Mr Mongkolchai Mavichien
Honorary University Fellow (2023)
Being the youngest member of his generation in the family, Mr Mongkolchai Mavichien has never anticipated to lead the family business – the Ma Pak Leung Company Limited, a 200-year-old establishment dating back to 1822 and a household name in pharmaceutical manufacturing rooted in traditional Chinese medicine. Yet, when he was called upon to lead the Company in 2001, he showed no hesitation and has since carried the family legacy to new heights.
As the President of Ma Pak Leung, Mr Mavichien immediately felt like he was shouldering the weight of the expectations from the Company directors and staff right from his first day in office. Leveraging his MBA education and prior working experience in multinational corporations, he reviewed the Company’s operation and began charting a course towards modernisation. One of the challenges was to convince people within the Company who had doubts about the reforms, but with a steadfast commitment to future-proofing his family business and a meticulous approach in calculating risks and managing change, Mr Mavichien was able to deliver robust results to speak for the new strategies.
Under the leadership of Mr Mavichien, the Ma Pak Leung brand was made more visible through several ways. Among them was a new strategy of product distribution which made their products available at health and beauty chain stores, supermarkets and convenient stores. This strategy enhanced administrative and logistics efficiencies, as compared to making small deliveries to independent pharmacies at multiple locations across Hong Kong. The products also underwent a repackaging process, so that the designs became more appealing to the targeted customers while rejuvenating the overall brand image. Finally, the marketing efforts have shifted to emphasise greater impact, like placing advertisements during top-rating TV timeslots or large-scale billboards at the Hong Kong International Airport to pitch at travellers.
Mr Mavichien also led the Company to open the health foods market, such as flavoured candies with Chinese medicine ingredients, chicken essence, sporoderm-broken Ganoderma powder, and others. As this market segment has relatively higher flexibility for product development, for example, introducing new flavours to the candies, these products show more potential to stimulate new demands. It has also proven to be a successful step in tapping into a lucrative market among the health-conscious people, as the health foods began generating a healthy profit for the company in a few short years.
With his involvement in the Chinese medicine sector in Hong Kong, Mr Mavichien believes that Chinese medicine must demonstrate solid treatment efficacy supported by scientific evidence before it can benchmark with Western medicine. As efforts are made to realise this goal, he also sees plenty of opportunities for interdisciplinary partnership.
Through the connections of his staff, Mr Mavichien met Professor Ken Yung of Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU), whose research focuses on the causes and treatments of neurodegenerative diseases. With great confidence in Professor Yung and his team’s research efforts, Ma Pak Leung collaborated with HKBU in a research project entitled “Autologous Neural Stem Cell (NSCs) Harvest: Precision cell therapies for neurodegeneration in animal model of Parkinson’s disease” in 2019. This was followed by the establishment of an endowed professorship in innovative neuromedicine at HKBU in 2021. The generous donation by Ma Pak Leung has enabled the University to advance the frontiers of research and applications in neuromedicine for the benefit of society.
In Mr Mavichien’s view, HKBU shares the same values as Ma Pak Leung, which are to care for people and to serve society as their primary mission. When the fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic reached its peak in March 2022, the Company, an Honorary Permanent President of the Hong Kong Baptist University Foundation, donated medicine to HKBU generously in support of its efforts to combat the pandemic.
Just as traditional Chinese medicine seeks to achieve balance between yin and yang, Mr Mavichien’s management philosophy also places emphasis on the work-life balance of the staff members. Understanding that living in a fast-paced international city like Hong Kong comes with different types of tremendous pressure, Mr Mavichien believes that if staff are able to “eat well, sleep well, and play well”, and have sufficient time with their families, they would feel happy about working in the Company. He is well-known for asking his staff members if they are happy, rather than checking on their work progress.
After spending over two decades at the helm of Ma Pak Leung, Mr Mavichien still feels the weight of the Company on his shoulders. That is because the Company is now much more vibrant than 2001, despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and the stagnant economy in recent years. Mr Mavichien has certainly set an example in broadening the appeal of his centuries-old family business to a younger generation in society, while gradually reshaping traditional Chinese medicine into modern medicine.