Interview with ALMU Council Chairman Dr. Ho Leng Woon

On March 6, 2018, Dr. Ho Leng Woon was appointed Council Chairman for the Asian Lubricant Manufacturers Union (ALMU) on an initial two-year term. With 60 members and counting, ALMU represents lubricant manufacturers throughout Asia and Oceania.

Strong leadership is imperative in the establishment and growth of any new organisation. Dr. Ho is currently chairman of AP Oil International Ltd and boasts more than 37 years’ experience in the Asian lubricants industry since joining AP Oil on August 16, 1981. During this time, he has transformed AP Oil from an oil trading entity to a publicly main board listed oil manufacturer with five lube and chemical blending plants in the region, having customers in 21 countries, and a total capacity of 60,000 tonnes per year.

The sprightly Dr. Ho, who’s turning 70, says he is motivated to take on the role as council chairman to give back to the industry and as a service to the international community. Charity work is not something that is foreign to Dr. Ho. The ALMU chairman is a person who judges success in life to a great extent, on how much he or she can contribute to society. Throughout the past 40 years he has spent considerable time and effort engaging in community services and charitable work in Singapore.  Typically, his involvement has been on the board of four high schools and college as member or as vice chairman. He was also appointed as Hon. Consul of the Republic of Djibouti in Singapore.

Despite a world of business experience, Dr. Ho’s charisma and ethical standards are arguably as important in growing ALMU to where it needs to be. ALMU’s vision is to be the ‘Voice of Asia,’ however, Dr. Ho affirms that gaining the trust of industry stakeholders is most critical to its success. Without the trust of government authorities, industry players, supply chain and even customers, ALMU will not be able to gain traction and grow, he says.

A regional body representing the interests of Asia’s lubricants industry is long overdue, says Dr. Ho. Asia is the world’s biggest market, largest continent, enjoys more than 40% of lubricant sales, and has huge potential for growth. Throughout the region there are several countries with annual growth rates in excess of 5%, and a lot of individual players, but there is no organisation representing these players as in Europe or North America. ALMU has a very important role to play in this region, says Dr. Ho.      

Dr. Ho confirms that the immediate tasks for ALMU are to “build our muscle,” by attracting as many members as possible and to begin to formulate the organisation’s short, medium, and long-term plans. Central to the development of ALMU’s plans is gaining feedback and insight from members and industry players on what support they require, so the organisation can target their need and use its resources to tackle those key issues. Dr. Ho believes the single most important deliverable for the new association is to bring value to its members, whether in specific business areas or technologically.

Under Dr. Ho, ALMU aims to foster bonafide cooperation throughout the lubricants and related industry. While he admits that healthy competition is important in moving everybody forward, players should also cooperate on common issues to make “life better for everyone.” Competitiveness can often get in the way of industry stakeholders getting together as a group, something the ALMU will seemingly try to overcome.

Generally, Dr. Ho realises that problems in the lubricants industry in Europe and North America are consistent with key challenges in Asia. However, the problem of substandard and fake oils is far more prevalent in many developing countries throughout the Asian region. Poor oil quality is not only extremely damaging to machinery, it also has implications for the reputation of the industry as a whole. ALMU will look at how to help in alleviating these two problems. Dr. Ho says the organisation will leverage its influence with local governments in the creation of regulations and standards.

“We are not the police. We are not the regulator,” says Dr. Ho. Education will be a major thrust in ALMU’s approach in this space, to bring up the standard. This could include education pertaining to  purchasing decisions in order to protect engines, as well as ethically – why companies should comply with standards “for the good of self and society.”

ALMU also seeks to affiliate itself with key industry organisations in the world, to accelerate its efforts in education, health and safety issues, etc.

Preparation is also underway for ALMU’s first annual meeting in 2019. Stay tuned for more information on this and other upcoming activities of ALMU.

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Aaron Stone