More and more Malaysians - especially the younger generation - are
turning entrepreneurial in their bid for financial freedom. Four young
Malaysians who have made it big in vastly different industries.
The number of new businesses registered with the Companies Commission
of Malaysia went up by 16 per cent - from 268,866 in 2008 to a
substantial 312, 581 last year, despite a contraction in the economy.
One of the most oft-quoted reasons for an increase in the number of
entrepreneurs is the success stories of others.
"There are legends like Tan Sri Robert Kuok, Datuk Tony Fernandes and
others locally. Abroad, there is Microsoft's Bill Gates. In China,
there are many youths turning millionaires and billionaires too. They
are a source of inspiration for others," said the president of the
Small Medium Industries Association of Malaysia, Chua Tiam Wee.
"The spate of financial crises in recent years, particularly the last
one which left a trail of retrenchments, has also prompted many to
feel that being an employee is no longer the safest or best career
option. Naturally, people start to think: why not be your own boss and
master of your own destiny?" adds Chua.
The prospect of working in a conventional nine-to-five job is no
longer deemed "cool".
"Waking up early to go to work is no longer appealing. Our youngsters
want flexibility. They want to innovate and create."
But while there are many inspiring success stories, there are also as
many stories of failed ventures.
"Anyone who decides to go into business must realise that
entrepreneurship is actually a 'profession' where you will be wearing
many hats. You need to be skilled not only in managing the marketing
side of the business but also the finances. You have to know what to
do and what you can do before you decide to go into business," says
Carol Yip, a personal financial coach and author of two books on
financial planning -- Money Rules and Smart Money-User.
"Be alert and aware of what's going on around the world. Even
something simple, if done well, can turn into a mega business," adds
Linda Onn, 33, restaurateur and celebrity
SHE never realised she had made her first million until she had spent
it, or rather, invested it.
"It was just last year. It was a bit of a surprise because I didn't
realise I had that much money," said the 33-year-old.
To think that she started off as an office administrator with a salary
of just RM700 a month 11 years ago. Linda Onn has definitely come a
"Since young, I've never been a big spender. I saved at least 50 per
cent of every pay cheque I got and because I was so careful with my
money, some friends called me a 'cheapskate' ."
When she got TV offers and became a spokesperson for various products,
her savings grew. In fact, it grew to such a point that six years ago,
Linda didn't know what to do with her money.
"So I decided to go into business and open up a family restaurant
because my parents had the experience and most of my family cook
As her career in the entertainment industry took off (she deejays,
acts and hosts various radio and TV programmes), her investment into
the restaurant business also bore fruit.
From only one in 2004, she is now the proud owner of five restaurants.
Her success, however, came at a price.
"When you're a celebrity, there are people who will talk and create
stories about you to get you down. I was called a coward when I didn't
turn up for an international event. Actually, I had a wardrobe issue.
There has also been a lot of gossip about my love life."
At the height of such unhappy incidents, she thought of leaving the
entertainment field. "Just get married and get lost. But then I
realised I should not feel down because whether I'm doing good or bad,
people will still talk about me. I managed to stay strong and
persevered because of my family, friends and loyal fans."
Has she managed to achieve all that she set out to do?
"I dreamt of having a house with a pool and automatic gates and me
coming home in a big car. I've got them all, so yeah.
"True success, however, is being able to walk into a designer boutique
and buy stuff without looking at the price tag. Being careful as
always, I still look at the price tag. Maybe after this, I'll just go
in and buy whatever I want."
Her recipe to success? "Count on yourself, save and invest."
Philip Lau, 31, financial agent
PHILIP Lau found out he had hit his first million when he was 28.
"I went out and bought my first Rolex," said the 31-year-old as he
flashed a grin.
Founder of Jazz Capital, a financial sales agency that focuses
primarily on insurance and savings products, as well as bank loans and
mortgages, Lau's agency is now the authorised agent for some of the
most reputable financial institutions in town.
Although his agency is only five years old, there are already some 300
agents in its employ.
What is his recipe for success?
"It's just three simple steps: one -- have a clear plan on what you
want to achieve in both the short and long term. Two -- execute your
plan accordingly and make periodic reviews for improvements, and three
-- stay focused and be passionate."
Having a good understanding of the various financial products out
there has also enabled him to make good investment choices along the
"I think that's the bonus of being in this line. We know what we sell
and when it's a good one, we can also seize the opportunity to
Lau believes his wealth and success today is made possible through
careful planning. "But it is also with God's blessing."
But his entrepreneurial route has not been without obstacles.
"I was beset with the 'what if' syndrome. Once, I was offered a good
position in an investment bank. I was tempted by the thought of steady
employment and a rewarding lifestyle with a reputable company. I had
so many doubts. It felt like it was easier to make a U-turn and take
up the offer. It took a while of self-questioning to find out what I
really wanted to do and that conviction gave me the courage to go all
out to pursue my own business."
Although rich in his own right now, Lau feels that he has not achieved
"I will know that I have enough when my total assets are good enough
to generate certain returns to sustain my desired lifestyle throughout
my retirement years."
To aspiring youths, he says: "Have passion and patience, but most
importantly, be practical."
Ganesh Kumar Bangah, 31, co-founder of MOL and group CEO of Friendster
HIS success story is almost legendary in Malaysia’s field of information,
communications and technology. He built MOL Access-Portal Berhad (MOL)
from scratch to become one of the biggest online payment service
providers in Asia
with an annual revenue of RM320 million, over 500,000 physical payment
channels across 75 countries, handling over five million transactions
He was certified by the Malaysia Book of Records as the youngest chief
executive of a public-listed company in Malaysia when he listed MOL on
the Mesdaq market of Bursa Malaysia at 23. He won the JCI 2009
Creative Young Entrepreneur Award, the Pikom Technopreneur Excellence
Award at the ICT Leadership Awards 2009, and is acknowledged by
Society Magazine as one of the 100 people you must know in Asia.
Late last year, he again made headlines when he led MOL to take over
social networking site Friendster.
“I’ve always wanted to be the Bill Gates of Malaysia. I saw him on
television when I was a cybercafé operator in my teens in Johor. I
told my boss then that I wanted to be the Bill Gates of Malaysia,” he
says with a laugh.
Having started early in business, Ganesh says one of the biggest
obstacles was getting people to understand “the need to be crazy”.
“The last thing I did was buy Friendster and everyone was asking me
why. You must think far and see things for the value they can give
you. Getting people to understand that you need to be a little crazy
or to be different to be special, I think that’s the hardest thing.”
Being in business also means there is never really a day off.
“You will always be constantly thinking about how to do things better,
faster, to innovate and create. It is very much a 24/7 ‘job’.”
He also admits that it is never easy to handle change.
“Every time you list a company, de-list it, or buy another company, it
is never easy in the beginning. But managing these changes, these
jumps, pushed me to grow. Buying Friendster, for example, means that I
really had to learn the American culture.”
While it is heartening that many young Malaysians want to be
entrepreneurs, he says they should not think in the short term.
“I think our entrepreneurs tend to do something for a couple of years,
give up, and move on to something else. They have to realise that
nothing worth doing is easy but if you keep at it, you become better
at it and you will make it. Don’t give up.”
Joey Yap, 33, feng shui consultant
HE earned his first million when he was 26-years-old. Since then, Joey
Yap, who will turn 33 in July, has only been earning more.
Besides being the founder of the Master Academy of Chinese Metaphysics
-- the first such global organisation devoted to the teaching of feng
shui, Bazi, and other such similar subjects -- he is the chief
consultant of Yap Global Consulting, which specialises in feng shui
and Chinese astrology services and audits.
He has also authored over 30 books, and hosts his own TV series -- all
on the subject of Chinese metaphysics.
He attributes his success to having differentiated himself in the
industry right from the start.
"I'm not a fortune-teller. I don't tell people how their life is going
to turn out. That's making statements and anyone can do that. I seek
to help people understand their profile, their talents, and advise
them on what to focus on and how, based on their individual strengths
and weaknesses and to maximise their potential."
His client list includes not just individuals but also local and
To be good at what he does, he reads a lot. "Not only books on
metaphysics, but also business, management and more. Many consultants
try to advise people without even a basic understanding of the
fundamentals of business, like go and hang some red cloth somewhere
and your business will succeed. How is that going to help a
businessman solve his problems?"
His own experience in managing a business has also lent him an extra edge.
"The biggest obstacle I faced was a lack of experience when I first
started out. I didn't know anything apart from accounting. Many people
think that when your feng shui is good, everything will work out.
That's not true. You still have to acquire the skills, the technical
know-how to handle your business and make it successful."
Articulate, and able to command an audience of 3,000 or more, it is
hard to imagine that Yap was once nervous when speaking to less than
10 people. "Just like the other skills, public speaking was something
I had to acquire."
What drives him? "When I first started out, I thought this industry
had been sorely misunderstood and misrepresented in many ways. I had a
burning desire to rectify this. I'd like to believe that I have."
Success, to him, is not about money. It is about being remembered for
"When we leave this world, people will remember us for what we
contributed to society."