Chief Executive Officer, IQR Group Pty Ltd
You changed IQR Group’s trajectory and mission overnight to jump in and help eradicate COVID-19—a noble action in the eyes of many. How did this happen?
Well, when the world faces unprecedented challenges, everyone must do their part to undertake the most positive actions in their power at that moment and in this case with nil time to think. Fortunately for us, we had a team of around 130 champions throughout Asia, India, and Australia and we simply applied and redirected this force pointing in one simple direction. To get PPE to Australia when all other avenues were failing for government and private sectors alike. People might be surprised to hear that global procurement was like a war zone at that time and one million times worse than the toilet paper ridiculousness. The general public had to endure similar changes from normality on their grocery shelves or visiting their local supercheap not having their regular tools to fix their car, however, in this case, we were talking about genuine life and death! No critical PPE in hospitals in a first-world country for frontline health hero’s trying to save our lives. This was no laughing matter and despite what you believe about the pandemic there was no time to be critical and play to conspiracies during the start of March 2020 as it was all about action and who was willing to take it.
I considered all options such as going dormant for a few months as so many other companies were doing. However, we were seeing an unprecedented need for personal protection equipment (PPE) for medical workers who were desperate for it, and many governments and retailers unable to procure it. As a result, I pivoted our entire company focus overnight using our reliable global manufacturing and logistics network to procure, warehouse and supply. Our entire global team made it their pledge to do their personal best to help eradicate the world of COVID-19 and we adopted the mission statement: “Kill COVID19" Our team worked tirelessly 18-hour days, 7 days per week from the 16th of March until late last year during a time where corporate giants shrank, new contenders arrived and SME's battled through one of the most challenging global moments in our modern history. Most importantly though, when COVID hit, people everywhere lost their jobs overnight, so we employed a lot of our colleagues hit the hardest on consulting contracts trying to do our bit from the over-flow of our growth ensuring that we did everything possible not just from a supplier perspective, but from “operational consult feeding frenzy" to assist as many people out of work as possible.
What specifically was IQR Group doing under its new mission to “Kill COVID19”?
We knew that frontline health heroes had to go out and risk themselves presented with very little choice. As a result, we were simply doing our part by providing the critical supplies they needed to undertake their mission. We already had robust global manufacturing, procurement, and warehousing networks so we simply developed a rapid pandemic strategy to compete in the global bidding war for PPE and were fortunate enough to deliver on our promise. Our global teams—everyone from Australia and throughout Asia were working nonstop, 18-hour days, seven days per week hunting PPE and solving logistical nightmares fighting for airframes and shipping channels that plagued the delivery of this critical product globally. We used live tracking for the goods having 'escort vehicles' following trucks from factories among many other normally outrageous and costly maneuvers to ensure the physical product and its integrity were protected from the factory to IQR secure locations. We set up local QA and compliance teams and processes for providing live visual updates on daily manufacturing for all orders as well as building a state-of-the-art warehousing network throughout Australia providing the highest secure storage facilities along with reliable and consistent freight forwarding and distribution during the height of the pandemic.
Transforming global manufacturing facilities overnight is a nearly impossible undertaking for most companies. How were you able to move so quickly?
A few factors contributed to our ability to do this. Firstly, we were driven by personal reasons which can be a powerful motivator to pull off the seemingly impossible. My beautiful wife Jariya was going into labor around that time with our amazing little boy Ethan Asher. Experiencing firsthand the health chaos with lack of PPE in our first world country was an incredible driver to succeed. I was actually working with a laptop and phone in hand physically directing global shipments beside my wife the entire time she was giving birth ensuring that Australia’s shipments of critical N95s to hit our shores that week. Imagine my wife screaming in pain mid labor, no pain relief or family support at the hospital, while I’m on the phone with earpieces in taking calls, holding her hand with a laptop still on my knees, while nurses glare and my wife calming the nurses between breaths saying “this is for you guys let him work”. She is still and always will be the strongest person on earth to me and I think Australia should thank her hahaha. Putting it simply, we undertook this mission for the right reasons helping the world protect our frontline people who had no choice but to work at that time. Our amazing global teams were all sincerely committed to the cause and within our group, there was no race or religion which was the most inspirational part of 2020 for me. Secondly, our management hierarchy remained nimble allowing us to pivot quickly on enormously risky undertakings throughout this crucial period where speed and decisive action were the key to securing stock while the globe ruthlessly competed in bidding wars with billions of dollars to secure PPE. Most importantly, our hearts were truly dedicated to the cause and this has now contributed to our ongoing success. Anyone who has built a successful business knows that remaining fluid and flexible is the key to continued success in a rapidly changing world. I have always believed that in times of adversity, there will always be great opportunities for the brave and determined who are willing to work for it and take real risks when others are not willing to.
IQR Group is not your first company. Can you tell us about some of your previous ventures?
I started my first business in 2008 where we were selling concrete plants and quarries to T1 organizations in Australia. The hangover of the global financial crisis hit us hard in 2010/11, so I closed it down. A challenging time for many but this was the best education for me. I realized what was required to build a sustainable business and how to maximize opportunity through times of adversity. By 2016, I was prepared to launch a new venture called Phat Elephant in Brisbane. Phat Elephant was and still is a huge success now opening two additional locations since opening the co-founded brand. In 2017 I also invested in a tech company in India and have continued with heavy R&D in AI technologies and app development as well as IQR Group’s side ventures.
Your success as an entrepreneur began early. What do you think most attributed to this?
Firstly, I have never been afraid of long hours and have always had an inquisitive mind needing to know how every moving part works, particularly in business. I did not have a close family unit growing up which was a blessing in my case as I was able to invest all of my time in business with limited distractions. Secondly, I had a wise stepfather who provided a wealth of knowledge and life lessons from ‘bush philosophy’ that somehow helped to set me on the right path for success. Most importantly, I believe and have learned that entrepreneurship is all about serious sacrifice. You must be willing to pay the real costs to earn a better life for your family and older self. Early mornings, late nights, no weekends, missing weddings, birthday parties, funerals, taking risks that most would not dare, dropping bad habits, learning good ones, learning new information constantly, leaving old friends behind, and being able to get back up when you are kicked down more times than imaginable.
CEO — IQR Group Pty Ltd
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