Interview with Mr. Johnny Tam, Delta Indonesia Country Manager
Text and Photos by David Nakayama, DET Corp Comms
Samutprakarn, Thailand, November 5, 2021- Delta Thailand’s fascinating growth story, from a backwater overseas factory to a thriving regional hub, features many colorful characters. None more so than DET veteran and jack-of-all-trades Johnny Tam who has led DET’s business growth from our beginning. These days he is driving regional growth as Delta Indonesia Country Manager and continues adding to his leadership legacy by supporting the career success of his people.
Recently, I caught up with DET’s most-approachable director at our Thailand headquarters where he is currently based due to COVID travel restrictions. Over a cup of coffee, he recounts stories from his Delta career spanning three decades. This mini DET history lesson also included insights on Delta’s Indonesia’s growth and valuable tips for networking, leading teams, keeping your passion alive and growing your career.
You’ve had a long and fascinating career at Delta. Can you share with us your background and how you came to Delta Thailand?
I joined Delta Taiwan in 1991 as a sales supervisor for our color monitor business line at our Chungli factory. Frank Hsiung hired me and my first manager was Golden Liu. We set up a team to produce and promote color monitors in Taiwan and overseas. I represented Delta at international electronics shows like CEBIT in Europe, COMDEX in Las Vegas, and COMPUTEX in Taiwan.
I first came to Thailand in 1993 where I met Dick Hsieh and Sherry Wu. Originally, we made our monitor mainboards in Thailand and did final assembly and testing in Taiwan to offset high labor costs. As costs rose, all processes shifted to Thailand and I moved to DET under Sherry Wu. The business was booming but the price of cathode-ray tubes (CRT) fluctuated and we wanted to shorten our supply chain to sell at more real-time cost with limited stock.
CRT cost made up over 75% of the total material cost for color monitors, so Dick assigned me to be the material buyer for CRT and Degaussing Coils and balance the gap between market price and material cost. I dealt with the major suppliers like Matsushita, Sony, Toshiba and Phillips while filling in as warehouse manager for those critical parts.
What are some of your other leadership roles and activities at Delta Thailand?
After we discontinued color monitors, I became Sales and Project Manager for Delta’s short-lived bare bone business (computer case and power supply only). I then sold Power Supplies and DC-DC converters to the major global OEMs coordinating between factories, BU sales teams, Front-End sales teams, EMS and End-Customers.
Later, I headed a small business team with Sales and RD teams to develop and sell power supplies for ATM machines. I traveled to the US, Europe, Singapore and China to meet customers, get their requirements, and then we’d develop and produce their power supplies here.
When Henry Shieh set up Delta Green Industrial Thailand (DGiT) to grow our Thailand business, I joined to lead sales. This was when I first started building my Thailand customer base. We sold our Thailand-made SOLIVIA solar inverter brand and our first big success was a solar rooftop for the Central World Shopping Mall.
As DGiT expanded, we moved to DET6 and eventually, production moved to Wujiang, China but import sales continued. I was then asked by Vichai Saksuriya to be DET6 plant manager handling EMI filter production for almost one year. I found that being a plant manager is a complicated job. A single decision will impact our investment, thousands of our operators, deliveries and our customers.
When Dick came back to become DET president he brought me to DET5 to be his Special Assistant. I supported him to manage and follow up on the DIN operations where I met many Delta India friends including Dalip Sharma, Alok, Niranjan, Deepak and Manish.
Meanwhile, Delta’s brand image grew in Thailand, especially for our Automation, EV Charger and UPS products. Due to Dick’s busy schedule, I represented him at many events and made many important contacts in the government, academia and top executives.
Why did you choose to take on the huge challenge of setting up Delta Indonesia, and what are the key differences between Delta’s business in Thailand and Indonesia?
To expand the SEA market, I was assigned by Jackie Chang as Indonesia Country Manager. It was quite a change after decades in Thailand. I spend time studying the Indonesian market, culture, politics and how to manage a local team.
Although Delta is quite well known in Thailand, in Indonesia we have almost no brand recognition and no factory. The Indonesian market is also much more fragmented with so many more SMEs than Thailand where we target the few major conglomerates like SCG, CP, TCC or PTT.
So building up market share in Indonesia takes effort and time as we need to approach and target the right companies, with our limited local resources and brand recognition.
How is COVID-19 impacting Delta’s business in Indonesia?
COVID-19 has affected us a lot in Indonesia. The business has slowed down and offices are closed. Meanwhile, customers are reducing investments until the COVID-19 situation calms down.
During this time we are using social media, online meetings or phone calls for business or training. I’m looking forward to the relaxation of restrictions and eventual reopening of the border, so resume customer visits and face-to-face business discussions.
Before COVID-19, I was fortunate to join and speak at events in Jakarta where I met several key Indonesian friends, from both the public and private sectors, who I stay in touch with even though I can’t return for now.
Indonesia is a major regional economy and the 4th largest population in the world. What do you see as the key areas for growth, challenges and success factor for growth?
Indonesia is a huge country with diverse natural environments, food and cultures. Jakarta is quite developed with a similar standard as here in Thailand. The biggest areas for our potential growth is in the UPS, IA, EVCS and Telecom (5G) business sectors. The biggest challenge now is promoting the Delta brand image.
Finding the right partner is vital at this growth stage. Our product and technology are actually on par with competitor brands, so we just need the right partner who can offer the right relationships and service to customers. We need to go hand-in-hand with our partners to approach the customers and offer them our latest technologies with local support.
What are some key ways Delta can outplay our global competitors to become a trusted brand for local customers and talent?
Right now, Indonesians prefer buying the famous European, US and Japanese brands that they know and trust, and have been in Indonesia for decades. Even if the price is a little higher, customers feel confident to buy from them.
So we need to position our Delta brand as a high-end player that offers faster and more flexible services for the local market. This will help make more people aware of Delta as a good company to work with or work for.
Luckily we have managed to take the top market position in EV charging and our EVCS business has good revenue growth because we found a good partner, product and factory support.
We are building up brand recognition with media coverage of our EVCS business and working closely with our IA and CIS partners so I expect higher brand acceptance eventually.
You have an amazing ability to network and make key people your friends. What are your top networking secrets and how can we hone this valuable business skill?
I would say, be fast in responding to others’ concerns. Be sincere and befriend your customers. Talk and share related and useful information and technology that they can learn from.
We even chat on topics that are not related to Delta’s businesses including the semiconductor shortage, megatrends, regional politics, climate change, self-improvement and any information that is beneficial to them. I try to give more than I take. This way I can gain in return or learn from others.
I try to connect with my friends every few days via LINE or WhatsApp or just chat over the phone. Before COVID-19, I often enjoyed coffee and dinner with friends and this is a useful way to form closer relationships.
Business is important, but so is protecting our environment. I often share Delta’s mission “To provide innovative, clean and energy-efficient solutions for a better tomorrow”, and our contribution to the community. I hope to build a brand image of friendship and trust.
How do you manage your diverse teams across such a vast territory? What are the top qualities you are looking for in your teams and leaders?
Our 10-person team is in one Jakarta office, and we work with distributors and partners (SI) who have branches or affiliates across the country. Our people visit them around the country a few times a year for their feedback.
I try to lead and coach our Indonesian team members to expand Delta’s market share and revenue. I encourage them to share their experience, good or bad, so they can learn and progress faster. Our goal is to seek out qualified distributors and SI and improve our customer satisfaction with professional consultation and quick after-service. We also introduce new technologies to universities and companies to raise Delta’s brand.
I expect my team to be aggressive in meeting targets and providing fast service to our customers. At the same time, they must negotiate effectively and utilize our Delta global resources. Everyone (including engineers) must increase their exposure to our customers and the market by bravely approaching customers to better understand their needs.
Looking over your many years with Delta, how would you define success in life and how can we build a lasting legacy today that shapes the Delta of tomorrow?
After 30 years at Delta, I’ve come to the conclusion that success comes by not being afraid to accept different challenges and always doing your best to achieve.
Have faith in your job and company and on the way you will find the right way to get things done and the right people to help you grow in your career. Your value will accumulate as you strive to excel.
Create your own value by learning, supporting colleagues and offering your best service to customers. Remember that our team’s success is our own success as well.
Despite so many years at Delta, how do you keep your passion for your job alive and what is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in balancing family life and career?
Passion comes from believing that there are always new things to learn in life, new challenges and new people to meet and learn from. Grow with your friends and colleagues. Seek help and advice from management and peers to overcome your unsolvable problems.
We will encounter many challenges in our line of business, but we must define and focus on our targets clearly. As a Roman philosopher said: if one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.
For a balanced life, I believe it’s important for a family to stay together. Share some working experiences with your family, and let them understand how hard you work. There is always pressure in our work lives, but try not to bring a negative mood back home.
Finally, is there anything you would like to share with your Delta colleagues around the world?
I want to say to all my dear Delta friends and colleagues that we are a wonderful Delta Family. There is a saying that: No matter who you meet, he/she is the one who should be in your life for a purpose.
I appreciate our company for giving me this opportunity to work alongside you all, and we should always share challenges and successes equally together.
About the Author (Editorial Team)
If content is king, there must be a kingmaker. And the universal theme in my favorite stories is our innate human desire for freedom. I have a master’s degree in Chinese education and experience spanning industries and countries. As the Comms guy at DET, I’m obsessed with the stories behind our products and people. Share your stories with me