In the spirit of freedom and founders this Merdeka, we at Ata Plus would like to celebrate the entrepreneurs who have declared their own independence and who continuously make sacrifices to launch new, independent organisations and ideas. Historically of course, Merdeka is when our country declared its independence from Great Britain, but more and more, people are making the decision to declare their independence from working for someone else. Starting a business requires a great deal of courage and fortitude, and the weeks building up to Merdeka are an excellent time to honor obstacles and celebrate achievements. In the mind of the entrepreneur, the payoff from separating oneself from a readily-established corporation offsets any of the risks associated with that decision.
While several people dream about the journey, only a few end up taking the trip. Here, we look at our local business owners whose own journeys of independence span as long as Malaysia’s.
Today, his moniker is most commonly associated with his massive fortune, but Robert Kuok like so many Malaysian entrepreneurs, came from humble origins. Starting out as an office boy at a rice trading company during the Japanese occupation, Robert Kuok was just learning the ropes of the agriculture industry that he would soon come to dominate. Years later, Robert Kuok applied those skills to become the “Sugar King of Asia”; established in 1949, Kuok Brothers Sdn. Bhd. went from investing in sugar refineries to controlling 80% of Malaysia’s sugar market. 68 years of independence later, Robert Kuok is now best known for his luxury hotel chain, Shangri-La Hotels, situated all over the world. Robert’s work ethic and exponential success serve to inspire and ignite the entrepreneurial spirit of all Malaysians.
Another exemplary Malaysian entrepreneurial figure is Mydin Mohamed, who also started out small time after his family lost their Penang hawker business in a fire during World War II. The same determination and perseverance that got Malaysia its independence in 1957 also characterises the founding of our great Malaysian retailer when Mydin Mohamed reopened his family’s wholesaling business with a small wooden shop in Khota Baru that same year. The business operations spread across Malaysia and in 1989 made its way to the epicentre of Malaysian marketplace when its flagship store acquired an entire building on Jalan Masjid India. From then on MYDIN has grown steadily and continued to innovate in cost-saving operations. Despite so many strong competitors in the retail industry, has become the supermarket of choice to so many Malaysian shoppers with 250 outlets in the Klang Valley Alone.
Not far from where Mydin has its origins is the famous Penang Road TeoChew Chendul. Back in 1936, Tan Teik Fuang was just getting his start in business running a roadside cendol stall. The desire to make a living for his family paired with his commitment to quality has greatly rewarded Tan. By 1977, Tan’s youngest son, Chong Kim, took charge of growing the business with his innovative spirit and strong knack for business, which quickly expanding the little Penang dessert stall into a chain of nationwide outlets that serve all our classic favourites, from assam laksa to rojak.
From cendol to kopi, it is clear that here in Malaysia great takes on local favourites surely stand the test of time. Starting out as a small wooden shop along Temple Street in historical Melaka, AIK CHEONG Coffee Roaster is celebrating its 62nd year of independence. From operating a small kopitiam to stocking the shelves of grocery stores in 50 countries, AIK CHEONG has built a prominent brand by consistently producing high-quality coffee of many varieties for decades. AIK CHEONG continues to inspire as a truly local brand with a global presence.
Throughout the years, these entrepreneurs have managed not just to celebrate our country’s independence but create their own; from roadside cendol to the country’s leading distributor of halal goods, the unwavering vision for success serves as an inspiration to all Malaysians alike. As we celebrate our 60th Merdeka Day, Ata Plus invites entrepreneurs and business owners across Malaysia to reflect on and celebrate their independence.
Malaysia as a country has a long way to go when it comes to turning its population into entrepreneurs and innovators, but with the Malaysian startup ecosystem, particularly tech-based companies, having grown rapidly in recent years, this is surely a sign for better things to come. So today, we at Ata Plus wish all Malaysians a Happy Merdeka! We hope you are all able to take some time today to savour the freedoms afforded to us in Malaysia, and join forces to celebrate entrepreneurship in the spirit of ‘Malaysia Boleh!’