BUSINESSES have traditionally built their value proposition on producing the best products and services for their customers. PKT Logistics chief executive officer and group managing director Datuk Michael Tio wants to cast his net wider.
While good products and services are a must, he wants to also build a sustainable company that engages the community and inspires other companies to have a wider impact.
It’s not all about the dollars and cents, he says.
“Most of the companies out there are talking about their products and their mission statements are always about giving the best, most up to date, safest products and whatnot. But is that all consumers want to hear about?” he points out.
These days, customers are increasingly looking at other aspects to the company. There is growing support for businesses or brands that have sustainable practices or have good CSR efforts.
In the advanced economies, notes Tio, companies are putting more emphasis on the non-core parts of the business.
“We find that the Western way of company branding has changed. They don’t talk about their business anymore. They talk about caring for the environment and their people.
“So, we also want to change our mission statement. We should also move away from just talking about how many trucks we have or only about our products and services.
“It is a good change. We should follow. And I believe the ones that change first will benefit more,” he says.
PKT’s mission statement now revolves around becoming a socially responsible company that provides logistics services. The company is doing this by utilising local human resources, building environmentally friendly warehouse, engaging openly with the surrounding communities and by inspiring other businesses to positively impact other people and communities through CSR activities.
When the company embarked on building its new warehousing facilities in 2008, Tio didn’t want a typical facility – one with a dated design that would cost the least possible. He wanted a facility that was going to make a difference in the industry.
He made sure his facility had a unique design that would be remembered by all who saw it and that his warehouses were up to the Green Building Index standard.
He knew that this move would also boost its standing with multinational clients, which was a bonus for PKT.
But it wasn’t just about building impressive structures.
Tio also made sure that it was actively engaged with the local community surrounding its headquarters in Klang.
“We didn’t want to intimidate the people surrounding us by building all these iconic buildings. So we went to approach them. We met with their village head and invited the housewifes in the kampung to come and work for us. And on occasions such as Hari Raya Haji, we also give out donations. This is how we build a relationship with the surrounding people,” he shares.
Its ties with the local folks is solidified through one of its CSR programmes called Anak Belajar Ibu Bekerja (ABIB), where housewives from the surrounding area can earn some money by working shifts at PKT while their children go to school. They can choose to work the 8.30am-12.30pm shift or the 1.30pm-5.30pm slot and be home when their children are done with school.
On the one hand, this empowers women to go back to work and earn some extra income for their households. On the other, says Tio, it helps PKT tap into locally available human resource, which helps the company reduce its reliance on casual foreign workers.
But it wasn’t an easy programme to implement, he acknowledges.
In the initial stages, the programme was met with some internal resistance who thought the programme would not be enough to replace their casual foreign worker needs. Additionally, the women struggled to cope with working in the company.
But Tio persisted. And the company provided training for the housewives.
Today, ABIB is an award-winning, signature CSR programme.
The programme was so successful that PKT decided to extend it to the students at its Peninsula College as an opportunity for them to gain working experience while they are studying through its Jom Bekerja Sambil Belajar (JBSB) programme.
“And when they all come here, they embrace our hardworking, healthy, honesty, humble and happy working culture. This honesty working culture also helps in a way that the housewives go back and teach their children the same,” says Tio.
Another of its CSR programme that has gained attention is its Smart Trucker programme, whereby graduates take on the role of driving trucks at PKT for four years.
“During the first four years when they are still active and can move around, they can become our smart trucker. They make about RM4,000-RM5,000 a month. After four years, they can move on to become our senior executive in operations and whatnot. That’s a good career path. They are not permanent truck drivers.
“That allows our graduates to find more jobs. So now, we get educated drivers, who can communicate with clients and we don’t have as much problems with our drivers. And because they are professional, they give a different image in the industry.
“It’s also an opportunity for them to start from the bottom so that they know operations well when they are at the top,” he adds.
PKT has also organised career fairs to match graduates with companies in the surrounding area.
“We have so many people who want to work for us. About 15,000 people at that time. We don’t have enough jobs for them and we can’t just leave them be because people will send me direct messages on Facebook to ask me for a job.
“So we had a career fair, where we invited all the companies surrounding us and we set up booths in our office and invited those 15,000 people to come and get the jobs from these companies,” he reveals.
Although PKT did not set out to make CSR the face of the company, for the most part, Tio has found that its efforts have turned out to be a good accidental branding strategy.
All these non-core business efforts have helped PKT grow as a better company and added value to its brand proposition. This also helps it better engage with its customers and consumers at large even though it does not operate in a business-to-consumer market.
In helping others, Tio says, the company has also reaped a lot of benefits, which is why he believes that one should give back to society when he or she is successful without expecting anything in return.
Whatever comes back, really, is a pleasant surprise.
“So I’ve been talking to other SMEs to encourage them to change their direction on branding. Let’s talk about taking care of the environment or how we can help the surrounding community. CSR is not about how you spend your profit but about how responsibly you make your profit.
“And when you make money, contribute back to the society in a sustainable way,” says Tio.
Tio’s direction can also be seen in the other entrepreneurs or companies that he comes in contact with. Many of them are looking at improving company culture and changing their take on CSR. In that, Tio is glad to be able to inspire others towards a positive change.
“One day, Datuk C.C. Ngei (Feruni founder and managing director) asked me, how many entrepreneurs do I want to impact? 1 million, maybe? We probably can’t reach that many personally.
“But if you look around other companies’ offices, you can see traces of PKT there. They all came to tour our office and brought these practices back.
“Now, I have about 150 mentees with me, from my study tours and all. I can probably directly mentor, maybe, a maximum of 300 in another five years. But these 300 can mentor others. So there is a multiplier effect. In the end, we don’t know how many people we are really helping. But as we build a socially responsible company and continue to share that story with others, we may be able to change society as a whole.”