How a woman leader plans to revolutionize a male-dominated logistics sector

Get to know Helen Ng.

With only a fewer women employed in the logistics sector, some may think that working in this industry may be more difficult for women than men. Some may be even convinced that women need to show higher performance in order to receive the same amount of recognition and be more considered for management positions than their male counterparts with equivalent qualifications. This negativity is hoped to change with the coming of the first female chair in Asia's regional industry body for self-storage.

Singapore-based General Storage Co., takes pride of having its very own Helen Ng appointed as the new Chairperson of Self Storage Association Asia (SSAA). Helen, who is currently the Chief Executive Officer of the firm which operates self-storage facilities in Singapore under the Lock+Store brand, is the first female Chair of the group.

Singapore Business Review caught up with Helen to talk about what she will do differently.

What makes you excited about your new position?
Being appointed the first female Chair of Self-Storage Association Asia (SSAA) is an important milestone for me. The logistics sector is still dominated by men. This is an exciting development that coincides with the call for more gender diversity in the boardroom.

What three goals are you focused on?
I will focus on raising visibility of the SSAA especially our accreditation programme that ensures industry benchmarking to safeguard consumers' interests. One of our programme's priorities is to strengthen our members' commitment to fire prevention and public safety standards. Next, I would like to help our members gain valuable insights into the industry and growth opportunities such as the 4Ds (death, divorce, density and dislocation) and the rise of e-commerce in Asia, through networking sessions and other interactive platforms, online or offline. Finally, I would like to promote the use of technology and software to achieve greater operational efficiency and as a value product offering to help our storers, especially our E-commerce storers with their order fulfilment, for example. Even as Singapore aims to be a Smart Nation, Self-Storage has to be just as "smart".

What will you do differently in this position?
That's an interesting question. The outgoing Chair has done a great job bringing the leading self-storage operators together. I would like to further strengthen the synergies between the different operators and help the smaller players find their footing, either in the form of a merger with a leading player or developing a unique product identity that would ensure their survival.

What changes are you planning for?
I am planning for a more consumer-oriented outreach, including a comprehensive membership registry on our website with a visual map of our members' facilities throughout Asia and their different offerings, a thematic online showcase of the different aspects of self-storage such as wine storage, office space, air con/ non-air con storage units, etc., and consumer insights surveys at the Asia Pacific level driven by the SSAA. I am definitely keen to open up the conversation about women in the logistics industry and push for greater diversity in the self-storage industry through various speaking platforms.

What are your key business philosophies?
Competition is healthy. Competition gives consumers more choices and pushes one to innovate new, exciting product offerings. Diligence, inventiveness and perseverance are key to achieving enduring success and carving up a superior brand name.

What previous positions prepared you for this one and how?
I come from a background in property development. I took over the Lock+Store business from real estate developer Mapletree in November 2010. Prior to this, I was part of the AngOon Hue Pte Ltd senior management team which developed Greenview Mansion, a new property catering to long-term housing needs in the north of Singapore. I was in charge of Human Resource, Business Development and Marketing. Concurrently, the company took over the management of and turned around Sembawang Shopping Centre which was then sold to CapitalMall Trust in 2003. From 2004 to 2005, I oversaw the expansion of the Food and Beverage arm of Comfort Perth City Hotel in Australia and the construction of an additional carpark block. Today, it is a thriving three-star business hotel.

Anything else you'd like to add?
Self-storage is entering an exciting new phase with the accelerating pace of global economic migration. The opportunities are there but we must understand our consumers' needs first - right down to the ideal storage unit size and preferred storage timeframe for the different demographic groups. By coming together and sharing insights, we can serve our customers better and bring the industry to greater heights. That's really our aim at SSAA.

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