Born and raised in a lower middle-class family in Penang, Thomas worked to support himself through university in Auckland, New Zealand. Recruited on campus by PwC, he worked there for a year before returning to Malaysia to help Swiss company Brown Boveri to start up their operations there. With the merger that formed Asea Brown Boveri in 1988, Thomas was transferred to Hong Kong as an expatriate Chief Financial Officer for ABB’s operations in China and Hong Kong.
In 1991, he was assigned to ABB Power Ventures in Zurich to join a team to restructure ABB’s acquisitions in Eastern Europe. Ironic that ABB would get a Chinaman from their HK/China operations to help “westernise” their Eastern European operations. For more than a year, Thomas spent most of his time in Wroclaw, Poland, and moved his young family there.
Upon returning to Hong Kong, Thomas was assigned to start-up ABB’s first few joint ventures in China. He set up ABB China Investments Ltd and was its first Managing Director.
Between 1994 and 1998, Thomas was head-hunted by Rexam plc (was on the FSTE 100) to establish their Asia operations, with a number of acquisitions, joint ventures and greenfield start-ups.
He was invited to return to ABB in 1998 as President and Country Manager for the Philippines. This was the first time for ABB to have an Asian expatriate as a country manager.
After retiring from corporate life in 2004, Thomas joined the boards of a number of NGOs. One of them was a computer school for the blind. When he learnt how effectively the blind can use the computer and access the internet, he decided to start Genashtim with the purpose of providing employment for the disadvantaged, in particular the disabled.
For what he does, Thomas has been featured in many international publications including Forbes, and newspapers in Singapore, Malaysia, Germany, Colombia, Morocco and Belgium.
Thomas is a much sought-after speaker and some of the invitations include the Harkin Institute in Washington DC, the ILO in Geneva, The World Blind Union in Bangkok, The WHO in Sydney, Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC), APEC in Hanoi, the Bali Democracy Forum, The Nippon Foundation in Yangon, Asian Regional Training Organisation in Cebu and in Yogyakarta, Asia Pacific CBR Convention in KL, and Rotary Clubs in Melbourne, Singapore and Malaysia. Read more
Thomas was appointed by UNESCAP as a Promoter for the Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities 2013-2022. He is also one of the founding Global Advisors for The Knowledge Pledge, and he sits on the board of the ASEAN Responsible and Inclusive Business Alliance (ARAIBA).
Joining YPO in 1999, Thomas has been in various leadership positions since 2000. He was the Regional Chairman when the Southeast Asia region made it to Best-of-the-Best Regions in 2011. Among his many awards in YPO was the Global Impact Award in 2016. In 2020, he founded SEA Lestari as the first Social Impact Chapter in YPO.