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73.Venturing Beyond Borders with Harry: A Techie’s Journey to E-commerce Success

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Podcast with Harry Hazhrul Part 2

Podcast with Harry Hazhrul Part 2


Join Harry Hazhrul on a captivating podcast journey as heshares his transition from a software engineer to a product manager at Lazada and his leap to a new venture in Saudi Arabia with Cenomi. Discover the motivations that drove him to pursue higher education, the challenges of being a single breadwinner, and the potential for digital transformation in the
booming e-commerce industry of Southeast Asia. Brace yourself for insights into
the intense world of e-commerce and the exciting possibilities that lie ahead.

In this podcast with Harry Hazhrul, he discusses his journeyfrom being a software engineer in Adelaide to working in product management at Lazada and his decision to pursue further education. He shares that Lazada was a more intense experience and despite financial temptations, he decided to move to Saudi Arabia for a new venture with Cenomi. Overcoming challenges, including being a single breadwinner, he decided to relocate with his family for the
opportunities in Saudi Arabia. Harry also talks about the state of e-commerce
in Southeast Asia and the potential for digital transformation in the industry.
While there are signs of progress, he believes there is still room for further
advancements in automation and technology within the region's e-commerce

[00:00:00] Andrew Liew: How was it different than likeback in the days when you were doing Adelaide and what job were you taking and
then later on when you were doing product management and Lazada, like how was
it different

[00:00:07] Harry Hazhrul: then?

[00:00:08] Harry Hazhrul: I think Lazada was moreintense. That's for sure. So it was a lot more difficult. I would say. Back
when I was doing Adelaide, I was a software engineer, a single software
engineer, right? Actually, I've got a lot of free time, but I, my head just
wasn't in the game I was unmotivated. I wanted to do it just because I wanted
to fulfill the criteria of having a degree, but do I really need a degree?

[00:00:30] Harry Hazhrul: I'm already on the pathway ofgetting senior software engineer, all that, blah, blah, blah, right? Do I
really need it? I am spending more money to do it. So all these considerations
came to mind, wasn't really that motivated. And back then online, online study
wasn't available. Yeah. So you had to go to school on, the weekend.

[00:00:47] Harry Hazhrul: So you are seven days a weekgone. So as a young adult who was looking at his friends all enjoying the
weekends and I'm like, oh my, this is not fun. So, eventually dropped out oh my
not all fit. I'm still doing business. I'm earning good money. [00:01:00] Why I want to do this? No need lah.

[00:01:01] Andrew Liew: So

[00:01:02] Harry Hazhrul: when,

[00:01:03] Harry Hazhrul: the opportunity came for me toupgrade.

[00:01:05] Harry Hazhrul: And take stock. I said, okay, Iwanted to make sure that my, my children looked up to their father and so that,
Hey my dad went to uni, my mom went to uni, I should also go to uni. Not,
saying that uni is for everybody but. At the very least, right? You're doing
your job as, a parent.

[00:01:21] Harry Hazhrul: Okay? I'm, doing it for mykids. So every time I, felt unmotivated when, I was doing my master's, right?
And, there were times you going feel like it, I just need to look at this
little human and say, okay, that's enough motivation for me. I'm going to do
it. You know what I mean?

[00:01:34] Harry Hazhrul: All right. So, the motivationhad to come from somewhere and it came from my family. I, knew that when, I
look into those little bitty eyes, yes, I need to work hard on this degree so
that when I graduate and he is good enough to understand and tell him about
this story, he will be motivated to do it.

[00:01:51] Harry Hazhrul: So that's, the lesson that Iwish to impart to my children that he, you know the reasons why you should get
a degree in life. Maybe [00:02:00] sometimessome people give you a degree. But what I wanted to impart to them was you
should try it anyway, because a degree gives you a lot more mobility than you

[00:02:09] Harry Hazhrul: Yeah. So let's say you want toemigrate out and we will talk about that. Let's say you want to emigrate out,
you need a degree, right? Every other country, immigration rules are, you need
to have a degree. No matter who you are lah. Okay, you need to have a degree.
No degree, no visa.

[00:02:25] Andrew Liew: After that, like, how do youcontinue your path at Lazada and eventually how you got discovered to Cenomi,

[00:02:31] Harry Hazhrul: Good question. SMI hired arecruiter to hit hand for people to come into the company. It's a new venture
in Saudi Arabia. So SMI is a new name. They, were formally called for us at
it's a, you could say traditional name for a Saudi company, la they, they're
publicly register company in Saudi Arabia, and they, treat the two companies
they are a retail giant, so you could say they're, like the capital land of

[00:02:55] Harry Hazhrul: Ah, so the, own a lot ofshopping malls in [00:03:00] Saudi Arabia andthe wanted to revolutionize. Themselves with the liberalization that was
happening in Saudi Arabia, a lot of certain things are happening there, right?
They're modernizing their economy, the diversity economy, and they want to go
to digitalization.

[00:03:15] Harry Hazhrul: For us, I will care, decidedthis time to go out or Saudi. You already in a few places actually across the
Middle East region and a bit of. In the former, Soviet states, the, their
presence in, in, in some of these spaces but decided to rebrand under a more
European sounding name, right?

[00:03:33] Harry Hazhrul: So, few months ago, they wererebranded as Cenomi. Okay. So how I was hit hunted, basically the recruiter. So
that my profile it into what do you want it? There was some entrepreneurship
background as well, right? So again, back to the entrepreneurship story. Do you
liked it? I had done entrepreneurship before, and because this, was a new
venture, they needed people of that sort of mindset or background experience or
quality [00:04:00] to, to join Sunami.

[00:04:01] Harry Hazhrul: They wanted people that hadentrepreneurism as a background, right? And I also done Lazada. I think Lazada
was quite a gift for me. That once you, join us, that was a good name to have
on your CV. Now that I've been part of Alibaba and Alibaba is another good name
to have on your CV, right?

[00:04:17] Harry Hazhrul: They thought that it fit intothe mode of what they wanted to do, where they wanted to build. But I was
comfortable in Azada. It's a good company. Why did I want to leave? It was
almost two years in. And frankly it wasn't Easy to make that decision, right?

[00:04:33] Harry Hazhrul: Even though they throw money atme. They literally throw money at me. Oh, wow. This is

[00:04:36] Andrew Liew: quite a jump.

[00:04:37] Harry Hazhrul: Yeah. Middle East, they'regoing to throw money again.

[00:04:40] Andrew Liew: They must have thrown a lot ofmoney for you. Yeah. Yeah. They must have thrown a lot of money, right? So it
was tempting.

[00:04:45] Harry Hazhrul: But money shouldn't be the onlyreason. If you wanted to. Jump across it was a very big one literally
everything yourself to another country, not like going to Malaysia, going to
Indonesia. Yes, I have to migrate. So I, was actually finding reasons to say
no. [00:05:00] Hey I'm, already feelingcomfortable. That's why I don't want to move. I, felt that I was on the good
track. I was doing a lot of good projects. My profile was getting more. Visible
with the CEO and everything. It, it didn't make sense that I should want to
move but I decided this seems like interesting offer because it's new. And I
like building things from scratch. So it it gave me a reason to be interested.
Oh yeah it's, a new endeavor. And of course other reasons it's in Saudi. And
I'm a Muslim, right?

[00:05:30] Harry Hazhrul: And there are religiousopportunities there for me that wasn't available to me if I stayed in
Singapore. For example, when I'm in Saudi, I could do my small pilgrimage, my
Umrah anytime I want. Yes. And I would follow the whole course. And that makes
sense to me. I know I've, done Umrah once.

[00:05:46] Harry Hazhrul: It was not very cheap. To dothat when you're traveling right from another country and I could do my heart I
think once or twice every five years So if you're a resident in saudi you could
do your heart once [00:06:00] or twice everyfive years So there's a quota still but i'm there. I don't longer need to go
under singapore Quota and singapore quota is only 800 a year And the queue is
for 30 years, so I'm inside the queue already, but my queue is 20 years from
today, so I have to wait, bro.

[00:06:15] Andrew Liew: But like, when your wholefamily... When your whole family uproot from Singapore to Saudi, that means
you'll be on a single breadwinner family. I What are your concerns about

[00:06:23] Harry Hazhrul: that? Have you thought aboutthat? That's, true. That's true. That's true. So the, open needed to make
sense. He, needed to literally double my income, right?

[00:06:31] Harry Hazhrul: Yeah. Yeah. My I, had to hold afamily conference and have a chat about it. My and my, wife also. And in quite
well, she was an educator she was teaching at RGS. Oh! Yeah. So our, profile
was quite strong for Malay family, lah. Doing well at Lazada, she was doing
well at an elite school.

[00:06:52] Harry Hazhrul: And for us to move it needed tomake sense financially as well. It, did make financial sense. And it was
enough. I, [00:07:00] even when you includerenting out my house I, would make quite a good sum of money with passive
income on the side. You make sense. But my wife said that for the first few
years, the priority will be the family.

[00:07:13] Harry Hazhrul: She'll stay at home taking careof the family putting kids to school. She's also she wants to work. So, while
she's taking a pause in, the ministry of education, she decided to switch from
teaching Malay to teaching English. So she's she's just completing her studies
to be teaching English for adults, right?

[00:07:32] Harry Hazhrul: Under Cambridge. So, then shecould start teaching English in Saudi, right? Which means a lot of sense,
right? Okay. That, that, that sounds like a plan. So although for a while
maybe, a year, maybe two years it would be under a single income. That year
onwards, probably she would start to find work opportunities and because she's
an educator, apparently it's easy for people with education background to land
teaching jobs.

[00:07:58] Harry Hazhrul: Because it's in demand you [00:08:00] need teachers, right? Yes. And my, with mywife's background who. Has taught in a lot of places and the last being at RGS.
I think that's a good profile to have I think it's quite good to go into
International schools there With that kind of background, right?

[00:08:15] Harry Hazhrul: We thought about it. Okay. It'sa yes for her and that was frankly the last Why did you say speed bump that I
needed to overcome because I was already looking for the notes, right? The
money needed to make sense the money made a lot of sense. So it wasn't a no
there I needed to move my family, right?

[00:08:33] Harry Hazhrul: And I and we'll be singleincome for a while. I need to ask my wife about it. We had a chat And she was
also in our good career power. So she also had to pause her career, right?
Yeah, what if she said no if she said no, there's no

[00:08:45] Andrew Liew: So, she said, yes. Oh, okay.Okay. That

[00:08:48] Harry Hazhrul: was the second. I was trying tolook around, but you became a yes.

[00:08:50] Harry Hazhrul: Okay. Yes. Then the last oneactually trying to get the blessings from our family. So when we talk to our
parents and we all said yes, then there was the time when I [00:09:00] decided let's do this. That's let's give acall and agree to put. I'm now in the midst of getting my visa. I should be
getting my visa today or tomorrow.

[00:09:09] Harry Hazhrul: And then hopefully next weekI'll be flying out to Riyadh. And continue my work that I've already started
work remotely, but now I, need to be physically yeah doing, quite incredible
things over there.

[00:09:21] Andrew Liew: Yeah. So let's go to the nextinteresting question. Because considering that you've been in the e commerce
world for a long time, what is your view on the state of e commerce in
Southeast Asia or around the whole world today?

[00:09:36] Andrew Liew: What is your view and what isabout the state of digital transformation within e commerce?

[00:09:40] Harry Hazhrul: So I think we start withSoutheast Asia the since C, group or choppy. I had a lot of layoffs recently,
right? I think that's felt that the e commerce wasn't so stable for a moment.

[00:09:52] Harry Hazhrul: Adibaba was at a dip for awhile. Surprisingly within Singapore, at least within Singapore, right? There
weren't as many layoffs in e commerce. I think Amazon had [00:10:00] it. Amazon Singapore had it Shopee hadsomebody quite number layoffs I think, but Lazada, group c o actually came and
said, we're not gonna have any layoffs.

[00:10:08] Harry Hazhrul: So despite that, actually a lotof people left Lazada because TikTok was growing fast. Oh, yes. And yeah. And
they were like, Coaching everyone. Oh, okay.

[00:10:17] Harry Hazhrul: and people who were at Lazadawho were actually also quite comfortable, they offered like 30% and so on. I,
think despite the instability in Southeast Asia, when you talk about
e-commerce, And then it also is mirrors what you have across all around the
world, right? What we, are just facing the same the same waves that's triggered
in the US when Amazon started, laying off, Google started laying off Meta
started laying off, right?

[00:10:46] Harry Hazhrul: We're just feeling those, wavescoming through. And then as a result, of course, you will see someday also
Singapore but E commerce in Southeast Asia, and in particular Singapore, is
actually dominated by the China companies. So guys like TikTok, ByteDance,
right? Lazada, [00:11:00] Alibaba, and even ifyou say Shopee is a Singaporean company a lot of it is still influenced by

[00:11:07] Harry Hazhrul: Because they do have a lot ofheadcount in Shenzhen as well. And, even though Forest Lee is, Singaporean, he
was actually Chinese, right? And therefore his compatriots were mostly people
from China. So there was a lot of influence, like I think Southeast Asian e
commerce definitely a lot of influence from Alibaba and Gang, right?

[00:11:27] Harry Hazhrul: After I think the Chinesegovernment's shakeup of e commerce in China, They started diversifying outside
of China. Alibaba put more investment into Alatata, I think last year, almost
up to 1 billion. Yeah. So you know that e commerce in Southeast Asia, despite
the layoffs from shopping from Amazon is actually getting more exciting.

[00:11:49] Harry Hazhrul: The, stakes just got a littlebit more. Is it because it's

[00:11:52] Andrew Liew: a growth market or is it becausethere's more potential for new technology to come in? Which one is the stronger
thing that you think?

[00:11:58] Harry Hazhrul: It's both it's both I [00:12:00] think. The market is hasn't, reached itsfull potential yet, right?

[00:12:03] Harry Hazhrul: You talk about Southeast Asiaas a market, it's fragmented as right? With Indonesia being the most dominant,
and it's also where the focus of the battle will be. I think for, a moment,
Shopee had, a head start, but now after the, they receded back a bit and TikTok
now is rising, but we've, won bill coming in from Alibaba to Lanzarote this.

[00:12:23] Harry Hazhrul: This battle is really juststarting to shape up, right? So, in terms of the digital transformation after
observing what I've seen in Southeast Asia, there's still not a lot of digital
transformation yet. It is in pieces here and there, okay? It is in pieces here
and there. You do have your conveyor systems and whatnot, but conveyor systems
are old technology.

[00:12:45] Harry Hazhrul: Not many have the robotics thatyou, would like to see that Alibaba has, for example, in China, right? With
those robots, like those robots, whatever that Alibaba, that Amazon has
probably in the U S they don't do the same thing [00:13:00]across the board. So what in China doesn't necessarily get imitated here in
Southeast Asia.

[00:13:06] Harry Hazhrul: So it's still pretty old schoolbecause labor is cheap. So why do they need to invest too much in technology?
Don't you don't need that? Because technology is expensive, right? So you can
still do that. They will do that until you make no sense. So Singapore, I think
probably because our debit is not so cheap.

[00:13:23] Harry Hazhrul: There is some automation there.So we have the conveyance and whatnot. And our our networks are a lot more
tighter when we onboard people like NinjaBand who is one of our TPOs, we
insisted they have computer systems, right? And, NinjaBand also took time to
build up their digitization capabilities.

[00:13:40] Harry Hazhrul: Of course, they also raisedmoney from Alibaba. In order for them to grow their network as well as the
digital capabilities, they have a lot of engineers, right? but it's not just
engineering from their software perspective or Server perspective, they also
need to digitize in terms of their supply chain operations, their warehouse
operations, which [00:14:00] really only In thepast year really started to take a move the needle has started to move because
even before that, we didn't really have a lot of automation. Yeah. So now, that
they have obvious, coming in into, YouTube company, they do, they have started
to automate and it's, no progress, but I think it's getting there.

[00:14:18] Harry Hazhrul: Yeah. Yeah, so I thinkparticularly for Southeast Asia it's still pretty basic for now from a tech
point of view. But I think it will be, it will get there, it will get there
once the metrics are to make sense for for, the boards for, those for the, for
management to, to make that decision.

[00:14:36] Harry Hazhrul: When you're facing this kind ofcompetition, it is very stiff. I think it's inevitable, that you need to
automate as much as you can. One and when, your organization becomes more
engineering focus yeah you, although one engineer equals to maybe three people
on the ground, but it's short term thinking. This one engineer would see if you
distribute people on the ground one year from now, right? Because that engineer
could [00:15:00] build better systems to toautomate a lot more things than you do that labor one year from now. I see it
happening across these TikTok Nazada and Shopee, they are really starting to
take a look at, more automation and changing things up on the ground.