No matter where or who you are, we can all agree on the following sentiment: “What a year 2020 has been”.
In an ongoing global pandemic and lockdown here in Malaysia, we as a nation have adapted to a new way of everyday life. Most of us are at home all day long with family or by ourselves, trying our best to stay safe and healthy, while using our time much differently than we’re used to.
Despite the pandemic, the year had a silver lining if only we decide on one. Perhaps for some, it was time to repair relationships, discover a passion project, and even reflecting on life itself. It rings true that ‘time’ this year really has affected how we see and do things.
As 2020 comes to a close, we speak to Aaron Chin, Managing Director at Gamlite IT, and Roberto Guiati, Fine Dining Restauranteur, Group Senior Vice President & Chief Executive of PETRA Cucina — gentlemen who embody the drive and modernity of luxury watchmaker, OMEGA. Here, they share the challenges faced in 2020 and how their new perception of time has helped them balance career and family life.
Aaron Chin: Several business plans had to be pushed back because of the pandemic — our hotel development in Kota Kinabalu and its opening was postponed by at least six months to mid 2021, as well as earlier plans to launch several plant-based, vegan restaurants in Kuala Lumpur that are now delayed until 2021, to name a few.
Roberto Guiati: On the business front, we managed to complete our projects, even though with some delays. On a personal front, we had trips to Europe planned and sadly they had to be postponed.
AC: The one thing that 2020 has taught me is how little we actually need in order to sustain life and find true, lasting joy within all of us.
RG: I always try to be positive, seeing opportunities in these times of uncertainty. I wouldn’t say it changed me, rather I adapted on both business and personal level, trying to get the best out on these everchanging situations.
AC: I have heard people say they felt a slower passage of time, however, my experience was quite the opposite. I felt like the year zipped past me at breakneck speed like never before.
RG: It was tough at first. The idea of limited liberty was hard to grasp, but like I said, I quickly adapted. And frankly, it was a quiet period that I actually enjoyed. I needed to slow down.
AC: Probably not a blind bit of difference aside from maybe warning as many people as possible so we’re all better prepared to weather the storm and its ensuing long winter.
RG: Probably the same way — trying to grow my business, and spending quality time with family and friends.
AC: I think it was an old OMEGA Seamaster Calendar that my dad used to put on from time to time — I remember it’s very clean dial, timeless design.
RG: The historical moon landing. That campaign is still vividly clear in my mind.
AC: This watch came at a perfect time where I’m personally transitioning from bigger watches (44mm-48mm) to smaller and dressier timepieces. At 41mm, it feels just right sitting on my wrist. I like how elegant the watch looks with a suit and tie, but at the same time, carries an air of sportiness that wouldn’t look out of place with a more casual outfit. It has evolved to be a very versatile timepiece.
RG: I’m very proud to partner with such a respected brand like OMEGA. Reputation, long lasting reliability, consistency and innovation are principles that I respect a lot and resonate with me in my daily conduct. And now, the 41mm is the perfect size for me.
AC: One of the key takeaways from this year’s challenges was to put more emphasis on building resilience in any businesses I’m involved in, rather than focusing solely on growth. The ability of a company to learn, adapt, pivot and change was being put to real tests during the pandemic.
RG: This year has been a rollercoaster of emotions. Many people I know have gone through losses, including myself when I lost my father. Not being able to travel to Italy to stay close to my family was hard. But then, you realise there are so many people who really care about you that sometimes we may take for granted. Friends, my family here in Malaysia, my colleagues at PETRA Group, my teams at the restaurants, they were all amazing and supportive.
All of this pushes you to do even better. Focusing on work, and not being able to travel much, gave me time to come up with new ideas. If you stay positive and open, opportunities appear. They are always out there.
AC: I believe critical infrastructures are the backbones of any modern society and our increasingly interconnected economies. My company Gamlite IT focuses on utilising big data to predict how infrastructure assets such as transportation, telecommunications, energy or water supply, will age and deteriorate over time. We provide sound engineering analysis to help maintain these critical assets so that there will be minimal to no disruption of key systems and essential services to the people.
RG: I adapted, as so did all our team members who and accepted the little sacrifices made to ensure everyone remains employed. When your team is strong and carry the same vision, you can achieve a lot.
AC: I made a personal choice to adopt a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle over four years ago. In the past few years, I’ve noticed a lack of healthy, delicious vegan options that are convenient and accessible to everyone in the Klang Valley. A chance meeting with the owner of an established vegan restaurant in Penang prompted me to invest and help to scale the business in order to bring all the delicious foods I’ve enjoyed to more people. The pandemic did delay some of our plans, but also helped to accelerate the digitisation of many industries — F&B was no different. We have since adjusted our business models and are looking to launch several plant-based brands online, and building more cloud kitchens.
RG: Starting eight years ago with Zenzero and Luce, we positioned ourselves as a destination for Italian food. With PETRA CUCINA and its new Roberto’s that just opened in Bangsar Shopping Centre, we have established an authentic Italian restaurant brand right here in Malaysia that we can expand across the region. It allows us to show that Malaysia is fully capable of being a developmental hub for the F&B industry, and that we can take our successful businesses to other cities.
AC: I’ve always liked the wisdom and simplicity of a phrase by a Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh that goes, ‘No Mud, No Lotus’, reminding us that lotus flowers will only grow in mud. Its life’s ‘mud’ that offer much-needed nutrients for our hearts and souls to grow. I hope we all learn to be conscious of our daily actions, face our sufferings and dare to change for the better, and always find the strength to keep going, even though we may still be in the mud.
RG: I aim to be a good person. I want to do good, I want all the people around me to be as positive, dynamic and forward-looking as I am. This is what we are at PETRA Cucina. We want to help and we are very proud of the fact that even in these times we are able to hire Malaysians and support businesses with our expansions. We want to grow by doing good.
Discover the OMEGA Constellation Gents’ Collection here.