Scal­ing Suc­cess

Malaysia Tatler - - FACES -

Chiau Haw Choon Kath­lyn D’souza

In the beau­ti­fully set-up show­room of Chin Hin Group Sdn Bhd’s lat­est de­vel­op­ment project, its group man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, Chiau Haw Choon, was re­gal­ing me with the story of his lat­est ad­ven­ture this year. He had just re­turned from Mount Ever­est’s base camp and de­spite be­ing an avid sportsper­son who had pre­vi­ously com­peted in 42k marathons, and works out five to six days a week, Haw Choon ad­mit­ted to strug­gling to reach the peak. “I thought it was just a nor­mal moun­tain trek, but halfway through it struck me,” he re­called. “The oxy­gen was half of what we have nor­mally, my heart­beat went from 60 per minute to 120… I was hav­ing moun­tain alti­tude sick­ness.” In­cred­i­bly, he reached the peak, ow­ing to one sim­ple yet sig­nif­i­cant thing that kept him go­ing: the com­pany flag which he car­ried through­out his jour­ney up. “That ex­pe­ri­ence made me be­lieve that any­thing is pos­si­ble— you just need to work on it step by step, and even­tu­ally you’ll get there,” said Haw Choon, who added that keep­ing him­self healthy is as im­por­tant as his busi­ness meet­ings, as he is re­spon­si­ble for over a thou­sand em­ploy­ees— hav­ing a 1,400 work­force, to be ex­act. Forty years ago, Chin Hin Group was no larger than a small hard­ware shop in the small town of Me­gat Dewa, Kedah. It was founded by Haw Choon’s grand­fa­ther, Chiau Kok Heah, whom he speaks of fondly, when­ever he is asked about the busi­ness. “I al­ways talk about my grand­fa­ther, be­cause with­out him, and with­out that plat­form, I wouldn’t have the pas­sion for build­ing ma­te­ri­als. I ba­si­cally grew up in that hard­ware shop,” he re­vealed. “Then, when I was in pri­mary school, my fam­ily ven­tured into ce­ment trad­ing and we moved from Me­gat Dewa to the cap­i­tal city of Alor Se­tar.” Life then took a strange and dark turn for Haw Choon. When he was 13, he dropped out of school and got in­volved in gangs. He was, as he put it, “up to all kinds of non­sense.” The re­bel­lious Haw Choon couldn’t even speak ba­sic English, and at one point at age 15, he got thrown into the po­lice lockup for five days—the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of be­ing in­volved in a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion. While he was locked up, he wasn’t al­lowed to wear a shirt, and was forced to sleep on the floor in a space smaller than most lava­to­ries. “While I was in there, I told my­self I wouldn’t want to re­peat that. But, noth­ing changed,” he shrugged, “I think I just had too much free­dom, that’s why I be­lieve chil­dren must be dis­ci­plined and guided.” At 16, Haw Choon ad­mit­ted that he hadn’t come across any­one worse than he was. How­ever, one of the many agents of change came in the form of his mother, a fig­ure he cited as one who never gave up on him. One day, she had asked him if he wanted to study ba­sic English in Sin­ga­pore for six months. “I thought, since there was noth­ing to do in Alor Se­tar, I might as well give it a shot. But again, my mo­ti­va­tion was not to study, but to have fun,” he ad­mit­ted with a laugh. Even­tu­ally, he was sent to Sin­ga­pore to at­tend tu­ition, and was un­der the care of a guardian (as Sin­ga­porean law re­quires that those un­der 18 are pro­hib­ited to stay on their own). There, the teacher taught him ba­sic English, and fondly, Haw Choon re­mem­bered the very first few words he mas­tered were “‘eat’, ‘ate’ and ‘eaten!’” This teacher too would preach the gospel to him, and out of cu­rios­ity, he be­gan at­tend­ing church. Fol­low­ing that, di­vine in­ter­ven­tion aside, Haw Choon be­gan to sel­f­re­flect. “I looked at my­self, and I looked at all my friends. A typ­i­cal Malaysian would have fin­ished their sec­ondary school, but I didn’t. So I felt the need to start all over again,” he

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