David Mong still uses the title of “vice chairman” of the Shun Hing Group, although in reality he is chairman. “The title doesn’t matter, as long as I am doing my job,” said the eldest son of the late William Mong, the famed rice-cooker tycoon

Son still shines
Imogene Wong
Monday, October 21, 2013

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David mong Tak-yeung still uses the title of “vice chairman” of the Shun Hing Group, although in reality he is chairman. “The title doesn’t matter, as long as I am doing my job,” said the eldest son of the late William Mong Man-wai, the famed rice-cooker tycoon. Perhaps, the younger Mong is quietly paying obeisance to his father, who was chairman of the group and passed away three years back.In honor of his father, the name “Mong Man Wai” appears on the facade of almost every university building in Hong Kong, as well as on some secondary schools.

Mong, 51, has giant shoes to fill while also taking care of the 60-year-old firm, which is the sole agent for leading Japanese brands Panasonic, JVC and Rasonic – as well as 16 others.

Shun Hing’s product range includes everything from home appliances and audio-visual products to furniture and many others.

Mong admits that he is constantly operating under the shadow of his late father, who was a big influence on him. “I learned from him that I have to do everything on my own.”

Joining the firm in 1991, Mong was privileged to witness the growth and success of Shun Hing under his father’s leadership.

Mong admits that he might not know every single product that his firm sells but he makes an effort to get familiar with as many of them as possible.

“If you don’t know the product well, you would not know how to sell them,” he says.

In the 1960s, Mong’s father became an agent of Matsushita Electric Industrial (curren

tly known as Panasonic Corp) and began selling their products.

The story of how the elder Mong began selling Panasonic rice cookers in the territory is now the stuff of legends. At that time, rice cookers were a new concept and Mong would trudge door- to-door struggling to sell this new contraption to Hong Kong housewives.

It is hard to imagine nowadays that the two firms never signed a contract, but which indicated the trust between both parties, Mong said.

Indeed Shun Hing has maintained a good working relationship with Panasonic all along. “I always say that we are not just a supplier and agent. We are partners,” Mong said.

All through the past 50-odd years, Shun Hing has been giving feedback to the Japanese company on how its products could be improved and tailored for the Hong Kong market.

By nature, Mong is calm and confident. But he burst forth with excitement when talking about the latest Panasonic rice cooker, which is soon to be launched.

“The rice just looks different It cooks each grain of rice to perfection!”

Describing the latest model as the “king of rice cookers,” Mong said at HK$10,000 the price of this luxury model is comparable to the monthly salaries of some people.

Mong exudes a quiet confidence that such expensive products can be sold. People lay great stress on quality nowadays, he said.

“We are very strict when it comes to checking the quality of goods from our suppliers,” he said.

A case in point is the breadmaking machine that was introduced almost a year ago. Sales have been phenomenal, Mong said. “In just three months we were able to achieve our annual sales target of 8,000 pieces.”

Shun Hing has also teamed up with MTG, another Japanese firm, which produces beauty treatment devices.

Mong admits that his past working experience in Japan is proving useful and said more in jest how his father “hoodwinked” him into working there.

“After I graduated I was looking for a job and my father asked me if I was interested in going to Japan to meet him. Of course, I said yes,” Mong said.

But while in Japan his father asked him to stay behind in the partner company to learn how the business operated.

While Mong studied electrical engineering he did not contemplate joining his father’s company. “At that time I was so inexperienced,” he said, “and once I got my work visa, I stayed in Japan for four years.”

Mong, who is fluent in Japanese, added: “It was a good chance for me to learn in two different countries.”

After his stint in Japan, Mong studied for an MBA, and joined Shun Hing.

Over the years a wide range of businesses were being introduced, he said, such as engineering, contracting, system installation, mainland property development and many others.

“We helped to change the pedestrian traffic lights in some Hong Kong’s districts, from lightbulbs to LED lighting. Also, we installed platform screen doors for the MTR,” he said, adding that these are little known facts to Hongkongers.

Mong said the main focus of Shun Hing will still be the home appliances business, but other ventures will be considered as long as they are not related to speculation.

For instance, he said, his firm is now trying to tap the waste electrical and electronic equipment recycling program of the government.

Once their bid is successful, Shun Hing will be responsible for recycling televisions, washing machines, air- conditioners, fridges and computers at a site in Tuen Mun.

“Panasonic has been actively doing this in Japan, and we hope Hongkongers too can pay more attention to the environment.”

The firm has also invested in various property development projects in the mainland since 1992, but is finding it increasingly difficult to find the right site and the right partner to work with.

Nevertheless, Shun Hing is now studying the possibilities of entering the mainland market through its core business of selling white goods and household appliances.

It is quite difficult and risky to get in, Mong said. “It is also difficult to get your money back as larger retailers over there won’t return your money unless they sell your products.”

While Mong is mainly responsible for the operational side of the business, his elder sister, Cynthia Mong Sien-yee, looks after the investment side.

Mong admits that he still has to work very hard as there are so many businesses to look after.

“I don’t have a work-life balance,” Mong conceded, adding that he spends more time at the firm than with his family.

Mong is a keen sportsman and said he gets new ideas while running. He has been seriously practicing for marathons since 2009. He also developed an interest in watching drama, and is the vice chairman of the Hong Kong Repertory Theatre.

“I am always the vice chairman,” he laughed. But despite the responsibilities that come with the job, Mong has watched every drama produced by the theater last year.

With an eye toward the future, Mong said that if his children are not interested in succeeding him at the firm, he is open to selling it.

But when asked about the listing plans of Shun Hing, Mong shrugs his shoulders.

“It is not necessary to go public. Big companies like Maxim’s, Lee Kum Kee are not listed as well. You have to be under a lot of pressure if you list!”

Having said that, Mong added a listing might be considered if the company needs funds to develop, say, for instance, new electrical appliances.

Shun Hing, under Mong’s management, is keeping an open eye for any business opportunities.

As Mong succinctly put it, Shun Hing cannot look through the future of the market when the product cycle is so short. So, what it can do is explore possibilities.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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