A Man Of Wisdom

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Datuk Wira (Dr.) Haji Ameer Ali Mydin is the managing director of homegrown hypermarket chain Mydin Mohamed Holdings Berhad. He is the son of the founder, Mr Mydin Mohamed Bin Mydin Ghulam who founded the brand name in 1957.

From a small shop in Kota Bharu, Kelantan in 1988, Mydin has grown rapidly to become a hypermarket chain with outlets across the nation. The rapid growth over the last 30 years speaks volume for itself. Today, Mydin group has got more than 300 stores. Datuk Wira Ameer delightedly revealed that, “I am very sure at the beginning, we were doing business amounting to RM1 million or RM2 million a year, but now we are having a turnover of over RM3 billion dollars a year. So I think if you look at the numbers, from 2 shops to 300 shops. From RM2 million sales to RM3 billion dollar sales. But those are just numbers and numbers are relatively less important to us.”

Since childhood, Datuk Wira has followed his father’s business at the store, and where his father trained him to be more disciplined and thrifty. It turns out that the attitude has become an important principle in his life and his business.

“We are already paying for the livelihood of 40,000 people and I think that is quite an achievement. But the bigger achievement is what good can we do to the community. You must have heard of a lot of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibilities) projects that we do. We have not been actively publicising our CSR efforts. We don’t hand over any mock cheques to the beneficiaries, but we do everything from the heart for the community. We don’t do it for the publicity because the objective of the CSR is giving back to the community,” says Datuk Wira.

Today, Mydin Mohamed Holdings is a local retailer which is known for its variety of business concepts, such as hypermarkets, mini market, emporiums, bazaars, Mydin Mart, MyMart and Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia (KR1M), with branches in almost every state.

Besides, Mydin Mohamed Holdings has also partnered with Malaysia Retail Chain Association (MRCA) to give more support to the field of wholesale, retail and distribution in the country. MRCA is the leading retail association in Malaysia comprising over 200 chain retail stores and franchisors, with nearly 10,000 outlets throughout Malaysia. With such a wide network, MRCA attempts to create 100,000 jobs to enhance the country’s economic growth as well as social wellbeing.

Attracting New Customers

Despite being a billionaire, Datuk Wira shares that the good thing about being rich is that you can help people who are less fortunate. By offering employment to someone, or even helping an entrepreneur to succeed, we are actually saving lives and building the society. “I think it is important to help a lot of young entrepreneurs to succeed in business. We share with them our expertise and experience, such as where to source for merchandise, where to find certain products, and we have also sent our talents to China, India, Vietnam and other countries where we import our goods.

It might sound foolish telling the people where to buy things, but I have always believed that if you share things with people, you grow faster because when you share, people benefit and people don’t forget that you have helped them in some way and even if they don’t help you materially, they will keep you in their prayers. And in that way, all of us benefit,” says Datuk Wira.

As a renowned entrepreneur, Datuk Wira has also been invited to be a speaker at many conventions. “I have given many talks, since I believe we grow by sharing experience together. If the sharing can benefit others, it is definitely worth to share the experience that you have gone through. As the managing director of Mydin Group, I am also a buyer so I am actually the one who bought many of the products that we are selling here, because in business, it is very important to remember that the selling of any product will not be difficult, when you buy the right products. So the buying is more important than the selling,” Datuk Wira shares.

When it came to buying his first shop in the Masjid India shopping district, Kuala Lumpur, Datuk Wira chose a building that used to be occupied by a bank. “When I wanted to buy the building, I ask my father what was his opinion. He told me to look at the number of people walking on this side of the road, as compared to the other side of the road. Never buy any building where people don’t walk. When you see a road, there are always 2 sides. People tend to walk more on one of the sides, so we must observe carefully. You should buy a building where there are a lot of pedestrian traffic because they are your customers.

Love Your Work

Going into the subject of work life balance, Datuk Wira shares that there is no such thing as a balance of life. “You cannot have two things in your life. You can’t say, I want to spend a lot of time with my family, I want to travel around the world, yet I also want to be very rich. I think if you ask those who have grown their business the hard way, or even people like me, we had to work hard and come up slowly. I did not have a balance in life. Nowadays we see a lot of online entrepreneurs and Facebook entrepreneurs, who are going from rags to riches in 3 to 5 years. I hope and pray that they can keep their riches.

It is very nice at a young age if you can spend time with your family, travel extensively or go back home early. But I couldn’t do this 10 or 20 years ago. If you want to seriously succeed in life, you really have to work hard. There is no such thing as a 9 to 5 job. We work every day and more importantly, of course you must like your work. When people asked me back then when I have my holidays, my answer would be, my work is my holiday. If I enjoy it, it is not work. If I don’t enjoy it, it is work. So if you treat your work as a holiday, then you are a very happy person, and I think that is how we grow our career,” Datuk Wira elaborated on his attitude towards career advancement.

When asked about his leadership and management skills, Datuk Wira humbly stated that he did not consider himself as a leader. “But if you do your homework, and look at the meaning of the word Ameer in Arabic, it actually stands for leader. So maybe my parents know what name to give. I think if you say you are a good leader, at the end of the day a good leader must have people following you, and theoretically speaking, willing to sacrifice their life for you.

A leader is someone who can lead the people to do the things that he thinks is right. It doesn’t matter what the world thinks. My hope is that all leaders are good people. That they will not hurt people, that their philosophy will always be to help people. To grow the community, to grow the country, to create wealth for people and help those who are underprivileged,” says Datuk Wira.

When it comes to management style, everybody who is a leader will probably has his own style. For example, in the mornings you might find Datuk Wira downstairs in the hypermarket checking the price, moping the floor because he is more of a micro managing leader. “Micro managing is something that I do quite well. A lot of chief executives, a lot of managing directors don’t mop the floor, because they don’t have to, but I like to know on what is really happening down there. So mopping the floor is something that I actually enjoy, because I can listen to the staffs, and the staffs actually know what is sellable and what is not. It is not necessary that your manager might know, so it is best to hear it from the source,” exclaims Datuk Wira.

Not Due To GST

On the subject matter of rising costs, Datuk Wira states that people are not well informed, and there is not much explanation on Goods and Service Tax (GST). “Many people that I have spoken too, think that prices are going up because of GST. However GST does not raise prices. Frankly if you understand the implementation of GST, you will know that the 10% sales tax levied on certain good previously has been removed. In Malaysia a lot of things were subjected to sales tax. Many people are not aware of the sales tax that we have been paying.

When you pay, you are paying a price, so for example if my cost is RM10, there is a 10% sales tax when I import the goods or when I buy it from a manufacturer, and they will quote me RM11 when actually the cost is only RM10. As they already quoted me RM11, I will mark up the price by RM2 dollars and sell it at RM13. Now that the RM1 is no longer there, my cost returns to RM10. Then I mark up by RM2, and the selling price becomes RM12. With GST, I will add another 6%, so the price will stand at RM12.72, which is still lower than RM13. As a result, the price goes down instead of going up. Unfortunately, as our currency has depreciated massively, we feel the pinch,” says Datuk Wira.

“GST is definitely more beneficial to us, because what happened at the end of the day is that the person paying the GST is the customer, who consumes the goods and services. So say for example, if you earn a salary of RM3,000, and you spend RM1,000 on groceries, where RM500 are spent on basic items such as rice and vegetables, and another RM500 you buy sardine, Milo, T-shirts or blouse, you are actually only paying GST on RM500 which with the current rate of 6% is only RM30. That means you are only affected by RM30.

But why I say it is a fairer system, because let’s say I earn RM30,000, but my groceries is about the same as you, but my other expenses are higher because I buy more clothes, I go for more entertainment, I go to luxurious restaurants more often. Everything I spend, I have to fork out an extra 6% for GST, yet only RM500 of your purchases are subject to GST. So who is paying more GST, you or me? Obviously me!

And when I pay the 6% GST, where does the money goes to? It goes to the government. When the government get the money, the money is used for the people, so when the money is used for the people, who benefits? If the government use the money to fix the MRT or LRT for you, whose benefits? You or me? You benefit because you use MRT. I got my driver.

And when the government use the money from the toll to repair the roads, who benefits? You benefit because I pay the toll more often. Most of the expressways in Malaysia are tolled, so the concessionaires use the toll collected to pay for the expressways, and I use the expressways more often, so I pay more than you. This is assuming that at the end of the day, the government uses the money productively,” Datuk Wira adds.

Tough Market Ahead

When it comes to facing the challenges ahead amidst the economy downturn, Datuk Wira shares that while the economy is not doing very well, everything depends on the perspective. “For example, who are we comparing the economy to?”

As someone who travels a lot to scout for good buys, Datuk Wira has noticed that our shopping mall are busier than malls in Thailand or for the matter in Singapore and Indonesia. “But while there are more people out here buying, they are not buying as much as before, which is happening everywhere in the world, because the whole world is affected by appreciation of US Dollar. So when foreign currency appreciates, cost of goods goes up, but your salary does not go up as fast as your cost of goods. The general cost of living is said to have increased by 17%, but many people have not seen their salary increased by the same rate over the last 1 and a half years. Most people’s salary goes up 5%, 7% maybe 10% but cost goes up 17% and purchasing power goes down, hence people have less disposable income, and when you have less money, you buy less and spend less at hypermarkets. It’s a cycle. So generally the world economy is at a slowdown.

But I think if you compare yourself to Europe, we are so much better. Of course if you compare yourself to what is happening in Thailand and Indonesia, their growth is higher than ours. So it all depends on who and what you are comparing to. But from the business perspective of course, none of us are happy and we hope that the government can focus more on what is happening in the country, to help the businesses and the people,” concludes Datuk Wira.

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