The people’s CEO

Lee Kok Leong interviews Ahmad Luqman Mohd Azmi, CEO of MAB Kargo and finds a man with a deep conviction to empower his team to get things done. With additional contribution by Tan Hui Wen.

Ahmad Luqman Mohd Azmi CEO MAB Kargo

Luqman is a man on a mission. From Kuala Lumpur where he is based, he flies into Singapore for a full day of intense meetings, and then he has to leave for the airport where he has to catch a flight back. It is on the way back to Changi Airport, in a car no less, which I managed to catch hold of Luqman for an interview. To me, Luqman has the common touch and a clear vision of what he wants to achieve for MAB Kargo. And this is a lethal combination that will surely help him galvanize and motivate the whole team to propel the company forward.


As CEO, what is your personal vision for MAB Kargo?


The airline is facing challenging times. However, we are now focusing on being more efficient in passenger planes as we believe in a combination of belly cargo and cargo planes is the way ahead. My goal is to bring back the company to profitability. Earlier last year, we had reorganization and a change of operating system and staff needed time to adapt to it. So this year, as we settled down, we are moving forward to achieving profits. Also, as we are not big, we have to find a niche to be relevant in the industry. Additionally, at this stage, I want to find and nurture new leaders so that together, we can take the company to the next level.


You have spent three years studying in Syracuse University in New York, US. In what way has this experience shaped you into the person that you are now?


The experience impacted me on how I look at issues. I learned to have a broad mindset, to be more objective and not to be emotional when making decisions. In a way, it helps me now in my role as CEO as I have to make many strategic decisions. Also, being an Asian, this overseas experience gave me in-depth knowledge on the different culture in the US and this helps me when I have to meet international partners.


You started off as a project executive and now you are the CEO. What factors contributed to your career progression?


For one, I have a very supportive family; my wife and four children. Ever since I took up this position, she had sacrificed her own career to become a homemaker. This enables me to be more focus in what I am doing because I am reassured in the knowledge that my family is being taken good care of by my wife full time. And of course, coming up through the rank and file helped me a lot to understand intimately the fundamentals of the company. I get to interact with many of the staff and to know the challenges and issues they faced. Th is in a way prepared me by giving me a context when I have to make decisions for the good of the company. For example, before I introduced a new policy or project, I could already see things from my staff ’s perspectives and this really helped me in making the final decision and then communicating to and motivating my staff to collectively achieve the objective.


However, on the other side of the coin, being a hands-on CEO makes me sometimes unable to let go of things and being too involved in the operational aspects whereas I should be spending my time of the strategic aspects. So I have to keep telling myself to let go! 2016 was the year when I had established a good team to help me execute and implement decisions and policies so that I could turn my attention to strategy.


I was born and raised in Selangor. I attended high school in Perak. I stayed in Negeri Sembilan when I started working. This period in my life helped me to be independent and gave me time to reflect on things. As you know, compare to Kuala Lumpur, there is nothing much to do in Negeri Sembilan and I spent a lot of time in reflection. So, being independent at a young age and learning to spend time reflecting and thinking helped me in my career.


Who is the one person that influenced you the most professionally?


It would be my previous boss, Datuk Ong Jyh Jong. He provided me with the right environment and encouragement to succeed. I started off with the company on the technical side managing equipment etc. He gave me the opportunity to move beyond that into operations and sale.


Moving forward, what can we expect in 2017?


Our three Airbus 330-200F will be very involved in intra-Asia flights. The focus is on China as I think it is still the dominant market in the region. India is another market that we are focusing. We are entering the e-commerce sector as we want to be a niche player providing solutions to the market. As such, we understand the need to have capacity excess to Europe and the US. For this, we are working closely with partners like Silk Way West. Also, we are in discussions to find more like-minded parties to leverage on each other fleet and network to different regions of the world.


Organically, we are not looking to increase our fleet size from the present three 330-200F unless the industry dynamics drastically changed but I do not foresee that. We are looking at working closely with the right partners as we think that there is a lot of excess load capacity out there. The worldwide load factor is well below 50 percent. We just have to find the right partner with similar goal and direction.