Dr Thomas P. S. Ong is on a mission to become the essential bridge between the textile industry and academia in Malaysia by promoting the advancement of nanotechnology in textiles. The young and forward-looking CEO also hopes to break the perception that overseas technology is better than local through NanoTextile Sdn Bhd.
Over the years, Dr Thomas Ong P.S, NanoTextile Sdn Bhd’s CEO has been aggressively commercialising nanotechnology – particularly in the textile industry. People know about nanotechnology in other fields as cosmetics and automotive, but it’s uncommon for people to hear about nanotechnology in textiles.
“Back in 2015, the awareness of nanotechnology in textiles was a bit vague in Malaysia. Unlike in some countries such as Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea, the people are very much aware of the presence of nanotechnology in commodity products,” Dr Thomas explained.
“What I did in my early days joining NanoTextile Sdn Bhd was to knock on people’s doors to talk about nanotechnology in textiles. I spent a year or two on doing it,” he laughed.
NanoTextile is the pioneer to introduce nanotechnology in Malaysia
NanoTextile Sdn Bhd was founded in 2015 through a joint venture and ideation initiated by NanoMalaysia – a company limited by guarantee (CLBG) under the purview of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI).
Dr Thomas tells WargaBiz that in 2016, they were doing a project tapping into wellness and medical healthcare. The project was creating anti-odour socks by incorporating nanotechnology into fabric making. Then, he realised that this technology has vast potential in the textile industry.
So we decided to spin off the company into NanoTextile Sdn Bhd, ideation that was formed within NanoMalaysia, upon which I was appointed as the first chief executive officer of the company up till today. It has been a wonderful six years journey for me – and I never look back ever since.”
NanoTextile Sdn Bhd is proud to be the pioneer and the 1st company in Malaysia to offer a wide range of nanotechnology in the textile industry. In the almost eight years since its founding, the company has proven that Malaysia’s technology is on par with overseas technology and is very committed to maintaining its reputation.
Against all odds
Sharing his education and career background, Dr Thomas says he never had professional experience in textiles. This young and articulate man was a PhD holder in Materials Science from Imperial College London, UK.
Back in the UK, he noticed that the industry and academia are both harmonised – in a sense, the industry knows what the academia wants and the academia understands what’s the needs of the industry. Unfortunately, coming back to Malaysia, he realised it wasn’t the case in the country.
“I worked for about two years back in the UK. So I understand the industry’s needs. Besides, I have a PhD background so I was hoping to become the connecter between the industry and academia. This is where NanoTextile plays its part in becoming the harmoniser between these two sides,” he explained.
Nanotechnology is the new era in textiles
NanoTextile is a Business-to-Business (B2B) business that operates as a Business-to-Consumer (B2C). They provide end-to-end business advisory to complement their services. “It’s in our company DNA – to think as our customers think.”
Dr Thomas speaks passionately of NanoTextile’s achievements. Their first local collaboration was with PONEY, a Malaysian kidswear brand back in 2018. He said it was one of the highlights in his career and for NanoTextile too.
After the collaboration, he realised that the clothing segment is big and there is vast potential to explore such as womenswear, Muslimah fashion, modest fashion, menswear, sportswear and so on. Since then, they have been working with a few Modest fashion brands in producing textiles by incorporating nanotechnology.
The toughest decision as the CEO of NanoTextile
“The pandemic was a difficult time for all of us at NanoTextile. We are a big family, and we felt that we needed to protect the whole family somehow,” he shares.
The sudden lockdown tested his decision-making as a CEO. “When the government announced lockdown, I had to make such a big business decision to stay adapt,” he shares. “We can’t guarantee to deliver according to the timeline to our customers. Besides, my team’s welfare has got to be my priority.”
“I had to do what I had to – saying sorry to my clients. Although the volume of the business was good, it’s a tough decision that we had to make.”
Although we are in the post-pandemic, Dr Thomas clarified that they can still feel the impact. Now, they are focusing on rebuilding the business.
Growing the business
There are plenty of achievements that NanoTextile has achieved throughout the years. The company has bagged the Nanotechnology – Apparel trophy in the Malaysia Technology Excellence Awards 2020, presented by Singapore Business Review.
Besides, NanoTextile secured a collaboration with Volvo Malaysia in creating an exclusive range of batik masks during the pandemic.
“We are trying to be at the forefront of shaping the evolution of our textile industry. We are already looking forward to what is in store for us in 2024,” adding that they have lined up all future projects in 2023.
“We just launched nanotextile+; a program developed to help our stakeholders in having access to extended benefits and insights, on the NanoTextile official website. One of the benefits included in nanotextile+ is the modified to suit program that offers curated rebates to stakeholders and business partners,” he tells.
“With so much access to insights and data, NanoTextile sees the potential of nanotextile+ as an integrator that will help stakeholders conduct business at low risk and full potential.”
“Therefore, the solutions and consultancy provided are different for each stakeholder based on statistics and modelling techniques in its formulated data analysis,” he explained.
Furthermore, NanoTextile is also very much excited to launch nanotextile360° – a niche programme designed to promote textile sustainability.
“nanotextile360°’s vision is to integrate technology into fashion and consumer brands by focusing on four elements; Knowledge and Design, Gallery and Exhibition, Commercial and Development. We will perhaps launch it by end of this year,” he ended.