I have never interviewed my boss before!

By: Malati Siniah

You see the new normal for our boss, and us, is him working remotely because he spends hours in waiting rooms. But it is still very effective; he does not miss a single beat…

Our office in TTDI is usually a revolving door of people from journalists to marketing professionals coming in to meet the man himself, seeking advice from someone who has spent years in the industry. 

If you have not had a chance to pick his brains, I hope our rapid-fire Q&A session below gives you a better insight into the man we know as Professor Harmandar Singh… 

MALATI: Most recently you picked up the **‘Golden Bull Award’ for outstanding SME, what is the one thing you love most about being an entrepreneur? 

I enjoy managing risks – in people, opportunities and expectations. I am so used to giving out awards for more than two decades. But to receive one, especially from those outside my industry, was a real shocker. This ‘Outstanding SME Award 2017’ is not about me, but about the people in the company. They are outstanding; I am merely standing outside, looking in. 

MALATI: What was your turning point on deciding to leave your job as a Creative Director and embark on the brave journey of starting your own business? 

I had had enough of the shit one compiles when talking to myopic people about doing great things. I just did not want to be with oxygen thieves who really did not matter to our existence as a species. So I moved on. I am allergic to lazy thinkers who talk a lot and expect others to do the work. But I will always be indebted to the advertising industry for allowing a turbanned stranger to shine. Early in my career, someone actually told me to remove my turban (cut my hair) and I’ll become famous. I told her “watch me”. 

MALATI: If someone came to you for advice on starting out on their own what would you tell them? 

If you can’t sell your opinions convincingly, stay in bed. You’ll save some trees just doing nothing. 

MALATI: There have been many new and exciting changes at MARKETING which you have spearheaded from the much talked about personalised cover to new digital initiatives. How do you continue to evolve in this ever changing industry? 

It is no more about me, but the cosmos that surrounds me. Be it colleagues, friends or family. As such, I do not have any clients because people I do business with me accept us on equal terms. I am privileged to turn ideas into reality, and keeping my word. It is amusing to see how people scurry around for a little fame wherever it can be found. On the other hand, I have the chance to add real value to my industry every day. The people I work with are the best of breed, they keep their eye on the golf ball and don’t raise their head too early to see where the ball is heading.

MALATI: Apart from running your businesses you also work with MERCY Malaysia and are now a Professor at UPSI University. Can you share a bit more… 

It gets more and more amazing by the day. I am humbled that UPSI has recognised me for helping author their Bachelor’s Degree in Social Communications syllabus. My work in MERCY Malaysia is never meant for the limelight, so I keep it that way. There’s much to do. 

MALATI: What book are you currently reading? 

Midnight Children, my fourth reading. I also have six copies of his “other book”. There is no better writer on the planet. Besides Ted Lim and Paul J Loosely, of course. 

MALATI: Having interviewed everyone from HRH Sultan of Perak to David Droga, which were the most memorable interviews for you? 

Steve Forbes. 

It was in the Raffles Hotel Singapore in the presence of CIA agents; the man is their national treasure. I asked him how he handled people who would hate him for writing the incriminating truth about them. He replied, “I’ll publish it and wait for the phone to ring.” 

A few seconds later, he continued, “And I won’t pick it up.” 

I also enjoyed interviewing Donald Trump via Live satellite feed in 2009 for the Youth Engagement Summit in Putrajaya. He stood in for Amitabh Bachchan. Donald (now POTUS) also mentioned it is “not nice” when people do not show up or keep their word. The crowd loved him. 

Bala Pomaleh: and not because I stole his mobile phone for one night. 

Ho Kay Tat: because he is one in a million. 

MALATI: ‘Ham wears many hats, but only one turban’ apart from this being a catchy phrase those who know you know this to be very true. Writer, business owner, event planner, creative director, the list goes on…., which one do you enjoy the most? 

Writing phrases is in my DNA; I used to do up to 30,000 words a week. I enjoy being in the eye of the storm. 

MALATI: Thoughtout your years of networking in Malaysia and globally what advice would you give to those in the industry looking build their personal brand? 

If you think SALE is a four-letter word, forget about building any kind of brand, including your own.

MALATI: As a creative director, you had crafted over 400 TV commercials and picked up numerous awards for them. Can you share with me your favourite campaign that you have worked on?

I have no favourite campaign, but the Proton Satria launch TVC comes to mind. 


I was part of it when I worked as a freelance creative, not in a big agency. The only meaningful role I played was to defend the idea from dying; saving it from the trash bin after the Creative Director dumped it. 

** The Golden Bull Award is an award created to acknowledge, celebrate and award businesses for their achievements. It is an award that symbolises strength and growth, and served as the penultimate award for successful businesses. 


For the seventh year running, we are bringing back the famous Best of Global Digital Marketing Conference to KL with a special focus on Content Marketing this year. Unique case-study based learning, as our team monitors over 200 digital marketing award shows across the globe and interviews the winners. Based on this extensive work, we produce in-depth case studies.

Speakers with digital domain expertise:
• Hando Sinisalu, CEO of Best Marketing International
• Kyoko Yonezawa, Creative Technologist and member of Dentsu Lab Tokyo
• Scott Gray, Experience Director, Mirum South Africa

Global Case Studies include:
BANKING & INSURANCE: Compare The Market, Advocards, Allianz, Ally Bank, Barclays….
TECHNOLOGY & STARTUPS: Hubspot, Pipedrive, MoveHub….
AUTOMOTIVE: Volkswagen, Volvo, Nissan, etc FMCG: Ariel, Unilever, Snickers…
RETAIL: McDonald’s, Harvey Nichols, Zalando….
TRAVEL & TOURISM: Qatar Airways, Transavia, Finland Tourism, Sweden Tourism, KLM…

Each best practice case study is presented based on…
Business problem: What is the market situation? Who are the competitors? What is the target audience? What are the main business/marketing challenges? What are the goals?
Solutions: What are the consumer insights? What was the creative strategy? What was the media strategy? What were the results of the campaign?
Lessons: What other marketers from other countries/other business sectors could learn from this case study? What are the main mistakes to avoid?

The Best of Global Digital Marketing Conference has won popularity in more than 30 cities around the world from Singapore, Moscow, Jakarta, Istanbul to Amsterdam, Johannesburg, Prague, Shanghai, Seoul, etc.

Date: 14 August, 2017 (Thursday)

Venue: Sime Darby Convention Centre, Kuala Lumpur.

Time: 8.30am – 5.00pm

Book your seats early! Call Ruby on 03-77262588 or [email protected]

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The Malaysian Marketing Conference & Festival 2024 at the Sime Darby Convention Centre is a TWO-day marketing event for all those in Marketing, Media, Advertising, PR, Digital, Data, and more….

The experience is on May 15 & 16, with Keynote Speakers, multiple tracks or Breakaway Sessions hosted by our booth partners who will show you the latest in the industry. 

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