Through thick and thin, E-Plus Entertainment Productions’ CEO Andrew Ching has seen it all. Although it is never an easy task to initiate a business start-up, the tenacious Ching has managed to pull through brilliantly and he believes that it requires a healthy mix of strategic planning, contemplation and foresight to achieve success. Speaking to Top 10 of Malaysia during a recent interview, Andrew Ching offers an insight into his business venture in the event management industry.
Born and bred in Malacca, Andrew Ching left his hometown for Kuala Lumpur to further his studies. He did his A levels at Taylor’s College but the course that he took had nothing to do with event management. He was, in fact, a pure science stream student. When asked of his choice, Ching says, “I don’t know what I was thinking then. I had hopes and dreams of becoming an aeronautical designer or something similar. Well, I guess at the end of the day that wasn’t my cup of tea.”
When Ching had only passed English in his examinations, he decided to quit college and he started selling cigarettes. However, he did manage to pursue a tertiary education qualification. “After much persuasion from a close friend, I took the challenge and went back to studying. I did my double degree in marketing and human resource management,” reveals Ching.
Ching funded his studies by working part time as a DJ. “As both my parents are teachers, they don’t make a lot. It often amazes me how they managed to bring up 3 kids.”
Ching’s interest in event management grew when he was doing a research on an events company as part of his final year project in the institution. “I found event management interesting. Not easy, but interesting.”
Upon graduating, Ching joined a PR agency owned by Dale Lokman, a Malaysian personality. “I started off writing press releases. I kept at it for some 3 years and then I realised I didn’t really like PR.” Ching was then offered a different role in the company – handling events. “I personally enjoy the back-stage works, just making sure all things are in place for the events.”
The Commonwealth Games ’98 was Ching’s final event with the company and he set out on his own as a freelancer after that. “It was a difficult time back then and I was about 25.” However, he is grateful for the opportunities that came his way. “I have travelled to many places to manage events and to do consulting work. I have spent months in some places and days for others, depending on the job.My work has taken me to places like Sweden, Finland, Germany, Japan, Korea and I have worked with stars such as Ricky Martin, The Moffatts, Black Eyed Peas and Linkin Park. It has been an amazing journey for me, I must say.”
After having been a freelancer in the event management industry for about 3 to 4 years, Ching decided to start a company of his own, drawing inspiration from the likes of Dale Lokman, Lim Goh Tong and Tony Fernandes.
Ching started E-Plus Entertainment Productions(E-Plus) with 3 friends and only RM50,000 in his bank account. Their first project was a street concert. “It’s like the carnivals you have these days but it was quite a challenge then to get the authorities to agree as it involves the closing of public roads,” he says. “Back then, we only had contracts were worth only thousands of ringgit as compared to the multi-million ones we have now.” Ching believes that negotiating terms and conditions as well as formalising matters beforehand is crucial in business settings
As the company started growing, Ching’s partners had to leave to attend to their own commitments. He had a tough time in 2008 where he encountered financial problems.“The biggest problem at that time was cash flow.We had to borrow money even though contracts were still coming in but we also received support from understanding suppliers who helped us pull through. Today, I take pride in that we do not owe anybody as we have repaid all our borrowings,” says Ching.
As time goes by, Ching finds himself a little anxious about when the next contract job will turn up. “We are fortunate to have three to four events to work on in a month. But despite that, we also need to have something more sustainable in the longer term.” That was when Ching entertained the thought of getting the company listed as well as expanding across the region.
He has thus far carried the company’s presence into Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia and Hong Kong, with Thailand next. “You would need financiers who share the same vision and believe in what you do. Only then will you be able to expand the business at a much quicker pace,” says Ching.
Given the success that E-Plus has achieved, there will always be the envious who will try to bring it down. “I have to contend with adverse publicity about my company which isn’t true. Nevertheless, I see the industry as a piece of cake that is large enough for everyone to have a fair share,” says Ching.
His biggest achievement, according to Ching, was when he has to put up a show within 7 days. “We had to start from ground zero and had to race against time as well. With only 7 days to complete the job, I needed to rely heavily on the networking and close ties that we have built over the years with business associates and suppliers alike and I’m thankful for that. These are the people who have helped complete the work within the short time frame for the event to materialize,” shares Ching.Another notable achievement was his Melaka Art and Performance Festival where he partnered with Tony Yap, a dancer and artistic director. The festival saw about 60 international artists performed at various historical spots in Melaka over a period of three days. “It all started with a casual chat over ‘teh tarik’ and the next thing we knew was that it became a reality,” recalls Ching.
When asked of the company’s future direction, Ching hopes to get his company more and more into the international arena as well as getting more international names into the business. “Event management is about job satisfaction. Some do it for money, some for the travelling side of it while others simply do it for the sake of putting smiles on the faces of people. But, essentially you have to love what you are doing so that you don’t have to work a day in your life,” smiles Ching. That aside, integrity is also an important factor in the industry. “You can deliver beyond expectations but you must never make outsized promises,” he stresses.