Rohana Rozhan

Rohana Rozhan
CEO

ASTRO Malaysia Holdings

Rohana Rozhan holds a BA (Hons) in Accounting and Economics and is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA). Rohana also completed the Advanced Management Programme at Harvard Business School in 2006.

She joined the ASTRO Group in 1995 and was appointed CEO in 2006. Prior to that, she was involved in the Group’s growth as a senior member of the management team and CFO since 2003.

Before joining ASTRO, she was with Unilever Group of Companies for nine years in UK and Malaysia.

 

Watch interview highlights

 

A view from the top

In this short video, Rohana Rozhan shares her view on today's key business issues: risk, volatility, innovation, talent, and growth

 

Quotes

Rohana Rozhan

Rohana Rozhan

CEO, ASTRO Malaysia Holdings

Malaysia is a starting point for launching a true multi-ethnic and multi-lingual proposition that has a presence in many markets.

Rohana Rozhan

Rohana Rozhan

CEO, ASTRO Malaysia Holdings

Right now, we’re at 50% penetration of Malaysian households. So the question becomes, how do we continue to achieve double digit growth every year? The answer is that we have to simultaneously move up the value chain, in line with customer trends and demands, ahead of current and would be competition, so as to earn our fair share of the customer lifestyle wallet. And to continue growing our customer numbers, both households and individuals. Our content reach, given the current technology can also travel beyond Malaysian borders. So we have to think of ways to monetise and build on this.

Rohana Rozhan

Rohana Rozhan

CEO, ASTRO Malaysia Holdings

And new, affordable digital devices enable us to address individual requirements within the larger household. And what individuals want is not necessarily what the larger collective household wants.

Rohana Rozhan

Rohana Rozhan

CEO, ASTRO Malaysia Holdings

Innovation is not just about new products and services. It’s also about doing things in a better way – whether it’s delivering an outstanding customer experience or being more cost-effective and efficient.

Rohana Rozhan

Rohana Rozhan

CEO, ASTRO Malaysia Holdings

You have to realise that if you want your workforce to embrace innovation, they must first develop a certain appetite for risk. So, my job is not to punish failure, but instead to provide everyone with a safe environment in which to take risks.

Rohana Rozhan

Rohana Rozhan

CEO, ASTRO Malaysia Holdings

What’s applicable in the US or Europe may not be applicable to Malaysia. So the best partnerships, I feel, is one of mutual respect, recognising what each party brings to the table, which enables the ability to translate global best in classes to a local market place.

Rohana Rozhan

Rohana Rozhan

CEO, ASTRO Malaysia Holdings

Diversity is part and parcel of everything that we do because to succeed, ASTRO’s workforce must directly reflect its market place.

Rohana Rozhan

Rohana Rozhan

CEO, ASTRO Malaysia Holdings

We have established scholarships programmes and have ongoing relationships with a number of universities for key and core skills, management and leadership. But at the same time, we actively train and promote our own people from within. My aspiration is to get everyone to learn from one another on the job – the ASTRO campus.

 

Read interview transcript

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Has the economic contraction had a negative effect on your business?

Our business revenues are premised on customer growth, subscriptions and advertising revenues, whilst our costs are primarily content, technology and people.
We’ve been in business for 15 years and been through a number of economic cycles. Through these we have continued to see strong demand for our products and services, where both customer base and spend have grown. There are various theories about why that’s so, but if you really look at what we’re providing and compare it to other forms of entertainment, we’re actually quite affordable. So it’s almost like we are recession proof. In fact, during an economic downturn, people tend to stay at home more and consume more TV rather than going out.

A sustained down cycle may lead consumers to be more judicious in choices of packages they take up, as consumers’ entertainment wallet shrink. It will lead to a contraction in advertising expenditure as advertisers cut their budget spend. In our case, we will see advertising monies shift to radio, which provides reach, and is a more economic medium.

Our challenge remains in providing choice to suit customer preferences and budget, and to manage our investments, costs and productivity efficiently, knowing that we are in the business for the long term.

Has ASTRO made changes to its strategy in light of the economic downturn?

I don’t think there’s been a change in terms of our aspiration. From the start, we’ve always had big ambitions. This building in which you and I are talking is named the, All Asia Broadcast Centre. So obviously, by calling ourselves All Asia, you know that our aspiration is to be an entertainment provider to - at a minimum - all of Asia. Our home base here in Malaysia provides us with the venue to hone our core skills. Malaysia is a starting point for launching a true multi-ethnic and multi-lingual proposition that has a presence in many markets. After 15 years, we have accumulated sufficient expertise not only with respect to pay TV satellite delivery, but also radio, publications, and content creation, aggregation, and distribution.

Right now, we’re at 50% penetration of Malaysian households. So the question becomes, how do we continue to achieve double digit growth every year? The answer is that we have to simultaneously move up the value chain, in line with customer trends and demands, ahead of current and would be competition, so as to earn our fair share of the customer lifestyle wallet. And to continue growing our customer numbers, both households and individuals. Our content reach, given the current technology can also travel beyond Malaysian borders. So we have to think of ways to monetize and build on this.

How do you see the increasing digitalised world affecting your business?

Technology will always be a challenge because it’s always evolving. In terms of digitalisation, we try to understand it in terms of what it can do to extend the key intellectual properties we’ve acquired running this business. What are those key intellectual properties? The first is our understanding of the demographics and psychographics of our customers. We understand what they want more of, what they want less of, what they want none of. That understanding is the foundation of our second key intellectual property - which is our ability to ideate, create, aggregate and distribute the kind of content our audience wants. And third, we have a highly experienced workforce that keeps the business focused and on track. At the end of the day, the knowledge about how to run and build your business really resides within your workforce.

So, I think about digitalization in terms of what synergies it brings to our key intellectual properties. And what I think it brings to us is an ability to address our consumer needs better.

We’re currently in half of the Malaysian households. Literally, that means we have a presence in the living room - but the living room is about a communal TV watching experience. It’s not a one-to-one experience and it’s not interactive. Digitisation and new, affordable digital devices enables us to address individual requirements within the larger household. And what individuals want is not necessarily what the larger collective household wants.

What role does innovation play in your strategic plans?

Everyone talks about innovation. For us, the challenge is to embed innovation into our organisational DNA so that innovation doesn’t just belong to one specialised team, but instead permeates the attitudes and behaviours of our entire workforce.

At ASTRO, we’re launching a new program called “Going Beyond” which is meant to encourage every employee to come to work every day with the aim of creating value. Every day at work is an opportunity to go beyond. We want our people to push themselves a bit more, to swim a bit against the tide, to question “business as usual”.

To us, that’s crucial to innovation. Innovation is not just about new products and services. It’s also about doing things in a better way - whether it’s delivering an outstanding customer experience or being more cost-effective and efficient. You have to realise that if you want your workforce to embrace innovation, they must first develop a certain appetite for risk. So, my job is not to punish failure, but instead to provide everyone with a safe environment in which to take risks.

This year, at a satellite TV industry conference that was attended by best-in-class platforms, content and technology providers from around the world, people kept remarking to me that for a company that is so dominant in its market place, ASTRO has a workforce that just keeps on pushing, challenging the norm, and doing things in new ways. That we’re still hungry and our people are still pushing to do what’s in the best interest of the company and its customers. That’s the greatest compliment.

What role does collaboration and cooperation with business partners have with respect to your strategic plans?

I think ASTRO began like most start-up companies. We thought that we were good at everything and everything we did must be proprietary to ASTRO.
But eventually we came to understand that what’s most important is that you focus your efforts and energies on your core differentiators. So you need partners who supplement and complement your skill sets. But when you do enter into business partnerships, it’s critical that you partner with best-in-class companies, people you can learn from, and grow with. Having said that, it’s also critical that your business partners understand that one size does not fit all.

What’s applicable in the US or Europe may not be applicable to Malaysia. So the best partnerships, I feel, is one of mutual respect, recognising what each party brings to the table, which enables the ability to translate global best in classes to a local market place.

How is ASTRO going about recruiting and managing talent?

As I said previously, human capital is one of our three key intellectual properties. At the end of the day, the knowledge about how to run your business resides within your workforce. Nevertheless, in terms of understanding, managing, and empowering our people, I think ASTRO still has a long journey ahead of it.

Right now, we’re in the process of putting together our next five-year plan. We need to think at least five years out because there is an unavoidable lag between the point when new technology becomes available and the time when you actually put it in the market. So you have to plan for new technology - or at least, make educated guesses about it - so that you can put it into place on a timely basis. And in planning for new technology, we have to reverse engineer to achieve what our customers are going to demand in the future, translate our core IPs into products and services for the customers, and align these with the direction in which we want our company to head. That is our 5 year plan. But you can’t deliver the plan without the right people. Our starting point is to have a human capital strategy that, as much as possible, pre-empts and mirrors our business strategy and business plan. And that’s a challenge in itself. To state the obvious, there is no perfect human being. So what we’re about is building a team that’s comprised of complementary layers of talent. Leadership provides the strategy, the direction, and the core values.

Leadership is complemented by a layer of management that focuses on the future, looks at the market place and consumer trends, and considers the impact of technology on competition as well as customers. Beneath that layer are your best-in-class operators that maintain your business as a well oiled machine that can reach your growth targets. And then comes the whole support infrastructure, which, must operate in an environment in which it is safe to push the envelope and take calculated risks. Now each of those layers of the workforce requires people with different sets of skills. But at the same time, everyone has to understand that they operate in a larger community - which is the ASTRO workforce in its entirety. At each layer of the workforce, everyone must understand that what they do is meant to complement the work of the other layers. And everyone must respect one another and acknowledge that they are here to create value together. So I think this is always going to be the challenge around human capital.

What role does diversity play in your organisation?

Diversity is part and parcel of everything that we do because to succeed, ASTRO’s workforce must directly reflect its market place. Malaysia is comprised of Malays, Chinese, Indians, and other ethnic groups. We’ve got different languages and dialects. We’ve got different religions and cultures. We’ve got different customs and preferences. We have urban population and rural population. In addition to that, 60% of our marketplace is below the age of 30. So literally, if you're going to address the Malaysian marketplace the only way to go about that is to replicate the demographic profile of Malaysia within ASTRO.

So diversity is a must for us because we must stay connected to the diverse communities we serve.

Is ASTRO collaborating with any education institutions in order to establish a pipeline of future employees?

We’re doing a lot of that, but we can always better focus our efforts. We have established scholarships programmes and have ongoing relationships with a number of universities for key and core skills, management and leadership. But at the same time, we actively train and promote our own people from within. My aspiration is to get everyone to learn from one another on the job – the ASTRO campus.

In our recent employee engagement survey, ASTRO's uncompromising commitment to CSR is also one of our key differentiators as a preferred employer. At ASTRO we strongly believe we are uniquely placed to make a difference in the communities we serve, particularly in promoting lifelong learning, a healthy and sporting lifestyle and a beautiful environment. These resonate well with our workforce, particularly with the younger Gen Y's, which currently makes up 65% of our workforce. Every ground initiative we undertake which involves staff volunteers, for example, building a hostel in rural Malaysia for school kids, or coral planting for scuba divers is at least over 5 times oversubscribed. This is excellent as we are in the content business, and being part of the communities we serve, also help us have the critical emotional connection that is translated on-air.

We’re also lucky in a way that ASTRO is quite a fun place to work in and is quite attractive to many potential recruits. And so our job is easier for that.

In your view, what is the biggest risk faced by ASTRO?

More than anything it’s the risk of us becoming complacent and feeling that we are entitled to be number one in our market. I think we need to remain mindful that in order to stay number one, we have to deserve it. And in order to deserve it, our customers have to think we are better than our competition. And to be better than our competition, we just have to work a lot harder. And smarter.

Has there been any shift over the past year in how you spend your time?

Everything moves very fast today. We have to speed up, be agile and nimble, because product life cycles are becoming shorter. Consumer trends are changing so quickly. Consumers can be very fickle. We’ve seen big names become not so relevant. Disruptive technologies are gaining momentum, getting cheaper, better and faster. We've seen challenger brands come in and take huge market share almost overnight. And we’ve seen that the Millennial Generation has a completely different set of attitudes and behaviour. So everything moves a lot faster. If I think about what sort of changes have occurred over the past year in how I approach my job, it’s been an acknowledgement that the market place is changing quickly and we don’t know what we don’t know. And the challenge for us is to structure, complement and supplement ourselves in such a way, so as to stay relevant.