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Real Business : Issue 3 2012
BUSINESS HERO NAJWA ABU BAKAR CPA spends a lot of time watching TV. In the morning while she gets ready for work. After work at the gym. A television is usually switched on beside her desk at the Singapore headquarters of HBO Asia. "And when I go home, the TV's on," says Bakar, 33, who's found the perfect way to mix business and pleasure. "I guess I'm one of the people who puts viewing averages up." As director of new business and revenue at HBO Asia, one of the region's leading pay-TV channel providers, Bakar covers 22 territories that present key growth markets. Her job is not only to keep a keen eye on what's happening on screen, but on the trends and innovations driving pay-TV and new media. STORY DEBORAH TARRANT PHOTO EDWIN KOO NAJWA ABU BAKAR CPA FINDS IT EASY TO BLUR THE LINES BETWEEN BUSINESS AND PLEASURE. AN EXCITING CAREER HBO's Asian operations may have been running successfully for 20 years, mainly o the back of US blockbuster movie content and HBO's original productions, but there's always scope for fresh input. "We strategise for new ideas based on individual market needs," says Bakar, who reports to the vice-president of business and revenue. "People come to us with business proposals. We evaluate whether an idea is worth pursuing; how it will make money and create competitive advantage for us. I perform a gap analysis of the business and gure how to ll the gap in the most cost-e cient manner." Part of Bakar's job is to nd ways to extend HBO Asia's core strength from providing content on channels for cable and satellite to new media platforms such as mobile devices, connected TV and game consoles. Despite the rapid evolution of technology and high-speed broadband capabilities in Asian hubs such as Singapore and Hong Kong, taking new media content to market means taking time to gure out how the economics will work, Bakar says. With HBO Asia's plans for content for internet-connected and mobile devices still under wraps, she speaks generally. "We've had to look at what Asian consumers are willing to pay and how it will a ect our existing business. We have a good business and we don't want to cannibalise our lucrative revenue stream." Piracy is also top of mind. "It's a great irony that in places with such sophisticated broadband infrastructure, it's so much easier to download and watch for free," Bakar says. A crucial stage of every new idea is evaluating the nancial feasibility of rolling it out in di erent markets and creating incremental revenues. " at's where accounting comes in, looking at models and pro tability. Do we do something in a small way rst, build on it and roll it out?" A Bachelor of Commerce degree with an accounting major from the University of Melbourne provided Bakar with a solid grounding. Her rst job was in assurance at PwC in Kuala Lumpur where she grew up. After 4½years in audit (while gaining her CPA designation), she "wanted to work in an exciting industry". She landed a job at Astro, South-East Asia's biggest cross-media operator, and spent a year working in investor relations producing annual reports. en came a switch to business development in Astro's pay-TV division, analysing how new business models would t with overall strategy. In 2009, Bakar took a job at Singapore telco StarHub, working on new media for TV. "I had to look at content online, on mobile devices and video on demand. Singapore is a good launch pad for new things. It's so small, you can a ord to experiment." Bakar now has a clear career direction. "In the next three to ve years I'm aiming for an executive leadership position at a big pay-TV operator," she says. "In the future, I'd like to work for Google or Net ix." What's your greatest career lesson? Like what you do. Accounting and finance qualifications are a good basis for working in any industry. Who are your heroes? I have strong female role models. My mother set a good example of how to balance a successful career with a fulfilling family life. She's now retired; her last post was chief general counsel for Shell Malaysia. My grandmother has always been entrepreneurial with a great work ethic. She's built a successful specialty food business in Malaysia. What are your other interests? Travel, reading, cooking and art. My family holidays in exotic locations such as South Africa, Morocco and Russia. In April we were in Bhutan. With HBO I've had the opportunity to travel to New York, London and Miami. I love art museums and have been fortunate enough to visit some world-class collections. 10
Issue 1 2012
2013 Issue 1