Proof of passion and grit

Women power: Chow (second from left) won Female Entrepreneur of the Year in the up to RM25mil tier. She is joined by other finalists in the category Maxvue Vision Sdn Bhd director Viji Ramasamy Pillai (left), MYS Travel Sdn Bhd founder Chong Seow Chi (fifth from left) and Woman World Top Beauty (M) Sdn Bhd founder and CEO Chin Siew Keng (right) with Fu (third from left) and Isham (fourth from left) looking on.

A boost for businesses to aim higher and contribute further to the country

ROME wasn’t built in a day. The same can be said of businesses.

Entrepreneurs are known to be on the ball day and night to make sure their companies are growing, their people motivated and their products and services selling.

As these businesses expand, they become vital to the growth of the country’s economy.

SMEs contribute significantly to Malaysia’s gross domestic product (GDP), exports and employment. The sector’s growth over the past few years has consistently outpaced the growth of the general economy. According to the Department of Statistics Malaysia, in the 2011-2017 period, the average growth rate of SMEs was 6.6%, whereas the national GDP was 5.2%. The overall GDP contribution of SMEs was 37.1% in 2017.

Great sight: Addaem (fourth from left) receiving his trophy from Isham (centre) with (from left) RHBs Ng, Tio, Fu, Wong, Teh, Zamree and Wan Latiff looking on.

Notably, the past few years have not been easy on small businesses. While technology has opened up opportunities for companies to expand, they have also had to contend with stiffer competition, new business models and rapidly changing technology trends.

Amid a challenging period, entrepreneurs grit their teeth and persevere. They adapt to stay relevant and make changes to stay afloat. Come what may, these businesses are here to stay.

Their resilience is indeed exemplary.

And for these entrepreneurs, a recognition of the efforts they have put into building their companies can go a long way.

“It’s definitely important. It strengthens our belief in what we do,” says Prof Muhaya Eye & Lasik Centre Sdn Bhd founder and chief executive officer Muhammad Addaem Mikhail Chandran.

Addaem was among the award recipients at The Star Outstanding Business Awards (SOBA) 2018 on Jan 17. He won the Male Entrepreneur of the Year title in the up to RM25mil revenue category.

As further proof of the company’s outstanding achievement, Prof Muhaya Eye & Lasik Centre also brought home the Malaysian Business of the Year trophy and won Gold awards in Best Brand and Best in CSR.

Female achievement: Ooi (left) hopes to encourage more women entrepreneurs to step up. She is seen here with (from second left) Fu, Isham and Female Entrepreneur Outstanding Achievement recipient Juris Technologies Sdn Bhd CEO See Wai Hun.

“This means everything (to us). It’s a testament to all our hard work and how much we have achieved so far. I think there’s a lot more to do. And when we get an award like this, it’s a recognition that’s been given to us,” he says.

He adds that “resilience, grit and never giving up” are qualities that are essential for entrepreneurs to succeed.

“And at the end of the day, remember who you are serving. Your people, which is my staff, and also the customers. I am happy to be part of Malaysian business and we are here to stay,” he says.

Meanwhile, Empire Sushi Group Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Lim Xui Jhi, who won the Young Entrepreneur of the Year (up to RM25mil revenue), adds that entrepreneurs must be willing to work hard to see their ventures take off.

“And they must want to learn. Learning is very important for each entrepreneur,” she says.

One of the positive developments seen in SOBA over the last few years is the focus on female entrepreneurs. The entrepreneur award was expanded to three categories – Male, Female and Young – in the 2015 competition.

Big winner: Senhengs Lim (fourth from left) celebrating the companys win as (from left) RHB head of group business and transaction banking Jeffrey Ng, PKT Logistics Group Sdn Bhd group chief executive and managing director Datuk Michael Tio, Fu, Isham, Wong, CGC president and chief executive officer Datuk Mohd Zamree Mohd Ishak, Digi chief business officer Eugene Teh and Matrade deputy chief executive officer Datuk Wan Latiff Wan Musa cheer him on.

This recognition for women-led businesses is important, says Berjayapak Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Ooi Lay Pheng.

“All this while, we’ve seen all the very big male figures out there. We hardly see a big female figure who inspires the young generation, the young ladies who are coming up. So I think it is important to have a figure for the young ladies.

“How women stand out in the industry is not only from the wisdom or knowledge that we have accumulated, but I think it’s from the heart. You care, you love and you really go down to the community level to understand them,” she says.

Ooi took home the Par Excellence Achievement award for Female Entrepreneur of the Year (above RM25mil).

She hopes her win and her story will also inspire more female entrepreneurs to step out.

In the up to RM25mil tier, the Female Entrepreneur of the Year award was given to SamAiden Sdn Bhd executive director Chow Pui Hee.

The awards not only acknowledges the winners’ past achievements but also celebrates their climb up the value chain, says guest of honour Interna­tional Trade and Industry Ministry (Miti) secretary-general Datuk Isham Ishak.

Right recipe: Sim (centre) receiving the Male Entrepreneur of the Year (above RM25mil) award from Isham (right) as Fu looks on.

“Over 97% of all businesses in Malaysia are SMEs but we need to raise you to move to the next level, and that is the mid-tier companies,” he says.

Over the past decade, the government has introduced policies and initiatives to enable SME and entrepreneurial development. Last year, the government emphasised the importance of the Industrial Revolution 4.0 trend overtaking the industry and announced a sizable budget to help businesses embrace new technologies.

Miti has also lined up programmes for this year to build high-performing SMEs.

Lim Kim Heng, managing director of electronics retail chain Senheng Electric (KL) Sdn Bhd, agrees that companies need to adopt new technology to grow in this new digital era. This will inadvertently affect their operations and business models.

“I believe companies will come to a stage where they have to introduce a new business model. They’ll have to match the trends of consumers, especially now, when mobile Internet is widely used. So, all companies should apply new technologies,” says Lim.

The homegrown brand bagged eight awards at SOBA 2018, including the Malaysian Business of The Year (above RM25mil), making them the biggest winner of the night.

Secret Recipe Holdings Sdn Bhd group president and chief executive officer Datuk Steven Sim was awarded Par Excellence Achievement for the Male Entrepreneur of the Year (above RM25mil) category while the company received Platinum awards under the Best in Marketing and Best Brand categories.

Growing empire: Empire Sushi’s Lim with Fu (left) and Isham.

It is certainly hoped that the award winners will take their achievements even further. In the past, several participants who took home “Most Promising” medals have returned to proof their mettle with significant wins in some of the main categories.

“After winning all this, I think it has become even more important to us that we do better on a daily basis and to continue to push the envelope. Business is a force for good. This awards means that whatever we are doing is definitely on the right path. So we are definitely going to work much harder and give more to the Malaysian society.

“A good company is a company that believes in its people and the values that it carries,” says Addaem.

Mine Logistics Sdn Bhd founder and group chief executive officer Dereck Ng, who initially thought he would have to go home empty-handed, also notes that such awards will spur entrepreneurs and small businesses to do more. He won Young Entrepreneur of the Year in the above RM25mil tier.

“I think the award is a good thing for an entrepreneur to move forward. It motivates, encourages you and the people who have been working for you for so long. So the award is a good recognition for everybody,” says Ng.

Meanwhile Rising Star award winner LNN Design Sdn Bhd director Lim Nee Nee notes that awards like SOBA will also help increase visibility for her two-year-old firm.

“I’m a designer and my team, all of us, are very passionate designers. And this award means a lot to my team,” says Lim.

“Share your stories and your journey,” Isham urges SMEs, so that others will be inspired to also strive for greatness and contribute even more significantly to the growth of the country.

Also present at the awards were Star Media Group Bhd chairman Datuk Fu Ah Kiow, group chief operating officer Roy Tan, group adviser Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai, chief content officer Esther Ng and chief revenue officer Lydia Wang.

SOBA 2018 is organised by Star Media Group with Digi, PKT Logistics Group Sdn Bhd and RHB Bank Berhad as main sponsors, Credit Guarantee Corporation as co-sponsor, Matrade as official trade promotion partner and New World Hotel as official venue.

It is endorsed by International Trade and Industry Ministry, supported by Bursa Malaysia and audited by BDO with 988, Suria FM and dimsum as official media partners.