If one were to describe Lim Een Hong (E H Lim) in three words, it would have to be passionate, focused, and wise. E H, 48, CEO of Eduspec Holdings Berhad switched hat from a practicing lawyer to an entrepreneur in 2008 when he took over Dynabook. “I am a focused man. I always know what I wanted, and I go for it.” Here is someone who knows the power of the heady combination of passion and focus. And judging from his impressive leadership with Eduspec, that personality trait has obviously paid off.
E H clearly has an adventurous streak. Why else would a partner in an established law firm chucked in a well-paid practice six years ago buy over a business that was in trouble, and in an unfamiliar industry to boot? “Well, managing a business isn’t new to me and my strength has always been in identifying business opportunities. I manage my legal firm, so it’s not exactly that big of a jump for me to wear the hat of an entrepreneur,” he explains.
“In 2005, I was already investing in a kindergarten. In 2007, there was an opportunity that opened up in Dynabook. One of the founders told me he was looking for interested parties to buy over the business. The business has issues due to shareholders’ dispute. At that point, he was talking to me as a lawyer who has an interest in education. I looked into the business portfolio, and the condition was indeed messy. As I was trying to source for buyers and partners for Dynabook, I ended up taking on the business instead. Of course, it wasn’t a decision made on a whim. It was a risk, but it was a calculated one.”
But why education? “Education has always interest me. I guess it could be because I am a parent, and my children’s education has always been a focus. I also find it very gratifying to play a role in educating the next generation especially the younger ones. Anyone who has been in the education line for the long haul can tell you that it’s a very satisfying industry to be in.”
His passion for education is tangible. Usually soft-spoken and composed, E H suddenly speaks with rapid speed and eyes lit up when he talks about his vision for the K-12 industry. “My vision is to institutionalize the K-12 education. I see a gap because the industry is fragmented, and no one has taken a look at it as a whole. I see an opportunity where I can fill in the gap and bring value to the industry”.
Taking on something new requires E H to let something go. To whip a “messy” company back in shape requires a lot of leadership and strategizing. “Before we can grow the business, we first need to resolve a few significant legacy issues and build internal capacity and strength. We managed to reduce 70 shareholders to about 20 thus solving one of the main challenges of the company. Then, we restructured the company and do a corporate exercise to reverse takeover Litespeed Singapore. We then merged Dynabook and Litespeed to form Eduspec. From then on, we’ve have a sound foundation to grow the business.”
And grow the business he did. During his leadership of six years, Eduspec grew from a Malaysian company that’s mostly known for computer classes to a full-fledged integrated solutions provider. “We want to democratize technology in schools so more students can benefit from it,” E H shares. Now Eduspec is known for a whole string of solutions. The company is equipped to help
schools build capacity, provide education technology solutions, and train teachers. Also, Eduspec has created a roadmap called Digital School that provides a guideline that will enable schools to adopt technology in their management systems and classrooms.
Since achieving listing status in 2010, Eduspec has progressively expanded to Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. There are plans to expand to Thailand and Myanmar as well. His vision to make technology available to all students is in progress – one school at a time. Currently, Eduspec services 350,000 students in Malaysia, 150,000 students in Indonesia, 18,000 students in Vietnam, and 30,000 students in the Philippines. “We are operating on a long-term service model, so we aren’t focused on merely selling hardware or software. We are unique because we concentrate on forming long-term relationships with the schools.”
Judging from the numbers, Eduspec seems to be doing well but E H insists that it’s not a numbers game. “We are proud to be able to bring a lot of improvements and value to the industry by building an institution for K-12 education as a service model. The schools we serve recognize and appreciate our efforts. To me, that’s a big achievement because we are not only bringing improvement to a customer or even a group of customers. We are bringing value and improvement in the quality of education as a whole.”
Eduspec has also cultivated new strategic partnerships with iCarnegie Global Learning Inc., HANBAN China, Beijing Animation and Games Alliance, Google, Microsoft, YTL group, and Apple. E H also supports the initiatives by non-profit organizations such as CyberSecurity Malaysia and Youth On Unity.
To unwind E H finds it important to maintain a balance in life. “I make it a priority to spend quality time with family because they are important. It’s hard to excel in life if you don’t have solid support from family.” E H also believes in taking time out to pursue his interests. “I read widely. I read about philosophy, religion and anything that interest me. I am by nature a curious person. I also love traveling and photography.”
There’s also a shadow of a philosopher amidst the button-bright entrepreneur. “Photography teaches you patience, challenges you to excel, and trains your eye to search for beauty in the mundane. Most of all, it teaches you to look at the same object with different eyes. That’s why photographers spend half an hour shooting the same object or scenery. It’s a rare skill to be able to see something new in an object that you have seen over and over again. This analogy translates well into work and life – there are many perspectives to a situation.”
If you could put your brand of wisdom onto a fortune cookie, what would it say? “Always aim high but be contented with what you achieve.” Why? “Because that gives you the least stress,” he lets out a small laugh. “When you aim for the moon, you are sure to do your best but if that still doesn’t work out, there’s not much you can do.”
His future plans for Eduspec is to institutionalize K-12 education and be the number one K-12 education provider in ASEAN and then progressively in Asia.