By Jarrett Banks
Singaporean gaming company Razer Inc. is expanding its horizons by moving beyond its core business in the gaming world and into FinTech. Executive Edge interviewed CEO Min-Liang Tan to learn more about how the company weathered the global pandemic and is poised to capture Southeast Asia’s digital lending market.
He also told us about a new mascot called Sneki Snek that may be poised to slither into hearts and minds around the globe.
Exec Edge: As noted in other interviews you’ve given, the pandemic has provided a source of both setbacks and opportunities. What kinds of initiatives do you feel are necessary to help get global economies back to normal? Have you been personally involved in any specific relief initiatives you feel should be highlighted in the minds of public and private philanthropists around the globe?
There are many growing implications with COVID-19 on the global economy, and it affects everyone from all walks of life. At Razer, we are highly adaptable and are always thinking ahead. This mindset enables us to quickly identify opportunities and adapt promptly, mitigating any potential setbacks.
We do not take our position for granted and we strongly believe in doing what we can for the communities we touch. For example, in the early months of the pandemic, we committed US$50 million to support our business partners through Razer Gold, Razer Fintech and zVentures. These came in the form of financial contributions, cashflow support, investments, as well as providing them access to our Razer ecosystem of hardware, software and services.
In a more direct response to combat COVID-19, we set up #RAZERFORLIFE, converting a portion of our manufacturing operations towards creating and donating surgical face masks. We did this on a very short notice, after evaluating how we could do our part as a global brand to give back to the communities that have never ceased to support us. We also opened opportunities for organizations and individuals who want to support this initiative, by sponsoring surgical face masks from our mask production lines and mask dispending vending machines. We believe that through this initiative, Razer has alleviated the severe shortage of masks globally.
Exec Edge: What strategic considerations prompted Razer’s entry into the consumer FinTech space? Where do you see Razer fitting into the space in 5 years’ time? How does this tie into your vision for Razer Youth Bank?
We leveraged on our experience when building Razer Pay as a digital payment solution on the B2C front in markets across Southeast Asia. The move into setting up a digital bank is a natural next step as we already had the experience and operations to do so. Razer Fintech already is one of the largest offline-to-online digital payment networks in Southeast Asia, having processed billions of dollars since establishing in 2018. It consists of the verticals Razer Pay, as well as Razer Merchant Services (RMS) serving the B2B segment.
It is this forward-thinking mindset that inspired Razer Youth Bank, our vision of the world’s first global youth bank. Razer Youth Bank aims to be a digital bank for youths and millennials, a market our brand truly understands being the world’s leading lifestyle brand for gamers.
Exec Edge: What core strengths or innovations do you attribute to Razer’s return to profitability this year? How do you plan to leverage these over the long term through and after the end of the pandemic era?
We’ve come a long way since our first gaming mouse. Razer’s award-winning hardware now includes high-performance gaming peripherals and gaming PCs. We even launched our first gaming chair, the Razer Iskur, which is our take on a truly ergonomic gaming chair that has been sold out every time stock is made available. We also have an established suite of software programs with Razer Synapse, Razer Chroma RGB and Razer Cortex, that is growing steadily.
It was clear to us quite early on that 2020 was set to be a banner year for Razer. We have a solid brand position, the ability to cater to rising consumer demand and an ever-growing customer base elevated by stay-at-home trends. This resulted in a steady growth throughout our unique product lineups across the markets we operate in.
At Razer, we truly understand the mindset behind every gamer because we are all gamers ourselves. We understand what gamers want. Following gaming and pop culture trends also comes quite naturally to us. Through this, my team and I are never short of fresh and interesting ideas for new products or technology that we can innovate, regardless of pandemic or not.
Exec Edge: What recent Razer hardware or software releases are you most proud or excited about from this year?
2020 has been a great year for Razer innovations, from our first gaming chair, the Razer Iskur, to additions to our core line up of premium gaming peripherals. But my absolute favorite product has to be the Razer Sneki Snek Plushie. Spawned from a sketch by one of our Razer designers for his kid, Sneki Snek has since become a mascot for our brand. It has inspired countless memes, tattoos and even a dedicated fanpage. We just had to make a plushie because it’s so darn cute.
It is my favorite launch in 2020 not only because it’s cute, but we tied it to a meaningful cause that is close to my heart – environmental conservation. We partnered with Conservation International, a global organization that has championed sustainability for over three decades. The proceeds from each Sneki Snek sold goes into saving 10 trees. We have since smashed our initial goal of saving 100,000 trees, having saved over 120,000 trees till date.
Exec Edge: Where do you see eSports going from here? What role do you endeavor to play in helping shape the space?
Esports is an ever-growing phenomenon that is close to our hearts. Razer is one of the largest esports brands in the world, supporting the industry and its athletes however we can. Team Razer believes in growth through competition, and we recognize the hard work and intense training esports athletes undergo to become the best. Since 2000, we’ve sponsored esports athletes, helping them get through hurdles in an industry unrecognized by the mainstream, at that time. As the scene grew, we continued to sponsor teams and athletes from all over the globe.
We are always looking towards how we can do our part to grow esports in various markets across the globe. For example, we have organized three legs of Razer Invitational online tournaments in Europe, Latin America and Southeast Asia in 2020 alone. This allowed budding esports athletes to compete on an international stage despite the ongoing pandemic shutting down many gaming events worldwide. We are extremely proud to see how esports has not only grown in scope but also gained recognition from the mainstream audience. We’ve changed the meta in that sense.
Exec Edge: Looking back on where you started versus where you are now, what advice would you give young or established entrepreneurs who share your love of tech and gaming?
I’ve never been one to let what other people think affect me. I believe that everything including perfection is achievable if we put our minds towards it. This is a mindset I make a point to nurture in my team. Regardless of what you do or strive to do, you should always remain hyper-focused. If you love it, it will come natural to you.
One of my pet peeves is settling into stagnation. I find that when you get comfortable or settle into a routine, that’s when you’ve failed and need to rethink how to improve. Progress should be a constant.