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NeraTel's CEO: 'Work hard, stick to your goals and keep going'

Feng Zengkun
Feng Zengkun • 6 min read
NeraTel's CEO: 'Work hard, stick to your goals and keep going'
Chong: It became my mission to turn NeraTel around. I came to think of it as my calling / Photo: NeraTel
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When Nera Telecommunications N01 -

(NeraTel) asked Chong Hoi Ming to be its new CEO in 2022, he was four years into retirement. “After being in the industry for more than 20 years since 1994, holding a variety of leadership and managerial positions, I was enjoying a tonne of fishing and travelling,” he says.

However, he was intrigued by the firm’s long history and its ability to inspire customer loyalty. NeraTel, incorporated in Singapore in 1978, celebrates its 45th anniversary this year. The info-telecommunications infrastructure provider serves a loyal clientele base — some of whom have been with NeraTel for over 30 years — across various industries, including telcos, utilities, and financial services.

He was also drawn to a challenge. Despite NeraTel’s long operating history and significant reach, with about 1,000 employees across 16 nations in the Asia Pacific, Europe, Middle East and Africa, the company recorded a loss for the first time in the 2021 financial year. This was mainly due to Covid-19-related project delays, cancellations and other issues.

With Chong’s extensive experience in corporate leadership, which included change and general management, he felt he could help the company. He had worked in various capacities in Dimension Data Asia-Pacific, 3D Networks, BMC Software, Global IM-PACT (now known as Silverlake Innovation Partners), IBM Malaysia and Mesiniaga Berhad.

“It became my mission to turn NeraTel around, this business with a more-than-40-year history that did well in the past and was now confronting this massive loss. I came to think of it as my calling,” he shares.

Laying a solid foundation for the future

See also: We create an impact in the lives of more than 700 million people: Singtel’s group CFO Arthur Lang

After he came on board, his priority was improving company culture and employee morale. Part of this involved emphasising the crucial values of respect, integrity, passion, teamwork and paying attention to customers’ needs.

Chong maintains that mutual respect among staff is vital for creating a welcoming and efficient work environment. This involves team leaders and management respecting their subordinates, as a leader’s role includes hiring the best and trusting that they can contribute to the company’s progress.

He familiarises himself with new employees, maintains open communication with staff, and encourages them to share their ideas for the company, recognising that management may not have all the answers.

See also: AI is our future, and we all need to keep innovating: AJJ Medtech's CEO

To teach the values and strengthen relationships among staff, the company now has many team bonding sessions and events where it recognises good performance and awards those who exemplify the values. “We hope that our ‘Nerators’, as we call our staff, feel like they belong to our corporate family, take pride in their work and do a fantastic job.”

Seizing the moment in fast-growing sectors

In Singapore, it has relocated its corporate headquarters from Defu Lane to Tai Seng as part of an ongoing plan to increase internal efficiencies. He says: “Now that we have centralised the Singapore team under one roof, we are striving for better internal communication, inter-department synergies and many other improvements.”

NeraTel has also stepped up in-house training and upgraded remote teams’ skills. With these efforts, it has honed its capabilities without increasing headcount significantly, enabling it to reduce its outsourcing to third-party vendors. Chong adds: “All of these changes will result in a leaner, more agile NeraTel well-positioned to capitalise on new opportunities.”

One of the firm’s targets is the rapidly growing field of cybersecurity. Deploying 5G cellular networks will lead to more connected devices, further increasing cybersecurity threats. Moreover, criminals are increasingly tapping on artificial intelligence and automation advances to launch more sophisticated cyber-attacks.

Over the years, NeraTel has earned a sterling reputation for crafting end-to-end solutions for wired and wireless networks. Expanding its offerings to incorporate a comprehensive cybersecurity suite, enterprise service management, and managed services was a natural next step.

“We can support organisations in cybersecurity and boost our bottom line through our industry-leading solutions. These empower our customers to dynamically bridge any gaps to stop cyber-attacks and network breaches from taking place, all without slowing down their day-to-day business operations,” says Chong.

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One stop solution

The firm also bundles its cybersecurity services with other options, such as security risk and compliance assessments, vulnerability and penetration testing, security strategy and architecture consulting, managed security services and more. He adds: “Ultimately, our goal is to be a one-stop solution provider for our customers.”

This ambition extends to its other services. “As we keep building the network infrastructure to cater for 5G services and the Internet-of-Things, we are fully committed to providing end-to-end solutions to build, upgrade, improve and optimise networks covering wireless, internet protocol networking, optical, cybersecurity, terminal devices and infrastructure.”

Under Chong’s leadership, NeraTel is reassessing its global presence to expand in high-growth countries and decrease its involvement in underperforming or loss-making locations.

By securing higher quality deals, NeraTel aims to reduce risks, minimise delays in payment collections and improve its cash flow, allowing the company to allocate resources to its projects better.

These strategies have started to pay off, helping the Group significantly narrow their loss for the 2022 financial year. “Barring unforeseen circumstances and further foreign exchange losses and impairments, we are cautiously optimistic that our operations and prospects in the 2023 financial year will be better than in the 2022 one,” Chong says.

He continues: “Regarding macro trends, we are like fishermen in a storm. There’s not much we can do about them. All we can do is work harder, stick close to our goals and keep driving on. We will keep doing more to bring better value to our loyal customers and to attract new ones for the future.”

Nera Telecommunications

Nera Telecommunications is a leading communications and network solutions provider with an established track record delivering fullsuite turnkey network and wireless solutions. Incorporated in October 1978 and listed on the Singapore Exchange S68 -

(SGX) Mainboard since July 1999, the company employs some of the best teams of certified engineers in the region with expertise in network infrastructure, wireless network infrastructure, cybersecurity, as well as support and managed services to serve its strong customer base from a wide range of industries including telecommunications, enterprises, government organisations, transport and utilities, amongst others. Headquartered in Singapore, NeraTel has a diversified geographical presence in over 16 countries across AsiaPacific, Europe, Middle East and Africa. The company’s website is: http://www.nera.net

About kopi-C: The Company Brew

kopi-C is a regular column by SGX Research in collaboration with Beansprout (https:// growbeansprout.com), a MAS-licensed investment advisory platform that features C-level executives of leading companies listed on SGX. These interviews are profiles of senior management aimed at helping investors better understand the individuals who run these corporations

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