Competitive by nature, Hj. Ir. Aziz Ismail, CEO of Authentic Venture Sdn Bhd is always the top student from his primary school days up till now. Speaking to Top 10 of Malaysia, Ir. Aziz talks about his journey into entrepreneurship, the trials faced by his cloud technology business and how his family contributes to the company’s success.
“I always want to be number one. That’s just my character,” shares Ir. Aziz. Completing his studies in England, he first worked with Tenaga Nasional Berhad. “I know there’s no way to become CEO there so I left for Honeywell, an American company,” says Ir. Aziz. After three years, he was offered the CEO position in Indonesia upon request. However, another American company, Foxboro headhunted Ir. Aziz for the CEO position. He took it and grew the business tenfold as the youngest CEO in the group. “Then, I was looking for the next thing to be best at,” Ir. Aziz laughs. “I got into entrepreneurship dealing with cloud technology. That’s where the trouble starts. I assumed I had learned enough but there was more to learn,” he adds.
“Building a product is tough but I believe in the long run, good branding will serve you well,” says Ir. Aziz. “OfficeCentral is designed for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs),” he adds. Authentic Venture’s main products are OfficeCentral and AssetCentral. OfficeCentral incorporates every single aspect of a business like Accounting, Human Resource, Payroll and Sales Management. AssetCentral is for asset management, maintenance management, property management and computer management. “OfficeCentral does better as it is valuable to SMEs and bigger companies,” explains Ir. Aziz.
“We know cloud technology is growing in the United States back then, with the growth of Salesforce and QuickBooks,” shares Ir. Aziz who believes his product will do well in ASEAN and India. Nevertheless, challenges include rebuilding the product from scratch three times due to software updates with additional features. “We had to rebuild it and spend plenty of money and time. The most recent is Microsoft® ASP.NET MVC, which we had to understand ourselves as not many Malaysian programmers have been trained for it yet. My son Zul, learnt it himself and guided our team,” Ir. Aziz explains, adding that idea for SME management is old but with the incorporation of cloud technology, the solution is powerful.
Before cloud technology came into being, the company suffered losses due to unpaid work. “Payment for cloud technology is upfront. If there’s no payment, the software cuts the service,” explains Ir. Aziz. Furthermore, cloud technology is very powerful and attractive for users. “It’s like a huge machine shared by thousands so the cost per person is low, whereas with old technology, a company pays for the entire expensive software alone. Now, smaller companies have access to features bigger companies have,” elaborates Ir. Aziz.
The company benefits from the combination of his children’s strengths and has evolved. “My daughter Nisa is Chief Operations Officer. Aisya is Head of Research as she handles the programmers. Zul is a tech-guy like me but prefers to work alone. All this wouldn’t be possible without his brilliance,” reveals Ir. Aziz. However, he didn’t predict the success of OfficeCentral. “I expected eTrax to take off. It enables companies to track each staff’s Internet usage. Surprisingly OfficeCentral is doing much better,” says Ir. Aziz.
Ir. Aziz knows the key reasons for his company’s growth. “First, it’s the technology advancement. Secondly, it is a demand for business information to be available on mobile phones. We provide a one-stop solution,” he explains. His company also has the MSC Malaysia status. “I’m in line with the concept, encouraging people to build their own products,” says Ir. Aziz.
Regarding his leadership style, Ir. Aziz feels he is relaxed but values discipline. “Discipline is important in achieving KPIs. If one person falls behind, the team is affected,” he says. His high-achieving nature and charitable attitude are evident too. “I’ve seen others doing more. There is a free boarding school for the less fortunate in Indonesia with 13,000 students and it’s run by a lady. When I look at her contribution, mine is significantly less. I’d like to collaborate with her in future,” shares Ir. Aziz.
To Ir. Aziz, work doesn’t feel like work. “Weekends are dedicated to my wife. I always have other things on and I’m always balancing my time but if you don’t enjoy what you do, you’ll be stressed,” he adds.
Moreover, Ir. Aziz has plans for Authentic Venture to be listed and never stops to dwell over a rough patch. “If you ponder on it, you cannot move on. I’ll be busy with bigger things happening soon, so there’s no time to dwell on small issues,” says Ir. Aziz. He adds that aspiring entrepreneurs need to be global minded when producing a product. “That strong foundation helps you survive internationally. You may face obstacles, but you’ll become stronger. Also, balance your time and use your expertise to benefit others,” says Ir. Aziz.