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Competition is always there: Vincent Chew

Pensonic is one of those true small business success stories. The Malaysian electrical home appliances distributor started life as a small store in the city of Penang in 1965, run by company founder Dato’ Seri Chew Weng Khak. It started to sell its own brand of appliances in 1982, and today stands tall as Malaysia’s leading local electrical home appliances manufacturer and distributor, now reaching across South-East Asia and as far as the Middle East.

Vincent Chew, Managing Director of Pensonic Holdings BHD
Vincent Chew, Managing Director of Pensonic Holdings BHD

Evolution of the company

The founder’s son, Vincent Chew, is now Managing Director of Pensonic, labouring to nurture the brand his father created. But it’s no longer the same world that Pensonic was born in; challenges such as smart appliances, online retail and brand globalisation means the company has to evolve.

“There is an influx of foreign brands, especially from China,” says Vincent. “Of course, competition is always there. It’s just that it’s growing stronger.” To keep itself competitive, Vincent is ensuring Pensonic’s focus is squarely on its customers. “In the electrical appliances industry,” he says, “after-sales is very important, so we’re always trying to clearly differentiate ourselves via better after-sales customer care.”

Pensonic is also investing in online technology to provide more convenient after-sales in an increasingly digital world. On top of this, the company is working on providing a mobile app for its online store, warranty registrations, outdoor service calls, smart appliances management, loyalty points, customer rewards and redemption programs for its loyal customers.

Part of Pensonic’s success lies in its position as the sole distributor for many high-class brands, such as Italian coffee machine Gaggia, Morphy Richards and Belling from the UK, Cornell, and Lebensstil Kollektion. As a result, Pensonic has thus far garnered an impressive selection of products. Vincent considers it as a crucial part of the company’s identity. “I see us as more than a single-brand company. We are a multi-brand company that covers all segments – from the very niche premium market to the direct mass market.”

“We are a multi-brand company that covers all segments – from the very niche premium market to the direct mass market.”

But Pensonic is not stopping there; next on the horizon are more high-tech appliances that have yet to penetrate the ASEAN market. “Within a year or two, we will be developing more appliances with wi-fi enabled, which we want to use to make ourselves more innovative,” Vincent says.

The evolution of technology is also a factor in the company’s operations, leading Pensonic to focus more on online retail. “Over the past two to three years, the growth has been tremendous even though the total volume has been small,” says Vincent. “We are preparing
to combine our offline retailers with our online-assist strategies, helping our retailers and dealers stay relevant with this move towards digital platforms.”

Despite the predictions of gloom from traditional retailers facing down the growing intrusion of Amazon, Lazada and other online retailers, Vincent envisions a seamless O2O (online to offline) platform where a customer’s online shopping convenience is complemented by in-store experience. “With all these technologies, some are saying offline retail shops will no longer be relevant. However, we look at it differently. If we had unlimited resources, I would probably focus on developing flagship stores to enrich customers’ shopping experiences.”

Vincent Chew, Managing Director of Pensonic Holdings BHD

Room to grow

Indeed, Pensonic is confident enough in its future that it is looking to expand further internationally. Though Malaysia produces 70% of the company’s revenue, Pensonic has just started expanding into Cambodia and Indonesia, with eventual plans to go into Thailand, Myanmar and the Philippines. The electrical home appliances sector in most Asian countries accounts for up to half of all export values, so any potential regional expansion is a safe bet. Nevertheless, Vincent’s optimism is tempered with caution.

“I wouldn’t call ourselves a success yet, because I believe there is still room to grow, especially in terms of revenue and profitability,” says Vincent. “Every now and then, there are new players and there is always a distraction, so we are continuously facing new competition. I don’t think we are at the stage of success. We still have to put in a lot of effort in growing the company and driving the business direction.”

“I wouldn’t call ourselves a success yet, because I believe there is still room to grow.”

This growth goes beyond diverse, innovative products and geographical growth. “I mix with different industries, friends and leaders, because I believe you have to keep learning,” says Vincent. “Especially at my age – I’m in my forties – I have to talk to everyone, even to younger, gen Y people. There are things I need to learn from them.”

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