29 Nov 2017 06:59:06 PM

CEO of Decathlon Malaysia on taking the field in a new market

Tom Meng, CEO of Decathlon Malaysia outside the first Decathlon outlet in Malaysia
When sports retail giant Decathlon laid out its Southeast Asia expansion plans, Tom Meng, then the CEO of Decathlon France and Spain immediately raised his hand to take on the Malaysia market. The Decathlon brand, though well established in China and India, had yet to make its mark in Malaysia. Tom, an entrepreneur at heart knew a winning challenge when he saw it, and was excited at the prospect of a new market.
"I wanted to start something up myself," Tom, now the CEO of Decathlon Malaysia shares with us in his office in Kuala Lumpur. In June 2016, Tom and his core Service Team launched the first Decathlon store, an impressive outlet spanning 27,000 square feet in Bandar Sri Damansara. A second outlet in USJ quickly followed a year later, bringing the Store Team – essentially the sales team's headcount to a total of 80.
Tom Meng, CEO of Decathlon Malaysia with Minister of International Trade and Industry YB Dato' Sri Mustapa Bin Muhamed during his visit to the first Decathlon outlet in Malaysia
Yet the Service Team that runs the back office remains a small headcount of 7. This unconventional shift in running Decathlon Malaysia’s retail operations had a positive effect on its team - with such transparency, employees feel safe and comfortable to approach the management. This translates to better teamwork, crucial to any retail business.

With a career that brought him around the world, we asked Tom if he faced new challenges when setting up shop in Malaysia.

"Malaysia is like a bridge between the East and the West," says Tom.
Because of its multicultural population, I feel that Malaysians are more open minded – more international if you will, which makes it easier to introduce new and different things.”
He adds, "It is also really easy to do business here as almost everyone speaks fluent English!"

According to Tom, the Malaysia market was even more receptive to the Decathlon brand than he had anticipated, with the amount of revenue by store ratio hitting the same average as outlets in Singapore, despite the difference in exchange rate. He also compliments the infrastructure and high development pace in Kuala Lumpur, stating it among the best in Southeast Asia.
Tom Meng and his team at the launch of Decathlon's Team Shareholding System
As a TalentCorp Residence Pass-Talent holder, Tom appreciates the stability that the initiative provides for him and his family, and found it easy to settle into the lifestyle in Malaysia.
This is the best country for my kids to grow up. It is safe, accessible, and still provides them with international exposure through their schooling.”
The Decathlon Malaysia team is working on launching their third outlet in Shah Alam, and they aim to hit a total of 60 stores over the next 10 years. Tom is positive that Malaysia has the perfect climate for continuous growth, stating that the combination of friendly people and good infrastructure makes Malaysia a great place to be.

"I really like Malaysia because of the harmony," he concludes.
This is not just between the different cultures and races, but also between its modern development and traditional roots. There is a good balance here.”

Tom Meng is the CEO of Decathlon Malaysia. He has worked across Asia and Europe with Decathlon over the past 15 years. His move to Malaysia was facilitated by TalentCorp’s Residence Pass-Talent initiative. To find out more on how you can attain a 10-year visa in Malaysia, visit https://rpt.talentcorp.com.my/