CEO the Year 2021: The Professional Hero of the Year

Alex Ng

Chief Executive Officer Kerry Express (Thailand) PCL

Kerry Express CEO on the importance of creativity and results

The first thing you notice in Thailand’s Kerry Express tech office is the mural on the wall of the vast town hall area, stating “Together We Are Cool”. Connected to the town hall is an extensive recreation space, with a long grey-orange dining table, which radiates sociable warmth alongside the natural sunlight from the window across it.

Further inside, around two in the afternoon, when only around half of the desks are occupied, you can see a comfortable-looking common room at the other end of the floor. If the office strikes you as more of a media agency or design studio than a logistics company, Mr. Alex Ng, Chief Executive Officer of Kerry Express (Thailand), would nod his head in approval because “innovation and creativity are our motto”.

“We don’t care about working hours, rules or regulations. I don’t need to know when you come to the office or when you go home,” explains Mr. Ng, who was crowned “Professional Hero of the Year” in the Bangkok Post CEO of the Year Awards 2021. “Here at Kerry Express, we care about results and creativity.”

Sharing an example from his own experience, Mr. Ng explained:

“I came from Hong Kong and used to work in mainland China. And in those cities they are workaholics, they work so hard they are nearly robotics. So I thought if I work harder, the results will be better. However, when I grow up, I learn that’s a wrong attitude. Sometimes, it’s even lazy to work hard because you just do so to feel good.

“Now with an emphasis on results, we have more room for creativity and innovation, which in turn yields even better results. So I don’t expect hard work from my staff. I expect great results,” he said.

Some might find this demand for creativity puzzling in the logistics industry, but for Kerry Express CEO creativity is not restricted to artists or marketing folks.

“The very definition of creativity is to be able to think of more possibilities. And in the field of logistics it plays such an important role because, even though logistics involves many industrial aspects, it is people-oriented at its core,” he said.

He further elaborated, saying, “First of all, it is impossible to have full automation in logistics. I would say it is 60% people. For example, the right manners or ways to make customers happy cannot be done by a machine. Therefore, we pay attention to maintaining the balance between logical, industrial and people skills.”

By being a people-centric organisation, Mr.Ng also means his own employees as he shared that his best investment—the kind that “eventually takes care of itself”—is behind-the-scenes.

“We put a lot of time, effort, money and emphasis on the corner that is not easily observed from the outside, on the things that nobody pays attention to. They involve the discipline of our people, the tidiness of our office and our people culture. For example, we purposefully design our tech floor plan to feature wider screens with no partitions, and we set up big tables in the rest area because we want a human-oriented working environment that values sharing effort and results.

“The small details are a heavy, tiring investment, but they are paid off with the good, reliable results I receive from my staff,” he said proudly.

It would come as no surprise that his piece of advice for new-generation workers is to “think outside of the box.” However, what is the best way to develop this quality for creative thinking?

“I always say this to my newly-grad associates. The most important English word is empathy. Study people from different generations. With empathy, you can see more possibilities and be a step ahead of everybody else,” he concluded.

“Our mission is to support the growth of e-commerce, social commerce, retail and wholesale – which are among the engines driving the Thai economy.”