The Peak gets right into the heart of a fresh crop of com­pa­nies and busi­nesses that look to shape Malaysia’s en­ter­pris­ing fu­ture. The new gen­er­a­tion lead­ers all have one thing in com­mon – an in­sa­tiable ap­petite to be at the top of their game.

The Peak (Malaysia) - - Contents - Jef­fri Cheong Co-Founder & Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of Kaodim Group TEXT KIRAT KAUR ART DI­REC­TION PENNY CHEW PHO­TOG­RA­PHY JA­SON LEE LO­CA­TION TROIKA SKY DIN­ING

ThePeak gets right into the heart of a fresh crop of com­pa­nies and busi­nesses that look to shape Malaysia’s en­ter­pris­ing fu­ture. Helmed by a new gen­er­a­tion lead­ers, they all have one thing in com­mon – an in­sa­tiable ap­petite to be at the top of their gamee.

In 2014, so­ci­ety was ac­cli­ma­tis­ing to do­ing things on­line, from shop­ping to book­ing trans­port and food de­liv­ery, but the same rev­o­lu­tion for hir­ing home ser­vices hadn’t be­gun. My co-founder, Choong Fui-Yu, and I saw a busi­ness op­por­tu­nity, and wanted to be the ones to spear­head this trans­for­ma­tion across South­East Asia. So, it be­gan with just two peo­ple work­ing out of home and I was pitch­ing ser­vice providers over the phone to join a then-un­known on­line plat­form. In three short years, we’ve suc­cess­fully ex­panded our pres­ence into four coun­tries, op­er­at­ing as in In­done­sia, in Sin­ga­pore and in the Philip­pines.

Since Kaodim launched, scores of Malaysians have been able to find and hire lo­cal ser­vice providers for any task, with ac­cess to real cus­tomer re­views, com­pet­i­tive pric­ing, and com­par­i­son of cus­tomised quotes or book­ing di­rectly within min­utes of us­ing their smart phones. We’ve in­tro­duced con­ve­nience, trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity into the ecosys­tem that did not re­ally ex­ist be­fore.

Through what we’ve built, Kaodim sup­ports the in­dus­try’s growth by pro­vid­ing new ser­vice providers a chance at grow­ing sus­tain­able busi­nesses, and pro­vid­ing con­sumers trust and trans­parency in the process. We don’t over­es­ti­mate our im­por­tance to the ecosys­tem, but we also don’t dis­re­gard that we have power to change, and have al­ready changed, the ser­vices in­dus­try.

To stay ahead of the game, my team and I have an au­da­cious mis­sion and strong daily habits where we con­tin­u­ously ob­sess about be­ing bet­ter; to push the bound­aries of what tech­nol­ogy can do for our users and to en­sure cus­tomers have a great ex­pe­ri­ence on the plat­form. We’re con­stantly think­ing of bet­ter ways to serve our cus­tomers, and to make the pro­vi­sion of ser­vices faster and more re­li­able.

Of course, any en­tre­pre­neur knows that ev­ery day is a chal­lenge. Whether you’re build­ing a new busi­ness or grow­ing one that al­ready ex­ists, it’s a bat­tle to hold


ev­ery­thing to­gether when times get tough. There is so much risk and uncer­tainty in busi­ness, and you can only ever see a few months ahead, but I’ve learned so much from try­ing times. The ob­sta­cles helped me grow, in­no­vate, be adapt­able and em­brace hu­mil­ity to keep ev­ery­thing afloat. These are val­ues that I hold dear to this very day, be­cause the mis­sion that we have at Kaodim is now greater than just me try­ing to achieve a dream – it’s a trans­for­ma­tive plat­form that has changed the way busi­nesses ob­tain cus­tomers and, con­versely, the ser­vices hir­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

With our lat­est fund­ing round of USD7 mil­lion closed in Novem­ber 2017, I’m ex­cited about how Kaodim is evolv­ing to be­come a plat­form be­yond com­par­ing quo­ta­tions. We’re in­tro­duc­ing new prod­uct it­er­a­tions, adding strong, ca­pa­ble tal­ent to our team and stay­ing ahead of the curve. When we started, we mod­elled our­selves after sim­i­lar busi­nesses in the United States, but our prod­uct de­vel­op­ment has now ex­ceeded even our ini­tial in­spi­ra­tional com­pa­nies. We’re now at a place where we have to in­no­vate the way for­ward.

I also be­lieve that in the next five years, every­one will be us­ing their smart phones or the In­ter­net to pur­chase ser­vices. To that end, we want to be the go-to so­lu­tion for this, and pro­vide the most de­pend­able, ef­fi­cient and high-qual­ity ser­vice hir­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. I want our fam­ily of brands at Kaodim to be syn­ony­mous with that across South­East Asia.

Lapses in ef­fi­ciency and pro­duc­tiv­ity are a re­cur­ring prob­lem, re­gard­less of coun­try. So, my co-founder, Su­sian Yeap, and I cre­ated a so­lu­tion to solve a global is­sue of ris­ing costs, where more peo­ple were seek­ing ad­di­tional in­come streams to sup­port them­selves. What we do at Su­pa­hands is cre­at­ing an op­por­tu­nity for peo­ple to work from home or their own workspace to gen­er­ate ad­di­tional in­come. We take large projects from com­pa­nies and busi­ness across the globe, and break them down through our plat­form into mi­cro tasks, so that dif­fer­ent peo­ple can work on them at their own time across South-East Asia.

Su­pa­hands was never meant to be a Malaysia-only busi­ness. I built it with a global mind­set and, to do that, I have a global team to bring dif­fer­ent thoughts, pro­cesses and ex­pe­ri­ences to the ta­ble. Our clients are also based around the world. While the fo­cus ar­eas are Malaysia, Sin­ga­pore and Aus­tralia, we’re look­ing to ex­pand to the United States and Euro­pean mar­ket very soon. Be­sides that, we have about 2,000 tal­ents, or Su­paA­gents, across South-East Asia. We’ve got peo­ple in Malaysia, the Philip­pines, In­done­sia and, soon, Thai­land. This cre­ates a mul­ti­lin­gual, mul­ti­cul­tural plat­form, where com­pa­nies and busi­nesses con­nect as large teams of a par­tic­u­lar na­tion­al­ity or skill set.

The tech­nol­ogy that we use is some­thing that we’ve de­vel­oped in­ter­nally. We spent the last two years build­ing the tech­nol­ogy around the al­go­rithm we have to route the work to the right per­son at the right time. We’re also fo­cus­ing on au­tomat­ing var­i­ous as­pects of our work­ing pro­ce­dures as this can help us be­come a lot more ef­fi­cient as a busi­ness. We do mi­cro piv­ots on a daily ba­sis to adapt to the changes in tech­nol­ogy that’s hap­pen­ing around us. So, when we see things hap­pen­ing in the mar­ket, we are able to take op­por­tu­ni­ties quickly, while main­tain­ing an ag­ile and nim­ble struc­ture.

I’m tak­ing it one step at a time be­cause of pay­ment and scal­ing is­sues, so we’ve de­cided to fo­cus on this par­tic­u­lar mar­ket. If you can look after South-East Asia – which is a very di­verse re­gion – you should be able to take care of the world. That be­ing said, busi­ness has been grow­ing quite quickly and fairly re­cently, es­pe­cially since the tech­nol­ogy has be­come more ma­ture and we’ve been get­ting fund­ing from dif­fer­ent par­ties.

We’re cur­rently build­ing a client-fac­ing, self-ser­vice por­tal to ac­cess our 2,000-strong work­force di­rectly. This will al­low them to in­ter­act with­out hav­ing to go through lay­ers of back-and-forth dis­cus­sions, and be able to set up pro­cesses and get work done even faster than ever be­fore. We’re also ac­tively look­ing to ex­pand our reach to more com­pa­nies over­seas and grow­ing our busi­ness in Sin­ga­pore, Aus­tralia and the US right now. We also want to con­tinue to grow our re­mote work­force through­out South-East Asia. The goal is to have Su­paA­gents from ev­ery sin­gle ASEAN na­tion.

Mark Koh was a nom­i­nee for the EY Emerg­ing En­tre­pre­neur Of The Year 2017 Malaysia.


It all started when my three ini­tial team mem­bers and I were work­ing for a com­pany that wasn’t sta­ble at that point in time. To­gether, we wanted to shift our fo­cus into cre­at­ing a plat­form where we could make a dif­fer­ence, and I just had this crazy idea of do­ing some­thing new. That’s how we got our name: the four of us fac­ing the un­known from the liv­ing room of an apart­ment – four fronts to Fore­front. With our col­lec­tive ex­per­tise, we started as a web de­sign com­pany. How­ever, we be­gan notic­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion prob­lems be­tween dif­fer­ent as­pects of a creative busi­ness, and seized the op­por­tu­nity to ex­pand into a fullfledged creative agency.

This move proved to be a fruit­ful one as it is one of the com­pany’s key strength – a one-stop cen­tre where we pro­vide creative so­lu­tions for so­cial me­dia, web­sites and tra­di­tional print ad­ver­tise­ments. We also have a full team along with videographers and pho­tog­ra­phers, so our com­mu­ni­ca­tion chan­nels are open and we have clear con­trol on the di­rec­tion of the cam­paigns we cre­ate.

In ad­ver­tis­ing, it’s very im­por­tant to not jump into the dig­i­tal band­wagon, and ne­glect tra­di­tional forms of ad­ver­tis­ing such as print and ra­dio. De­spite com­mon per­cep­tions, they’re not ir­rel­e­vant but are vi­tal el­e­ments in an in­te­grated, mul­ti­plat­form so­lu­tion. With that in mind, we of­fer clients a mix of tra­di­tional and dig­i­tal me­dia plat­forms, in­clud­ing emerg­ing tech­nol­ogy. For in­stance, the new­est feather in our cap is an aug­mented re­al­ity so­lu­tion and touch­screen in­te­grated mul­ti­me­dia de­sign sys­tem that’s all done in-house.


My work­ing style is rather hands-on. I in­volve my­self in the dif­fer­ent stages of a project, to mon­i­tor the de­vel­op­ment and guide my team to cre­ate cus­tomised so­lu­tions. I in­vest in re­cruit­ing and re­tain­ing tal­ents by ex­er­cis­ing an open-com­mu­ni­ca­tion pol­icy, where any­one can ap­proach me on any­thing, any­time.

Cur­rently, the com­pany is fo­cus­ing on brand­ing our­selves as a full-fledged ad­ver­tis­ing agency with a highly per­son­alised ap­proach. We have not had a sales­per­son per se for six years be­cause I be­lieve in build­ing re­la­tion­ships with clients to de­liver the best ser­vice. We re­cently launched a pub­lic in­stal­la­tion of our cul­ture in the form of our café, Forem­ula, where we can have warm chats amongst the team mem­bers, and also with clients over cof­fee and cake – that’s how we get to pro­vide value for our clients.

It’s ac­tu­ally been amaz­ing to see how this four-man team has blos­somed to over 100 tal­ents within 14 years – and what a fan­tas­tic jour­ney it’s been! Most of them started off as in­terns and ex­ec­u­tives, and they are now heads of their own de­part­ments – some even busi­ness own­ers on the side. I get very mo­ti­vated by see­ing the pride my team puts into their work, and the im­prove­ments they’ve made not only through their work but also in their per­sonal lives. It has also been a great source of pride for me when the com­pany won not only in­dus­try awards for our work, but also for hu­man re­source ex­cel­lence with em­ployee loy­alty-based awards. We joined the 4As (As­so­ci­a­tion of Ac­cred­ited Ad­ver­tis­ing Agents of Malaysia) a few years ago, and this re­in­forced my be­lief that I’m on the right track with our work and our cul­ture. I truly be­lieve that the fu­ture of creative ad­ver­tis­ing lies in tal­ent man­age­ment.

We ac­tu­ally met at a dump­site and saw the op­por­tu­nity to, lit­er­ally, turn one man’s trash into an­other man’s trea­sure. Our back­grounds are in fi­nan­cial, where Matt is an ac­coun­tant by pro­fes­sion and Levin is a banker with com­puter sci­ence back­ground. While it may seem rather odd for the two of us to ven­ture into the RE (re­new­able en­ergy) busi­ness, we re­alised there is big po­ten­tial in RE and that’s when we de­cided to set up Mat­tan Engi­neer­ing.

Both our roles are like a goal­keeper and a striker in a foot­ball team. I (Levin) fo­cus on bring­ing busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties to the ta­ble, while Matt en­sures the com­pany de­liv­ers on time in full for all our projects. As an Ex­ec­u­tive Chair­man, I also take on the role of Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor for Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment, hence the striker role. Matt’s role as CEO – the goal­keeper – is equally crit­i­cal be­cause he would need to en­sure that the com­pany has the cash flow to fully lever­age on the op­por­tu­ni­ties that my team and I bring in.

From the be­gin­ning, we wanted to build a multi dis­ci­plinary RE com­pany. In­stead of fo­cus­ing on just one source of RE, why can’t we look into it as a whole? We have projects in so­lar, bio­gas and hy­dro­elec­tric­ity as well. But we al­ways strive to be as ef­fi­cient as pos­si­ble with the lim­ited re­sources that we have. For ex­am­ple, our so­lar plants are mush­room farms as well. Un­der the so­lar pan­els, we plant mush­rooms that are sold to not only gen­er­ate rev­enue, but also to re­duce heat that ac­tu­ally re­duces the ef­fi­ciency of these pan­els.

While the com­pany is fairly young – only six years in op­er­a­tion – 2018 will be a big year for us. It’s a year of growth. For one, we are look­ing to list in the first half of


this year, which we hope will be a spring­board for us to grow the busi­ness fur­ther in both the lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional busi­ness are­nas. We are look­ing to pen­e­trate the RE mar­kets in Cam­bo­dia, the Philip­pines, In­done­sia and the Mid­dle East. Our midterm am­bi­tion is to be a pow­er­house in RE within the South­East Asia re­gion, and it makes per­fect sense as this re­gion is out­grow­ing the rest of the world and RE is not widely adopted yet.

Ed­u­cat­ing peo­ple on go­ing green is tough as a ma­jor­ity of the mar­ket is ei­ther ig­no­rant or adamant about stick­ing to con­ser­va­tive meth­ods and tra­di­tional busi­ness pro­to­cols. And so, we have to step in and ad­vise them on the dif­fer­ences in op­er­at­ing their busi­nesses by us­ing RE, and con­tin­u­ously re­mind them of the ben­e­fits of go­ing green. Even banks need guid­ance in green projects as these are not stan­dard in­fra­struc­ture projects with clearly de­fined pro­to­cols. Every­one is get­ting ed­u­cated along the way.

That be­ing said, we be­lieve that the in­ter­ests in RE will only get stronger as ev­i­denced by global trends. Our dream, as a com­pany, is to be a South-East Asian RE pow­er­house. Once we have achieved this, the next rel­e­vant step would be to grow glob­ally. For that, we need to es­tab­lish a strong brand and we be­lieve that we are well on our way to achiev­ing this. De­spite hav­ing only been in the in­dus­try for a few years, we have been re­ceiv­ing strong sup­port from our cus­tomers, which is fur­ther sub­stan­ti­ated by our or­der book that amounts to MYR300 mil­lion from 2017 to 2018 alone. This, we be­lieve, is a pow­er­ful en­dorse­ment of our ca­pa­bil­i­ties and our brand.

Matt Tan and Levin Tan were top nom­i­nees for the EY Emerg­ing En­tre­pre­neur Of The Year 2017 Malaysia.

Is­tarted work­ing in the com­pany at the age of 24 but, after a few years, it was in deep trou­ble, with MYR1.7 mil­lion in debt and look­ing to shut its doors. How­ever, I was con­vinced that the busi­ness had po­ten­tial. Though we were in the red, the com­pany had a great track record with our clients in tech­nol­ogy train­ing and I be­lieved that tech­nol­ogy’s growth was lim­it­less. Go­ing on that gut feel­ing, I came up with a plan and said: “Hey, why don’t you let me take over the com­pany?” The share­hold­ers took a look and agreed to give me a chance.

So, I started the new Knowl­edge­com in 2008 and the first task was to stop the bleed­ing. We had to keep things lean, try­ing as hard as pos­si­ble to de­liver train­ing pro­grammes and max­imise prof­its. The first eight months were tough, but we even­tu­ally se­cured a few deals and li­cences. Our first big break was ob­tain­ing an in­ter­na­tional li­cense by SAP (Sys­tems, Ap­pli­ca­tions & Prod­ucts) as a train­ing part­ner, and the first in pro­vid­ing on­line train­ing for SAP. From there, we grew big­ger and, once we started mak­ing prof­its, we used them to clean the wound, clear the debts. It took us about three tire­less years to break even and, fi­nally, in 2012, we recorded a net profit of MYR1 mil­lion. The fol­low­ing year, we were ac­quired by a listed com­pany and we’ve grown about 500 per cent since.

Knowl­edge­com pro­vides train­ing in tech­nol­ogy, but now we’re now spec­i­fy­ing on tech­nolo­gies in In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion 4.0 (IR 4.0). This is the fu­ture and it will change mankind’s lives. For ex­am­ple, one of the great­est tech­nolo­gies in IR 4.0 is IoT (In­ter­net of Things), and we can soon ex­pect to see mi­crochips in daily ob­jects that com­mu­ni­cate with each other, trans­fer­ring data that are then an­a­lysed and used to cre­ate pre­dic­tions. We train com­pa­nies and ser­vices that pro­duce IR 4.0 prod­ucts and we train the users, peo­ple who ask: “Why do I need IR 4.0 in my life?” We teach them how they can use IR 4.0 tech­nol­ogy to make their lives and busi­nesses bet­ter, faster and more ef­fi­cient.

We launched IR 4.0 train­ing for the na­tion last year with 26 Cen­tre of Ex­cel­lence & Tech­nol­ogy (COET) sites across 11 states. These sites are a mix of univer­si­ties, poly­tech­nic schools and state de­part­ments that al­low us to train not only the cur­rent work­force, but the fu­ture one as well. The cur­rent work­force would in­clude com­pa­nies in man­u­fac­tur­ing, au­to­mo­bile, pro­duc­tion and min­ing, where it’s mainly the IT per­son­nel who come in to as­sess how they can in­te­grate IR 4.0 tech­nol­ogy into their re­spec­tive com­pa­nies. We are look­ing to ex­pand to 40 COET sites to cover the en­tire na­tion this year, en­sur­ing that ev­ery sin­gle per­son in the coun­try has ac­cess to IR 4.0 train­ing.

Our goal is to equip the coun­try with IR 4.0 so that ev­ery Malaysian is able to use it in ev­ery sin­gle aspect of their lives. This will also elim­i­nate Malaysia’s de­pen­dency on low-skilled for­eign labour as labour-in­ten­sive tasks be­come au­to­mated. Lo­cal work­ers will ben­e­fit as they are up­graded to mid-level skilled po­si­tions, thus in­creas­ing em­ploy­ment for Malaysians. At the end of the day, we want to cre­ate a fully IR 4.0-savvy na­tion.

ST Rubaneswaran was the EY Emerg­ing En­tre­pre­neur Of The Year 2016 Malaysia.


De­van Li­nus, CEO & Chief In­vest­ment Of­fi­cer: Our ori­gin story can be traced

back to Malayan Traders & Co, a stock­broking firm in the 1960s that was owned by my late grand­fa­ther, Kok Ah Too. He prac­ticed some­thing he called value in­vest­ing. Early on, he re­alised the most re­li­able method of grow­ing wealth was to in­vest in blue chip com­pa­nies that you could hold on to for the long term. I ap­plied his in­vest­ing prin­ci­ples to over­seas stocks of my own to great suc­cess, and it’s the same prin­ci­ple we use in MTC As­set Man­age­ment. I’ve al­ways wanted to start a hedge fund and the ini­tial dis­cus­sion came about in 2011 be­tween me and Aaron Yew, who was my univer­sity mate, and, soon, with Dono­van Ng who was my col­league in Mel­bourne at the time.

Aaron Yew, Co-Founder: I’ve also al­ways wanted to start a fund of my own, but didn’t know ex­actly what kind I wanted to do. When De­van pitched the idea of value in­vest­ing in blue chip stocks with re­turns of 10 to 15 per cent, this seemed like a wise ap­proach and he al­ready had a con­crete strat­egy that he wanted to im­ple­ment.

Dono­van Ng, Deputy CEO: I joined them a bit later in 2015, but was al­ways in­volved, play­ing an ad­vi­sory role since they started in 2012. Keep­ing in touch with them over the years, it was ev­i­dent that they had a very clear strat­egy, a solid blue­print for the busi­ness and armed with a team of very smart in­di­vid­u­als.

De­van Li­nus: I said if you want to start a hedge fund, you need to do it Malaysia. In Malaysia, it’s all about the banks. Not to knock them, but the bank is al­ways think­ing of its own agenda – get­ting every­one to bank with them.

Aaron Yew: A bank’s ma­jor source of rev­enue is giv­ing out loans from the de­posits they get. They will in­vari­ably sell prod­ucts just to get peo­ple to in­vest, but it may not be the best prod­uct for ab­so­lute re­turn, whereas a bou­tique hedge fund can look at the mar­ket and as­sess which ar­eas to in­vest right now. Bou­tique hedge funds also gen­er­ally tend to be owner-man­aged, so we’re in­vest­ing our own money and have as much to lose as our clients.

Dono­van Ng: We es­tab­lished MTC As­set Man­age­ment to be a pi­o­neer in the al­ter­na­tive hedge fund in­dus­try. In fact, we are one of the first new bou­tiques in the last 10 years to ob­tain a li­cence in Malaysia. When we started in 2012, we were only in our late 20s and peo­ple were ask­ing: “How can I give you my money in the mil­lions when you’re not even 30?” It was chal­leng­ing, but not im­pos­si­ble. We were the so­lu­tion, our prod­ucts and in cre­at­ing aware­ness of how we can add value for our clients. It’s a per­son­alised ser­vice as we work closely with clients to un­der­stand their ob­jec­tives in in­vest­ing and what they want to achieve.

Aaron Yew: When you start a fund, it’s the same as start­ing a new busi­ness – you will have your ups and downs, and there’s never a year with no lows. The cy­cle is a nat­u­ral part of the jour­ney, but we’ve cer­tainly has a good start by do­ing this when we’re young. We’ve been able to adapt a lot faster, will­ing to take the nec­es­sary risks and quickly learn­ing from mis­takes. Our age is a dou­bleedged sword – some may feel more com­fort­able with an older pri­vate banker but, on the flip­side, we’re able to hus­tle a lot more. In a sense, we have noth­ing to lose, so we can go all out to re­ally make an im­pact.

Dono­van Ng: Con­sis­tency nat­u­rally brings a fol­low­ing in the mar­ket and peo­ple are start­ing to re­alise that we can de­liver and are here to stay. We’ve had great trac­tion in Jan­uary with an in­flux of new clients, while ex­ist­ing clients are in­creas­ing in­vest­ments with us after a guar­an­teed 10 per cent in re­turns. We’re aim­ing for 15 and even 20 per cent in re­turns, de­pend­ing on tim­ing and luck.

De­van Li­nus: Since we be­gan in 2012, we’ve man­aged a re­turn of 170 per cent and it’s vi­tal that we main­tain this track record for the com­ing years. On the in­vest­ing side, we’re do­ing our re­search and keep­ing a close eye on stocks in the mar­ket. On the busi­ness side, Aaron is now fo­cus­ing on grow­ing our clien­tele in ASEAN by start­ing in Sin­ga­pore. It looks to be a solid year for us but, of course, no form of in­vest­ment is a guar­an­tee. Hence, we al­ways go back to my grand­fa­ther’s phi­los­o­phy of value in­vest­ing. Whether the mar­ket is up or down, you should never stop in­vest­ing.


ST Rubaneswaran CEO of Knowl­edge­com

Darien Mah Co-Founder & CEO of Fore­front In­ter­na­tional

Mark Koh Co-Founder & CEO of Su­pa­hands Dot­com

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