Tomei: Adapting to disruption with a digital makeover

Tomei: Adapting to disruption with a digital makeover

Liong Sze Jin, CTO at Tomei, discusses the gold and jewellery retailer’s 5-year digital transformation strategy and how it has helped to drive resilience

Homegrown in Malaysia’s capital of Kuala Lumpur, Tomei Consolidated Berhad (Tomei) is a leading jewellery manufacturer, wholesaler, and retailer in the country. Founded in 1968, Tomei has 22 subsidiaries and operates five jewellery brands with 60 outlets.  

“Tomei is uniquely positioned in the market due to its product designs, superior quality and refined craftsmanship. Translated to English, the word ‘Tomei’ means ‘an abundance of beauty’, which reflects our promise to create beautiful and evergreen jewellery masterpieces,” says Liong, CTO at Tomei. 

Spearheading the digital transformation journey in a bid to help Tomei reach new heights and evolve with the use of technology, Liong reflects on the impact of COVID-19 on the organisation. 

“The pandemic has forced Tomei to evolve and move online like many other retail brands that traditionally relied on brick-and-mortar stores,” Liong explains.

He adds: “The challenge for us was to make sure that we had the right processes and systems in place to meet the fast-changing business needs. This is where we started to embark on our five-year digital transformation journey.”

Tasked with navigating the radical shifts in business operations, Liong explains that, within a short time, the organisations was forced to digitalise. “We were forced to relook at our technology systems and solutions, identifying new ways of working that are more robust, scalable and adaptable to fast-paced, changing needs,” says Liong.

Whilst in need of an upgrade, Liong emphasises the importance of ensuring Tomei’s legacy systems continue to be functional alongside its new environments. “We are a huge group, we can’t change everything overnight, so it has to be done right,” explains Liong. “This tasked us with the challenge of reworking our internal processes to accommodate the changes we are making, while ensuring that we continue to generate cost savings and bring in the right kind of talent.”

He adds: “The pandemic has clearly demonstrated our need to transform; we need to go digital. However, we need to ensure that, in these uncertain times, we are doing so in a cost-efficient manner. We also need to ensure that we develop a workforce that has the right skills to drive our digital transformation journey.

“We can do both of these by exploring as many technologies and solutions as possible to ensure that we gain the best value in terms of ROI, and by building strong partnerships that we leverage to find the right people.”

Five years of transformation

Embarking on its five-year digital transformation in 2021, the first year of Tomei’s roadmap was centred around setting the foundations. “This is where we started to look at infrastructure technologies to support us in our journey, and allow us to evolve quickly.”

Today, Tomei is one-third through its journey. “We are now actively focusing in eCommerce, leveraging multiple channels to sell our products online. We are also looking to improve our customer experience – both online and in-store – with the use of technology to create a more personalised customer journey,” says Liong.

“Another part of our digital transformation is to achieve operational excellence. This is where we have started to adopt technologies such as robotic process automation (RPA), digital workflows, and custom-built solutions to simplify, automate and reengineer our operations to be more streamlined, cost-efficient and effective. It is this key initiative that will be vital in us overcoming a number of challenges.”

One of the most significant pieces of technology that Tomei has adopted is the Microsoft Azure Stack HCI – one of the most cost-efficient, hyper-converged infrastructure solutions on the market. “This infrastructure provides us with the robustness and flexibility to scale when the need arises. The best thing about this technology is its simplicity due to it being a single, unified solution to manage all elements of compute, storage and network in an environment that is familiar to most of us, Microsoft Windows,” says Liong.

Other solutions Tomei has adopted from Microsoft include Azure Site Recovery which essentially is disaster recovery on the cloud. “This has allowed us to provide disaster recovery in the most cost-efficient manner, instead of spending large amounts of money and resources building a new data centre at our disaster recovery site,” says Liong.

“We have also implemented RPA technology from an operations perspective using Microsoft Power Automate to automate the labour-intensive processes. The outcome has been encouraging; we have seen a massive reduction in error rates because we no longer rely on humans typing in data, and we have also seen an increase in the speed of execution.” 

He adds: “From a customer perspective, we are exploring the use of RFID and business intelligence technologies to bridge the customer experience between our physical and online stores. In particular, we are looking at how we can use RFID to analyse our customers’ experience in the hopes that we will be able to better understand our customers and their needs to drive more customer-centric product creation.”

The next 12-to-18 months promise to be interesting times for Liong at Tomei: “I believe this is because we will be more than halfway through our digital transformation journey.” 

He adds: “It will be really interesting to see how all the hard work and effort come together, and the reality of the implementations. Over the next 12 months, we will be focusing on implementation on the customer experience side of things for our digital transformation phase. 

“It will be exciting to see how our customers respond to our digital implementations and to be able to see what works with our customers and what doesn’t. So we are really excited to see how technology can be used to elevate the customer experience to a whole new level.”

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