For 33 years, the now 75-year-old Amos Wong, has dedicated his career to fostering Danish-Malaysian business relations. As the Executive Director of DanCham Malaysia (formerly known as the Malaysian Danish Business Council) since 2021, he is at the forefront of promoting trade, investment, and collaboration between the two countries.
“At the webinar where the Danish Embassy announced the closure of their mission in Malaysia in June 2021, the chairman of
MDBC, Alan Jensen mentioned briefly, that they were looking for an executive director, and I thought that sounded interesting,” Amos shares, from the small table, at the busy, local restaurant in Kuala Lumpur.
The Danish connection
Amos’ journey with Danish connections started with the Danish Embassy in Kuala Lumpur in 1971. His role as a marketing officer exposed him to the intricacies of Danish industries and laid the foundation for his career.
After retiring in 2004, his thirst for new challenges led him back to the job market. He got offered a position at another Nordic association, the Norwegian Trade Council, where he worked for two years before joining his brother’s company, organizing international conferences.
“I had only been retired for about a year, when the Norwegian trade council contacted me. I think they called themselves Innovation Norway. This woman I knew contacted me and said, they were looking for a commercial advisor, so I jumped on it,” he says, with a sweet an almost shy smile.
Through these experiences, Amos demonstrated his ability to adapt and excel in various roles. And with a long background in marketing and extensive experience working with Danish companies, Amos has become a fundamental link at DanCham in connecting businesses and driving growth.
After two years at Innovation Norway, Amos then embarked on a new adventure by joining his younger brother’s company AOS Conventions & Events. Specializing in inbound travel tours within Malaysia, the company also dabbled in outbound tours, particularly to popular destinations like Thailand.
Amos made the transition to his brother’s company, primarily focusing on organizing international conferences and congresses. His brother sought his assistance in managing a large-scale medical congress (FIGO World Congress of Gynecology 2006) that
required extensive marketing and coordination experience.
“After about 7 years at my brother’s company, I retired once again. In that connection I told him about my observations on the dynamics of the international meetings industry, which showed declining numbers due to more awareness of the “negative CO2 travel impact” of delegates attending such events, shorter duration and dwindling profits. So, I advised him to exit this business,” Amos shares, while looking down the table to grab his coffee.
His brother took his advice and closed AOS Conventions & Events, but kept the inbound travel and hotel business. This was until the pandemic struck, where the travel industry was among those taking the hardest hit. But at this point, Amos was living the life of a retired man for the third time.
The man behind revitalizing memberships
In July 2021, Amos embarked on his current role as the Executive Director of DanCham. His primary objective has been to expand the membership base and foster greater interaction among members. Stepping into this position during the pandemic posed unique challenges. Including those of restrictions on physical gatherings. However, Amos and his team quickly adapted by organizing virtual events to ensure continuity. As restrictions eased, they gradually reintroduced physical gatherings, facilitating meaningful connections among businesses.
“As most chambers, retaining and growing the number of members has its challenges. There are quite a few Danish companies in Malaysia, but not all of them are our members. Some of them have been members, but has since relinquished their membership. That is some of the challenges that I’m faced with at DanCham.”
To re-engage Danish companies and reinforce membership, a new approach has been adopted in collaboration with EuroCham. Existing EuroCham members from Denmark will retain their membership, while new members must first join DanCham before applying for EuroCham membership. This strategic collaboration ensures a stronger connection between the two chambers and facilitates seamless integration into the European business community.
Challenges and opportunities in Malaysia
Amos highlights the under appreciation of Malaysia as a business destination among Danish companies. The focus often falls on neighboring countries such as Singapore and Thailand, while Malaysia’s potential remains overlooked. Factors such as infrastructure, political stability, language and cost considerations play vital roles in companies’ decision-making processes.
Acknowledging the complexities of coordinating efforts across countries within the ASEAN region. Each nation possesses unique business niches, making it challenging to create streamlined collaborations. Danish companies often face the dilemma of choosing which countries to explore within the region, based on various factors such as incentives, infrastructure, language and political stability. Coordinating cross-border activities requires careful navigation and an understanding of each country’s distinct business and cultural environment. Something that Amos and DanCham focus on assisting with.
“We try to work together cross borders but it’s not that easy. Each Southeast Asian country has its own little niche and its own way of doing things, so it’s not easy to coordinate. Just the fact that we no longer have a Danish embassy here in Kuala Lumpur can be difficult sometimes. We then work with the Danish embassy in Jakarta, but Malaysian and Indonesian culture is very different, so miscommunication can happen,” Amos shares about the challenges of his position.
Looking back at the Danish adventures
Over the years, Amos has had the opportunity to explore Denmark extensively, visiting major cities and smaller towns alike. As part of his role, he promoted Danish environmental technologies in Malaysia under the DANCED/DANIDA partnership program, fostering sustainable practices and partnerships. He cherishes the memories of experiencing Denmark’s four distinct seasons, particularly the awe-inspiring beauty of autumn.
“I like Denmark. It’s very pleasant. Of course, I normally went during the best time of the year. I don’t go there during winter,” here shares with a sweet laugh.
“I still remember when I went there the first time in spring and I saw the branches starting to bloom and leaves starting to grow. It is very different from here, where it’s around 30 degrees all year round,” he adds with a blissful smile and sparkling eyes.
Remarkably, he still possesses clothing items from his Danish adventures, serving as reminders of the memories created.