Idora Wan Rabe’al

STRIKING A BALANCE
Brand and communications expert Idora Wan Rabe’al talks about sustaining a meaningful life in today’s fast-paced world

by Sandra Foo

It is not difficult to feel intimidated by Idora Wan Rabe’al upon first meeting her. Her diminutive figure belies the strong and fiery character of a woman so self-assured, self-possessed and self-sufficient that one instantly feels the need to think of something smart to say before she sizes them up in a glance. But beneath that tough exterior is an extremely warm demeanor and refreshing candor.

A designer by qualification and profession, Idora is a consultant specialising in guiding companies to define and communicate their brand identities and values in a responsible manner. Through her highly successful firm, Del Suria Sdn Bhd, which she co-founded in 2000, Idora applies her ability to integrate key branding decisions at the heart of business strategy, which has resulted in numerous successful campaigns and enabled local and international organisations to engage in conscious and responsible marketing and avoid greenwashing practices, thereby increasing their own brand equity and the value offered to their customers.

With a passion for sustainable strategies and solutions, Idora plays a role in various stages of the branding process, from helping fledgling companies take off to rejuvenating mature and responsible brands in saturated markets. She believes that for long-term success, brands need to be built based on clear and transparent values and ethical principles, which is a credo she applies to her work.

Del Suria Sdn Bhd started out as a humble design company based in Kuala Lumpur and grew into a force to be reckoned with in the branding and responsible advertising industry. Among the company’s many achievements are the execution of campaigns for Telekom Malaysia, Kimberly-Clark Philippines, Danone Asia, and Malaysia Airlines. Since gaining full control of the company in 2008, Idora has restructured the business to be more efficient and cost-effective – complemented by an internal and external rebranding exercise – resulting in a conducive work environment within a lean and agile organization that delivers responsible marketing solutions.

Idora acknowledges that, like in any other industry, her success in a field as competitive as advertising does not come without its own set of obstacles. “As the business grew, we decided we wanted to expand the business, so we took on bigger projects,” she says. “When that happened, the design work became more ‘fast food’ than ‘gourmet food’, so to speak. Everything needed to be done fast, everything was urgent, and everything was needed yesterday. It got to a point where we realised that we needed to look at things like typography, and even proper briefs. How is the designer supposed to know what you want if you don’t give a proper – or even written – brief?”

Coupled with her flair for creative strategy, her 15 years of experience in the industry have allowed her to hone a meticulous eye for design, a hands-on approach in the execution of the work, and a dedication to strive for perfection. And it is in spite and because of her the challenges in her job that Idora also believes in living a meaningful life.

“After I took over the business in 2008, I downsized it. For me, life is not all about making money,” she says. “Life is about balance. I took up yoga when I was going through many challenges in life, and it cleansed my being and keeps me grounded. I took a step back and realised that if I, as a woman, could not sustain this company, I would have to make changes, beginning with myself. If you can’t carry five bags all at once, you just have to learn to let go and carry, say, two.

“As a woman, you have to learn to take the backseat sometimes. You can’t be chasing and chasing after everything in life until you reach a point where you don’t even remember what you were chasing after. The law of attraction says that you attract what you are, so it is important to have a good personality, no matter what’s going on and what others are doing around you.”

For all her success in what she does, Idora’s personal triumph will always be the happiness and wellbeing of her two children. “As a mother, you have to be fit, because when your body is fit, so is your mind, and you can take on challenges more easily,” she shares. “It’s not easy to find a balance among my work, family and exercise – I’m pretty sure I’ve slacked off somewhere – but you just have to make that effort.

“My office is fairly small and therefore manageable, so I have been able to spend time at home with my children. And as the an old Malay saying goes, ‘No matter how far you go in life, whether you have a Master’s degree of a PhD, you still have to go back into the kitchen’.”