Now more than ever, there is advantage in seeing over the technology horizon, absorbing know-how and acting as a conduit for those who need that expertise. This is the revelation that came to the Founder and CEO of Titan Corporation in Indonesia, Damien Lim, about 20 years ago.
He had spent a stint as a banker at Merrill Lynch before backing himself and taking the plunge into entrepreneurship in early 2002. He had his first “epiphany” in 2008 when he recalled his economics professor commenting that “business is about satisfying the needs of others”. He had a successful business by then, satisfying a need for calibration services in manufacturing companies.
As he looked for other business opportunities, he came across physical vapour deposition coating technology for tools in the automotive industry, which was unknown in Indonesia. After some research, he contacted Oerlikon, the market-leading Swiss company for coating technologies. Now Titan’s partnership with Oerlikon in Indonesia – more a joint venture really – is a model for Damien’s other businesses as they import world-class technology to improve performance and reduce costs.
“We had brought in a technology that created a positive impact for the Indonesian manufacturing industry. This drove me to find other technologies and solutions that directly impacted our customers’ manufacturing processes by improving efficiency and productivity, and ultimately, profitability. This second epiphany became the driver for the foundation of Titan in 2014, with the innovative solutions we have brought to Indonesia,” Damien says.
“Leadership is not about being the smartest, most creative or even the loudest. It is about building a culture in which the smartest, brightest, most creative people can thrive.”
Titan sought world-class brands to convince them of the opportunities in Indonesia, and invited them to work through its sales channels and established ecosystem. Today, it partners with more than 15 global brands, with two business units focused on tools manufacturing and distribution for the automotive industry, and a business unit with solutions for automation, digitalisation and the Internet of Things.
“Our philosophy is to continuously seek partners who have an unwavering belief in their technology and are aligned with us in our cause to improve our customers’ manufacturing processes and, at the same time, bring a positive impact to Indonesia,” Damien says. “Titan wants to be a bridge for innovation and technology into Indonesia.”
Renault Titan was founded on this premise during the pandemic. The Titan management team took the opportunity to establish this business-to-consumer unit to expand in the automotive industry and set a foundation for the rapidly developing and exciting electric vehicle market.
“Renault has a global strategy to roll out up to seven EV models of cars by 2025,” Damien enthuses. “This would also be a hedge on our current conventional manufacturing business as the automotive industry reshapes itself in the near future.”
Damien considers that every business initially relies on financial capital to establish itself, followed by technological capital to deliver products and services. But, he says, the most important is human capital, painstakingly built up over time.
“Human capital has to be intentionally built from the ground up. There is an old adage that people are an organisation’s biggest asset,” he points out. “I choose to disagree. At Titan, it is the right people in the right place with the right motivation – that becomes an organisation’s biggest asset. A highly motivated person who is in the wrong role will eventually become disengaged.”
There is, he continues, a big difference between leaders and managers, and he is at pains to differentiate them. “A leader is one who inspires others. One who envisions a cause for others to follow. The cause is bigger than the leader,” Damien says. “When a leader displays selflessness in his pursuit of this cause and its vision, a currency of trust is built between the leader and follower. A manager, on the other hand, is one who sees the organisation as a mechanical system, with levers to push and pull, parts to take out and parts to replace. Oftentimes, they see these mechanical parts as expendable.
“Leadership is not about being the smartest, most creative or even the loudest. It is about building a culture in which the smartest, brightest, most creative people can thrive. Everyone plays to their innate strengths and competencies to do what they do best. My job is to find where they fit in, equip them and inspire them each day to do what they love to do.”
While the coronavirus pandemic presented a crisis for every business, it was a catalyst for Damien and his leadership team at Titan to minimise the pain and find a way through it. “COVID-19 has been both a setback and an opportunity for me,” he admits. “A setback in the sense that whatever was planned for 2020 did not go accordingly. Accordingly is in itself an understatement. At the beginning of the pandemic, as the effects clawed into the global economy, hours of meetings by Zoom were spent huddled with my core management team as we tried to make sense of the whole situation. In all my years of working life, I’d never faced an issue as daunting and uncertain as this.”
Damien raises a quote from former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”
“During a crisis, good leaders are going to see the problems and fix them, but the best leaders are the ones who fix the problems and seize the opportunities that come during the crisis,” Damien suggests. “Every major crisis creates unexpected problems, but every crisis also creates unprecedented opportunities.”
One COVID-19 opportunity Damien seized with both hands was to realign his personal and professional lives. “The greatest opportunity for me throughout the pandemic was the time being quarantined at home to be able to reset my family life – to bond those relationships and finally be available and present 24/7 for my beautiful wife and two lovely daughters,” Damien shares.
“They are my biggest pillars of strength. My wife has been instrumental in keeping our family close and building an amazing support structure for me to lead this company and affect positively the livelihoods of our employees and their families. She is my greatest partner in this journey.”
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