by Ong Yun Qi, Wee Kim Wee School of Communication Studies
02 October 2019
While serving as Chief Executive Officer at MTR
Corporation, Hong Kong SAR, Mr. Lincoln Leong was dealing with the movement of
a few million passengers within and outside of Hong Kong. Accompanied by a
responsibility to oversee the operation and maintenance of the rail networks
and its facilities, one might think that it leaves the company little room for
Yet this was not the case.
"MTR historically has always prided itself in
terms of innovation particularly in operational areas - from day one, it comes
from looking at how to improve its systems and its operations to be more
effective as an operator," he said.
Mr. Leong was speaking at the Nanyang
Technopreneurship Centre's Guest Lecture Series on October 4, sharing his
experiences within MTR and start-ups to discuss entrepreneurship and innovation
in both established and early-stage companies.
He cited the Octopus card as a success story in MTR's
innovation of operations. Prior to the smartcard ticketing system, customers
relied on magnetic strip cards, its low longevity causing frustration whenever
their data ended up lost. The introduction of the Octopus card addressed their
problems, improving the business's operational efficiency.
"The importance of the focus on the customer is
critical," he said.
"Start at looking at the customer and how to
factor in his or her needs".
Mr. Leong defined the process as understanding and
resolving 'pain points'. He stressed that doing so is key for both mature and
early-stage companies as it provides opportunities to "enhance customer
experience and revenue profile".
However, he acknowledges that therein lies a challenge
for mature companies as pain points often exist outside of their own
businesses. Much of their time and effort has already been invested into
"enhancing their existing business", making the move into a
completely different space much more difficult.
He added that making the decision ultimately boils
down to the company's culture and shifting it into one that embraces change can
determine "the success or failure of innovation" for mature
Start-ups, on the other hand, see greater flexibility.
"Don’t get enamoured or fall in love with one
particular product or one particular service,' Mr. Leong cautioned. "What
you should really be doing is following that customer, understanding what the
pain points are, and your original product may migrate two or three different
times to completely different business models."
He advised entrepreneurs to avoid going up against
dominant players in existing markets, instead seeking out gaps and niches to
develop entirely new markets.
Wrapping up his session, Mr. Leong said that while
early stage and mature companies differ in terms of resources, the ingredients
for success in the innovation space largely remain the same.
"It comes in the form of people, a culture of
continuous improvement and curiousity, and following the customer's pain points
and finding the solutions".
The Guest Lecture series is a new initiative by
Nanyang Technopreneurship Centre tapping on connections within the industry and
ecosystem. Leaders in various fields are invited to share their knowledge and
Stay tuned as we release more details on upcoming