As Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre (“Suntec Singapore”), Arun Madhok leads an outstanding team that manages a world class convention and exhibition centre that has built a reputation of being ‘The Preferred Place to Meet’ in Singapore and Asia.
He joined Suntec Singapore in 2009 as Business Development Director and was quickly promoted to be the Chief Operating Officer before eventually taking over the reins as CEO in 2012. With Arun at the helm, Suntec Singapore embarked on an ambitious SGD$180 million modernisation programme that made it into one of the most technologically advanced venue. The flexibility and adaptability of the spaces in Suntec Singapore when combined with the smart technology and top notch service levels have resulted in Suntec Singapore winning many awards in the last two years including garnering global recognition as the “World’s Leading Meetings & Conference Centre” in 2014.
Born into a naval family, Arun’s family travelled extensively and he developed an interest in exploring the world and the accompanying opportunities to interact with the people he met. As the eldest child, Arun was also driven by the desire to help out and provide for his family from a young age. While still pursuing his education in Pune, India, Arun took on his first job as a door-to- door salesman and sold clothes drying racks on his bicycle from one housing estate to another. It was from this humble beginning that he learnt to understand customers’ mindsets and the art of closing a deal. This experience would prove invaluable for his future.
As he embarked on his career and moved to Europe, Arun was thrust into various leadership positions including being the Area Manager of 42 airports across Europe for British Airways. At the airline, he displayed his mettle when he had the opportunity to drive the strategy of restructuring the airport teams in a highly unionized environment and led the introduction of new technology. This resulted in streamlined costs and the best punctuality across the British Airways network. The experience cemented his belief in the importance of having team members who wanted to excel. Arun also had the opportunity to refine his business skills through postgraduate management studies at the Oxford University and a strategic planning course at the Ashridge Business School.
“At each turn, I’ve had the good fortune of having a mentor who saw my potential, gave me the opportunity and guided me to success. It has also been my good fortune to have amazing people who are willing to follow me and deliver the best possible results,” Arun shared.
At Suntec Singapore, Arun was instrumental in developing the vision and strategy of the ‘new Centre’, and responsible for bringing that vision to life. He was closely involved in the design and development of the Centre’s major modernisation programme that was completed in 2013.
Arun remodelled the way the Convention and Exhibition Centre was managed by clever use of technology to drive efficiency in the operations and accelerate the automation of business processes. Suntec Singapore’s new design paid particular attention to the flexibility, convertibility and customisability of its spaces while integrating a high degree of advanced technology so that the Centre could adapt to the evolving needs of clients.
Arun also introduced new products and services that were game changers in the industry because of his innate ability to grasp how technology can be innovatively used in the business to drive change. For instance, he introduced free high speed wifi service that was available throughout Suntec Singapore when other venues were still charging customers for far slower and less reliable service. He also persisted with building the world’s largest high-definition digital screen to give visitors to Suntec Singapore a ‘unique and grand sense of arrival’ although technology vendors had advised that stitching together 664 units of 55 inch LCD panels to create a 62 meters x 15 meters screen was never done before – The Big Picture, as the screen is affectionately called, is still certified by Guinness World Records as the largest HD video wall in the world.
In a competitive and evolving MICE market, Arun has focused the Centre to continue delivering greater value and outstanding service standards that customers have come to expect of Suntec Singapore. “To keep ahead of the pack, we must continue to innovate to create new exciting value-added services for organisers that are affordable, customised, easily configured and hassle free to deploy,” he explained succinctly.
Under his leadership, Suntec Singapore has received numerous accolades and awards in the areas of innovation, service excellence, talent recruitment and retention strategies, workplace and building safety, and in-house culinary offerings. In 2015, Suntec Singapore also achieved its best ever financial performance in the company’s 20 years history.
“I think I’m the luckiest man in town. I worked about two-and-a-half years on the design and concept, and now I get to lead the most contemporary and technologically advanced convention and exhibition centre. My amazing team and I have launched the business very successfully and established it as the best in the region and I am very proud of our success. I get to do what I’m basically good at, which is managing change and transforming businesses. The formula to success is to get the best people on your team, point them in the right direction and get out of their way,” Arun shared.
Arun has made it his goal to inspire positive changes in the MICE industry through Suntec Singapore and to change the way people approach the convention and exhibition business. To do so, he believes that one must encourage a relentless pursuit of excellence, be unwilling to accept mediocrity, recognise the contributions of individuals and celebrate success together.
“I firmly believe that a good leader should lead with integrity, keep the trust of the team, strive for excellence and be passionate about what they do. Anything worth doing is worth doing well,” he emphasised.