Endeavor Mentor Azran received the coveted 2017 ‘Endeavor Mentor of the Year’ award at the Endeavor Mixer in October. The award is given out in recognition to the outstanding contributions made by mentors in terms of total hours donated to Endeavor.
Since first joining as a mentor in 2014, the former iFlix and AirAsia X executive and triathlon superstar, has clocked in a whopping 3180 minutes mentoring the founders of 25 companies. The team caught up with Azran to find out why he decided to become an Endeavor Mentor and what he thought about mentorship in general.
Why did you decide to become an Endeavor Mentor?
A: I guess for me it was the people and passion. My very first encounter with Endeavor was with Cindy Ko, the former Head of Endeavor Asia. She was an extremely tenacious and passionate person. Cindy didn’t know anyone when she came into Kuala Lumpur from America and yet, she somehow managed to assemble an impressive Board of Directors.
She reached out to me via e-mail while I was at AirAsia X asking to meet up. We met at the airport and she pitched Endeavor to me, recounting the impact that they had achieved in Latin America and the US and how they were starting to build in Asia.
Endeavor is people-driven which is something I gravitate towards. People like Cindy and its Board Members, for example, Afzal who heads Endeavor’s board, are extremely energetic and passionate about what they do.
Besides people, I like the fact that Endeavor is not-for-profit and that its model is ‘by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs’. The model itself is quite unique, in that it taps into the most influential entrepreneurs to give back to other entrepreneurs. Being a mentor at Endeavor also magnifies the impact that you have. The people that you mentor don’t just rely on you, but this whole other global network. As a mentor, I myself gain a lot from this network.
What are the three most important values that you hold in life and entrepreneurship?
A: For me as a person – curiosity, tenacity, and inclusiveness.
Curiosity means the ability to look at things differently, try new things and even go down a path that is not explored. Of course, when you do try something new, it means that you would have to inevitably face certain challenges. This is where you need the tenacity to overcome the obstacles.
And finally, inclusiveness because entrepreneurship is not a solo journey. You may start out as a single entrepreneur, but you have so many other people in your job – business partners, customers, etc.. You have to bring people together around a common idea and vision in order to succeed.
What has been the best advice that you have received?
A: Learning and listening a lot more than talking.
Specifically, when we first started at AirAsia X, it was easy to say that since no one else had done low cost and long haul, we could do it on our own and succeed.
But what’s less talked about is before you can reinvent something, you need to understand the existing way of doing things well. So you can’t just walk into an existing business/industry and expect to rewrite the rules. To make that breakthrough, you need to understand why those rules are there in the first place. Having that understanding first, before you try and revolutionize something is key.
With that understanding comes the importance of having people around you that can give you that insight. I was very fortunate to have worked with an incredible individual, Moses Devanayagam, while I was in AirAsia X. He was rare in that he knew just about everything in aviation with over 36 years’ of experience. Yet, he had the humility to be open-minded about different ways of doing things, and the patience to explain things to a boss who was 20 years his junior on why things were done a certain way.
What has been your favorite Endeavor moment?
A: Watching Juris Technologies’ growth journey from sitting on their Advisory Board. I think the biggest value of Endeavor is when you go beyond the surface and go deep, participating through Advisory Board meetings and really being able to affect change. Seeing them go from strength to strength, and institutionalizing culture for example – from how you hire someone, to how to create a climate where people are learning, was really rewarding.
One specific moment that I can recall is when I was invited by Juris to talk to their staff at a Townhall meeting. Being able to talk to all of their employees meant that I could experience how the advice given during our Advisory Board meetings had actually been put into action. Seeing the energy that they exuded was really meaningful.
Azran was given the Mentor of the Year award during Endeavor Malaysia’s 2017 Mixer hosted by Endeavor Board Member TS Wong at Nero Nero, Damansara City Mall. Previous winners include Rick Ramli of BCG and Malek Ali of BFM.