Tan Sri A K Nathan: Man Of Steel, Heart Of Gold
Building an empire of everlasting trust
It was a journey commenced by mere chance around 35 years ago, by a man who had boldness and credence, none other than the group managing director of Eversendai Corporation Berhad’s, Tan Sri A. K. Nathan. Armed with trade experience he grasped from his hands-on knowledge, deep thoughts gained through working with employees and a string of loyal clients, as well as exposure to various problems and solutions, he is today a kind conglomerate leader for his family and employees alike.
During the early days, a young Nathan learnt the ropes of business the hard way. From a small set-up where everything from procurement management, payroll, accounting, execution and menial works had to be done single-handedly, today he delightedly shared that the company has grown into a regional leader, boasting a whopping 15,000 employees globally on the payroll.
As a firm and serious superior, Nathan believes in hard work and self-improvement. He added that the group is still expanding with a strong workforce in the Structural Steel and Oil and Gas (O&G) industries. Nathan proudly recalled that since he started the business, the company has never retrenched anyone; instead, the number of employees had increased gradually.
Nathan clarified that money wasn’t his motivation, but, a strong commitment to achieve higher and perform better than yesterday have helped the business very much. He also revealed that his staff have motivated and inspired him to move forward. “I have a huge responsibility as I am the head of the 15,000 families who make up Eversendai’s workforce, hence it is my responsibility to ensure they grow personally and are cared for. I am a firm believer in character building and discipline,” said Nathan.
His group’s aspirations included the securing of relevant recognitions to emerge as an ISO Certified company. To date, they have been honoured by various accolades and awards, for instance the ‘Best Subcontractor / Service Provider’ for the Tunnelling and Underground Stations category, in the Annual HSE Awards, Dubai. Recognitions for performances and workmanship is vital for a renowned organisation that has set its footprints in countries like Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Iraq, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Azerbaijan, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, India besides Malaysia. Recently, the company clinched new contracts worth RM1.8 billion, which brings the current total order book to a historic height of approximately RM3 billion.
“As I don’t compromise on safety, quality of workmanship and delivery time, we have gained the trust of our satisfied and faithful clientele, and earned an admirable reputation which has taken many years to build,” affirmed Nathan. The nomenclature of ‘Eversendai’ was derived from a city called Sendai, located at the Northeast of Honshu island, Japan. Besides that, Sendai also means ‘thousands of generations’, hence the staff are striving to live up to that name, in order to strengthen the sustainability of the business.
He has planned his succession well ahead, with capable management personnel groomed into a well-structured system, adapting from Japanese companies which are determined to deliver on time and never compromise on safety.
In 1996, the company was invited to Dubai to construct a comprehensive 3-D structural steel for the 321-metre Burj Al Arab luxury hotel in Dubai and it has never stopped since. Eversendai has built its own fabrication facilities with total area of 12,000 square metre, with a capacity of 12,000 tonnes at Al Qusais Industrial Park in Dubai. The company also runs 6 similar facilities and warehouses in Asia and Middle East regions.
NURTURING GEN-Y TALENTS
Nathan is his own mentor and he continuously keeps up his momentum through self-development and self-realisation. He was brought up obediently and was instilled with values by his parents, but after reading the book written by American self-help writer, Napoleon Hill called the ‘Law of Success’, it propelled him to think deeper and motivated him to change for the better. His company juxtaposed the resources against the competitive challenges, by harnessing on the human capital especially the expectations, outlook and development mindset of Gen-Y. With this, he has successfully retained many talented and skilled workforce for the company.
Hence, Nathan sees himself as a man with guts who can take calculated risks and accept shortfalls, since it is pointless to cry over spilt milk. “Our projects were all recommended by people in related industries like architects, developers, lawyers, colleagues, we do not pay to obtain it.”
“Sustainability in this business is vital, therefore by positioning our company correctly in the value chain, and maintaining that status diligently has allowed us to set new industry standards that can keep up with the technology advancement. This has become the predetermined benchmark for Eversendai,” asserted Nathan.
The staff are often reminded to be wary of errors, as errors could cause financial loss, emotional stress and interpersonal downfall at all stages of work. Hence, timely reminders and propositions to resolve were always practiced in the case of abrupt challenges. Fundamentally, people need to strengthen their characters from within He believes in going back to basics and exceeding the clients’ expectations, since the clients will always demand for higher quality and appreciate all effort in delivering the projects successfully.
Nathan acknowledges that he is married to his job as he is shouldering many business entities as part of his routine work life. He doesn’t believe in wasting time and instead, dedicates his attention to taking care of the people working with him, as he knows that he is ultimately responsible for their growth. However, since his grandchildren were born, he takes the extra effort to make time in his tight schedule to spend with his loved ones, especially his grandchildren.
The company has grown substantially in terms of branding in the niche of steel structure construction, in which Nathan has created the company but he is not done yet. Instead, he wants Eversendai to be a prominent name known to every stakeholder in the industry. Engagement in landmark projects locally and abroad has created great curiosity among the media community, who is always curious about Eversendai and the man behind it.
However, he has so far refrained from engaging in social media as he thinks it could be a double-edge sword. “If it’s being used positively, then the yield would be positive, but for I would rather build personal relationships with staff and clients,” said Nathan.
Nathan shared his positive outlook for the current property market, saying that it will pick up eventually, and emphasised that he strongly believed in location, location, location whenever he looks out for an appropriate property to purchase. He said that the amenities and accessibility of the location would surely add value to the real estates, while those that are comfortable and aesthetically pleasing will surely appreciate more rapidly in time.
While the public perception is that the property market has softened, Nathan believed that the property market in Malaysia is now better protected from speculation, as the banking sector has taken various measures to regulate the market. He said right now, it is a buyers’ market as sellers are trying to sell but buyers are being cautious. As for the construction industry in Malaysia, it is running extremely good with a number of ongoing infrastructure projects.
Also, he is positive about the resilience of the market. “The entrepreneurs have no power to control the market volatilities, however by being prudent, they can stay afloat. I have gone through inflation and recession cycles and we just have to persevere because at the end, the market picks up,” stressed Nathan.
While he wishes to spend more time with the family, he is still working hard to ensure proper implementation of his succession plans which started a decade ago, so that Eversendai will be steered independently after his retirement. With a pristine track record, Nathan is confident in retaining the trust of clients, because the determination to move forward is strong. After all, he subscribes to the wisdom of Napoleon Hill, “Do Not ‘Tell’ The World What You Can Do – ‘Show’ It!”
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