IN this week’s Success: The Insight Story, it’s the turn of PropertyGuru.com.my and iProperty.com.my country manager Malaysia Shylendra Nathan (pix) to answer SunBiz’s questions
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Starting off as a software engineer, the first five to six years of my career involved a lot of coding and writing software. From there, I had opportunities to work with startups that exposed me to different skills and roles – from exploring product knowledge, sales, marketing, and driving different initiatives.
I would say the start of my career involved a lot of ambiguity, whereby I often had to make decisions and take risks without a guaranteed outcome.
My diverse background laid the foundation for my future, as it gave me a lot of opportunities to face different types of challenges as my career progressed. Being open to exploring new things, taking risks, and embracing failure really allowed me to excel in my career.
Today, in my role at PropertyGuru Malaysia, I plan to use my learnings to focus on building a trusted platform for consumers, while also working on building talent in the organisation.
What traits do you look for in your talent or how do you decide who is right for a job?
Although industry experience is a nice to have, I am more focused on attitude, behaviour, and willingness to learn. When you have a good grasp of these three things, everything else becomes secondary, more so a supplement to what you are bringing to the table as a future employee.
At PropertyGuru.com.my, we are driven by our goal to be an employer of choice, so we look for talent who have values and career goals that are aligned with ours, to continue working towards building a property trust platform.
Currently in Malaysia, our teams include many talent from diverse backgrounds and fields – and who they are, their values and their attitudes, is an equation of what makes PropertyGuru the organisation that it is today.
How do you think the industry you are in will evolve?
In a nutshell, we are going through a major phase of digitisation. As PropertyGuru.com.my and iProperty.com.my have been around as online platforms for over a decade, we observed that our consumers and customers have been exposed to a lot of disruptive changes over the years.
Currently, with the digital disruption we are going through, we can see that consumers now focus their efforts through mobile and social media, so accessibility and convenience are needs that we have unfailingly seen in evolving consumer behaviours.
For PropertyGuru.com.my, we look forward to driving innovation in the industry and more access to data in both property and transactions. We are in a unique position to be able to bring together different players in the industry to drive more positive change in how the industry will evolve.
Looking at our goals, both our consumers and customers should be able to use our platform with confidence, so we are on the lookout for more innovative ways to promote transparency and build that trust not just on our platform but to make the homeownership journey of consumers more convenient and transparent.
We all know about the industrial revolution, are we in for a technological revolution? Your thoughts?
As we have seen, the Covid-19 pandemic has indeed accelerated the digitisation process for everyone. From a technology perspective, I can say that consumers have always been savvy and willing to adapt to technological disruption. The drastic change from offline to online worked well for Malaysian consumers, and many were able to get what they needed through digital platforms and online despite movement restrictions during the early stages of Covid-19. We have been through, and are currently going through a disruptive phase, and with these changing consumer behaviours comes the question of business readiness.
I think more than ever we are in a digital revolution on top of the technological revolution that is happening right now. Therefore, as a market leader, we want to focus on paving the way for customers in terms of how the proptech market will evolve by making the right investments in different areas of technology. Like I mentioned before, building confidence, transparency in data, and building trust in the industry is important for this journey we are currently on.
We must be prepared for the next digital disruption or technological revolution, meaning that organisations need to be open to investment on this front, whether it’s having a decent infrastructure for technology or having the right talent – as ultimately, it will help serve customers better.
What do you want to accomplish in the next five years?
For PropertyGuru.com.my, we are focused on what is to come in the next two to three years instead. Last year, we announced the successful acquisition of iProperty.com.my, so we want to put our efforts into bringing these two brands together. They both have unique brand propositions in different segments of the market, so our focus is now about refining the combination of both brands to continue building a seamless experience for consumers.
On a more personal front, I’ve been focusing on personal investments. I have been spending a lot of time exploring different ways to take advantage of opportunities to build wealth and assets. A new interest of mine also involves dabbling in cryptocurrency and non-fungible token investment opportunities. It’s fairly new but it’s an interesting area to explore!
Best piece of advice you ever received on your career.
I was lucky throughout my career journey, as I was surrounded by supportive leaders and pioneers from different parts of the world. To sum up all the advice and guidance that I’ve received over the years, something that resonates strongly with me is the importance of having your own principles. If you hold tightly to them, they will build your character and allow you to respond to different challenges – this advice applies not just to your career but to your personal life as well.
If I could go back and advise my younger self, I would emphasise on facing challenges head on, and to always remember that no matter what obstacle or challenge is thrown at you, there will always be a solution.
How do you stay abreast of issues affecting your industry?
As leaders in proptech, we very much feed into the industry. We have a close relationship with our customers, partners, and stakeholders, so they keep us close to the ground. We also have a lot of data based on the surveys such as our biannual Property Consumer Sentiment Study and quarterly Property Market Report, so we are aware of the happenings in the industry and how our consumers are feeling towards the market.
If you could have an hour with any thought leader in the world, whom would it be and why?
Ray Dalio. He’s an investment expert and taught me the importance of having principles. I’m an avid reader of his books, and a lot of what he shares resonates closely with me – from being consistent, not allowing failure to demotivate you, and to keep trying until you achieve success.
What has been the biggest challenged you have faced, and what did you learn from it?
My biggest challenges have always revolved around ambiguity. I have been put in a lot of situations where I may not have known the answer or outcome, but I still had to make a decision and trust myself. I learned to trust myself and those around me, and I would say that learning to deal with ambiguity and face it head on really helped me become who I am today.
How do you expect policies on climate change to impact businesses in the future?
From a business perspective, and also as a consumer, I am seeing more people paying attention to how climate change is slowly impacting everything around us. It is important to do our part as an organisation and also as individuals to be conscious of how we treat our environment because I believe collectively, we can work together to slow down the impact.
Based on our PropertyGuru Consumer Sentiment Study as well, we also see potential homebuyers take into account the environmentally friendly factor as well, so there’s definitely a higher consciousness around this and feeds into the property decision making process.
What are the top three factors you would attribute your success to?
I am where I am today because of my willingness to take risks, my courage, as well as my focus on being a leader and not a manager. Over time, I learned to differentiate the two roles, which led me to shift my focus to empathising, problem solving, motivating, building relationships, and communicating, instead of the performance and coordination involved in a day-to-day role.