“It’s a matter of balance…” quips Mr Oliver Tian.
An illustrious gentleman in his own right – one who has on several occasions brought unknowns into the real world, Oliver prides himself for bringing frontier technology to the every man on the street. He relates how his red-eyed flight on a business trip to Las Vegas in 1998 brought about a debut e-Learning 2000 Conference two years later – a watering hole which was attended by international experts on learning technology and policy makers in Singapore. With the dot-com boom, e-Learning applications mushroomed in all walks of life.
In April 2014, Oliver once again, led the Singapore Industrial Automation Association to organize the inaugural event of IoT (Internet of Things) Asia in Singapore. He offered his thoughts on how he was convinced that the convergence of technologies would have formed the impetus for driving new benefits in automation.
“Automation is no longer just about buying a computer and the productivity ratio adds up,” he explained. “With the prevalence of the internet applications, the productivity multiplier in automation will come from the cross-pollination of industry best practices especially machine-to-machine (M2M) applications,” he added.
With a distinguished 28-year corporate and entrepreneurial career behind him, an eloquent speaker – his illuminating interview is peppered with clever analogies and anecdotes – who has previously displayed a knack for turning around ailing businesses and transforming new start-ups in less developed countries into profit-making ventures.
The tech-savvy and forward-thinking entrepreneur is currently President of the Singapore Industrial Automation Association (SIAA) which is a trade association whose members focuses on industrial automation and information automation in the spirit of the Productivity movement, as well as the Immediate Past Chairman of the of Computing Alumni Community at National University of Singapore. He is also represented at several advisory panels in NUS and community groups, including the Alumni Advisory Board to the President of NUS.
After two decades of his corporate career, Oliver joined the world of entrepreneurship. “If you look at the exponential progress of computerization over the past century, and even more so, in the recent few decades, and how it has immersed itself in every aspect of society yet taken for granted, the time of ubiquitous computing has eventually dawned,” he exclaimed.
Hence, he chose to “change the engine of a flying plane” then to build one from scratch. This entailed his entry as a business venture into the company, HutCabb Services, whose mission was “Helping U To Create A Better Business”. The unusual name hardly reflects its lofty status as a cutting-edge technology consultancy company focused solely on the success of its clients.
The Young Generation of the workforce, sometimes known as Gen-Y or the Millennials, is a new force to be reckoned with. It is exciting to work well with the Gen-Y employees; or perhaps an opportunity to leverage on their inner passion. Three-quarters of the company staff are below 30 years old and Oliver has found his secret to engaging them and bridging the generation gap to form a formidable culture in which every member has the free space to spawn new creations – call it a “sandbox” where the staff can explore their creative side, and yet stay aligned with the company directions.
“For an example, take the development cycle of our latest product MIPS – Movement Intelligent Processing System. We would not have been able to achieve significant breakthrough without the creative talents of the team,” he expounded. MIPS is a tele-rehabilitation tool which allows home therapy coupled with continuous clinician monitoring to accelerate the path to recovery for most post-stroke patients. The tool uses converging technologies to simplify complications to enhance lifestyle.
Oliver is a great believer in building chapters in his life. In every three-five years of his life, there is another chapter, and in each of these chapters he aims to achieve certain goals, both in his business and in his personal lives. His first chapter at Hutcabb Services involved transforming it into an organization that believes in a common dream. The next would be to take this dream and turn it into reality.
“The beauty of life is sometimes the simple and natural way of doing things,” Oliver elaborated on. “The modern world has many innovations looking to solve many complicated problems, yet a simple solution is perhaps the way to go …” When confronted with a complex situation bounded by past experiences, he looks at problem solving from first principles, attempts to simplify the complexity and use technology automate the simple solution. “Life works better without the intervention of human sophistication – simple is better.”
Over the years, Oliver has collected numerous awards including, a High Flyer Nominee Award from Hewlett Packard Services in 1999, the Gopal Haridas Award from the Singapore Children Society (2003), and Distinguished Alumni Award from the National University of Singapore (2007). He also led his company to be appointed the Founding Member status (IoT Asia – 2013). Oliver has also been an ex-officio of the Singapore Computer Society as well as the National Representative to IFIP (International Federation for Information Processing under UNESCO).
There is one principle Oliver holds dearly to: We should always dream of tomorrow, and try to achieve it today. This encompasses three steps – not to be burdened by the limitations of today, the need to explore technology and to have reality checks to stay grounded.