radio stations. Izham went to see his friends at Hitz, Era, Red etc. They all told him that there was no money. The moshpit told him to go ahead. Infrastructure said no and people said yes, so he decided to go ahead. He launched Hot FM in 2006 and became no.1 radio station for age below 35. Fly FM became the no. 2 English radio channel. In 2009, he started OneFM.

He wanted to keep on making music, so he started Monkey Bone. Then, Abdul Rahman Ahmad asked him to go and do digital. He was asked to take charge of Alt Media. 

Today's audience has many options. People now watch things in all sort of media. Malaysia is no.3 in the world for the number of people spending over 20 hours a week on streamed/downloaded contents. Malaysia is the world no.1 for online advertising click-throughs. Malaysia are digital media junkies. He didn't need research data to tell.

He shared on his family trip, where his brother-in-law was going online next to swimming pool. Even older people are online, and of course the youngs. He introduced Catch-Up TV, where people watch online exclusive contents, online contests and make it mobile portable. He believed in an amazing, engaging, interactive future for media.

Recently, they launched TonTon in 2010, where it is world-class, intelligent and all about video. The Catch-Up TV has 1.8 million registered users. No. 1 show on TV has 4 million viewers, but the show online has 64 million video views online, and we don't even have 64 million population. He shared on people watching it during lunch time. People can chat on it, and have nice interface. There are 30,000 hours of archive video.

All those old TV programs are now on TonTon for free, and by January 2011, everyone can create their own channel. Tonton sat on intelligent media platform, and it would recommend content you like and it would serves advertising relevant to you. It would focus on showing the right advertising to the right people at the right time.

You can never imagine what wondrous things await you until you start moving.

He shared on the most important thing to making a difference is having a solid team. When he interviewed people, he looked at whether people have done something crazy. He would be observing on whether you would die for the mission. 

George Bernard Shaw said "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

When you have the right amount of unreasonable people around you, you can do the impossible.

He shared on his lessons learnt in making a difference.
a) Do it from the heart - The type of things that you would be excited to do when waking up at 5am.
b) There is always a new way to do something.
c) Product/Service Comes First - Google hardly do any ads.
d) Roll up your sleeves and jump into the moshpit. - hang out with the crowd
e) Look for clues from around the world
f) Leading the market is better than being a slave to it - The best way to predict the future is to make it. Give them what they don't know they want. 
(Henry Ford said that people would want a faster horse, but he created car.)
g) Win your consumer one by one.
h) Have a team that will die for the mission. Surround yourself with a team that is smarter than you.
i) A little naivety goes a long way. - Izham was naive, so he was lucky. He was young and foolish and thought that he could control the world, he went and do it. He would throw people into the deep end of the pool, and see whether they can swim.
j) Have the balls to try it. If not going to try it, it would never get done.

Elvis said that he would play the black man blues. He shared on how people really go out and do it.

You can't hit a home run unless you step up to the plate.

Izham shared on William Hung, and William Hung didn't know he can't be a star. He went on to do it anyway, and he sold more than 1 Million and he went on to become a platinum in Singapore.

Izham shared that for those who are age between 0 to 12, 80% of influence would be by parents and 20% by media. But by age of 13, mentality would have get stuck already. So, if people are racist by age of 13, then it would be the influence from age 0 to 12.

In his media, there would be children watch it as well, so they would get influenced. For Malaysian movies, often we don't lead them to some positive conclusion, but usually internationally, there would be such a lead into positive message.

Izham shared on his future would be on content. When he was in music, it was content. For TV, it was partially content, but not all contents are owned by him. He is looking into going into making content. He believed that he could make an internationally-known content maker company. 

Izham's main goal in life is to make the Pak Guard at TV3 to love the things that he do. If that succeeded, he would have influenced the mass. He wanted the whole of Malaysia to like it. He remembered his first day at work, when the guard was listening to the song of - Anak Ayam, a Too Phat's song.

Izham shared that people have to open the eyes, and then the luck would swim by you. If people close the eyes, then you would not see the opportunities, even if opportunites come by you. 

The higher you go up, the tougher it is for luck to reach you. So, make sure you build up your foundation - education and experience. The more you build you luck, the closer it would get by you.

Some people who have good education and luck went by them, yet they don't sense it.

Izham that he had a degree and master. He did Bachelor of Music, Music Production & Engineering at Berklee College of Music in 1988-1991, and then MBA at Suffolk University in 1992-1994. He did Executive Education at Harvard Business School.

Izham always went down to the street, to know what really happened at the ground. All the management team would wear 8TV's vest at least once in a quarter to go down with the troop to learn what's happening at the ground. And also go to Tweetdeck to listen to what people are saying, although those tend to be peole who have a lot to say. What needed to hear are those who might go out and tell.

Izham really enjoyed the hardship. He enjoyed the experience of having 40 cents to go to the toll. He learned from the failures. There was once, when he turned back when Jaclyn Victor won the Malaysian Idol, the crowd is 1Malaysia. He was very touched with it, and that was the highlight of his life! Usually, in entertainment area in Malaysia, people tend to be one race. In that occasion, he felt like in stadium watching badminton, where all races cheer for Malaysia.

There would always be people buying piracy, so for Tonton would provide it for free and have nice interface, so people would use it. And there is a platform for advertisers. 

In TonTon, it would show relevant ads, example when the show has rice being shown, there could be advertisement of rice by a hypermarket, or when the artist wears a jacket, there could be an advertisement to buy that particular jacket. There is a lot of potential for it.

For those piracy, Izham shared that only 6% of people would be using stuff like bittorrent, but the mass would still not be exposed to it.

Izham would lead by example and do things that are beneficial for the community and the target market. He would only take advertisements that are credible.

As of now, Tonton is only available for Malaysians, due to the bandwidth issue, but hopefully by end of the year, it would be available for the rest of the world.

Work life balance can be achieved over time. Izham started work in 1994, and he got married in 1996. He cannot rest until he got things solved. He would solve the problems, whether it is portal or transmitter. He tried to control himself now.

When he first started, his wife didn't get to see him much. Now, Izham went to work late and came home early, so he would spend time to have breakfast at home. He can now rely on his talented and capable staff to make things done. He would have time to think through.

Now, he is CEO for 3 companies, but he is more relaxed than he was a manager at Positive Tone. He shared that many bosses tend not to let go. He shared that he tries to make him redundant. He shared that he only go for 1 meeting at 8TV every fortnight and responded to some emails for Shouts Award. Swee Kim handled the things and perhaps checked with him when necessary.

Principal of business, you must suffer for four years. Izham learned a lesson, one has to either becoming a millionaire or bankrupt, then one hasn't tried hard enough.

One very important thing is to hire the right people.

Both Media Prima and Astro have both invested a lot more into local content. Internet is giving them a lot of competition and it kept them always on the toes. It is not just the channels.

Izham shared that one has to make money to do good stuff. Izham has to roll the profits that he makes. Izham used to tell Too Phat to make profit, so that can make better albums. To increase everyone's talent and creativity, then one has to make profit. ONe has to weigh between social good and profit, and balance it. The problem is that people with no ethics take care of companies. The main problem is that people doing CSR due to tax credits. Eventually, the stock market would look at the financial number. So, it has to be a balance. And what matters is goes with your heart.

Izham wants to see them selling Malaysian contents to the world. Izham is only 20% of where he really wanted to be. 

Above is the live blogging for Izham's talk. If there is any error, do let me know. Do check out the 2nd Young Corporate Malaysians Summit on 11th December 2010 at Nikko Hotel.

1 comment:

Sri Rao said...

I missed a great talk! Thanks for the live blogging Chen Chow. You must've been literally running your fingers over the keys..