A man constantly in motion, Austin Na made full use of his education to move up the corporate ladder. After securing his master’s degree in business administration from Vanderbilt University in the US – he holds a bachelor’s degree in international economics from Peking University. Austin began his career by working for Salomon Brothers in New York, specializing in corporate finance for the Asia Pacific region before moving to Salomon Smith Barney in Hong Kong. By 2000, he cofounded Mandarin Venture Partners Limited, a fund house that would eventually lead to the creation of O-Net Communications (Group) Limited, which is primarily engaged in the supply of optical networking products to the global optical telecommunications and data communications markets.
Since taking the reins of O-Net in 2002 as Co-Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of the Group, Austin has been devising the company’s overall corporate strategy, developing the management team and reviewing daily operations. Under his watch, the Group has grown, becoming a public company following its listing on the Main Board of the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited in 2010, which in turn provided the catalyst for its transformation from a telecom passive optical component company into a diversified high-technology leader in the past couple of years. While O-Net has continued to occupy an ever increasing share of the passive components market over the past decade, it has also been able to tap new revenue streams via its active optical networking products starting from this year. Such products have leveraged the rising demand for build-out web-scale data centres, as well as the increasing number of mobile, access and core networks in China. Aside from optical networking products, Austin recognised the importance of broadening the Group’s business interests further, which led to the creation of the automation and sensing business.
In respect of automation solutions, O-Net capitalised on a first-mover advantage and established ties with several leading electronic cigarette makers in the domestic market, winning contracts to supply heat coils and cartomizers to such customers. As for the sensing segment of the business, the Group has sought to tap the smart manufacturing industry through the provision of machine vision systems and fibre sensors. This is also part of Austin’s master plan to seize opportunities arising from the “Made in China 2025” new national industry directive, which aims to advance innovation technologies as well as manufacturing efficiency within the country, and will lead to bright prospects for the automation and sensing market. Yet another area of business which leverages the Group’s technological platforms is the provision of coating services for smart device manufacturers and optical components for the fibre lasers market.
In the efforts of diversifying the Group’s interests while establishing a vertically integrated business, Austin has helped to significantly improve O-Net’s financial health, with gross profit rising by a CAGR of 32.8% from 2014 to 2016 and profit attributable to equity holders achieving a staggering CAGR of 140.2% over the same period. The Group has thus fully lived up to its new name of “O-Net Technologies (Group) Limited” that was adopted at the start of 2016 to reflect its diversified high-technology businesses (Chinese name as “昂納科技（集團）有限公司”).
Austin also recognises that there are more that needs to be done to realise O-Net’s full potential. A strong believer in leading by example, he will therefore continue to break new ground for the company. He was the architect behind the 2015 acquisition of ITF Technologies Inc., a Canadian company that is principally engaged in manufacturing and distributing fibre optic components to the global telecommunications, industrial laser and fibre sensor markets. The acquisition has created powerful synergies with the Group’s core and new businesses in terms of product range, technology improvements and vertical integration. It is most appropriate given the various opportunities on the horizon, including the rising demand for web-scale data centres, as well as increasing number of data centres upgrading from 40GbE to 100GbE to address traffic demand, which will benefit the Group’s core business of passive and active optical networking products. Immense opportunities are also on the horizon for the automation and sensing business, partly due to the “Made in China 2025” national industry directive, and even more significantly, the coming of the fourth industrial revolution, a.k.a. Industry 4.0, where computers and automation will come together leading to creation of smart factories. Another exciting development that Austin has led the Group’s involvement in is autonomous vehicles, as such vehicles are expected to experience significant growth in the coming decade; O-Net is well positioned to become among its key component suppliers, specifically, for light detection and ranging (LiDAR) solutions that are used in making hi-resolution images for Advanced Driving Assistance Systems (ADAS). Already, the global LiDAR market was valued at US$400 million in 2014, and is expected to grow to US$1 billion by 2020, or a CAGR of 16%. Austin will certainly ensure that O-Net will have a fair share of this important market.
While Austin clearly has his mark on the future, he is also well aware of the importance of making a positive impact on society in the here and now. Hence, he implemented the “Green Products Green World” strategy to promote the continuous improvement in products and processes for minimising pollution and the consumption of energy and natural resources. Furthermore, products supplied by O-Net meet the laws and regulations for environmental protection of various jurisdictions, including the European Union Restriction of the use of Certain Hazardous Substances (RoHS); EU Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) pertaining to Substance of Very High Concern (SVHC); and China RoHS. Furthermore, Austin has also ensured that the Group does not use “Conflict Minerals”, which refers to tin, tantalum, tungsten, gold and other minerals that originate from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and its neighbouring countries. Sales of Conflict Minerals may provide financial support for local armed conflict, a conflict that O-Net wishes to have no association with. Austin has an eye for detail in both business and philanthropy work, which is why Austin is not only an outstanding entrepreneur but also an outstanding person, one who believes in giving his all gives a deeper understanding of the bigger picture.