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A woman on a mission to transform the male-dominated telco infrastructure industry
Published:  Apr 6, 2022 3:00 AM
Updated: 3:00 AM

Women in traditionally male-dominated fields such as engineering, construction, finance, and telecommunication (telco) industries often face a difficult hurdle.

However, for Samantha Hui Wai Woon, a 35-year-old female who is the director and shareholder of HB Infrastructures & Technologies Sdn Bhd (HBIT), a 75% owned subsidiary of HB Global Limited, it is her mission to transform the male-dominated telco industry. 

“My passion in the business is mainly due to my father's influence who had operated the telco business for more than 20 years. I have a close relationship with my father, who founded the business, and I picked up a lot of knowledge from him on the industry. But it wasn’t until my father’s health status turned red that I officially took over his business in 2015. To be honest, it was a difficult start, given the male-dominated industry. There are many perceived stereotypes about women, but eventually, I have managed to convince my counterparts and clients that I am the woman for the job. It took a lot of courage and passion for a woman to succeed in a male-dominated industry, and I intend to put a dent in the men’s club,” Samantha said. In 2021, Samantha was invited by HB Global Limited, a public listed company to be one of directors and shareholders for HB Infrastructures & Technologies Sdn Bhd (HBIT) to run its telco business due to her dynamic leadership.

Indeed, Samantha has managed to steer HBIT to greater heights by focusing on services and products in civil infrastructure construction for the telco industry. 

HBIT is one of the key local players that offers services to test the readiness of base transceiver station (BTS), usage of fibre pulling, and telecom implementation (TI). 

Aside from that, the company is also involved in the manufacturing of telco pole where telco towers are in the planning and testing stage. 

“We are working with local partners for the fabrication works and dealing with professional parties such as PE consultants to design and endorse the telco structure. This is vital to ensure that the structure is safe and competent,” Samantha added. 

According to Samantha, it is important to collaborate with local partners on these works to transform the telco industry, especially on the perception of local and foreign expertise. 

She said that her experience as a woman in the industry is similar to the local players that are being overlooked for jobs favouring foreign players deemed of better quality. 

“I think it is important for us as local players to collaborate on bigger projects. There are always a perception in terms of quality and services, but just like how I believe in gender equality, I think it is important for local players to be offered such opportunities,” Samantha added. 

Indeed, HBIT is a well-known local player and have the likes of Dynamic Telecommunication Sdn Bhd and OCK Setia Engineering Sdn Bhd as their clients. Both the two companies are main contractors for well-known telco operators in the country. 

5G Opportunities and Challenges

Looking forward, Samantha is excited over the prospect for HBIT, especially with the planned rollout of the 5G network in Malaysia. 

The government has announced that Malaysia will proceed with its 5G rollout via its Single Wholesale Network (SWN) model operated by Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB). The government has agreed to offer 70% of equity holding within DNB to telco companies whereas the government will hold the remaining 30%. 

With the clarity of the structure for the business model, Samantha is expecting to see more installation works for the rollout of 5G nationwide. 

“We are expecting more jobs and installation works for the coming years. We have also participated in some of Maxis and NFP sites that are involved in the construction of the telco infrastructure for the rollout of 5G,” Samantha said. 

Amidst the strong demand for its products and services, Samantha said that HBIT had set a target of RM3.5 million in revenue for this year as well as a 15% growth in 2023. Aside from that, the management has the ambition to achieve a gross profit margin of 28% and 33% for 2022 and 2023, respectively. 

While the outlook for HBIT is exciting with the rollout of 5G nationwide, Samantha said that the growth ahead is not without risks and challenges especially given the current inflationary environment. 

“One of the key risks is the rising commodity prices that are hurting our margin. This is as we engaged with our main customers based on a fixed pricing contract, and with the surge in prices, this could have a deteriorating impact on our year-end profit margin,” she added. 

According to her, HBIT has taken proactive measures to mitigate the risk. 

Some of the key measures undertaken by the management include a better mix of products and services. This includes a focus on manpower supply services. 

Aside from that, Samantha added that the management is in constant communication with the clients and have a mutual understanding of the current cost issues.

“Our relationships with our clients are in a good position to help us review the contract price issue. Given our track record, most of our clients understand the situation, and this also helps to ensure the supply chain within the telco industry remains healthy,” she said. 

Samantha also saw the inflationary environment as an opportunity for HBIT to win market share. According to her, in a competitive environment, HBIT stands out as a competitive local player and gains a firm foothold in the industry. 

Aside from the rising costs, another challenge faced by HBIT is the labour shortages issue, especially in the post-COVID world. 

“Labour shortage issue has affected the industry regarding the delivery on work. We are not exempted from these challenges, but I am glad that we have widened our vendor database at a much earlier period, allowing us to engage with sub-contractors for installation works. This helps us to solve some of our labour issues. 

“On the other hand, we are also seeking suitable new team members and providing proper in-house training as part of our contingency plan,” Samantha said. 

With an exciting journey ahead, Samantha is undoubtedly going to have a busy year as she aims to drive a seamless vertical integration in the entire telco value chain. Her rise in prominence within HB Global Ltd, a main market-listed company on Bursa Malaysia, is also another exciting path to look ahead.

This content is provided by Aegis Communication Sdn Bhd.

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