The Co-Founder & Chief Financial Guy at Akru. I have 20 years of experience in the investment banking and fund management industries with companies such as CIMB, J.P. Morgan and Public Mutual. I was formerly a producer and presenter on BFM 89.9, where I host shows on business and finance including how it impacted ordinary folks.
1. What is your best investment and worst investment?
My best investment is investing in myself. My worst investment is failing to invest enough in myself.
2. What was your first-ever investment (and how did that go)?
I didn’t realise that a long time ago when I made my first investments in the stock market, I was actually gambling. I thought that what went up would not come down and that everything I picked was going to be a sure thing just because I wanted them to be. Obviously, that didn’t turn out well.
3. Your investment no-nos (why not and what happened)
Don’t waste time trying to pick the right stocks to buy. Buy into whole markets which have given decent, inflation-beating returns over the long term. Better still, pay someone who doesn’t charge too much (like Akru) to invest for you. Use your time for things you love doing.
4. What are you investing for?
I think we can be content and happy without needing too much stuff. It’s enough to be enlightened and healthy and have close friends and family. Having said that, some affordable vices and toys won’t hurt 🙂
5. Julian’s investment philosophy and approach
Investing in yourself gives the best returns because minimal financial capital is needed. Once you reap career dividends, you can invest savings passively so that you can continue to have time to do whatever fulfils you. I personally use a robo-advisor which invests my money into diversified global portfolios which contain about maybe 10,000 securities. My assets are split roughly 70-30 into equity and bonds.
Hi, I’m Azran Osman-Rani and this is how I invest.
I build businesses that try to challenge industry status quo by making services much more accessible, affordable and convenient for the mass market segment, and then scaling regionally. I’m currently the CEO and co-founder of Naluri, a digital therapeutics company that helps those at risk of chronic conditions like diabetes, heart diseases and cancer, and those wrestling with mental health, to get behavioural coaching and psychological support to achieve quantifiable improvements in their health and wellbeing.
1. What is your best investment and worst investment? My best investment was my financially-worst investment! When I took on the role as founding CEO of AirAsia X, I invested cash to become a shareholder to have full alignment with other investors – not just through stock-options. I invested a lot more cash at our IPO six years later at the IPO price, to again have the same exposure as our IPO investors. Unfortunately, due to three major aviation disasters in the following year, the share price collapsed and I had my entire holding wiped out.
Although it was financially excruciating, it was also the most valuable investment I made. I learned so much about starting a business – from pitching a business plan to raise over $100 million capital from investors, applying for licenses and building a team from scratch, and growing it to an IPO six years later at a $1 billion valuation – and in the process overcome global financial crises, natural disasters, and restrictive regulatory barriers. This invaluable experience has given me the courage, knowledge and humility to keep on building new businesses.
2. What was your first-ever investment (and how did that go)? That would be to put the down payment on a house. I started my career in Singapore, and for the first two years, I only rented a room that had a mattress. No bed, no desk. By saving up, I was able to afford that down payment on a house back in Malaysia. We sold it later after staying there for two years, at a decent 10% annual return, after taking into account all the interest paid.
3. Your investment no-nos (why not and what happened) I don’t invest in property other than my own residence because of the effort to look for tenants and then having to manage tenants. I’ve tried it before, and it’s not worth the peace of mind.
Similarly, I have not invested in individual stocks for over 15 years. I once tried to build my own portfolio of stocks, and I spent a lot of time educating myself about both fundamental and technical analysis. While I made some great stock picks, they were balanced out by other poor selections. After three years, my portfolio did not beat the market index.
I learned that it’s not worth trying to manage my own portfolio and compete with professional fund managers that monitor the market every single day. I’m now a big believer in unit trusts despite all the fees involved, because over more than 10 years, the fees are negligible compared to the value of a professionally managed portfolio, and without a shadow of a doubt, the strength of my financial net worth over the last 25 years of my professional life, has been from unit trust investments.
And I stay away from crypto-currency. Without any actual real life applications of crypto-currencies, it is just financial speculation, and no better than gambling.
4. What is your context for investing? One of the best things I did more than five years ago, was to work with a professional financial planner. We worked on defining my life goals and my values, as a compass on how I make life decisions. Financial decisions are a means of achieving these life goals.
Through reflection, I learned that I’m primarily motivated by curiosity to learn new things and to build solutions that would help the mass market segment in Asia get access to services that were available only to upper segments of society. It has been a consistent motivator to define a long-haul low-cost airline model to make travel to faraway destinations much more affordable, to make television entertainment more convenient and at a fraction of the cost of a cable or satellite subscription, and now with healthcare.
I’ve also learned that building new businesses is very hard. Things don’t go according to plan, and part of having the mental resilience to handle extreme business pressure comes from financial resilience of a good financial plan – that includes having sufficient liquid investments and insurance protection to take care of any downside risks and not affect my family’s well being if the businesses that I build, were to collapse.
I’m incredibly passionate and energized about building Naluri, because it not only taps into a massive underdeveloped market opportunity with chronic disease and mental health care, developing state-of-the-art artificial intelligence and machine learning tools that fuel my curiosity, but it also is about helping so many people transform their lives when they become healthier.
5. Azran’s investment philosophy and approach My main life goal is to still lead a productive and healthy life at the age of 100! I’m a keen student of the science of longevity and human performance. I believe that humanity will see so many advances in medical care, including gene editing and personalized medication at the DNA, microbiome and lifestyle level. We will also unlock much more human performance through improving mental wellbeing as we understand how to manage our thoughts and feelings, which in turn directly affects our physical health and strengthens our immune system.
So, my investment philosophy and time-horizon is Ironman-triathlon long! I believe the old model of studying for the first twenty years of your life, and then working for forty years, and hopefully have enough to retire for the final twenty years of life is outdated. Human lifespans will increase much more than what we can save up for. At the same time, technology is changing at such a rapid rate, that how we will earn income will also fundamentally change every 5-10 years. That means, we need to keep reinventing ourselves, investing to build new skills and expand our professional networks. We also need to keep actively managing our health so that we have the optimism, curiosity and resilience to keep going for many more decades.
As I approach my mid-century mark, I have never been more excited for the opportunities that lie ahead in my ‘second-half’!
Ever since I venture into business in 1985, I have been conditioned not to do any business with our government. It was not possible to register as a supplier to the government as my company is required to have a minimum 51% Bumiputra (Bumi) ownership. Some government contracts are reserved only for 100% Bumi entities. So I ventured into the private sector and has stayed there ever since.
I remembered that any company going for an IPO listing had to reserve 30% shareholding for Bumi participation. These shares were distributed by the Ministry of Trade and Industries to Bumi institutions and entrepreneurs listed with the Ministry. Traditionally institutions like PNB were given the option to take up to 20% of the listed concern with the balance 10% shared by the list of individuals as determined by the Ministry.
The New Economic Policy (1971-1990) had 3 main objectives – to achieve national unity, harmony and integrity, through socio-economic restructuring of the society and poverty eradication. As most of the economic activities at that time were controlled by the non Malays, the government had to step in to acquire ownership in various economic activities for the Malay population and helped to find employment and securing participation for the Malays in economic activities.
At that time, all multinational corporation and major local corporations like banks etc were given instructions to have a minimum of 30% Malay management staff in their organisation. The UMNO led government was working hard on the objective of securing at least 30% share of the economic pie for the Malays.
In education, at least 70% of the places in the local universities were reserved for the Malays. Institute Teknologi Mara had almost a 100% Malay enrollment institution and it has retained the same policy to this day. Most of the overseas scholarships managed by the Public Services Department were given to Malays and these educational endeavors have been responsible for building a knowledgeable and capable cohort of Malay Managers.
Through the GLC’s and GLIC’c, many of their investee companies are managed by capable Malay Managers. Via these sovereign Malay funds, the Malaysian government is now controlling all the major sectors of the economy, from banking to properties to shipping to oil and gas etc. The only problem left for the government is how to equitably distribute this accumulated wealth to the mass Malay population.
All these efforts have over the years yielded many successful Malay entrepreneurs. Malays now form the biggest middle class income cluster as compared to the non Malays. Unfortunately, there is also a big population of Malays who are in the B40’s segment of society. Income inequality is now intra-race rather than inter-race. The same problem exists among the Chinese and the Indians too as in all the other races in Sabah and Sarawak.
The income inequality has widen between rich and poor Malaysians, whether you are Malay or non Malay. This is now a national problem not just for Malaysia but in many developed countries as well. Our Malaysian government must arrest this problem as soon as possible. Widening income inequality will only cause discontent and unrest among the poor citizens, Malays and non Malays alike.
Then comes this 2021 budget, the biggest national budget ever to stimulate the economy back to life amidst the pandemic recession. Over RM 320 billion to be spent in 2021 and it was interesting to watch the reaction of the politicians and the man in the street.
Within minutes of the budget being read in Parliament by our non-political Minister of Finance, one particular text was circulated over social media that caught my attention.
‘Very generous budget for the rakyat. RM100 million for Indian, RM177 million for Chinese education, RM1.4 billion for Islamic affairs, RM 4.6 billion for Bumiputra businesses, RM6.5 billion for Bumiputra education.”
I was not surprised with the allocation breakdown as similar allocation had been implemented in every budget since 1971 from the government of Barisan Nasional to Pakatan Harapan and now
Perikatan Nasional. What disappointed me most was the lack of financial assistance and support to the non Bumi SME’s as our country has gone into deep recession.
Since the lockdown started in March, the Malaysian SME’s have suffered the most. It has been reported that 50,000 SME’s have closed shop and a further 100,000 SME’s will follow suit. The Malaysian government must extend financial assistance to help all Malaysian SME’s irrespective of race and religion.
Preparing a budget need not be a zero sum game. If you allocate RM4.6 billion to help Bumi businesses, then allocate a proportionate amount to help the non Bumi SME’s based on population ratio of 65:35 which means an allocation of RM1.6 billion should be provided. The budget policy should emphasize on bridging the income inequality between the rich and the poor and not based on the outdated National Economic Policy.
Fair enough that the politicians in the Malay political parties continue to push the Malay agenda, I am utterly disappointed that the politicians from the so called multi racial parties like PKR and DAP have not uttered a single protest for the non provision of financial assistance to the non bumi SME’s in Parliament while debating the budget.
I am utterly disgusted with our National leaders who called for a unity government and announced that they will be a government for all Malaysians while continuing to promote unfair racial policies. During such unprecedented times of extreme economic stress, we need a courageous leader to rise above the archaic politics of yesteryears, and who can provide leadership towards a unified vision of equality for all Malaysians irrespective of race and religion.
Chinese SME’s who have overwhelmingly voted for DAP in the last general elections must be greatly disappointed with DAP for not looking after their interests in the last PH government and now in opposition. Whimpering excuses replacing roars of a fake lion.
Unfulfilled manifestos, broken promises and shattered dreams.
Just a bunch of pathetic politicians who have lost their plot.
With the CMCO extended until 6 December, most of us will be stuck in the house. Oh no, that means higher electricity bills? Have no worry, Tenaga Nasional Berhad is here to save the day! They have put together a new, snazzy website with many tips to help you save some Ringgit.
Before we get to the tips, here are some good news. Times are tough now for most Malaysians, and TNB understands this fully. Here’s the list of its initiatives to help Malaysians ease the burdens. As a TNB’s residential customer (under Tariff A – Domestic), you will enjoy:
PRIHATIN discounts of up to 50% (based on electricity usage) for your monthly bill until 31 December 2020. Click here for more details.
Easy Payment Plan for outstanding bills without any surcharge.
No late payment surcharge for bills from 18 March 2020 to 31 December 2020.
No disconnection during this period for defaulted bill payment. Disconnection of supply will only be done if it is requested by the account holder or instructed by relevant authorities due to any legal matters.
During CMCO, meter reading will go on as usual – which means you will receive actual bills (except for areas under TEMCO where movement is restricted by the authorities). TNB is indeed doing its best to stay true to its slogan “Better. Brighter.”
Now let’s look at some useful tips:
1. Power down when not in use
Switch off and unplug all your electrical devices (except the refrigerator, of course). Examples of these energy-sucking culprits are tablets, iPads, wifi modems, Astro decoders, desktop computers, laptops, digital televisions, toasters, microwave ovens and electric stoves.
‘Sikit-sikit, lama-lama menjadi bukit’. This old Malay adage holds much wisdom. It is convenient to leave your iPad on for half an hour or so while you have a meal, but the combined wattage of half-hours over a month can make your bill hike up high.
Wifi modems don’t need to be on throughout the night when you’re sleeping. A flip of the modem switch can help you save a chunk of money each month.
And don’t forget your beloved mobile phone. Switch it off at night and let the battery rest. The less cycles of charging, the longer your phone’s battery lifespan.
2. Free your fridge of clutter
A refrigerator cools its contents down by circulating cold air. When this cold air cannot move properly, the fridge motor has to work harder to hit the temperature KPI that you set.
A fridge packed full with things blocks air-flow. Try to manage your grocery mania to avoid suffocating your fridge. Your wallet will thank you later.
3. Air-conditioning tricks to try
The ideal temperature for lowest electricity consumption is 24 degrees Celsius. That should cool your room enough. Just give your air-conditioning unit a few minutes-lah. Patience, please.
To ensure the room cools faster, close all the windows and doors of that space. Clean the filter regularly too. A dirty filter can slow air-flow through the air-con unit and affect its performance. The results will be lower energy use and cleaner air.
4. Laundry tricks
Most moms would already know that doing a full load will be more energy and cost efficient than half loads. But here is an additional tip: hang the clean laundry as soon as they’re done.
This will minimise wrinkles and reduce the number of clothes you need to iron. So, you save electricity and effort here as well.
For more tips and tricks, visit their website here. It also comes with an Energy Calculator and an educational tab on Energy Efficiency Labels. The calculator can give you an estimate of how much electricity is used by an appliance. It can even show you the difference of consumption between one appliance to another.
Don’t forget to click the main menu icon on the website. You’ll see a host of helpful links and information for residential homes, businesses, renewable energy, safety and advisory, energy efficiency, and so on.
The founder of ChristyNg.com a women’s shoes & handbag company. I’m just another entrepreneur trying to survive this horrific business environment now – wish me luck!
1. What is your best investment and worst investment?
My best investment was starting my business – ChristyNg.com a shoe & handbag company which sells online & in retail stores. I started off with RM10,000 as capital and managed to grow this to an ecommerce company which ships globally. We have 7 retail stores today.
My worst investment was buying a strata office lot in a mixed development where the developer abused our sinking funds. Not all strata mix developments are bad, I have come across good ones but one should be very cautious and stay away from strata properties managed by the developer / developer’s family as a lot of conflict of interest and fund abuse can happen due to ill management.
2. What was your first-ever investment? (and how did that go)
My first investment was buying my apartment in Bandar Utama. I bought it for 200k in 2009. It’s valued at around 700k now and it’s fully paid up. I’m getting a decent rental return on this as well till this very day despite economic uncertainty. I never had any difficulty renting it out as the location is strategic and convenient.
3. Your investment no-nos (why not and what happened)
Never invest in Strata property where the developer still owns majority share units. In my case, the developer appointed themselves as the property managing agent without having a valid property license by LPPEH. He then pays himself a hefty fee of 500k per annum. Our electricity bill for our common area is 2.6M and his payroll is very inflated – 2.9M . The developer pays a lower maintenance fee and sinking fund fee for the assets owned by him and his family whereas all of us pay a much higher fee.
4. What is your context for investing?
I love investing in businesses especially eCommerce & retail. I love building good products which people love and enjoy. I also see tremendous value investing long term in companies which have a solid foundation & track record via the stock market. I also invest a proportion of my personal and company cash in good fund houses via instruments like money market.
5. Your investment philosophy and approach
All good investments need time and one should avoid speculating in the share market or expecting fast returns. There is no easy or fast overnight money. Diversify your investments and ensure your investments are liquid. Have your investments diversified from long term, medium term and short term with different levels of risk profile which suit your appetite depending on your individual means & station in life. With the Covid-19 pandemic, a good investment to me is something that I can cash out at immediately at any time when the funds are needed. Remember, never put all your eggs into 1 single basket!
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Alibaba Cloud has powered the annual Double 11 Shopping Festival, the world’s largest online sales event, for 10 years. Local businesses can leverage on the same capabilities to expand globally.
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AI and machine learning: Alibaba Cloud’s Machine Learning Platform For AI provides end-to-end machine learning services, including data processing, feature engineering, model training, model prediction, and model evaluation — it combines all these services to make AI more accessible than ever.
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Alibaba Cloud has two availability zones in Malaysia to ensure high availability and strong disaster recovery capabilities, allowing customers to deploy mission-critical workloads in multiple availability zones and switch over within seconds.
The dual-availability enables Alibaba Cloud to provide you high-performance low-cost and useful cloud products regardless of your sector. Its services can meet the needs of developers, SMEs, large enterprises, and financial institutions, as well as the public sector, and provide the support companies need as they break into the global market.
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A writer, personal finance & REIT investing enthusiast, and a developing trader. I run a humble little personal blog called No Money Lah (https://nomoneylah.com/) where I share my thoughts and the lessons I learned about adulting, money & personal growth every week.
Come visit me on my blog for some wholesome articles! 🙂
1. What is your best investment and worst investment?
My best investment is the investment into myself (ie. investing in books and courses learn about investment, mindset & personal growth).
Of course, to be more direct, my best investment is in my REITs where I am currently building to (hopefully) one day generate a respectable passive income stream for me.
I do not consider any investment decision in my life to be negative. Personally, every experience and mistake is a good learning opportunity but if I were to say, investing without prior research is definitely my biggest mistake (and lesson) when I first started.
2. What was your first-ever investment (and how did that go)?
My first ever investment was in gold. I was around 19 back then and was looking to invest in something (but I didn’t know how). Eventually, I opened a Maybank Gold Investment Account and invested some of my part-time job salary in a few grams of gold.
If I remembered correctly, gold was around RM130-140/g back then and I sold it for about RM190/g a couple of years ago.
3. Your investment no-nos
Never invest based on other people’s opinions and recommendations.
As a creator and enthusiast in the personal finance space, I have seen a very bad culture among many communities/groups in social media.
Asking for buying/timing recommendations.
This is something that I speak openly about because 99.99% of recommendations do not come with caveat or context, and is purely people’s own perspective.
That’s why this is my biggest no-no in investing.
4. What are you investing for？
My goal when it comes to money and life is simple: to build multiple streams of income so I can live life on my own terms without feeling financially stressed and burdened. As such, investing plays an important role here to keep me focused and aligned in this journey.
Personally, I adopt a rather disciplined financial routine where I review my personal finances and portfolio every month end, so I am always crystal clear on my state of finances. I think having a consistently actionable financial routine is crucial for anyone that’s looking to take charge of their financial lives.
5. Yi Xuan’s investment philosophy and approach
a. Before investing, ask yourself:
“Am I confident in this business, that I am willing to hold on to this company for at least 2 years?” (barring any sudden unexpected fundamental shift in the business, of course)
b. Every kind of investment has its own risk. Your role as an investor is to choose the kind of risk you are comfortable with when investing.
With retailers such as Lazada and Shopee at our convenience, it is estimated that an average of RM277 was spent by Malaysians during the 11.11 sales in 2019. A study also revealed that up to RM683 was spent on gym equipment, because what other way to spend a day for singles than to focus on your own well-being?
We Malaysians aren’t far behind when it comes to spending, especially during 11.11 sales. Data collected as of 21 November 2019 also revealed that there was a 36% growth in search interest in the term “11.11” in 2019 as compared to 2018.
Within the first hour, Lazada hit their 1 millionth item sold during 2019’s 11.11 sales, and it took them merely 13 hours to surpass previous year’s sales record. Its first order was shipped out as early as 1:20am, which was also a new regional record – the first delivery that was made within 80 minutes from the time of purchase.
Lazada Wallet was also the highest-used payment option during the 24-hour sale, with transactions per minute increasing by more than 50% compared to 2018, which saw a whopping 77% increase.
Shopee on the other hand had recorded three times more orders in their first hour of 11.11 compared to the same period the previous year.
“Other products that remain a hit time and again include Milo powder, Drypers diapers, wireless Bluetooth earphones, Tefal cookware, and Photobook,” said Shopee Regional Managing Director, Ian Ho.
Shopee also said in a statement that their top-performing brands had recorded an average of 5,659 times increase in visits and 740 times growth in orders, while shopping activity peaked over lunch at 12.10PM, as the day of the sales fell on a working weekday.
“Biggest gainers include Tefal, Skechers, and Acer who recorded a 3,408-time, 2,870-time, and 1,743-time uplift in orders respectively,” he added.
But we’re only at the surface of the numbers as we’ve saved the best for last, one of the earliest pioneers – Alibaba, which owns a controlling stake in Lazada.
Alibaba recorded US$1 billion (about RM4.14 billion), before going on to reach US$13 billion (about RM53.8 billion), all within their first hour of 11.11. It later went on to surpass its own 2018 record of US$30.8 billion (RM127.6 billion) in 16 and a half hours.
Malaysia also made it to the top ten countries that spent the most during Alibaba’s Singles’ Day sales in 2019, coming in at 7th. Alibaba’s sales also exceeded the total spending of all consumers in the U.S. ‘s shopping holiday of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Can we expect to see larger numbers in 2020’s 11.11 sales? According to the ever rising trajectories showcased by each of these e-commerce companies, yes.
It is safe to say that the hype for 11.11 is here to stay as the e-commerce culture has continued to grow in Malaysia; with all these in the works, who knows when the next record will be broken again?
I am a management consultant, leadership coach, author, newspaper columnist, radio personality, and an entrepreneur. I started my career in 1994 as a law lecturer in a private institute of higher learning, and pivoted to establish a specialised consulting firm, EQTD Consulting, in 2002. Since then, I have trained, consulted, and coached some of the best-known corporations in Malaysia, and around the region. Having spent 10 years as a contributor on BFM89.9’s Enterprise segment, I now have a daily radio show on Lite Malaysia, called The Right Perspective with Shankar Santhiram. Since 2016, I am also a weekly columnist in the Business Section of the New Straits Times. Apart from EQTD Consulting, I currently own The Fire Grill, an Asian-inspired grill restaurant. I co-founded the Crackhouse Comedy Club Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s first dedicated stand-up comedy in 2014. I am also the Managing Director of Asia Paws Holistic Veterinary Practice, and a partner with my wife in a boutique hotel in Austria.
1. What is your best investment and worst investment?
My best investments and worst investments have both been in my businesses! As I have grown financially, and even in my management as well as leadership skills, the businesses that have yielded real profitability have been those that I have a substantial stake in, where I can influence direction. The worst business investment I have made has been in a small but glamourous fashion boutique in partnership with an Italian textile producer. I had a small stake, but being the local partner, huge liability. It failed, and I was saddled with all the accumulated business debt. My partner absconded, and I lost more than RM300,000. It was a bitter lesson, but now I only invest in businesses that I can control.
2. What was your first-ever investment (and how did that go)?
Aside from investing in entrepreneurial undertakings, my first “traditional” investment was in a property in 2003. I partnered with my father, and bought a condominium in Mont Kiara. I flipped it after 5 years, and we both nearly doubled our investment. From an investment perspective, it was good. But from an emotional standpoint, it was rough. Going into partnership with a family member requires a specific set of skills.
3. Your investment no-nos (why not and what happened)
After getting burnt with dabbling in the fashion business, something that I had negligible knowledge of, I needed to discipline myself to never part with my hard-earned cash in ventures that I don’t have enough proficiency in. But I guess certain tendencies, like getting over exuberant, lie latent in me. I still need my wife to stop me from going into hairbrained projects. Although as I hit my fifth decade, these instances are becoming fewer and far in between.
4. What do you invest for?
I am lucky because my investment portfolio is shared completely with my wife. I do not invest without her. So, everything is done jointly. But this affords me much leeway, as we divide the purpose for investment. She focuses on directing our resources for our future security and health. I, on the other hand, concentrate on wealth creation through being relevant, and investing in businesses that solve problems.
5. Shankar’s investment philosophy and approach
As cliché as this sounds, the most fulfilling investment has been in myself. Putting out money to travel, to curate experiences, to attend courses, and to share fulfilling times with my wife, family, and close friends have yielded the greatest profitability. Our current asset base comes from the income we both derive from our professional work. My work as a management consultant and leadership coach, and being an author, newspaper columnist and radio personality; and Susanna’s work as Malaysia’s only full-time holistic veterinary doctor. Our earnings fund all our investments. We have both become subject matter specialists because we re-invest in ourselves through travel, re-education, meeting new people, and learning from these experiences. In short, invest in yourself, in what you understand, and in what you have control over. And of course, invest in the right life-partner!
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
MySkills is a non profit organization started in 2011, to provide youths from single parent and dysfunctional families, unable to complete their schooling, a second chance by providing training in blue collar skills. The organization has been striving to become self-sufficient financially and not be dependent on donors. One effort to achieving this goal was to set up a subsidiary: “Primus Wellness” about one year ago. A truly Malaysian effort, Primus Wellness in partnership with Malay and Chinese entrepreneurs produces organic health products. These are then marketed to the public by Malaysians in the B40 socioeconomic group. Through fortnightly lectures, tutorials on sales techniques, role play and troubleshooting sessions these micro entrepreneurs are trained to engage with the public and sell the products. This effort has multiple benefits: 1. A steady source of income for MySkills to run its programs 2. Enable citizens in the B40 group to develop their confidence and skills and stand on their own two feet to become self-sufficient and not be depend on handouts 3. In the long term these micro entrepreneurs could set up their own businesses.
On Wednesday June 10th 2020, Mr Pasupathy, the Founder Director of MySkills Organization sent me an inspirational message. During a meeting with a group of financially challenged ladies, training to be salespersons for Primus Wellness, he had posed this question; “What would be the one wish you will ask God if He appears in front of you”. A request for material things like money, food or a house would not have been surprising, coming especially from people who were deprived of these. However one of them Mdm Maruthayi, surprised everyone present by answering “I will ask God to give me Self Confidence”. I was humbled to learn of this and asked Pasupathy to arrange for me to meet this exceptional lady.
On Sunday 26th July 2020, over brunch I met with a group of energetic and enthusiastic people – in a world currently fraught with negativism, the meeting opened my eyes to the generosity and dogged perseverance inherent in many Malaysians and created a lot of hope and joy in my heart. Leading the group was Ms Selvamalar the vocal CEO of Primus Wellness. Selvamalar has a brilliant academic resume – as a student she scored a CGPA of 4.0, holds a Ist class honours degree and a Masters in Human Resource Management from UPM where she also won the King’s Gold Medal for all round achievement. She then went onto to get a 1st class honours LLB degree from a UK University. Even as an undergraduate, she organized a team of brilliant undergraduates to undertake community projects in estates and schools. Though Selvamalar had a successful career in the corporate sector after graduation, she found something lacking ; she than found her calling in contributing to the growth of her community, so she resigned from the Genting Group and joined MySkills. Mr D(he requested to be anonymous) is involved in an NGO (www.pkam.org) – for several years his organization has been collecting funds to uplift impoverished communities in Malaysia ; this include providing cash, clothes schoolbooks and food. Members of this organization are led by the principles of Saint Ramalinggam (ThiruArutpragasa Vallalar) who preached equality for all and treating all beings as equal. Mr D realized that providing a means of becoming self-reliant would provide the best long term solution to these people’s woes – so he introduced them to Primus Wellness. Selvamalar also told me about Mr Ng Tet Wong, who played an important role in the evolution of Primus Wellness. Mr Ng had been interested in organic farming from his school days ; his own research and personal experience taught him the benefits of consuming the fruits and leaves of the Moringa Tree earning him the moniker Mr Moringa in MySkills circles. Impressed by MySkills noble efforts to transform a marginalised group of people, Mr Ng decided to teach them how to plant, harvest and commercialise the products of the Moringa tree to enhance society’s health and in the process earn money for the organisation.
The salespersons do not have to put up any cash; Primus Wellness provides them with the products to sell. Each salesperson gets to keep 25% of the profits of the product. A timeline is set – those who succeed in selling their quota before the time line stand to get a bonus – thus an added impetus to succeed.
I spoke to four of the salespersons. Mdm Maruthayi came through as intelligent, very hardworking, and talented. She told me failure was not an option. Aged 47 years, she married at 26 and has 9 children. Her husband is a factory worker whose earnings are not enough to support the needs of her family. A wiry lady, she sleeps only 3 – 4 hours every day and works non-stop. Maruthayi does every honest job that comes her way to provide for her family: she cleans peoples’ homes and has built a reputation for the thoroughness and diligence of her work. She also provides post-partum care for both mothers and their newborn – she says her massaging techniques enables the infant to sleep soundly and the mother to regain her shape in record time – she earnestly believes that the God she prays to gives her the skills. She also earns some money by singing devotional songs at functions. Initially a recipient of PKAM’s generosity, she was introduced to Primus Wellness by Mr.D. When I asked Maruthayi about the answer she gave Mr Pasupathy, she replied that a material gift like money would have transient value, whereas a personal attribute like self-confidence would last a lifetime and enable her to succeed in life. She also prays that her efforts will raise her children’s lot in life and that they will never have to do the menial jobs she does.
Mdm. Kasthuri is 33 years old. She suffers from epilepsy. Her husband was blinded in a motor vehicle accident (hit and run). They have 4 growing children and desperately need money. She has tried the herbal products from Primus Wellness which she claims has cured her of her insomnia, headaches and body aches. Armed with personal experience which she shares with her customers, Kasthuri makes her sales – being successful as a salesperson, has enabled her confidence to grow. In spite of her predicament, Kasturi told me that once she is successful, she would also want to participate in charitable activities – such a noble goal for someone who has major challenges of her own.
Mdm Low Bee Bee, is a single mother. Her husband abandoned her and her 2 children now aged 17 and 20. Her son scored 10As and is currently pursuing optometry at University Kebangsaan. A highly energetic person with good communication skills, Bee Bee is multilingual. To put food on the family table Bee Bee has driven Grab cars, sold organic farm products like kampong eggs and provided transportation for school children. She was introduced to Primus Wellness by Mr Tet Wong.
Maslinda Othman is a single mother. Her husband passed on and she has a 18 year old son who will be joining a government skills training institute soon. With a monthly income of RM2000 she is hard pressed to fulfil all her family’s needs. Born in an estate in Kulim her multilingual skills include speaking Tamil. She has experienced personal benefits with Primus Wellness products and so, armed with this and good communication and networking skills (she posts on WhatsApp and other social media platforms) Maslinda has been successful in selling the herbs – a testimony to her success is the many repeat sales she has had.
As Mr Pasupathy put it, Primus Wellness is a truly Malaysian venture benefitting Malaysians at various levels. As sales persons do not put cash up front, cash flow is an issue when sales are slow or delayed, so at this time donations are still needed. As Pope Francis recently said “We are all born to help each another. No matter how difficult it is, life is good when you are happy but much better when others are happy because of you”.