Johary Mustapha

Chief Executive Officer

Forest Interactive Sdn Bhd

2019

Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Johary Mustapha

Young Entrepreneur of the Year

2019

Chief Executive Officer

Forest Interactive Sdn Bhd

WORDS FROM THE JURY PANEL

The GSM Association is an exclusive group made out of 750 Mobile Network Operators with almost 400 International Service Providers. Recently, Forest Interactive was invited to join this community, to share its experiences in the mobile and technology industry, as well as to network through events and members-only working groups which are connected to more than 23,000 technology experts. Inclusion into such a body can only happen when a company is great at what it does, and possesses the leadership capability to make what it brings to the table, valuable.

Words from the winner

Johary Mustapha

Full of moJo

Seeing the forest in spite of the trees helped one mobile technology company excel.

Despite being a late entry into the highly competitive mobile industry, Forest Interactive Sdn Bhd was recognized by the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) as a highly performing GAIN company. It has developed several IPs related to digital content distribution which enables the company to deploy a Platform-As-A-Service (PaaS) for Mobile Network Operators (MNO). Being made to scale and highly customizable by the MNOs has enabled Forest Interactive to replicate and export the technology to 12 other countries.
In the five years since the launch of the initial platform, the company has diversified into addressing other areas of digital content distribution, including mobile games, eSports, and video content services which also integrate digital advertising. This is congruent with the company’s vision to be the bridge between mobile subscribers, operators, and content providers.

Forest Interactive has grown exponentially in multiple ways. Beginning with three employees in 2006, the team now number 150 talents from 24 nationalities. Of these, 85 percent are between 25 to 35 years old, with 11 out of 18 leaders being women. The company has now reached almost a half million of paid subscribers, and has offices in Indonesia, Vietnam, Taiwan, Thailand, USA, Pakistan, UAE, Peru, Philippines, Myanmar, and Cambodia.
Much of its growth and success stems from the dynamic, astute leadership of its 41-year-old Chief Executive Officer, Johary Mustapha. Kuala Lumpur born, Johary came from a family who expected educational excellence. Ironically it was the child who scraped by in school who went on to became an industry mover and shaker. Johary does not discount formal education however, believing it lays foundations. Role model-wise, Johary counts Bill Gates as one of his biggest inspirations, for his observation skills, passion for technology and business, and good citizenry. Entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and disruptors like Peter Thiel and Elon Musk also impress Johary for their way of conceptualizing ideas and bringing them to the market. The young CEO believes a good entrepreneur has to be prepared to learn, regardless of age. “We also need to be very realistic in understanding our surroundings and having the patience to understand others. Good leaders need a highly tuned ability to analyze a problem, acknowledge its origin, and come up with a permanent solution.”

As far as his leadership style goes, Johary “likes to observe. “He then shares his observations with industry peers. “I do not only share the success stories, but also the mistakes made along the way. Some people will often give constructive feedback, however there are also some that would simply judge, and profile you based on these revelations. Whatever the case, I still strongly believe in the concept of sharing and doing everything together with the team. There is more sustainability in the long run if you do this, instead of just doing it alone.” “One of the biggest challenges we faced operating in the tech industry, is how quick technology and innovation is introduced to the market.

Today, many of the new tech products and innovation have a disruptive effect on traditional businesses. This affects brand equity, shareholders, and existing customers behavior. Understanding the risks that exist within our development landscape, and drawing from experiences of our trial and error has taught us to be prepared for any upcoming solutions and upgrades. Our motivated, expert teams are also always up for the challenge, with the company always seeking to ensure that all its services and offerings follow the industry standards. We strive to ensure that we meet our client’s targets while we continuously look for means to reach more markets.”

When asked about what it takes to be successful, Johary said, “What I have learnt is that you need to have both feet planted on the ground, and to be humble and prepared for what is next to come. If you condition yourself mentally and physically, then you will be prepared to handle whatever storm comes your way.” With regards to advice he would give a young person wanting to start their own business, the CEO says, “Have focus in what you do. Focus on one thing that you are really good at, and just continue doing it day in and day out—weekly, monthly, or over the years. Success will not happen overnight. Just put your mind to it.”

“Have focus in what you do. Focus on one thing that you are really good at, and just continue doing it day in and day out—weekly, monthly, or over the years. Success will not happen overnight. Just put your mind to it.”

While his workload may not allow much leisure time, Johary shares that spending time with friends is priceless. “Loved ones and old friends are the people who appreciate us for who we are, and who value us for the time that we’ve spent with them.” This nod to the need for honest, heartfelt human interaction has shaped the way the company views its employees, or ‘talents’. “Our team is young and creative. They have constantly been contributing ideas to improve our products and services. They know that the technology industry is fast moving, necessitating that the company be fast moving too. We would like to believe we empower them, and we give them a venue for growth. Our talents see us as a diverse company with a work-life balance culture. We encourage employee engagement activities, with some of these including movie nights, free lunches in the office, quarterly team outings, annual team building, birthday and festive celebrations. We foster a home-away-from-home concept.”

Describing his average work day, Johary shares that he wakes at 6.30am, breakfasts, and spends time with his son and twin daughters before heading to the office for discussions and brainstorms with team members. “I find it a challenge to fit everything in a day, so I try to prioritize what matters most: people with questions. I try and encourage more critical thinking, so instead of simply doing the work given, I empower people in the organization to be able to think about the reasons why they want to do it, and how to do it.”

“Evenings are the time I normally use to meet people from the industry, mostly to understand and reconnect to latest trends and happenings. There are also times where it stretches into the morning, just talking about ideas and what we are passionate about. For me, the moment of creativity strikes after midnight when I am back home alone. Then I whip up the laptop, catch up on pending emails, and take the time to send out more in depth, lengthy pointers for the next day’s to-do-list.”

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