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Sun Tzu is a great strategist but he is even greater when you practice his principles.

Appear weak when the enemy is strong and attack the weak points.

Know thy enemy and in a hundred battles you will never be in peril.

It is interesting when you change your mindset in the state of war.

Some people ask me, are you not afraid of new competitors coming into your market?

I see so many burger bakar nowadays.

Some mistaken my expansionist policies and aggressiveness as competing without mercy.

I respect, compete and track my competitors. I never underestimate any of them, be it small or large.

Some people is mistaken when they think business is just a career path. Business is war.

In our company, business is a matter of life and death. That’s how serious we are in our errands.

But I am saddened by underperforming rivals.

We may have differences but without strong rivals, the market could not sustain a larger, higher growth.

Rivals are what makes an economy grow and subsequently everyone reaps the benefit.

Some old Malays dislike when competitors enter their market.

Little do they know, it is their competitors which uplifts the overall demand for everyone.

If you want to do it alone, make sure you have the resources.

Imagine a pasar tani with only one tradesman, which one would get the better sale, the one with many tradesman or only one?

Think.

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What goes up, must come down. What goes down, must be pushed up again.

And this is true as all men ain’t perfect. We tend to forget when things are easy and we tend to panic when things are difficult.

A business is very much like an empire or a country.

What is the growth engine for that particular business?

For an MLM company, if it is selling plans, then the growth is by selling plans. When the selling stops, the decline starts.

For an MLM company which is focused on products, it is selling products, then the growth is by selling products. The decline starts when it couldn’t sell products.

Much can be learnt from history.

The Ottomans growth engine were acquiring new lands for wealth and taxes. The growth stops when they couldn’t acquire new lands to charge taxes. Hence the decline which lead to the republic.

And how about the modern world, like United States? It’s growth engine would be capitalism. It is a nation built by entrepreneurs and innovators. The engine might decline if the world starts to lose momentum on international trade.

And it is true for businesses. And it’s worst in a globalized world when information is too fast that consumers react immediately. Unlike our forefathers, businesses can be complacent as it takes time for consumers to know something new.

An entrepreneur must be mindful when the growth engine shows signs of stopping, he/she is in trouble.

One must be mindful to keep the engine running or shift into other growth engines.

Business is a matter of life and death.

The teams / individual running the engine should be competitive, flexible, resilient and able to adopt changes quickly.

Individuals with high 4.0 flat seen as geniuses couldn’t steer the company from decline without the qualities above.

One may argue MNCs like Petronas are doing the right thing hiring the best of talents, that’s the reason they are growing. 

I must admit they do now.

But let’s see if they possess the qualities like General Electric when their current growth engine comes to a halt in years to come.

Read the news about Ananda Krishnan recently? Looks like he is disposing his assets and to those who are not in the same industry as he is, no one understand why he is doing so.

It’s called circle of competence. When one is in the industry and goes through the pain and gain of it, they will see what others do not.

Forget about those business terms; competitiveness, market penetration, barriers to entry, etc.

Those who are in a particular industry will see what others do not and take action before others.

The mistake us entrepreneurs do is to rely on books and theory too much. It takes experience to dictate the market.

Ability to see the cycle from understanding micro and macro economics behaviour of the target market opens up opportunities for those who see to control market movements.

The foundation of this thinking is to understand that it’s not about what products you want to sell, nor what products you think people would want, but what is in the human mind.

Understanding the human mind allows one to create products which are addictive to the human mind.

And like all humans, we get bored eventually. And it is up to us to choose to perform a “makeover”.

Some do not understand and create a product which no one is familiar of. It takes time and could be years before it becomes a hit.

The keyword here is “familiarity and innovation”. Create something people are familiar with and innovate it.

Now comes the hard part.

When things are sailing smooth, how do you predict the movement of your competitors?

This element relies a lot on one’s understanding of the operational capability of the industry to create a desired “product”.

If one do not even understand the total flow of the supply chain, operation technique and technology, say goodbye to your product.

Given time, a competitor will come in and grab it.

Understanding the human mind, macroeconomics, microeconomics, create products with familiarity and sound knowledge of the operational flow will make one understand why the market moves up and down.

And lastly, from all our efforts, it is God which determines whether one succeed or not. Truly we can control variables but God controls and dictate all variables.

This is a heavy advice, but it serves as a reminder to myself and to anyone who wants to be successful.

It is the moment when I love Islam wholeheartedly.

This is a story of how it happened.

——————————————————

The 1st night of eid-ul-fitr I have no idea why my heart told me to read Ibn Khaldun’s book Muqaddima, again.

I felt the urge of reading Islamic Culture and it’s decline.

And the puzzle seems to come together and address my long years of questions and concerns as below.

FOLLOWING BLINDLY

I share the same experience with majority of Muslims in Malaysia (not all):

  1. We can read and recite Arabic, but we DO NOT know the meaning of arabic language. Hence we read Quran and do not know what on earth in means, except for a few surahs where we frequently read and bother to find the meaning.
  2. We pray 5 times or less a day but we do not understand what we say in our prayers.
  3. We complete our prayers and recite our doa together with our imam. Little do we understand what the imam is reciting, we just say; Amen.
  4. We were told by our Ustaz (religious teacher) that Quran and Hadith is the truth and we cannot question the laws of sharia because we lack knowledge for ijtihad.
  5. As Muslims in Malaysia we are accorded “Bumiputera” status, hence we receive many privileges from priority in housing to financial backup.
  6. We are muslims because our parents were muslims.

There is an arab saying: “what comes from lips reaches the ears and what comes from the heart, reaches the heart”.

Hence if our parents rumble and cane us when we were young to discipline us and perform the prayers and Quran, it goes from their lips and goes out of our ears.

We are imposed to do, not taught to love our religion.

When we ask our teachers in school on sharia law and how it was derived, none could explain except the vague explanations where it is from the Quran and Hadith.

If we ask for more and question the unquestionable truth, we were told we could not ask because it is God’s will.

How on earth can someone love something without knowledge?

THE TRUTH DOES NOT MATCH OUR ACTIONS

As a “Merdeka son”, for years I questionned the following:

  1. If Islam was the religion of truth and best for me, why then do we see Muslims feel tight and imposed a lot of restrictions which sometimes does not make sense? (like the poco2 dance which was suddenly banned and now it is ok).  None would dare ask as if we do, we would be put down because we have no knowledge.
  2. We were told we are the best of all people because we are Muslims, but why do I see Malay Muslims the most dependent, complacent, lazy and do not make themselves better everyday? (not all).
  3. We are a Muslim country but why are we oppressing the non-Muslims (non Bumis)? I have a friend (non Muslims) which live in dire of all flats and in mass poverty while at that age, I am living in luxury. Where is the leadership of the Muslim leader as the defender of the ummah and his people?
  4. The bumiputera policy which prioritizes Malays at the expense of others (I agree it was needed in the short term, not long term), where is the righteousness called for as a Muslim as Allah’s vicegerent?

I pondered and felt upset.

I am extremely patriotic and refuse to follow things blindly. I feel stupid when I do things where others tell me it is right without the evidence.

I prayed to Allah for hidayah (guide) every single day, not to lead me astray, to show me the truth in Islam.

WHAT I SEEK MADE ME DISCOVER THE MOST BEAUTIFUL THING ABOUT ISLAM

I found it in the books of Ibn Khaldun and the stories of how Islam was founded by our dear prophet Muhammad (pbuh) up to this day.

I read Incoherence of Philosophers by Ibn Ghazali (Al Gazel) and Incoherence of Incoherence by Ibn Rusyd (Averroes).

And lastly I was guided to read on Islamic Culture and it’s decline up till now.

This is what I found:

  1. Islam is a religion of equality paired with social justice. Yes, equality. That is the reason why Arabs converted in droves during the period of prophet Muhammad. They were oppressed by the system and Islam gave way for equality for men, women and slaves.
  2. Islam is a religion of democracy. Mutual consultation (syura) is mentioned in the Quran and was practiced by prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The first four caliphs were elected based on democracy. It was the Omayyad dynasty which killed this process and widespread corruption & lavishness in life started to corrupt the Muslims until their overthrow by the Abbasids.
  3. People are no different than any other people, colour, language or race but the highest among them are those who does righteousness and taqwa.
  4. After the Mongols sacked Baghdad and killed the Caliph, Islamic jurists perceive it as the wrath of Allah because of their deeds, hence the philosophy of Al-Ghazali started to take root and the continuous process of Islamic jurisprudence development went to a halt in 1253.
  5. Little do people see the other end where Baghdad was sacked because of the injustice of the Caliph, the puppetness of the Caliph as a result of provinces “kingdom” holding more power than the caliph and the decline in Islamic economics (corruption, etc).
  6. Finger pointing arised but for centuries none tried to emulate the characters of Umar Al Khattab and Umar Ibn Al Aziz as role models to administer their kingdom.

HOW DID WE LOSE THIS?

How could a religion which possess the fundamentals of liberty, equality and social justice not loved by anyone?

Where is the spirit of Umar Al Khattab which prioritized the welfare of his people regardless of race, colour and religion?

Where are leaders which are afraid of the wrath of Allah if he does not be just to his people, be accountable and serve his people?

How could our leaders sleep soundly when there are men in the streets which are starving?

Where is the social development enjoined by Islam to give to the poor and needy, provide the proper infrastructure and do righteousness without prejudice and with equality?

Is it so hard to put in a mindset of “I am not different than other people in the eyes of Allah except doing righteousness deeds?”

When we do righteousness deeds, we will automatically do kind deeds and follow Islamic principles.

Why do we need others to tell us things that put us down like “janganlah bermegah dengan kereta tu semua nikmat dunia, etc.” when they can remind us of doing good righteousness deeds like “jom tolong rumah anak angkat tu, kita org Islam mulia di mata Allah kalau buat bende baik”.

Why do our society prefer to tell us what to do and finger point that we are wrong, rather than motivate us to seek and do righteousness deeds?

PRAISE BE TO GOD

Indeed, I know some would dispute equality in Islam with your hujah. But know this, the reason people follow prophet Muhammad is because of the equality he preached, paired up with social justice. That is something we cannot dispute.

For I have fell in love with the principles of Islam, and this is the best eid Mubarak for me.

Have you (Muslim) found the reason why you love Islam and not follow it’s teachings blindly?

I will make it a point to go to Hajj this year not just for salvation; perform Islamic rites while taking the effort to know the meaning of it, learn and cherish the history of Islam and get into it deeper, understand it’s benevolence as the religion of peace.

For to do righteousness deeds, I must first do righteousness deeds to myself.

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“O Mankind! We have created you from a male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honorable of you in the sight of Allah is he who has most taqwa among of you. Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.” (43:12)

“O People! Your God is one; your father is one; no preference of an Arab neither over non-Arab nor of a non-Arab over an Arab or red over black or black over red except for the most righteous. Verily the most honored of you is the most righteous.” – Prophet Muhammad pbuh

Amen.

THE IGNORANCE PERIOD

When I was in the university, clueless I was on middle income trap.

How could a country with plenty of resources is still trap in the middle income segment? (to see how far we are behind: Malaysia GDP = USD 256 billion while US GDP = USD 14 trillion, China = USD 5.6 trillion).

During my tenure as the student leader, I championed causes with other student leaders in other universities to lower the burden of rakyat. We persuaded the govt to maintain subsidies for petrol, sugar, etc. Little did we pause and think, where do this money come from and how much money do we have?

Even upon graduation, I understand DS Idris Jala’s presentation on the importance of subsidy elimination but I couldn’t understand fully.

Until now.

WHAT I REALISED AS A RAKYAT

The reality is our government wouldn’t be forever rich with cash to fuel our subsidy demands.

The subsidy given to us is paid by someone.

Who is that? It is paid mainly by you taxpayers, borrowers (yes government need to borrow money) & receipts from government ventures (those company owned by govt like Khazanah).

Don’t for a second think your tax or corporate tax is enough to cover our subsidy demands. Imagine how many cents we take from each litre of petrol.

Every litre of petrol you consume, someone is paying for it.

To add to our addiction, some local graduates are not working hard enough to enhance their capabilities.

So what? I still get a job anyway right?

When graduates have less capabilities, it forces companies to hire someone else, which adds to cost.

It forces companies to focus on firefighting, take shortcuts (hire cheap foreign labour), do not innovate, hence in the long run, we lose in terms of cost (imagine using your grandma’s aircond and your aircond today. Which one consume more power and cost?).

To make it worse, since 1980s, we have adopted policies of bringing in cheap labour to work.

So what? Good for business right? No, in the long run.

Cheap labour means companies are not forced to innovate hence they are dependant on foreign workers (easy way out).

That makes the demand for high skilled workers like graduates, a no issue for them.

Imagine a welding company can get foreign labours to weld it. But…… Imagine a welding company which utilizes advanced machinery to weld stainless steel with no need of foreign labour. Obviously this company needs graduates to look after the machinery which would give higher income to the graduate.

To make it even much much much worse, as a result of dependence on cheap labour, companies do not see the point to innovate, hence MSC companies are finding it hard to market solutions like CRM, cloud computing, ERP, etc.

Simply put, these companies are not forced to innovate to compete and they don’t care.

Some don’t even see the need to use technologies to upgrade their competitiveness to reduce costs and increase profitability.

There needs to be someone to tell them how to reduce costs from all angle; operations, finance, admin, etc. Not just IT!

Hence all of us are trapped in the middle income trap.

Except for entrepreneurs who succeed and investors who speculate (like those that buy properties, many of them using debt on debt).

CORRUPTION

This completes the cycle.

Everytime a greedy big bad wolf “crony” gets a job, he hikes up the price of the contract and the government needs to pay more.

When the government pays more, they need to use money from? Taxpayers, borrowers and government receipts lah!

So the government has less money to spend on other useful things.

And when these cronies dress down their accounts and implement tax reduction measures, government do not get back the money that was given to them through the contract!

Then all of us have less money.

And how about those contracts given under a special under-table arrangements?

When it is not given via merit / capabilities, it is given to someone without the skills, we lose out.

Why? They get the money, we get the contract, fair la! No.

Each money spent on non-competitive companies result in less innovation because there is no one to compete! So these companies get cheap labour, alternative ways to save up cost, without building human capital and innovation.

Hence, the middle income trap again.

THE WEAK POINTS

It all happens in a loop.

We are SO RICH with resources yet we waste it. I am truly sad of us being in the middle income trap. I want us out, ETP is really the driving force now but little do we realise, the driving force is actually us the rakyat. But when will we realise this?

So the weak points:

  • Our government is rich but we milk them with our subsidy.
  • Graduates who do not raise their capabilities adds to non-competitiveness of our firms.
  • Non-competitive firms go for shortcuts: foreign labour, etc.
  • Usage of cheap costs measures (foreign labour) results in companies which do not care about innovation.
  • Companies selling high-tech solutions couldn’t make it when companies do not want their solutions.
  • Cronies jacking up prices from government contracts result in less money for government to spend on other good projects.
  • Contracts awarded based on preference, leads to non-innovative culture which leads to middle income trap.

I know there are more problems, FDI, but this is something that can make sense to the ordinary Malaysian why we are in the middle income trap.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Force companies to innovate by limiting foreign labour in the long run.
  • Focus on commercialization of our research output in universities so that industries can use them. At the moment, getting research grants are more important than commercialization.
  • Offer subsidy or ITA / pioneer status to companies for commercialization capital investment.
  • Force students to enhance their capabilities by tying up CGPA with practical jobs performance, innovation reflection and financial literacy.
  • Get corporate leaders to be mentors to student leaders rather than focus on politicians in its entirety.
  • Rid off corruption through pre-requisites and standards in contract awards (if no ISO 9001, GMP, no contract). – must take into account the industry capabilities as a whole and use median standards.
  • Increase grants for standards like SME Corp.

I know some of these recommendations are already out, but it is not being emphasized with a big FOCUS. Like imagine if the PM talks about ETP, then everyone would talk about it. So he should champion these things. At the moment the issue is IMPACT. How many research projects are commercialized with the current implementation plan? If you can give me a good answer then you win. But I don’t see my SME peers adopting Malaysian technology from universities en masse.

WHAT I COULD DO, PANDAI AJE RECOMMEND

Well, I would aim to increase innovation to reduce costs & increase profitability as per below:

  1. Utilize cloud computing with proven companies like Xero, Salesforce to reduce the need to hire an accountant, telemarketer.
  2. Increase productivity through documents collaboration to eliminate the need for secretaries and many admin clerks.
  3. Use high technology equipments such as blast chillers, sous vide, to eliminate waste and increase profits.
  4. Research and pair up with universities to come up with a robotic kitchen to reduce kitchen overheads.
  5. Focus on employing high performance workers with high salaries with dividend schemes.
  6. Get all grants from governments which focus on standards and work automation with the aim of reducing costs, not complicating things.
  7. Lower price down to compete with competitors through cost advantage infrastructure and force other competitors to innovate as well.

Just my 2 cents.

Not meant to bang the government or support the opposition. Just some thoughts to improve the country and it must start with something. So I’ll start the culture and if others wanna do it, please by all means because I would love to see Malaysia be no 1. Malaysia Boleh! Not “Malaysia Boleh” as of those Bolehland genre.

In a capitalist society where wealth is a priority, morality is often overlooked. Except for those social entrepreneurs which are willing to compromise profits as a priority and prioritize social impact.

As I dive deeper into the business world, with all my ambitions in creating larger, bigger and impressive things, I couldn’t help to ignore the issue of morality. Yes, if I fail and can’t build those big things I aspire, who cares? But I do not fear failure as failure is a learning tool. I’ll pick myself up and do it again.

However I am pissed off with some people which “con” people and get off with all the money. Sometimes those are are “con-ed” include people like politicians which drag the rakyat to believe the things they “rasmi” on big ceremonies.

A businessman who is a Muslim should put morality, integrity and honesty above profit. The equation is different;

Revenue = Price x Volume (This is the focus, the more people we serve and bring better impact, the more pahala we get)

Subsequently, with honesty and respect to customers, we gain more revenue which adds to our bottom line, profits. Of course cost are meant to be controlled.

But the point here is morality is the principle behind all this equation.

Muslims are a society who seeks to gain Allah’s pleasure in this life and the afterlife. The problem today is they lose objectivity.

Giving Muslims and the society at large (including non-Muslims) a better life, makes everyone better through an economy based on ethics.

Character assassination and fear.

I am getting tired of the drama because it went overboard. I am not a supporter of Anwar but Anwar Ibrahim is being accused of everything; from a crook to a sodomizer to an agent of Zionist to an agent of about everything.

I seriously believe the government in power had done lots of things for the rakyat, the ETP, although looks more like a publicity stunt does help our economy bring in the FDIs and GTP is slowly transforming the government machinery into an effective one. But it has it’s downsides as well, with all these political above ethics going on.

Pakatan Rakyat on the other hand looks like the “storming” period as a team is over. They are getting more synchronized and the Buku Jingga is a good read, it’s aspirations can help Malaysia transform democracy into greater heights. However they have their downsides as well, they can’t even form a Shadow Cabinet by appointing each ministry to a single person which leads me to wonder whether there will be chaos if they become the government in power.

But the character assassination for Anwar Ibrahim is getting annoying. I couldn’t find a day since last year when I read Utusan, I wouldn’t see “Anwar’s” name with bad things about him on the paper.

While my aunt who is not IT savvy supports Utusan’s view wholeheartedly, I won’t blame her.

If you keep on telling the rakyat thousands of times, it will rhyme with him.

This is the problem with some Malaysians:

  • They read and hear gossip from others and believe it without asking for the source.
  • They believe everything in the news while almost every media is owned indirectly by the government.
  • They are in awe when they see ministers, it’s like ministers are celebrities.
  • The youth is most gullible, taking pictures and being close with people in power (ministers, key government officials, etc) boosts their ego. Post it up on FB and it’s an upper status for you to show to friends.
  • They care not for politics as it’s messed up.
  • They don’t realise by not taking a stand on politics, they are the reason why corruption and abuse of power are rampant. They fail to see themselves as decision makers or judge for the politicians, instead they do not care and become instruments of puppets to keep corrupted politicians in power.
  • They see character as the pre-requisite of voting someone.
  • They seldom vote someone because of the government policies or governance but vote because they fear by voting another party, they lose their rights.
  • They think loyalty to the government means loyalty to the party-in-power.
  • They are confused and think that government = party-in-power.

Politicians have all the traits of luring people to believe them, a part con-man but with a noble cause, they know how to twist and turn events to their advantage. They are also masters of strategizing and making it look like they are the good guy but their machinery is creating propoganda to get their advantage.

If you think these are all assumptions, think again; I come from an UMNO based family which previously held power in the government and I was myself a pro-government supporter and leader in the university.

Don’t let them lie to you.

Always ask and be inquisitive, seek for the truth. For those who believe others at an instant are like “keldai”.

We are not just a voter, we are the decision-maker and judge for all politicians.

We must stop thinking that only one-party serves our purpose.

Competition is good and give the rakyat better options and alternatives. Although it comes at a cost.

Our loyalty is to the country and it’s people, not to the party in power.

We can choose whoever we like and not be ruled by fear because we choose who will be in power.

Be it BN or PR, I will vote based on governance not fear.