Category Archives: Captains & Legends

An in-depth personality profile of the elites and leaders across various industries from all over the world

The Zing of Life

Dato’ Seri Damien Chua Wei Kee
Founder and Chief Executive Officer, JD Resources

“It was not easy but each challenge that came my way, I always find ways to overcome it.”

If there is only one formula for success, it would have to be seizing an opportunity and make it work through pure grit and hard work. This was how Dato’ Seri Damien Chua went from a waiter to become the owner of 30 companies in nine countries within a span of 26 years.

It can be said that his early years as an adult striking out on his own was an invaluable lesson that taught him independence and a strong will to succeed. Coming from a middle-class family, Chua had wanted to study aeronautical engineering or chemical engineering when he finished school. Yet, aware of his parents’ financial limitations, he gave up that dream and started working various jobs to fund his own education. “Since engineering was too expensive, I chose the cheapest course – accounting,” he said. To fund his education, he did a slew of different jobs that ranged from tutoring to waitering and coaching. He worked in McDonald’s, Parkson Store as a promoter, a lifeguard, a swimming coach, a tuition teacher and a waiter in a restaurant.

He ended up working in a zinc distribution company while studying ACCA part-time. It was this job that gave him the most experience in the zinc industry. When the 1997 Asian financial crisis hit, Chua lost his job in the zinc distribution company as the company was so badly hit, it went under. Desperate for a job, he decided to apply for the accountant post in a Melbourne zinc supplier company. Instead of landing a job, he was unexpectedly appointed as an agent in Malaysia. With no other job offers, he decided to give it a try and this saw the establishment of JD Resources in 1998. “It was a challenge taking up the risk at a time when we were still facing the effects of the financial crisis but somehow, I managed to face up to it,” he said. It was not all smooth-sailing and yet for each challenge that came his way, Chua somehow managed to overcome it and came out unscathed. “It was not easy but each challenge that came my way, I always find ways to overcome it,” he added.

Today, JD Resources holds 30% market share of the zinc supplies and 55% market share of zinc alloy supplies in the Southeast Asia market. The company started out as a sole proprietorship distributing 15 to 20 tonnes of zinc products two decades ago and now, the company is large enough to be publicly listed and is distributing 12,000 to 15,000 tonnes of zinc products. “Last year, when everyone was pulling out of China due to the trade war, we were going in to set up our factory there because we wanted to tap into the China market,” he said.

Other than continuing to expand his growing business, Chua is involved in 16 non-governmental organisations (NGO) and was recently appointed as the Honorary-Consul of Hungary. He also makes sure he allocates time for his family every weekend and spends most of his free time, if any, reading at least one book each month. “I must read to continuously improve my knowledge, it is a life-long process that must never stop no matter how busy I am,” he said. 

“I must read to continuously improve my knowledge, it is a life-long process that must never stop no matter how busy I am”

Living A Beautiful Life

Professor Enzo Di Mambro
Consultant, Professor & Academic Board Member of EMBA

“I grew up in Rome where I was constantly surrounded by beautiful things and this was emphasised with my travels, particularly when we stayed in China because of its rich culture and people.”

Life is short, so live it to the fullest and always be happy. This has been heard so often and can even be cliche to many. Nevertheless it’s the mantra that Professor Enzo Di Mambro lives by and while life is not perfect, he certainly is happy. 

The Professor of the Inner Mongolia University in Penang lives happily ever after as an expatriate in the Moonlight Bay Apartments in Batu Ferringhi very much enjoying life and living it to the fullest. 

He is also the Consultant and Professor and Academic Board Member of the university’s EMBA (Executive Masters of Business Administration) programme as well as a professional chef with more than four decades in the hospitality industry. 

Enzo was born in Italy, but not in a hospital or even at home. Rather, he greeted the world alongside his twin brother under a pomegranate tree in the middle of nowhere as his mother went into labour while she and her husband were traveling.

“I grew up in Rome where I was constantly surrounded by beautiful things and this was emphasised with my travels, particularly when we stayed in China because of its rich culture and people.” He loved China so much that he even married a Chinese woman but interestingly, decided to settle in Penang under the programme, Malaysia as my Second Home (MM2H). 

“I am culturally successful because I believe that throughout my 63 years of life, traveling and working, I have developed worldly wisdom or a deep “knowledge” of people, how and why they behave the way they do. ”

“This decision happened years ago when some of my colleagues and I were in Perth. We had dinner and some drinks and started talking about where we want to die! So I said that I want to LIVE on a nice island, in a villa, with beautiful views and great weather. A few days later, a friend showed me an advertisement of the Moonlight Bay apartments in Penang. I did some research about Penang, then bought a unit almost immediately,” he quipped. 

It wasn’t a rash and misguided decision however, as Enzo had considered other nearby islands. But Penang called to him because of its very laid back way of life – “There’s also a lot more to do here. I think Bali and Phuket are more short-term tourist destinations while Hong Kong is quite chaotic,” he said. 

To him, everything about Penang is value for money from entertainment, shopping to properties. The people are warm, friendly and hospitable, the weather is warm throughout the year, food is delicious and the hospitals offer one of the greatest services among the other countries he’s been to. 

“So with these reasons, Penang is my home. But the main issue is the traffic, but I think many others share the same sentiments,” he said. 

You may believe that Enzo is successful as he nonchalantly refers to his luxury cars as his “toys” and owns a number of properties in other countries. But he thinks he is still “working” to achieve success. “I am culturally successful because I believe that throughout my 63 years of life, traveling and working, I have developed worldly wisdom or a deep “knowledge” of people, how and why they behave the way they do. Money is just a bonus. In fact, I’m just lucky because life has been very generous to me,” he explained. 

Leading By Example

Tan Lay Seong
Founder & CEO of Great Ideals Group

Leadership is not a position or a title but it is about leading by example and making things happen.

Tan Lay Seong from Great Eastern is a name majority will know or at least have heard of in the Malaysia insurance industry. Coming from a poor family of eight, Lay Seong has endeavored this journey through hard work, determination and self belief. “The spirit of believing in whatever you do is very important, we cannot change where we came from but we can always decide what we want to be in the future,” said Lay Seong. Immediately after graduating from the National University Of Malaysia (UKM) in 1995, he joined the insurance industry and never looked back. 10 years later, he successfully built his own empire, won numerous awards and wrote his first book ‘The Champion Path’, documenting his life journey to encourage people to live their dreams. The book was later translated into English and subsequently sold internationally. 

To date, Lay Seong’s numerous outstanding achievements include the first and only Malaysian to be selected twice for the Worldwide 500 Chinese Insurance Agency, Top 10 Outstanding Youth Malaysian Awards (Merit) and Agency Leader Of The Year 2018. When asked why investing in insurance is important, his answer was short and precise saying that this is an alternative investment to protect or at least to ease the burden of families or corporations when encountered with unfortunate business or financial stress. He firmly believes that insurance is not only a wise investment as protection, but this is also a good career path for those who have good leadership qualities with proper management systems. “Leadership is not a position or a title but it is about leading by example and making things happen, ” Lay Seong explained.

Besides insurance, this remarkable gentleman is also the National President of PUMM and the Advisor for PCCC Youth – Personal Development Bureau. This father of two loves soccer and badminton for the persistence and fighting spirit of the games. 

Last but not least, Lay Seong’s principle in life is “Let us use our lives to influence others to do better!” 

“The spirit of believing in whatever you do is very important, we cannot change where we came from but we can always decide what we want to be in the future.”

Penang’s Own Wonder Woman

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Mei Tan

Founder & CEO of Scoopoint Sdn Bhd


“We want to see people working together to achieve a desired outcome. It’s not just tables and chairs where people work in isolation like you see in cafes. Scoopoint focuses on  entrepreneurial minds to enable them to start and develop successful projects.”

Leaving a legacy is not something that many 30-something year olds think about, let alone are dedicated to invest their whole time in.

But Mei Tan is working on making her mark in Penang’s talent pool and at the same time, hoping to leave her legacy where others can follow.

The Founding CEO of Scoopoint Co-Working envisions multi generations to collaborate and work together in order to grow Penang’s talent pool and competitive advantage. These are big aspirations for this youth, hence setting up Scoopoint as a creative community of like-minded people to share ideas and collaborate on projects.

“We want to see people working together to achieve a desired outcome. It’s not just tables and chairs where people work in isolation like you see in cafes. Scoopoint focuses on  entrepreneurial minds to enable them to start and develop successful projects. Think of it as a supportive community for budding start-ups and this is where they can come to grow their businesses and teams,” explains Mei Tan who refers to herself as a “Creativentreprenuer” – someone who is creative and also business-minded.

Scoopoint.jpgScoopoint’s concept is only planting a small seed to her bigger plans that is to encourage more talent to stay in Penang. “I envision supporting and growing the system and creative entrepreneurship in Penang. We have the potential to venture internationally and make a name for ourselves and I hope to achieve this one day.”

Mei Tan is also the COO and creative director of Asia Green Group, one of Penang’s premier high-end property developers. One does wonder how the young lass has time for herself with multiple projects under her belt.

“My schedule is really busy, but I always spend some time with my family. I also enjoy traveling, outdoor sports and working out. Working out is time for myself where I can just focus and get a good sweat.”

Mei Tan has certainly come a long way as she admits that she was once shy and self-conscious about her appearance. Not too long ago, she was often teased and called “fat” which affected her self-esteem. But when she left to the US to work, it helped build her confidence and her passion for fitness and public speaking soon saw her metamorphosing into a confident and affable young lady.

Currently, she sees a gap between the older and younger generation in the business arena and workforce. She believes that both can learn from each other’s strengths.

“The millennials certainly appreciate their seniors and what they have done to shape Penang to what it’s become today through their hard work and persistence. But we always want to encourage all generations to be more open minded and think about how we can better work together to embrace new technology for businesses to thrive.

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By Karina Foo 

For The Love Of Animals 

EZMY54_Dr Lim Ban Keong.pngDr. Lim Ban Keong D.V.M. (UPM)

Group Managing Director of Rhone Ma Holdings Berhad


We want people to not only see how we’ve transformed the company, but how this transformation can benefit  them and the society as a whole in terms of their health and animal welfare including their lovely pets.

We often read about the success of thought leaders in property development, retail and the automotive industries. It is not common to hear about the growth and success of businesses in animal health products that have made an impact in their country of origin.

One such company in Malaysia is Rhone Ma Holdings Berhad, an end-to-end animal health solution provider in Malaysia and is headed by its Group managing director, Dr Lim Ban Keong, a former veterinarian in the livestock industry.

Under his leadership, the business has transformed from a local trading company into a Bursa Malaysia Main Board listed company in December 2016. Rhone Ma was established after a management buyout of the animal health division of Rhodia Malaysia in year 2000.

Lim, who holds a Doctor in Veterinary Medicine from from Universiti Putra Malaysia, is also a registered veterinary surgeon with the Malaysian Veterinary Council since 1997 and also a member of the Veterinary Association Malaysia since 1998.

Studying veterinary science may not give most students much insight into the world of business operations, But the Penang local already had a head start in his career as a technical sales executive at Pahang Pharmacy Sdn. Bhd. in 1997. One year later, he joined Rhodia Malaysia as a Techno-Commercial Executive in the animal health division where he was in charge of the product portfolio covering veterinary pharmaceutical and biological products. He joined Rhone Ma Malaysia in 2000 which acquired the animal health division of Rhodia Malaysia.

Lim was subsequently promoted to General Manager in 2010 and assumed the role of Managing Director in 2013. The journey has been anything but easy, but Lim, 46, is grateful for the experience and guidance given by all his mentors along the way, especially Dr Raymond Choo, his predecessor in Rhone Ma. “I also feel blessed to have role models supportive partners like Mr Foong Kam Weng and Dr Karen Yip, who are also founding members of Rhone Ma. In fact, they consented and supported my appointment as the general manager.” 

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Commemorating the launch of Bioeconomy Day 2018 with Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry YB Tuan Sim Tze Tzin and CEO of Bioeconomy Corporation Dr. Mohd Shuhaizam Mohd Zain

I wanted to take the opportunity to realise my transformation dream for dream of transforming the company.

“When I reflect on what I have been through, I felt like a newborn when I accepted the challenges because everything was new to me. But I wanted to take the opportunity to realise my transformation dream for dream of transforming the company,” said Lim who also credits Vistage Malaysia for their exemplary CEO coaching programmes.

Not surprisingly, one of Lim’s biggest milestones was when the company became public as it only took three months to happen since the date of application for IPO.

 “As a public listed company, it is our responsibility to meet investors’ expectations. Though we have more complex obstacles to overcome, this is all part of business growth and corporate transformation,” explains Lim.

Our IPO proceeds will is used to fund our development plan for the construction of a new GMP-Compliant Plant in Nilai and a warehouse with three storey offices in Klang.” says Lim. The Group has commenced the construction of the GMP-compliant plant with completion estimated to be in the end of 2019. The new warehouse in Kapar was completed towards the end of 2018 and is currently awaiting for the Certificate of Completion and Compliance (CCC) by the local authorities. Once fully operational, the warehouse is expected to increase storage space to cater to increasing storage needs for both animal health products and food ingredients.

“We also aim to expand our product range and introduce new pharmaceuticals and feed additives through our in-house R&D capabilities and finally, to expand regionally to broaden our international customer base.”

In addition to being the exclusive distributor of Boehringer Ingelheim’s companion animal product range in Malaysia, Lim also notched another achievement when he successfully signed on two big names in the animal health and nutrition industry to distribute their products in Malaysia, namely Ceva Sante Animale S.A. (Ceva) and Zoetis Malaysia Sdn. Bhd. (Zoetis). Ceva, on 1 January 2018, appointed Rhone Ma as the Exclusive Distributor of its swine-related products, while in April 2018, the company signed another Distributorship agreement with Zoetis Malaysia Sdn. Bhd, a subsidiary of Zoetis Inc., for its poultry related products.

Lim further pursued his dreams of transforming Rhone Ma, where in early 2018, the Company incorporated a new wholly-owned subsidiary,  APSN Healthcare & Diagnostics Sdn. Bhd. (APSNH) in their effort to foray into the human healthcare segment. Under this new business segment, APSNH aims to provide test and diagnostics services for human healthcare, conduct R&D in biotechnology and distribution of human healthcare and related products. Although it is still in its infancy stage, Lim believes that the segment will grow due to its vast potential.

It’s not just the business that Lim wants to grow, but also enrich public perception on the animal health industry. “We want people to not only see how we’ve transformed the company, but how this transformation can benefit  them and the society as a whole in terms of their health and animal welfare including their lovely pets.”

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Dr. Lim and his biker buddies at The Distinguished Gentleman’s ride

The Language of Bespoke

Kok Loong Ho

Couture Designer & Owner of The MOD House


“Life is all about what you want to do, regardless of your background.”

The latest Couture Fashion Week in New York held a very important element – The MOD House by Malaysian designer KL Ho imprinted on the famous Manhattan runway. Featuring a stunning haute couture collection of Asian-inspired qipao, both shows at the Crowne Plaza Times Square and The Pierre, A Taj Hotel, were fully attended and well received by international fashion buyers, media, socialites and celebrities. The MOD (Malaysian Original Design) House received immediate enquiries and invitations to future couture fashion events in London, Paris and Dubai. With the assistance of Matrade Malaysia and Matrade New York, the label successfully penetrated the US market with its ready-to-wear collection as well.

Once an accountant, Ho jokes about venturing from dealing with ‘figures’ on spreadsheets to dressing beautiful feminine ‘figures’ in the glitzy and glamorous world of fashion.

The MOD House_2.jpgThe Seremban boy who studied accountancy and filmmaking started work with KPMG before taking a leap of faith into fashion retail and wholesale. He was soon bosom buddies with top Malaysian designers while the shopping malls were busy clamouring for him. From there on 11 MOD Houses were set up in major shopping centres in Penang and Kuala Lumpur.

“Life is all about what you want to do, regardless of your background. I started my fashion journey without any formal education. Relied on my instincts, feelings and horse sense a long way before signing up for a fashion design course later on.”

While the name KL Ho and The MOD House label soared from local to international recognition, Ho believes that fashion must be practical too. “Currently I’m working on ready-to-wear office attires, available for online purchase and rental. Ladies will now be able to rent work dresses daily.  This will ease dressing woes and benefit them economically.”

After 15 years in the industry, fashionistas are beginning to trust and revere his creations. Ho was in Melbourne recently to explore possibilities of working with Australian designers and fashion institutes like RMIT.

The MOD House_3.jpgTo me every designer has their personal touch and uniqueness.  I don’t really know how to rank myself, but people are starting to recognise my creations especially in the marriage of the Eastern and Western cultures.

“I would love to help aspiring fashion designers, if possible. For newcomers, their biggest problem is to get manufacturers to produce for them.  I have a platform where they can contribute their designs while I navigate production and contemplate marketing strategies for them.”

Wearing many hats with ease, this designer extraordinaire will continue to spin bespoke magic, create prêt-à-porter lines and be the commander of his fashion production house with great style and originality.


By Billie Ooi-Ng Lean Gaik

Who is the Cake Boss, this time?

EZMY54_Sunway University“We were overwhelmed with pride and joy when the ’Negaraku’ was played to the spectators at the World Pastry Cup and those watching live around the world. It truly showcased our spirit of Malaysia Boleh!” says Patrick Siau, Head Chef of Sunway University School of Hospitality.

While there are many firsts when it comes to Malaysians receiving international recognition, Malaysia’s very first win at the Coupe du Monde la Patisserie – World Pastry Cup 2019 held in Lyon, France has definitely taken the whole country by surprise when it comes to expertise in pastry.

When it comes to food, Malaysia continues to top as one of the few countries in the world with the most culturally diverse food options. In 2017, the world began to notice some of the most prevalent chef novices from Malaysia when Diana Chan, a Malaysian-born contestant won Masterchef Australia Season 9.

In January 2019, World Pastry Cup – a World Pastry Cup championship, an ‘Oscar’ equivalent for the pastry chefs of the world – played ‘Negaraku’, the Malaysia National Anthem for the very first time. The Malaysia National Pastry Team, led by Head Chef Patrick Siau from Sunway University School of Hospitality, has won first prize.

The team which include Tan Wei Loon, Corporate Pastry Chef and Loi Ming Ai, Executive Pastry Chef of the Academy of Pastry Arts Malaysia; and Otto Tay, Corporate Pastry Chef at Dobla Asia, has beaten 20 other teams from around the globe to become the world champion.

“I am absolutely delighted by this achievement by the Malaysia team led by our very own expert Chef Patrick Siau… We are all very proud of what he has achieved and of the glory he has brought to the nation,” says Professor Graeme Wilkinson, Vice-Chancellor of Sunway University.

In order to meet the judges’ top requirements, contesting team are required to creatively produce three chocolate desserts of Grand Cru Valrhona, three frozen desserts from the Ravifruit range, 15 identical desserts on plate and three artistic creations made of sugar, chocolate and an artistic piece carved out of hydric ice. With only 10 hours on the clock, the teams are also contested under a common theme of Nature, Flora and Fauna.

The APC, cited as the largest ‘live’ pastry competition in Asia is the most spectacular and highly accredited competition in its category and serves as the official pre-selection platform for the World Pastry Cup.

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The winning team created a chocolate dessert named ‘La Nature’ inspired by the lotus leaf while the flavours of their frozen fruit dessert ‘La Papillon’ which featured a butterfly on a flower was inspired by Pierre Hermé’s Ispahan. For their plated dessert ‘La Floraison’, the team incorporated the pomelo, Ipoh’s famous fruit which was presented in a cup-form made of Granita.

Capturing the judges’ attention was the team’s artistic creation showcasing meticulously crafted monkeys dressed like Elvis with the King’s iconic pompadour made of isomalt sugar and chocolate.

The Malaysia team also received the Vase de Sevres prize, a prize donated by the President of the French Republic which is awarded to the country that scored the most points for the Tasting.

In the months prior to the competition, the School of Hospitality at Sunway University actively came together and organised several initiatives to help raise funds for the team’s trip to France.

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