Category Archives for "Aspirations"

8 Essential Personal Traits for Leading Your Business to Success

Individuals dependably need to recognize what makes a decent pioneer. It’s typically in light of the fact that they’re attempting to wind up plainly a pioneer, or they’re attempting to discover a pioneer to work for their organization.

A few people are normally great pioneers. Other individuals can possibly be pioneers in the event that they’re willing to build up their administration aptitudes. In any case, you have to perceive that initiative is more than remaining at the front of a room, having an office or inspiring individuals to get things done for you.

Leading isn’t as simple as it looks. Leaders go up against more work, more anxiety and a greater number of requests than meet the eye. However, in the event that you have the attributes of a pioneer, you are prepared to be effective.

To be clear, there isn’t a correct arrangement of administration characteristics somebody must have. I’ve discovered that great pioneers in my organization, Patriot Software, have the qualities underneath. I’m certain any individual who has these qualities can possibly be a good leader.

  1. Detailed

    One trait of a decent pioneer is a scrupulousness. Pioneers must have precise and careful work execution. They should scour every last bit of plans and completed items to ensure all bases are secured. Nothing ought to go untouched. Great pioneers should spot seemingly insignificant details that go unnoticed by others.

    Great pioneers should likewise thoroughly consider every one of the subtle elements. They should think far out into the future and consider the effect of their choices. Pioneers must consider all the conceivable ways.

  2. Organized

    The characteristics of a good leader unquestionably incorporate association aptitudes. They comprehend what is on their plate and when things should be finished. They have a timetable and due date for every one of their errands. They additionally realize what their laborers are doing and what ventures are coming up.

    Leaders require some kind of association framework. They don’t let essential papers lay around or make gatherings without setting an update. Sorted out pioneers know precisely what is happening around them and know where to discover everything.

  3. Knowledgeable

    Learning is a standout among the most recognizable characteristics of a good leader. Pioneers ought to have a huge information of the business they are working in. Furthermore, on the off chance that they work in something, the leader ought to have profound learning in their specialization. Other individuals ought to go to leaders to request counsel and suppositions.

    Leaders ought to likewise have an energy for persistently learning. Leaders should need to extend their insight and enhance their abilities.

  4. Leads by example

    The capacity to show others how its done is yet one more of the traits of incredible leaders. Specialists should take a gander at a leader and know precisely what is anticipated from them. On the off chance that a leader needs laborers to invest additional effort, the leader should invest additional energy. In the event that specialists ought to speak with each other unquestionably, the leader should lead by utilizing that specialized technique.

    A leader should dependably know about their activities on the grounds that their laborers will mirror them.

  5. Servant’s heart

    Should a leader lead, as well as serve. Leaders need to deal with their laborers. Leaders ought to get some information about their needs. A decent leader ought to be mindful to laborer satisfaction and inspiration. They think about the general population around them.

    Leaders should likewise concentrate on clients. Clients have needs and yearnings, as well. Leaders should discover what clients need to please and serve them.

  6. Integrity

    Respectability is a quality of good leaders. Leaders must be straightforward. They ought to never lie, cheat or take. You ought to have the capacity to confide in a leader.

    Leaders regularly are trusted with more essential or touchy assignments. Different specialists must trust the leader to be honest in their work and settle on the most legit choices. The leader ought to have some straightforwardness to tell individuals what they are doing. What’s more, the leader must be OK with being considered responsible.

  7. Give time

    Leaders will surrender their time for the benefit of their occupation and business. Leaders complete the occupation they’re doing, regardless. On the off chance that that implies they set aside additional opportunity to complete the employment, they’ll do it.

    Leaders are not clock watchers. They will invest more energy than what’s normal. In any case, investing more energy doesn’t mean leaders squander the standard work hours. Leaders utilize their time admirably and are engaged. They sort out their errands to complete the most work in the time they have, and they’re continually searching for approaches to build efficiency at work.

  8. Passion

    Leaders have pride and possession in their work. For leaders, their work is more than a vocation. Their work is their obsession. Leaders cherish what they do and urge others to end up plainly enthusiastic about it, as well.

    Leaders are forever discontent with their work. They are always headed to move forward. They are expended and are continually pondering their work. Also, leaders push others to show signs of improvement at their work.

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20 Habits Of Highly Successful People

It’s more than money and incredible thoughts. The level of progress you accomplish in your life is to a great extent a consequence of the things you manage without thinking–your habits.

It’s nothing unexpected then, that the propensities for individuals like Tony Robbins, Bill Gates, or even Oprah Winfrey, can differ definitely from those of the normal individual (that is most likely why they’re NOT normal). Anyway, here are 20 habits for profoundly effective individuals, to consolidate into your every day life.

1. They’re always hunting for solutions.

  • Profoundly effective individuals search for, and discover, openings where others see issues.

2. They don’t play the blame game.

  • Rather than accusing others, they assume liability for their activities and results (or deficiency in that department).

3. They focus on their strengths.

  • The best individuals on the planet boost their potential by concentrating on their solid focuses, and reinforcing them. Thus, they utilize what they have been given in a powerful and proficient path, to get the most out of what they have.

4. They’re efficient.

  • They are not recently occupied, but rather gainful and proactive. They’re the general population who “can’t sit still” and thus, run over significantly more open doors.

5. They choose their friend wisely.

  • The effective encircle themselves with constructive, similarly invested individuals. They comprehend that there is nothing more costly than a negative idea. They additionally realize that in the event that you encircle yourself with 10 fruitful, elite individuals, you will probably turn into the eleventh.

6. They’re authentic.

  • Very effective individuals develop as opposed to mimic. They realize that the greatest open doors lie in innovation (originality).

7. They take more and greater risks.

  • Just by going out on a limb – money related, passionate, expert and psychological, are you ready to accomplish the phenomenal.

8. They have a plan.

  • Instead of let chance follow through to its logical end, the best individuals have an authoritative arrangement for their life and business. They don’t simply experience life giving things a chance to transpire, adjusting to the conditions they end up in. Effective individuals work systematically at transforming their plan into a reality.

9. They aren’t stuck in the past.

  • A key habit for profoundly fruitful individuals is that they are versatile and grasp change. They are comfortable with, and acknowledge, the new and the obscure.

10. They persist.

  • The street to achievement is sliced through disappointment. Exceptionally effective people must make being versatile a habit. At the point when most would quit, they are simply beginning.

11. They let go of the small things.

  • It’s difficult to put 100% of your vitality into development and extension in case you’re always giving the little things a chance to overload you. The fruitful oppose investing at whatever time or passionate vitality on things over which they have no control.

12. They walk the walk.

  • Keeping in mind the end goal to pick up the certainty and regard of others, very effective individuals realize that they should try to do they say others should do. Fruitful individuals don’t discuss things in principle, they talk as a matter of fact.

13. They make healthy choices.

  • Best individuals know to remain fit as a fiddle and comprehend the significance of physical well-being. They know their innovative power and business capacity is straightforwardly connected to their own physical prosperity.

14. They are confident but not arrogant.

  • Those who’ve made huge progress realize that certainty is intermittently the deciding variable in whether an arrangement is made. By accepting and confiding in yourself, you impart to others that you are deserving of their certainty.

15. They are generous.

  • Effective individuals work from a point of view of wealth. They trust that there is sufficient achievement, money, and open door for everybody and are upbeat to help other people on their journey.

16. They don’t grumble.

  • Grumbling places you in an adverse and ineffective state, and effective individuals don’t squander their vitality on pessimism.

17. They have fears but they don’t control by them.

  • Successful individuals work past their feelings of dread to beat them. They revolt at being confined by their own trepidation.

18. They are ambitious.

  • As opposed to make due with normal, high achievers go after stunning. Thus, regardless of the possibility that they miss the mark, they are as yet accomplishing great better than expected.

19. They don’t procrastinate.

  • They realize that now is dependably the “correct time”.

20. They’re optimist.

  • They are not surpassed by uncertainty, they have confidence in their own capacity and that the best is yet to come.


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How Your First Board of Directors Shapes Your Company

Congrats! You’ve developed your business, and your organization has extended. It’s a great opportunity to gather a top managerial staff to help ensure, administer and deal with all you’ve manufactured.

The uplifting news: You’re sufficiently fruitful to require a board of director (BOD).

The awful news: You’ll never again be totally your own supervisor. Picking the general population who will serve on your BOD is basic – particularly on the off chance that you don’t need them to fire you.

Why create a BOD ?

BODs exist to speak to the enthusiasm of all shareholders. On the off chance that you keep up 51 percent of your organization’s value, then the board really replies to you. In the event that you took venture capital, weakened offers or even opened up to the world, then odd are you answer to the BOD. The shareholder dependably is the supervisor. The BOD fills in as the shareholders’ illustrative and has specialist to execute their will, which could incorporate supplanting you.

The BOD administers organization operations. The substance acts as a group of ordinarily of at least five individuals who have learning about your industry, markets and rivalry. BODs regularly are separated into a few subgroups, or boards, each with an attention on a key part of your business:

  • Audit Committee: A minimum of two members qualified to read and interpret financial statements
  • Corporate Governance Committee: Ensures the company is following all government regulations and corporate laws (and if you are public, listing regulations)
  • Nominating Committee: Identifies candidates to fill BOD and senior-management roles

Your full BOD will meet quarterly, however colleagues can meet as required. At the point when the full board accumulates, its essential employment is to impart. Individuals will get a monetary announcement, hear covers legitimate or administrative issues and find out about progress from every board of trustees.

These essential announcing exercises keep the board educated so individuals can consult with top administration about the organization’s condition and standpoint. Since legitimate matters may rotate around these talks, full and finish records must be caught and safeguarded. It’s fundamental for your general or outside insight to go to and give logical comprehension to any lawful issues that emerge.

The CEO’s dilemma

Your BOD individuals ought to know your industry, and there are times they’ll second-figure the vital choices that you and your official group make. The transient cravings of shareholders can be contrary to the long haul vision of the CEO, particularly an establishing CEO. At the point when the two interests wander too extraordinarily, clashes emerge amongst BOD and CEO. For the most part, CEOs who push too far or too quick lose ground and frequently are supplanted.

This is the CEO’s situation when choosing board individuals. Stacking the board with adoring sycophants decreases the point of view the BOD can offer the CEO. Pioneers advantage when many eyes watch from the top. Yet, a BOD effectively influenced by the whimsical way of financial specialists and their craving for here and now benefit can expel genuinely visionary CEOs and pulverize world-evolving missions.

The objective, then, is to select people who comprehend and share the CEO’s vision yet generally play out the due steadiness of unbiased board individuals. The two extremes ought not be in struggle. On the off chance that contention emerges, one of three inadequacies normally is to be faulted: The pioneer’s vision isn’t right, the board individuals are poor fits or the shareholders don’t have the correct speculation skyline for your organization.



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Being CEO: Gift and Curse

A CEO’s pride can be either a company’s greatest asset or greatest weakness. So how does company ensure it functions as the former and not the latter?

Many small and private of Japanese companies, the CEO or the company owner want to gather all the information and making decisions on his own. He wants total power and control on every situation. In the beginning of business, the management method can be effective and CEOs tend to say, ” If you want something done, do it yourself.” However as the company grow in size and complexity, this method has loose its effectiveness.

A CEO cannot observe every thing that they see and make decision based on what they see. More accurately, in a complicated situation, CEO should be saying, “If you want something done, fine a trusted and skill person, has experience and want to do it. I am only one candidate.”

Open sourcing might be the most efficient and cost effective way to help CEOs curb their egos and ensure that they leverage the best talent at their disposal.


Now, lets talk about ego. If you having ego, it is not bad at all actually. Ego initiate one’s drive to invent products and that is usually how business start. Ego can encourages achievement. It drive people to try new things and also overcome setbacks. CEO with strong ego mostly are decisive and courageous and often have clarity of direction and focus.

But executives might not have the expertise or experience to make the highest-quality and best decisions. For example, their particular backgrounds might not give them the ability to evaluate certain proposals effectively. They may not be in a position to gather enough or appropriate information to decide on specific issues. And if they’re too proud to admit this, then they may not seek the advice they need. And because they hide information and do things without consulting others, they could lose trust in people—and people lose trust in them! A loss of trust could lead to other losses as well, like missed opportunities from front-line, open discussions. This leads to front-line disengagement.


There are 4 warning signs can expose an executive that has destructive ego that keeping organization from opening up.

1. Make improper comparisons

Some people likes to compare their ideas to others. If the comparison is purposely to learn, it can be worthwhile. But, comparing in a competitive manner, or doing so in order to bolster one’s own ego, might not be. Comparing ideas competitively might cause a CEO to miss opportunities that customers are signaling. When the desire to have the “winning” idea gets too strong, one might set inappropriate goals, set goals that are too lofty, or even set goals that are too “safe” . Leader should compare their present self with an image of themselves in future, rather than comparing themselves with other people and most important thing is, let the best ideas win.

2. Being Defensive

Leaders should defend their ideas and opinions with sound reasoning, and accept other ideas presented with similarly good reasoning. They needn’t defend themselves personally. In open organizations, debate should focus on ideas, not people, but having an ego that’s too strong might prevent someone from doing that.

You’ll know you’re too defensive when your pride or reputation is your number first consideration when you’re making an argument, not solving the problem with the best solution. If you are giving single-solution directives rather than encouraging options, you’re being too defensive.

Even though hearing opinions that differ from yours can be difficult, the truth is always better than statements exaggerated, understated, or just plain incorrect.

3. Being the center of attention

As a leader, being the center of attention, they risk blocking out information and ideas from others. Open discussion and collective intelligence outperform the brightest individual nearly every time. With time and experience, confidence grows. The more we know, the more confident we become. When our confidence increases to the point where we think there is little more to learn, we close the door to listening and learning. We become less open.

3. Craving acceptance

Leaders need to remember that people who resist or reject their ideas are only rejecting those ideas, not leaders as people. Everyone should have the right and opportunity to attack your ideas—while at the same time praising you as a person.

Leadership is best reserved for those who don’t crave acceptance from others. When we must have the acceptance of other people, we tend to “play it safe,” hold back, and take fewer risks. And this, in turn, makes us weaker leaders.

How to become more open ?

Step 1: Emotional maturity

The first step toward curbing a destructive ego is achieving emotional maturity because if its successfully achieved, it will open the mind and increase the ability of a person to listen and learn. This maturity allows us to temporarily suspend our opinions and encourage discussion and debate in the best interest of the business, not only ourselves.

CEOs must understand that they know a lot—but not everything. They must be willing to look objectively at situations and find ways to confirm an organization’s situation. This involves finding a difficult balance: When should I ask questions and get information? When should I decide and execute on a decision? When should I stop and listen? When should I talk? To create more open workplaces, we must do what we can to help leaders find this balance and remind them that they don’t know everything.

Step 2: Curiosity

When we created an open minded atmosphere, we need a certain curiosity to actuallt explore others’ ideas. Leading with questions can prevent us from holding tightly to our own ideas and our beliefs. If we are truly curious, our satisfaction with the status quo is actually quite temporary. We soon want to learn, to advance further. We are never finished. We must convince our leaders that they should hold back their opinions while they explore other important possibilities.

Step 3: Determination

Determination that helps you to close the gap between what we think is right and what is really right. But over-determination can lead us to act in blind faith. We must convince leaders that times do change. Insist that your leaders continually confirm that their strategies and beliefs are still most effective and true in the current environment.


You need to become more open. After a leader effectively keeps her or his ego in check, where does he or she begin delegating decisions and problem solving? To find the answer to that question, one must simply explore where value is created. Having maturity, curiosity and determination, our newly-open CEO should be willing to open up that decision-making process and give decision making power and trust to those individuals, whether within the company or outside. The leader’s role should be to support those people and groups, and to create an environment in which they can come up with the solutions that best suit their immediate situations, and the company as a whole—not an environment that lets the CEOs ego spiral out of control.


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Dato’ HJ Harris HJ Annuar Tan, CEO of Asian Supply Base

Dato’ Hj Harris Hj Annuar Tan, Chief Executive Officer of Asian Supply Base (ASB) demonstrates an excellent entrepreneurial spirit to lead the Company in a positive direction by proper planning, adapting to change in a rapidly changing business environment and understanding the Company’s strengths and weaknesses. He is an example of a CEO best known for his extensive experience in the logistic hub development across the Oil and Gas (O&G) region.

Dato’ Hj Harris was born in Labuan Federal Territory (Labuan FT), Malaysia on 22nd of September 1960. He was fascinated by the affairs of the business world since the early years of his primary and secondary education in Labuan FT and in the Capital City of Sabah, Kota Kinabalu. Hence, in 1980, Dato’ Hj Harris graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Management from the University of Wisconsin, United States. “I was mentored by lecturers who often shared their leadership experiences in class. Their stories inspired me and convinced me that it’s leadership strategy that matters to the successful entrepreneur,” he says.

Dato’ Hj Harris started his career as assistant secretary in Labuan Municipal council. He then served as a manager in a Japanese company, Itochu Corporation, from 1991 to 1995. The stint with Itochu Corporation helped him to develop skills in entrepreneurship including the skills in coordinating with other relative support teams in the project and reporting to the global operations and senior management in Japan.

Dato’ Hj Harris started his career in ASB since 1995 and has vast experience in the logistic service towards O&G activities in the exploration, development and production areas. His strong leadership skills, high performing ability, and hard work certainly did not go unnoticed by the Government, which is the ultimate shareholder of ASB. He was later appointed as the Chairman of Yayasan Sabah Shipping Sdn Bhd to lead the Group to greater heights in the O&G Industry, bringing with him his wealth of experience to add-value, as Chairman/Director, to several other companies (Just to name a few: SOGIP, Petrosab Logistik, Petrosab Petroleum Engineering).

ASB was founded in 1984. It is wholly owned by the State Government of Sabah via Sabah Energy Corporation Sdn Bhd (SEC). At the outset it was only designed and operated as a supply base to support shallow-water drilling operations. During the early years, Dato’ Hj Harris could have become depressed and paralysed by unfortunate circumstances he faced especially during the economy downturn. Yet, he looked at them as an opportunity to learn and to gain experience. He is inclined to see an opportunity in every adversity, and constantly drives the Company to the next level with steady growth in revenue. He creates an open environment by being consistently open to the ideas to others. That way synergy is always achieved in the pooling of ideas and strategy-formulation.

“There’s no reason to wait for the perfect time to start a project. Start working on it today,” he says. Given the chance to develop Malaysian capabilities and to maximize Sabahan involvement in the overall O&G industry, several projects – such as first Liquid Mud Plant (2000) and Jetty Expansion (2002 & 2006) including establishing ASB Maritime Resources – were ensured the Company’s future is secured. In 2010, what began as a basic logistic services center eventually transformed into an entity that creates market and provides best-in- class service – a fully integrated logistic hub that provides tailored services to support O&G exploration development and production activities, even for deepwater operations. With Dato’ Hj Harris’ strong entrepreneurship spirit, he and his team have been growing the business at an incredible rate.

ASB has hired more than 1200 staff since establishment. It is now recognized as a vital supply base for the O&G upstream activities. The expansion of facilities fulfills the aspiration of the Government as it targets to be actively involved in the upstream industries to generate additional income for the benefit of the industry in general. Its ongoing objective is to achieve optimal results for its shareholders by providing its customers with the best operational service and value, acquiring O&G related business, hiring and developing the best qualified people, utilizing a well-maintained equipment fleet and new technologies, emphasizing high expectations for performance and integrity, and upholding the highest safety standards.

Dato’ Hj Harris began to think like an entrepreneur during the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997 when he realized that human resource is key to organizational success. “To ensure and maximize return and the consistent growth of the Company, it is important to focus not only on the hard skills but also the soft skills; interpersonal skills and people management skills,” says Dato’ Hj Harris.

“I have a great team with me that makes me who I am today and together we have put ASB in the referral list of our customers,” recalls Dato’ Hj Harris. “As CEO, I may be responsible for a decision, but I know my decision will be better if it reflects the best thinking of the right people in our organization. I have probably learned more from people who have worked for me over the years.”

He emphasises a lot on people-management during the recession. “Human management is a great challenge, it is especially important during the recession when it is crucial to maximize the productivity of an organization by optimizing the effectiveness of its employees. We must take care of those who take care of the business,” he says.

Dato’ Hj Harris is known to be a keen rider. He is the President of Harley Group in Labuan and loves to ride around with other Harley members during his free time ride around with other Harley members during his free time “Work Hard, Play Hard” is one of his slogans. “Those bikers are from professional background, aside from their friendship, you will always gain something valuable from them, such as their insights in the fields that they are in.” Dato’Hj Harris spends some of his time to play golf with his clients too. “It’s another way to release your stress, and it is also another platform for you to create or nurture another new business opportunity, not to forget the advantage of communicating and sharing different viewpoints on the newly gained business information that relates to the Company’s business. Life Success Formula? Enjoy your life, then you will enjoy your work,” he says.

Dato’ Hj Harris often outlines his concerns over the future of ASB and what would help to expand ASB’s business coverage and further grow the Company to achieve its vision – be the most recognize integrated supply base in the O&G Industry in this region. “You can dissolve into the mainstream or you can be distinct; to stand out against the others, you must strive to be what no one else is but be all that you can be,” he says. “I am very pleased to have a strong supportive team with me, they are like my family, and it is the most rewarding aspect of the entrepreneur’s job,” he muses.

Dato’ Hj Harris says that integrated logistic hub towards the O&G industry is a very complex business but that it is gratifying to create something from scratch. “It will never be boring to create your own success story,” he says. “You need to have a clear mind, strong analytical skills to make the right decision that will lead your Company to a bright future. And calculated risk taking will be a vital key point to be successful in your life.”


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Funeral Business Makes David Kong One Of Malaysia’s Richest

When David Kong had the idea for a funeral-services business in Malaysia back in 1985, no one would listen. Banks wouldn’t lend him money. Local authorities wouldn’t approve his application to open a cemetery. He quickly learned that profiting from a loss was not seen as a “decent” way to earn a living, though in the U.S. and elsewhere the industry had long thrived.

But Kong persevered. Today his Nirvana Asia is Southeast Asia’s largest full-service funeral company. It embalms, buries and cremates. It designs caskets, builds tombs and provides niches for mortal remains. It organizes bereavement services, most often with the rituals and prayers of ancient Buddhist and Taoist cultures.

It’s a strange business. The products and services are part of the realm of culture, religion and tradition. The custodians are monks and priests and the ancient spiritual texts of last rites. “Every life deserves a curtain call,” he says during an interview at his 18-story Nirvana Center in downtown Kuala Lumpur. “We celebrate life and its achievements and make sure that the transition to the other world is dignified, respectful and easy for both the deceased and their loved ones.”

It’s also been a lucrative business for the 61-year-old Kong, who is also known as Kong Hon Kong. Last month he took the Hong Kong-listed company private in a deal with London’s CVC Capital Partners that valued the company at $1.1 billion. The firm bought a 43% stake while Kong collected $200 million; he still owns 38%, down from 42.7%. He’ll continue to run the company. An earlier investor, Orchid Asia, holds the other 19%.

In March Kong debuted on FORBES ASIA’s list of Malaysia’s 50 richest people at No. 34, with a net worth of $550 million. But his fortune is now estimated at $720 million.

CVC is investing in a big operation. Nirvana runs 13 cemeteries, 14 columbaria, 2 funeral homes and 6 crematoriums in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and China. It controls 31% of the death-services market in Malaysia and 35% in Singapore, according to research firm Frost & Sullivan. Those shares are at least five times larger than its nearest rival in each country. It’s expected to generate $52 million in net profit this year on revenue of $171 million, according to Bloomberg. “Kong has woven magic,” says Liew Kee Sin, chairman of Eco World Development, who has known him for two decades. “He has changed a social taboo into a business that invokes the blessings of the gods and puts you at ease with the inevitable. People now talk about their own death, plan for it and are no longer afraid of it.”

Following a strategy of market segmentation, Nirvana offers its packages at multiple price points. A burial plot in a premium location could cost $2.5 million and a gold-plated coffin as much as $350,000. Its more than 3,000 agents sell what are called “pre-need” packages to customers as young as 40 who are planning ahead. Some 85% of the company’s revenue comes from selling services that may not be used for years.

Nirvana agents range in age from 30 to 45, defying the notion that death care is a gloomy industry that would have trouble attracting young talent. Says Casey Liew, 33, a former bank executive and a graduate of Adelaide Business School who joined Nirvana in 2014 as assistant manager, corporate sales & marketing: “This is a great learning ground. The company understands the customer’s needs, is constantly innovating and creating products for different cultural sensibilities, backgrounds and even the world beyond.”

In Kuala Lumpur, Nirvana billboards are ubiquitous, making the company a household name. One of its brands, Baby Paradise, caters to parents who have lost a fetus or a child. Its “White Ladies” are recognized for their cosmetology and makeup expertise and their sensitivity in dealing with women customers.  In Indonesia, where Nirvana is the second-largest player, its services are sold under the brand name Alam Lestari Hijau, or “sustainable, natural, green.”

Nirvana’s Memorial Park in Semenyih, outside Kuala Lumpur, has become a tourist attraction. Its memorial hall draws on ancient Chinese history, architecture and intricate gold ornamentation to promote a sense of regal splendor and status. A museum holds the personal effects of celebrities and political leaders buried there. There’s also Southeast Asia’s first Chinese stone calligraphy gallery, constructed at a cost of $5 million. Images of a crystal-embedded Buddha and the Goddess of Mercy are everywhere. Outside, swaying bamboos, a glistening lake and landscaped pathways surround tombs covered with horsehead-shaped roofs. Many of Malaysia’s rich and famous have booked plots for themselves and their families here.

Kong was certainly not one of these when he was growing up. The third of 10 children, he was born to a family of rubber tappers in Kuala Lipis in northern Malaysia. His mother pedaled him and his brother, neither one a teenager yet, at 2 a.m. every day to work on the rubber estates. Then at 7 a.m. the boys would start their long walk to school, only to return home after school to more work–bundling and delivering latex–before they went to bed. “My mama would buy me outsize shoes so they would last longer,” he says. “The only new clothes I ever wore were school uniforms.” At 16, out of “sheer desperation,” the brothers left the village for Kuala Lumpur. There they distributed toothpaste, soap and other consumer goods. Demand was brisk, but creditors were always delaying payments, and margins were razor-thin. Kong moved on in 1985 to launch a moneylending business.

Meanwhile his father-in-law died and he was entrusted with finding a burial ground. But there were no private cemeteries in Malaysia then. The community cemetery was strewn with weeds, unkempt pathways and haphazard tombstones. As he stepped on some of them he found himself apologizing to the deceased. Then came the nightmare of dealing with casket makers and organizing a prayer service. The process was so chaotic that “demand for a better service was self-evident,” says Kong. “Death is a certainty. Whoever is born must die. That means a demand in perpetuity.”

Selling the concept, however, was difficult. Kong might have abandoned it, but a recession hit Malaysia in 1987, and as liquidity evaporated his credit business went belly-up. He was at square one again, this time with a young wife and two children in tow. Plagued by doubts about profiting from such a delicate business, he was fortunate to have a friend who was a monk to get him past the psychological barrier. And a geomancy master helped him identify land in the shape of a dragonhead with good feng shui. He won over a reluctant landlord with a profit-sharing proposal and gained the right to use a 50-acre parcel for burials. But the local government rejected his application. For the next two years Kong would troop down to the land department nearly every day. In 1990 he finally won approval and called his new company Nirvana.

His first customer was a friend who bought a plot after his uncle died. Soon word spread about the new “death company.” Before the year was out, Nirvana was turning a profit. But not believing that the land had any resale value, banks still wouldn’t lend Kong money. So he kept an eagle’s eye on cash collections and landholding costs. Any surplus went into accumulating more land and beautifying the cemetery. Skeptics began turning around as he rolled out one innovation after another and profits soared. “For the first time lenders, investors and bankers began to look at my business as legitimate, though unusual,” he says.

But he hadn’t quite arrived yet. In 1996 Malaysia’s stock market was on a tear. Nirvana applied for a listing, but it didn’t have any peers or valuation model to judge its viability. “No one knew how to deal with it,” he says. The application was rejected, but once Kong was finally able to launch his IPO in 2000, the way was paved for very quick growth. “I would work 16 hours a day, supervise every detail for every service personally till it was perfect,” he says.

Kong relisted Nirvana in Hong Kong in 2014, fetching $246 million and giving him the muscle to expand into Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong, the Philippines and China. The private equity deal will speed that expansion. “When I started out, I simply had a dream to provide seamless, worry-free death services,” he says. “It has made me more money than I ever dreamt, and it has also ensured that I will have a happy ending when the time comes.”

Indeed, his burial plot stands right on top of the hill at his Memorial Park in Semenyih.



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Retail needs more than just size to survive

IS retail an art or a science?

To most, it may be more art than science but to property consultancy Savills (Malaysia) managing director Allan Soo, it is both. Creating desire and aspiration is all about art while the science bit comes in the form of numbers, catchment area and household income.

Considering that technology is based on which retail – as with other economic sectors – thrives today, the intrepid traveller and shopper who has just returned from a spree in Italy says: “There is the hardware – which is the sq ft – and there is the software, which are the tenants, merchandise and demand from shoppers. You need to look at both,” says Soo.

Soo believes that instead of thumping our chests on the sq ft (or burgeoning retail space), it is important to paint a more wholesome picture of how retail can evolutionise amid the space and technology against the maturity backdrop of the Malaysian retail.

“It may be hard to see the good news, but there are good news,” Soo says.

The millennial generation, those between 20 years and 35 years old, will dominate. “Young people are good at swiping (cards) which will impact retail, and which they already have,” says Soo.

Online transactions are rising. So retail today is in a sort of flux; as in the banking industry because of fintech, and in the property sector, because of proptech, says Soo. An online property website may have 100,000 visitors in a day, but does the bricks and mortar property consultancy have that?

“Online is big today and it will become bigger,” says Soo.

A case in point. Chinese e-commerce group Alibaba Singles Day last year reached a record US$14.3bil in one day, Reuters reported.

That is more than 25 years of Suria KLCC annual sales of RM2.5bil for 2016. It took 20 years to get RM2.5bil but Alibaba did it in one day, says Soo.

These are the challenges facing the retail sector, not only in Malaysia, but globally.

“So what I am trying to say is, this goes beyond sq ft and how much space we have. In the midst of all these, there will be winners and losers.”

Why they are winners

If one were to take a ratings poll, there are five malls which constantly come up tops. They are Suria KLCC, KL Pavilion, Sunway Pyramid, 1Utama in Petaling Jaya and Mid Valley Megamall, which is half-way between Petaling Jaya and KL city.

Each of these malls have a net lettable area of more than 1 million sq ft, which gives rise to the term megamalls.

That being the case, there are three other malls that fit that bracket – Sunway Velocity and MyTown, both in Cheras and IOI City Mall in Putrajaya. By the end of this year, there will be Mall No. 9, with 2.4 million sq ft at Empire City in Damansara Perdana, Petaling Jaya.

Soo says IOI City Mall, although isolated according to some, attracts visitors as far as Seremban. It has a catchment area within a 20-minute drive compared with some malls in Petaling Jaya within a five-minute drive.

Put simply, the longer the drive time, the larger the catchment area because there are no competing malls close by.

But what makes the Top 5 always the Top 5?

Tenant mix is one factor. Tenant mix is different from trade mix, which refers to fashion, food, services. Within the fashion mix, there is Zara, which is priced higher than H&M, says Soo. A mall’s tenant and trade mix draws a particular group of audience.

Location, the mall’s catchment area, is another boom or bust factor and the Top 5 malls are located in what may be considered as prime area in the catchment that they serve, he says.

Soo says a mall with a net lettable area of 1 million sq ft will need about 300 tenants, while 2.4 million sq ft, about 700 tenants.

When there is more than 2 million sq ft, the mall owner may need a Louis Vuitton (LV) but does the catchment area within which the mall is located have household incomes that fit the LV bracket?

Two of the Top 5 does not have a LV. In the whole of Malaysia, there are only three LV stores, compared to Tokyo where a single destination can have three LVs. So size does not determine that LV, or some other top luxury brand, will take up tenancy in a mega mall, important though it may be.

LV and other top end luxury brands want access to consumers, and if the median household income of that catchment is not there, space becomes a secondary factor.

“So generally speaking, a mega mall of 1 million sq ft may not need a luxury line. Suburban malls are all about convenience, households, family and entertainment. City malls are about fashion, entertainment and food. And here is where the luxury market comes in.

“The luxury market is important because it provides a benchmark for the retail industry and although it (the luxury market) is softening, city malls need them because it has that aspirational pull,” Soo says.

The luxury market

Luxury brands expanded because of the rise of China, says Soo. After the 2008 global financial crisis, some of the world’s largest luxury goods producers over-expanded in China. LVMH or Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy, the world’s largest luxury goods maker with over 50 brands, including LV, expanded at breakneck speed in China. Incidentally, that included Chinese property developers.

Top of the range branded goods and property were the darlings of the burgeoning middle class and both sectors – retail and property – fell over themselves to cash in on their propensity to spend. When the Chinese administration threw down the gauntlet on corruption, under the current leadership, and the “gifting” stopped, and the luxury market was impacted. The global economy is still seeing the effects of that today under China’s capital controls.

Some may ask, how does that affect Malaysia? With regard to the property sector, one can monitor the scene in certain parts of the country. As for retail, when MH370 was lost in 2014, it affected retail sales and tourism.

Tourism and retail, particularly at the higher end of the luxury market, are best buddies. In Malaysia, as in other parts of the world, the retail sector is tourism-dependent.

“On many counts, Malaysia is priced lower than most of our neighbours but yet there is this softness in the retail scene. So that is how every shopping centre owner and operator looks at the market. The retail industry goes beyond sq ft and supply of space,” says Soo. New malls need to differentiate themselves.

“If I were to generalise, it is difficult to get a 10% differentiation for a new mall. You can only have differentiating factor for a short time. By next year, they would have lost it. The challenge is today.

Twenty to 30 years ago, that differentiating factor could last longer because things were not moving so fast as today. Another factor is the lack of depth and breath of our retail sector. Unlike Bangkok and some Chinese cities which have a lot of homegrown brands, Kuala Lumpur lacks that.

“Our breath and depth of retail is not established or explored. In Bangkok, in just shoes alone they have so many brands,” says Soo.

How many of the 300 shops in the 1 million sq ft mall will be local or homegrown brands? Hardly any. So how do you fill that 300 shops? Which explains the high degree of cannibalism when malls are located too close to each other, and so the smaller malls of about 700,000 sq ft suffer because whatever they have, their bigger neighbouring malls also have.

Which means retailers need to change their merchandise, their design and/or their target market, says Soo. Do they want to be classic or new and young? Today, the Chinese prefer the smaller brands. So there is a shift.

The intrepid traveller puts it thus: “Retail is about fashion, and fashion is about changes and lifestyle. We have brands which just arrived in Kuala Lumpur which are doing better than some of our older brands because the latter did not change.

The Ralph Lauren flagship store in Hong Kong closed late last year. It was not because the brand lacks quality.

It did not change with the current. Women used to swoon over floras and prints 20 years ago. The baby boomers who like prints are gone. Now the 25 and 30 year-olds are swooning about something else.


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