Get To Know Dr Jodness Tan, CEO of HWT Group

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Dr Jodness Tan is the chief executive officer of HWT Group, a media, business certification, brand activation, finance, original equipment manufacturer, logistic, event management, corporate photography, and business academy conglomerate, covering Malaysia, Singapore, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Korea, Nepal, and Japan. Personal investment business includes preschool, hair salon, technology application development, and a number of e-commerce brands.

In 2014, he became the first 90s featured speaker of Global Shapers Community – An Initiative of the World Economic Forum from Southeast Asia. In 2017, He also represented Malaysian 90s Chinese entrepreneurs to be featured in the National Historical Documentary for the Chinese Overseas “Chinese People Overseas”, which was launched by China Central Television (CCTV). He is also known as “Malaysia 90s Miracle”, the first batch of successful 90s entrepreneurial figures.

Hi Dr Jodness, welcome to Marketing In Asia. We are amazed to know that you are Asia’s Youngest Chief Editor for World Economic Forum-Global Shapers Community, Ningxia. How does this journey start?

I am very fortunate to be able to start my business with magazine publishing when I was 19 and published the first magazines “Ai Beauty” and “Top Corporate Leader” magazine. It was a coincidence that I became a speaker for the World Economic Forum-Global Shapers Community, Ningxia, with the Former transport minister and 8th MCA President, Tan Sri Ong Tee Keat. We were invited by the Ningxia University and Global Shapers Community, Ningxia to share with their members and organizations at Ningxia University, regarding Southeast Asia’s economic and entrepreneurial development opportunities. It was 2015, and entrepreneurs born in the 90s were still relatively rare. I was only 24 years old at that time, and that may be the reason, so I was fortunate enough to have this opportunity.


We had learned that you started your business when you were 19 years old. Since you were so young, what business idea struck you and your experience?

The reason why I started my business is a bit different. The difference is that I am not optimistic about which industries or have experience in which industries and started. 

I started my business was because I was studying at the time and my father’s company was forcibly taken over by shareholders, which caused my father to have nothing. So I had to help my father to start the business together from zero experience. 

My father is an old media person, although he can’t write and design, he has a customer base, so we started in the magazine publishing industry. At that time, we had no money to hire employees, so I was the editor, designer, and administrator. I try my best to love what I do. I learn how to write from reading a lot, learn how to design from YouTube until I complete the entire magazine. 

With the growth of the company, we began to hire employees, and because I have visited entrepreneurs from many industries, I am not satisfied in doing a small business. Therefore, after a long time of thinking and several transformations, it has finally become the current brand supply chain with R&D and manufacturing, branding, media, awards and certifications, photography, event management, logistics, and IT development.


How and why DJW Labs, the ODM arm of HWT Group, offers holistic branding and marketing service to their partner brands?

We are the first manufacturers of cosmetics and food supplements in Malaysia to provide free branding and marketing strategy services for brand owners in addition to product planning, R&D and production. Because we believe that in this era of fierce competition, a good product is not enough. You must also make your product speak, and say the right words, to truly invade the minds of consumers, and make them be your loyal customer. 

There are 3 basic steps we take to serve each customer: First, to understand the current situation of the customer and their existing resources; Second, to plan for customers with differentiated and highly competitive high-quality products according to customer requirements or situations; Third, set a price, position their brand and draft a marketing strategy while production is running. After the production is completed, they will be able to get their product in good condition, and well prepared for sale to the market. 

It means we provide brands with the best weapons to conquer the market. Brands only need to do work in daily sales and follow our marketing strategy to complete their marketing tasks and do not need to worry about other things at all.


With the continued evolution of consumers’ willingness to spend more based on attractive holistic offerings, how can brands better meet these criteria to maximise gain?

If we want to meet the needs of new consumers, we need to understand their needs. At present, the main consumer groups now consist of GEN y and GEN z. Their priority is not the price, but the concept, quality, and packaging of the product are what they like. And in most cases, even if it is more expensive than other products, they still choose the one they like.

So, the brand owner should be more attentive to deeply understand consumers’ needs, and create a product that will make them fall in love, and catch their eye when they are surfing through social media. 

In addition to understanding consumers, brand owners shouldn’t find OEM factories, by using the OEM services as they can only get the same product and/or the same packaging with other brands, just a change in the logo or packaging, which will cause your product to fall into the homogenized competition. If you want to sell well, you can only sell cheaper. 

You must at least find a factory that can provide ODM services because the ODM services are different. The ODM factory can customize unique products and packaging, according to your requirements. If you know enough about consumers, your product could better meet consumer needs, and make your brand.


What are your insights on this new era of consumption from an ODM perspective and how must ODMs transform to meet evolving business and consumer needs?

For those factories that provide OEM and ODM services only, it’s actually a challenge. Because it can no longer be like before, with only a single technology or product. We must provide different things for each customer, and even think of more competitive products for customers, to ensure the brand’s continued success in the highly competitive environment. 

Assisting the brand owner to be successful, has become the most important thing for us. At present, we must have more capabilities beyond product development and production, such as brand management, marketing, logistics, technology, management, resource docking, and etc., to become a brand supply chain, in order to help brand owners enhance their competitive advantages in all directions, but not just through an OEM/ODM factory.


How has the pandemic necessitated a reworking of business models and plans within the ODM industry? 

The pandemic had a really huge impact on the manufacturing industry, especially the raw materials and logistic cost increase a lot. And we have to bear a lot of viruses preventing costs. If our staff are infected, we need to suspend production which is also a very big loss. Many factories, including us, have suffered a lot of unnecessary losses. 

Fortunately, we are in a new era of consumption. If you can create a truly unique product, consumers are still willing to pay, even if the price is higher. 

So the pandemic is a crisis, but also a huge opportunity for us. The only thing we need to overcome is to educate brand owners to follow the trends, accept higher costs, and create really good products for consumers. 

Of course, it is difficult for brand owners to accept the cost increases, but services are the same. 

So, I think, we should change the business model of pure supply. We could provide brands with more services besides R&D and production. 

For DJW Labs, we choose to become a complete brand supply chain and provide extra services to brand owners. Not only to make their brand more competitive but also to make them less resistant when faced with increased costs. 

This could be a chance and a change that benefit ourselves, brand owners, and consumers. 

We really need to change, because this is a new era of consumption, the pandemic will be over, but new consumers are there. If you are not willing to change, you will be eliminated by consumers, but not your competitors.


Can you share more of your expert views and opinions on the overall commercial, marketing, and branding landscape in Malaysia?

In my opinion, the branding and marketing standard in Malaysia is still in its infancy, Malaysia needs more branding and marketing service providers to serve more SMEs. 

But We are very happy to see that in recent years, Malaysia SMEs have generally begun to explore and trying in branding and marketing. However, how to start and where to start is very important. Especially for a start-up company, they may not have enough budget to engage with branding and marketing companies, so they need to DIY. 

I have 2 basic suggestions for the start-up company: First, build your brand identity system, and make it consistent while doing advertising; Second, strategically plan and systematically output advertising and marketing campaigns. Since I saw a lot of brand owner, they just do something today, do nothing tomorrow, or do it when they got an idea. 

Of course, unique and good products are a must. Because there are too many ads now. If you want to win, you must have good quality, unique concepts, and a good brand image from the beginning, so that you can stand out in the advertising sea, invade consumers’ minds, and become a brand, not just a product.


What’s your take on the ultimate futility of price wars and why it must end across any industry/segment? 

Don’t let yourself fall into price wars while you are building a brand. Price wars occur in every industry, but actually, brand owners could avoid them and not need to face them. 

For example, when I help my customers in product planning, first we will do market research to understand what the real consumer’s needs are, which depends on their target consumers. Second, to have a deep analysis of each product that is competitive on the market. 

Through these 2 steps, we find the best entry point to create a product that is differentiated and highly competitive among the same types of products. consumers will find our products are more valuable when comparing products. To let consumers think that buying our products is more valuable when comparing.


What are the plans for DJW Labs as we move forward in this endemic?

Pandemic has accelerated the scale of online shopping in Southeast Asian countries. Therefore, we will focus on serving online brands in the future, expanding, and connecting with relevant professional services and resources that help online brand development. 

We will also cooperate with e-commerce platforms in several countries in Southeast Asia soon, to help Malaysian brands go overseas. We will do our best to be a bridge to connect sales channels and let the world know outstanding Malaysian brands.


How is ODM production a more valuable option for consumers as opposed to OEMs?

The meaning of OEM is a manufacturer that provides what formula and packaging they have to brand owners to create a brand. Therefore, there will be a lot of brands, using the same formula/package, just change some things and sell to consumers.  Without knowing it, consumers may be attracted by the advertisements and buy the product at a price that exceeds the value of the product. 

But consumers are smart, once they discover that they are actually spending at an unnecessary expense, they will not buy again. In the end, there will only be one or two brands left in the market.  And actually, only the manufacturer wins in the end. 

So ODM is better than OEM. Because ODM is a manufacturer that follows the brand owner’s requirement to customise a product. It will not be easy to find another same product unless the manufacturer sells it to another brand. But this could make consumer spending more values less. This is good, but still, need to improve. Because OEM is a manufacturer selling their idea to brand owners, then the brand owner sells to the consumer; ODM is the brand owner selling their idea to the consumer. Why not catch the consumer’s idea and their needs to create a product they love? 

This is what I always mention, what we can do as a brand supply chain. We don’t sell brand owners what I have and don’t follow what brand owners want to sell. We stand with the brand owner, according to consumers’ needs to develop a product that they feel valued and can’t refuse to buy. With this concept, we can achieve a three-win situation. 

People may question, how to accurately capture the needs of consumers. It’s not difficult. We have enough market experience and big data to capture. You could do it yourself or let us serve you.


How can readers get in touch with you, Dr Jodness? 

Kindly visit our website at or follow me on my Facebook and Instagram page @dr.Jodness to learn more about branding, marketing, advertising, sales, and management.

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