One on one with Ninja Van CEO Lai Chang Wen

Lai Chang Wen hopes to be a boss who leads by example.

In this installment of our interview with Lai Chang Wen, the founder and CEO of e-commerce delivery company Ninja Van, we take a closer look at the man himself. Part one is available here.


Ninja Van is not your first venture. When did your entrepreneurial ambitions first take form?

They started when I was in secondary school. I was really into, where you buy and sell things and make a small profit, and that becomes your pocket money for the week. But I guess it really started in college when I built Marcella, a custom menswear line, and it was during this time that I got more involved in supply chain.

After I graduated, I became a trader at a bank, but only for about a year.

Why did you leave such a lucrative job?

It was a good life, and I was paid a tonne of money, but I wanted to make an impact. I wanted to do something that was more direct. At the end of the day, a lot of decisions are not reversible. But if you lose the chance to risk it all, you can never get that chance back again. Doing it at this stage when you are not married and have no kids; you could still go back to your job in one or two years if it doesn’t work out.

What is your management philosophy?

For those who are not inherently motivated, it’s very difficult to help them find their own motivation. After that it’s very important to be self-aware. I learned this from my bosses during my time as a trader. I saw how inherently motivated they were. They liked what they did, they were challenged by their job, they came to work every day and wanted to do better. Those were the things that really left an impact on me.

Looking at the way a big boss could be so powerful, so rich and already so successful – yet he still cares about what he does, can work longer hours than his employees – that really showed me that that is the kind of manager I would rather be: someone who leads by example.


I love:

Golf, although I’m not a good golfer

I dislike:

Lazy people

My inspiration is:

Elon Musk. He dares to risk it all

In five years, I’d like to be: 

Connecting every consumer in Southeast Asia

Advice for my younger self:  

Money is not everything!

The best decision I ever made:  

Quitting banking

One thing people don’t know about me:

I can be quite an introvert! 

Guilty pleasure:

Kentucky Fried Chicken  

Recipe for success:

Work hard, don’t be scared to fail, and be self-aware  

For more Asia-Pacific CEOs and business leaders discussing their HR challenges, head to HRM Asia's dedicated Leaders Talk HR forum.

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