In our sublime strife for progress, we often disregard the fact that passion acts as a catalyst to the composition of our success and as the fuel to our fire wherein the creation of transcendent ideas take place. To leverage this passion, and turn it into profits and goodwill, is a quality which an efficient business leader possesses. One such passion driven leader, who has marked her presence in the micro-mobility sector of Asia, is Jin-Ni Gan, the Founder and CEO of Telepod.
Shortlisted as a nominee of Forbes 30 Under 30 (2019), Jin-Ni has always been a visionary leader. She has fostered strong track records for Telepod by establishing partnerships with governments and industry players to develop an international presence, thus being recognized as one of the top 8 micro-mobility players to watch by The Information. Jin-Ni holds a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering (Hons.) with Minor in Entrepreneurship from Nanyang Technological University and a Master’s in Transportation System & Management from National University of Singapore.
As a leader, Jin-Ni measures her success by her team’s performance and cohesiveness. In her opinion, a leader’s best asset is empathy. “It’s about being able to understand the challenges that your staff faced and communicating about problems and solutions clearly; It’s about being able to understand who you are serving and what are their pain points,” states Jin-Ni.
In the coming years, Jin-Ni envisions to be a successful serial entrepreneur and also a nurturing mother to either her own kids and/or many more young JinNi(s) out there.
The Making of a Pioneer
Jin-Ni recalls, growing up in the suburb of Kuala Lumpur, she was deprived of freedom to head wherever and whenever she wanted to. Public transportation was lacking and the only way to get out of home was by car, and as a kid she couldn’t drive. That sparked her interest and passion to improve transportation system over the years. After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, she worked in Singapore Mass Rapid Transit (SMRT) for a couple of years, in a field where female engineers were a minority.
During her SMRT days, she had the opportunity to work on some exciting projects and was also awarded the CEO Service Leadership Award, but she felt like her potential wasn’t being utilized efficiently. Subsequently, she made a life-changing decision to quit the SMRT job, picked up mobile app development skills, and also took up a part-time Master’s in Transportation System & Management and started Telepod concurrently.
Jin-Ni feels blessed to have been able to assemble a team of skilled enthusiasts who are disrupting the transportation ecosystem with Telepod’s smart scooter sharing system which is powered by an in-house patent pending Proxima technology. “I have learned so much along the journey and am inspired to encourage and enable more micro-entrepreneurs through the new platform which Telepod is about to launch,” states Jin-Ni. Through operating a sustainable business model and the exciting new platform, she hopes to be able to help the billion other kids who are just like her when she was young, to live a life, because Jin-Ni is of the opinion that, if they can’t go where they want to go, they can’t do the things they love to do.
Telepod, being a forerunner in the e-scooter sharing space, is the longest standing as well as the most experienced e-scooter sharing operator in the continent. Telepod, is solving the last mile problem which is the distance that is too far to walk, yet taking any other modes of transport would not make sense, because it takes almost the same time as walking. The organization also provides insightful advises for policies and regulations that allow the urban mobility to flourish as a part of the transportation ecosystem.
At Telepod, the team practices a culture which Jin-Ni summarizes in four letters, viz. ‘AERO’. To break it down, ‘A’ stands for acknowledgment, wherein the team emphasizes on comprehending the fact that the first step to solve any problem is to first acknowledge that there are issues to be resolved. Further, ‘E’ means to express after acknowledging ‘why each party did what they do’ and ‘what each party is unhappy about’. ‘R’ stands for rectifying the issues and problems by being logical and discussing the solutions and to conclude, ‘O’ stands for omitting the occurrence of the deciphered issue or misunderstanding.
The team practices AERO session when necessary and anyone in the company can initiate a session. The organization also follows a half-yearly performance review, wherein Jin-Ni would personally speak with each and every individual in the management team to align everyone’s goal and progress. Additionally, there are also the End-of-Week (EoW) emails which are sent weekly by each Head of Department for a quick update/sharing and make intervention if goals or values are seem to be straying.
Surpassing Adversities Talking about the challenges she faced while taking the organization to heights of success, Jin-Ni says that in the beginning, Telepod and its co-founders were nobody. “As harsh as it may sound, the reality is – many of the ‘brand names’, i.e. graduates from Ivy Leagues or working experiences at one of those startups that are going or went through exponential growth,” Jin-Ni expresses.
Time and again, Jin-Ni and her team proved these people wrong, and today Telepod has become the longest standing e-scooter sharing operator with an exponentially growing user demand, to a point that its supply could not cope.
The organization’s persistence and willingness to execute at a fast pace despite an imperfect product, which was sufficient to test the market and helped in ceaselessly improvising, has brought it this far. “The ability to iterate at breakneck speed, I would say, is the biggest edge any startup would have over a large organization,” Jin-Ni expresses.
On The Trophy Shelf
Following is a list of achievements in Jin-Ni’s and her organization’s ledger of success:
- Being invited to be a panel speaker at Bloomberg as it demonstrates the impact and influence Telepod has created in the industry.
- Bringing Telepod’s products as far as United States and Chile through its partnerships.
- Governments’ adoption of Telepod’s ‘dockless-station’ methodology as a requirement to all micro-mobility sharing operators in Singapore for controlling of indiscriminate parking.
- SMRT’s investment in Telepod which speaks heavy about how values are aligned in terms of serving the public transportation space.