When asked by a skeptical shareholder during his very first annual general meeting about his lack of experience in the media industry and what he can contribute to Utusan, Datuk Mohd Noordin Abbas’s answer was “I believe my specialty is in my ability to bring various people together to perform tasks that they thought were impossible.”
Noordin started his career at Peat Marwick, Mitchell & Co in 1986 before joining Bank Industri & Teknologi Malaysia Berhad, a leading development bank in 1987. He was appointed as CEO of Malaysia Export Credit Insurance Berhad in 1996 before moving to be CEO of Export-Import Bank of Malaysia Berhad (EXIM Bank) in the year 2000. Noordin holds a Master Degree in Management Science (Operational Research) from St. Louis University, USA and a Bachelor of Science Degree with a Double Major in Accounting and Finance from Southern Illinois University, USA.
Noordin had always believed that the impossible can be made possible if one knows how to identify the solutions.
This firm belief has been fully entrenched in him after serving seven years as the CEO of EXIM Bank. It was there that he witnessed and learned that the hindrance towards progress is not in the absence of money but in the absence of ingenuity. It is ingenuity which enabled the banks’ clients to convert what seemed to be ordinary projects or events into money making machines. It is the same ingenuity that propelled these clients to the world stage and to become successful.
It is with this firm belief that he gallantly accepted the appointment as the Group Executive Director of Utusan in 2014 and later was elevated to Group Managing Director in 2015. He was given a clear mandate to steer Utusan out of its financial difficulties and bring its performance back in the black. His long-term vision is to lift Utusan up to be worthy as a company of the 21st century.
He is well aware that the challenges will never be easy as the print media business is under threat of the ever rising popularity of the social media. He understands that Utusan needs to find new ways to stay relevant. Drastic changes have to be implemented and the many years of being in the comfort zone have to end. The right medicine though bitter needs to be taken.
Based on his vast experience, Noordin knows that Utusan needs new core businesses to help generate enough income for the Group so that the media arm can continue to be in operations. Towards this end he has embarked on various measures to diversify the Group’s sources of income such as i) Expanding the property related business via Utusan Land Sdn Bhd, ii) Establishing Institute Vocational Utusan (IVU) for the Group to enter into private education business. IVU has also received the necessary approvals from the authorities to commence operations and all the necessary infrastructure and equipment have been installed and are now ready for its maiden student intake and iii) Developing more new businesses by entering into memorandum of understandings with the following parties: Cisco to market its internet of everything solutions, Renet Asia to market its e-education software, and Vamed Group to market its healthcare IT solutions and services.
His tenure at EXIM has also instilled his belief that in order to survive in the long run, Utusan has to cross the seven seas and enter the world market. Towards this aim, he has mandated Utusan
Studios Sdn Bhd to start the productions of two documentary videos targeted for the export market of which the initial response from potential international buyers have been encouraging.
Deep inside he also knows that his diversification plans will never materialise if the house is not in order and the spirit of camaraderie among the staff is lacking. There is a popular saying that “Rome was not built in one day”. That saying is literally true and it indirectly highlights that Rome is not just built with brick and mortar but also with the common passion of the people led by visionary leaders.
There were challenges involving the work force within Utusan that need to be addressed. Utusan is a melting pot of the creative minds and the logical thinkers and very often these two groups do not play very well. So to enhance team spirit, Noordin formed a Solidarity Committee with the view to foster close cooperation and strengthen the spirit of camaraderie among the staff. Activities related to corporate social responsibilities (CSR) were created for the staff to participate.
Utusan, which by nature, represents Malaysian of all races have been perceived negatively by the public due to its stance in safeguarding the rights of the Malays. Noordin knows that in the long run, no business can last without positive images. So he embarks in a few rebranding strategies while holding firmly to the tagline, “Utusan bersama rakyat.” The CSR activities are also carried out as a way to reach out to the rakyat. By encouraging the staff to participate in CSR activities, Noordin has brilliantly converged the need to improve team spirit with the need to improve Utusan’s image.
In order to strengthen and institutionalise the CSR activities, Yayasan Kumpulan Utusan has been established to reaffirm Utusan’s commitment towards empathy in the society.
Today Utusan is on its way to expand its non-media business in line with the targeted vision. The media change, the technology changes, but the message stays the same. Noordin’s unwavering ambition is to strengthen and develop a business dedicated to building an informed, dynamic and caring society.
Utusan is still in the red but with a strategic guidance and focused vision, the hope to see that light at the end of the tunnel which was thought to be impossible is now possible.