Disrupting a mature industry with a digital solution: A conversation with Mlion’s Eric Leong (with abstract)

Article published by McKinsey and reviewed by Nikolay Sidelnikov
Disrupting a mature industry with a digital solution: A conversation with Mlion’s Eric Leong (with abstract)
Published ByArticles by McKinsey
Publish DateSeptember 18, 2023
AuthorsTomas Laboutka, Eric Leong
Topics B2B, Marketplace, B2B marketplace
Article Sizewords
Downloadable VersionYes
Page OwnerNikolay Sidelnikov
Summary AuthorNikolay Sidelnikov


The interview by McKinsey where The CEO of a leading Southeast Asian steel distributor explains why he decided to launch a B2B marketplace, a venture designed to reuse steel, reduce carbon emissions, and disrupt his core business.


If the many infrastructure projects across Southeast Asia have a common denominator, it’s steel. And in just 12 years, Singapore-based Mlion has become the region’s largest supplier of steel material for the construction of roads, bridges, ports, waterways, and underground tunnels, with offices in Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan, and China. In 2021, Mlion launched GoListid, an online B2B steel marketplace designed to solve an industry-wide problem by allowing contractors to buy and sell used steel, saving money by eliminating the need to scrap it prematurely and reducing carbon emissions by prolonging its life span. In this episode of The Venture, Mlion chairman and CEO Eric Leong sat down with McKinsey’s Tomas Laboutka to discuss the creation of GoListid, why he thought it made sense to disrupt his core business, the importance of culture and talent, and his plans to eventually spin it off.

Among others the following topics are touched in the interview:

  • Introduction and background of Eric Leong's experience with Mlion.
  • Disrupting an established industry and the motivation behind it.
  • Addressing challenges in the steel industry, such as reusing steel and reducing carbon emissions.
  • The inception and development of GoListid, a B2B platform for listing steel items.
  • Challenges faced in achieving product-market fit, including changing industry behaviors and kick-starting the platform.
  • Innovative solutions introduced by GoListid, such as the cash-advance model and rust-grading system.
  • Expansion plans for GoListid, focusing on cross-border operations in Southeast Asia.
  • Attracting and incentivizing talent for building and scaling the platform.
  • Balancing involvement in multiple ventures and empowering the team for independent decision-making.
  • The importance of culture and shared vision in building a cohesive team.