Category Archives: Captains & Legends

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

GUIDING PRINCIPLES The Measure of a Man

DATUK SERI (DR) SYED HUSSIAN ALJUNID

Group Chairman, Media Prima Berhad & Group Chairman, Western Digital Malaysia Operations

Rephrasing a quote by a well-known American broadcaster Walter Cronkite, ‘Success is more  permanent when you achieve it without compromising your principles’. Datuk Seri (Dr) Syed Hussian Aljunid attributes much of his achievements to the trust and confidence gained from his stakeholders throughout his professional career and he firmly believes this is down to the principles he holds very dear to his heart. These include consistent determination, never ending quest for knowledge, unwavering loyalty and commitment to integrity. These are the values that are consistent with those of the multinational and local companies he has been associated with, which todate has spanned across multiple industries including insurance, digital technology and media. They are the same values that remain true to this day, as he currently helms the chairmanships of Media Prima Berhad and Western Digital Malaysia Operations.

With YB Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad at the Media Prima – IJN Medical Outreach Programme and Health Screening for the people in Langkawi.
Courtesy call to YAB Tuan Chow Kon Yeow, Chief Minister of Pulau Pinang discussing a variety of topics including Penang 2030.

Holding two key positions in two separate established corporations, comes with a certain responsibility of its own most do not see. Sure, in hindsight, it may translate to power but behind closed doors, it is double the responsibility and most of all, expectations. Reality is such that it is easy to lose sight as visions become distorted in a dynamic business world but Datuk Seri (Dr) Syed not only maintains his core principles but goes above and beyond to give back to the nation by making use of his platform and voice. Datuk Seri (Dr) Syed does not sit around and think of how his roles can benefit him but rather is concerned about what he can do with his current roles to give back to the society.

Having said that, he has participated as a delegation member in numerous trade missions overseas organised by the Ministry of International Trade and Industries and Malaysian Investment Development Authority to bring foreign investors to Malaysia. His continuous involvement with key associations and chambers of commerce is also testament to his unwavering commitment. Capitalising on the trusted relationships and global networking built over the years, Datuk Seri (Dr) Syed hopes he can play a small but meaningful role and complement the strong effort made by the government to promote Malaysia as a country with strong economic potential. Given his current role as Group Chairman of Media Prima Berhad, Malaysia’s leading integrated media company, he is also actively pushing the same ideals to help build confidence in the country’s abilities among foreign and domestic investors through the company’s various media platforms. This would ultimately benefit society as a whole via jobs and business opportunities.

Launching of Segerak VIII Utopia art showcase, officiated by His Royal Highness Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah Ibni Almarhum Sultan Azlan Muhibbuddin Shah Al-Maghfur-lah, TheSultan of Perak Darul Ridzuan.

Datuk Seri (Dr) Syed’s areas of expertise are not just limited to economics and investments but rather talent development as well. With years of experience and knowledge, he contributes to the nation by nurturing the Malaysian youth so that they may come out prepared for today’s job market. This is done through his active associations with five local universities and higher education institutions. As the Group Chairman of Western Digital Malaysia Operations, he and his colleagues have undertaken programmes aimed towards developing local talents through a structured industry training programme, thus giving students the opportunity to gain international exposure to the best manufacturing practices of global technology companies. A collaboration with the Ministry of Higher Education, enabled the company to provide on-the-job training opportunities for over 300 Malaysian students from local universities and polytechnic institutions. In terms of international exposure, more than half of the students were fortunate to be placed at Western Digital’s operations in Thailand. He is also very much involved on the ground level by dedicating his time and energy to Technical University of Malaysia Melaka or Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka, better known simply as the abbreviated UTeM. He often participates in on-campus activities sharing knowledge via a series of talks. There, he offers his experience and expertise as an industry veteran. This would later on transpire beyond programmes as he also conducts lectures in his capacity as an Adjunct Professor for UTeM, serving on a pro bono basis.

There is no talk about giving back to society without shedding light on the community. Datuk Seri (Dr) Syed is very much involved in various community engagement projects such as helping those in need of assistance both personally and through the companies to which he is affiliated. At Media Prima, he is involved in various community aid activities through programmes such as Bersamamu TV3, which hopes to raise awareness of the hardships experienced by the less fortunate countrymen, whether due to poverty, natural disasters or medical requirements. Media Prima also helped thousands of Malaysians through the Covid 19 Media Prima-NSTP Humanitarian Fund initiative, with a collection of more than RM2.5 million. The money generated was then used to purchase medical equipment and Personal Protective Equipment distributed to hospitals across the country. Similarly, Western Digital also donated medical equipment and personal protective equipment amounting to RM2 million.

Datuk Seri (Dr) Syed is more than just the role entrusted to him. That is to say he is more than just the chairman. Empathy fuels connections and sympathy drives disconnection. It is his ability to empathise with the nation on all levels and his drive to give back to the community is what makes Datuk Seri (Dr.) Syed the person that he is today. Though Covid-19 remains a global concern, Datuk Seri (Dr) Syed remains optimistic about the future. He believes the future for Malaysia remains bright despite the challenges we are facing as the small ray of hope lies in the fact that one can continuously learn to adapt and improve in spite of adverse conditions.

Hand over of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) worth RM2m from Western Digital to YB Tan Sri Dato’ Haji Muhyiddin bin Mohd. Yassin, former Malaysian Prime Minister in the fightagainst Covid19

Just like how the lotus flower is able to blossom in muddy waters, Media Prima has managed to achieve a mini turnaround of its fortune despite the economic downturn. In the moment of crisis, albeit easier to just lose all hope and leave it as it is, the people of Media Prima chose to face the pandemic head on. United in spirit, drive, passion and most importantly principles are what made this possible. This small feat is mainly due to the hard work and determination of everyone at the company. Every single one of them in Media Prima has a role to play no matter how big or small they are. Similarly, Western Digital Malaysia has confidence that the country will emerge from the pandemic as it continues to expand its presence in Malaysia as demand for storage solutions increases despite the global uncertainties. This is done through expanding its presence in Malaysia when in 2020, the company announced a fresh investment of RM2.8 billion in Malaysia which will benefit the country.

Remaining true to your principles does indeed have its benefits.

Skinnergy Resources From Traditional to Globalisation

Dr Kelvin Liew

Co-Founder, Skinnergy Resources

Dr Kelvin Liew, co-founder of Skinnergy Resources, comes from a family of practising physicians who has been in the business of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) bone setting and preparation of traditional Chinese medicine for more than 80 years.

As a third generation practitioner, Kel vin started as an apprentice during his primary school days where he learnt medicine preparation and throughout the years that followed, earnestly trained and learnt the TCM bone setting techniques to treat musculoskeletal injuries.  However, he was only more personally involved in patient cases much later on, when he was in his thirties. Kelvin acknowledges that there is still much to learn, and he is still actively involved in this profession.  They meet and treat over 100 patients daily; whilst it can be a tad tiring at times as they open daily throughout the week, it is gratifying to know and see that their patients recover well and benefit from their services. 

Having always aspired to be an entrepreneur of a scalable business, not bounded by the time and sole expertise of the individual, he seized the opportunity to join his partners in co-founding Skinnergy in 2016.

Skinnergy is currently into its fifth year; although much of what they learnt has been through their hands-on experience of running the day-to-day operations of the business, Kelvin believes that the right strategies which were in place since the inception of the company, helped the company thrive during the current economic situation amidst the pandemic.  Aside from ensuring that they have a competitive product line-up with which their business associates can leverage on, there are two other pertinent areas which they paid much attention to.

Mr Lokman Hakim B. Ali, MITI Secretary-General accompanied by Chng Huck Theng presenting the CHT International Awards 2020 for CHT Emerging Entrepreneur Award 2020 to Dr Kelvin Liew, Co-Founder, Skinnergy Resources.

The first being the decision to use a mix of social media and web presence for market outreach. Having their business associates familiarise themselves with these tools from the get go has prepared them unexpectedly for the situation where social distancing and travel restrictions are the norm. Also, with a strong backend team to expediently resolve customer issues and acquire feedback has helped the company build trust with their associates and customers as well as generate new product ideas.

These are  challenging times, especially for budding entrepreneurs, but if you believe in your dream and your vision, I urge you to persist on

The other focus area is investing in a robust e-commerce system. Kelvin views it as the backbone of the company, something in which their associates expect from them and it is his and his partners’ responsibility to ensure it is well-oiled and working smoothly. As much as they anticipate challenges, never did they expect that a nascent company like Skinnergy to be cyber-attack targets, however events as such did happen. Fortunately they have established reliable partners who helped them tide over those episodes and they have since strengthen their systems.

Kelvin shares, “These are challenging times, especially for budding entrepreneurs; some may blame it as bad timing, however if one still believes in his/her ideas or vision, I would like to encourage you to persist on. And if the strength of the individual is insufficient, find like-minded partners/investors to join you on your journey – this is to do justice to the effort and capital you’ve invested so far.” “Entrepreneurship is a voyage, after building the ship and christening it, the most important part is how you navigate it through the vast, fickle sea ahead.” says the good doctor.

A BEAUTIFUL ENCOUNTER WITH doTERRA

LIM MIAN FOO
Deowa Academy Founder, 
doTERRA Malaysia Founder,
Presidential Diamond doTERRA Wellness Advocate,
Certified Aromatherapist

Before I encountered doTERRA, I had already established a thriving business that dealt with flowers and decorations. I started this floristry business because of my deep passion for beauty and nature. It was a business that happily married my love for Mother Nature and my desire to make people happy through beautiful creations. So, when doTERRA entered my life, it was a natural transition as it combines both making people happy through beauty and creating a blissful healthy life for others through the same avenue – Nature. doTERRA has made my happiness even more meaningful and complete. Helping people to alleviate pain is so much more rewarding for me than making them happy only through beauty. Perhaps being an already established businessman for almost 20 over years has made it easier for me to share the the effectiveness and benefits of essential oils instead of just selling it as a product. I am elated whenever I see the happy faces of people that I have shared doTERRA with.

On this journey, one of the challenges I faced was sharing the correct usage of essential oils. Nowadays, a lot of people think that fragrance oils and essential oils are the same. Upon setting out on my mission, I have studied and conducted extensive research on the benefits of essential oils on the body, mind, and even internal healing (emotional issues).

The main source of success is to focus on your Effort.

Whenever I venture into anything, I always have a plan and set my own goals and target. So i applied this when I started my doTERRA journey. In this industry, duplication is very important. In this culture of duplication, the way you work-lead by example and others will follow, this makes everything much easier. One of the biggest keys to building a successful business in this industry is to understand those we serve. Getting to know my clients better has made it easier for us to work together. In 2018, a few business partners and I established DEOWA Academy. The purpose of DEOWA Academy is to provide comprehensive support towards my team members’ education of essential oils and career development.

On this amazing journey, sustaining my Passion is essential, which sometimes can be a hurdle. Without Passion and Patience, this journey would have been much more difficult. Passion and the absolute belief in the benefits and efficacy of doTERRA products keeps me going. Especially when I hear great life-changing testimonials from people I served.  Since I found out that I could help people become more healthy and joyful through my sharing, doTERRA has become a huge passion of mine. The sheer joy and pleasure of enabling people to have greater quality of life can never be expressed in mere words, it is one of the greatest rewards I have received on this journey. In addition, putting in Effort brings Success. Whenever we want or need something, we have to put in the effort to achieve those goals. Being a doTERRA entrepreneur has not only brought me success but has also enhanced my love towards sharing it with others. 

Believing in the products we share is the best way to be successful. Belief brings Energy and Creativity. It will allow you to succeed in all aspects of your life. My strong belief in doTERRA and passion to share it with others has enabled me to run this business successfully with heartfelt joy. I confidently believe that this journey is not at its end, but it’s just a beginning! I will continue to share the Love of doTERRA by “Changing the world one drop, one person, and one community at a time.” 

Bringing Hope. Healing Hearts. Raising Leaders. Living Dreams.
Andus Low
Stop Saying ”I wish”, Start Saying “I Will”.
Chia Pei Shan
When you can find a why, that makes you cry, you’ve found a why that will make you fly.
Katherine Yu
Don’t Forget Your Original Intention,  Follow Your Heart and Continue to Live Your Dream!
Jimmy Foo
Never Limit Your Challenges, Challenge Your Limits!
Jocelyn Teh
Opportunities don’t happen, you create them.

TOI-ING with fashion

ZANG TOI
International Fashion Designer

ZANG TOI is a renowned Fashion Designer who has built a tradition of elegance for over 20 years. Zang was born and raised in Kuala Krai, Kelantan, Malaysia. He landed in New York City at the age of 20 where he studied at the distinguished Parsons School of Design. Zang is one of the first Asian designers championed by the U.S Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour. 

Since then, Zang’s work has been featured in many major publications such as Vogue, Vanity Fair etc. Not only has he dressed Hollywood celebrities such as Fergie (Black Eyed Peas) and many others, he has also created luxurious wardrobe for philanthropists and royalty including Melinda Gates and Saudi Princess Haifa Bandar Al Saud.

Today, after 28 years of being in business, the designer opens his first flagship boutique at 1046 Lexington Avenue, New York City. The world continues to recognize Zang’s passion for timeless beauty as he builds on a strong tradition of elegance.

Who is Zang Toi in your own words? Zang Toi is a free thinker who leads his own creative path.

Have you ever thought of becoming a fashion designer in your younger days? No, I have always thought that I might become a fine artist, architect, or an interior designer.

If you were to choose again, what career would you choose and why? I would choose interior design, as I am obsessed and passionate about historical interior designs and recreating them in my own modern way.

What does it take to be a fashion designer? Formal Fashion design training, dedication, and hard work.

The fashion industry is among the greatly affected industries because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Were you affected and how did you manage 2020? I was affected like the rest of the fashion industry. Fortunately, with perseverance and extreme hard work, I managed to stay above the water.

Would you encourage the new generation to take up fashion design? Why? Absolutely, one must not only have the talent and passion, he or she must also be willing to put in hours of hard work to be successful in this, or any industry. It is a 24/7 job.

How do you see today’s fashion industry, including the designers and creatives, compared to the good old days? Today’s fashion industry is more about fast fashion and instant gratification. The new generation are less concerned about the quality and craftsmanship.

How do you find the Malaysian fashion industry compared to the fashion industry in the USA? I am unable to comment on this since I have been away and abroad for the last 42 years.

Many say that fashion designers make good money and fame, what are your thoughts on this? I agree, but remember what I said earlier about putting in hard work and that it is a 24/7 job?

How do you judge success? Success is in the eye of the beholder. It has never occurred to me to judge success.

Has Zang Toi achieved the goals he set when stepping into the fashion world? I think I am fortunate enough to receive attention and great press for my work while maintaining the love and support from my loyal clients.

What is the secret of being Zang Toi? The secret is being my happy self and treating people the way I want to be treated.

Is there anything else you would like to add? Be happy, be kind and be generous.  

A Timid Boy turned Corporate Leader and International Speaker

Coach K
Founder of Wisdom Woods®

Born to a modest family, Coach K was a timid boy and today he is the founder of Wisdom Woods®, a company that offers learning and coaching programs for all ages. Prior to that, he accumulated years of leadership experience in the corporate world, having been a Group CEO, COO, GM, managing and setting up businesses in multiple industries, including logistics, property development, software engineering, business consulting and education. Other than having Masters of Science, Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Commerce (Hons), he is an internationally certified Trainer and Coach by several International Boards. Due to his diverse background, he has been invited to speak in areas including leadership, business, logistics, economics, IT, mental health and education. He is active in community service, currently serving as the President of the Penang Symphony Society, the Vice President of The Society of the Logisticians, Malaysia, the Penang State Staff Officer (Training) of St John Ambulance of Malaysia and many others. He has also created many learning programs. Amongst the bigger ones include 5P Self-Leadership, 5R Leadership Framework and even a full set of Children’s Leadership Program. 

What’s the story about you being a timid boy?
When I was a boy, I feared many things, especially loud noises and being around people. That’s why, even until I was 10, I didn’t like Chinese New Year because there were too many people around. Whilst most children would be having fun, I would hide away in my Grandma’s room every night due to the noise of the firecrackers and fireworks. 

Oh… but today you are in a profession that talks to many people. What happened?
I was in Kwang Hwa Standard 5, when Cikgu Tan suddenly asked me to memorise an Essay. Memorising was easy for me but she then asked me to recite in front of the class. My whole body was shaking and sweating! I got through it with great relief until she added, “You’re joining the Malay Speech Contest.” Immediately, I stood there frozen for a while! I had no choice because I had no courage to even say ‘no’.

How did that change you?
Being an obedient student, I just followed every single instruction to prepare for the contest. Contest day came and I ‘accidentally’ won. What I won was not only a contest but an important pivot in life, where I started to believe in myself. Since then, I started taking part in speech contests for all languages and continued even through Secondary School, having won Zone and State Championships. I continued to be vocal when I received a scholarship to study in Australia. Being the National Convenor of NLC, a national union for about 200,000 international students in Australia, I spoke in Conferences including Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee, IDP Australia, ISANA and even invited to speak in the Australian Senate Committee Hearing about a new Bill. 

You obviously had great perks in Corporate. What made you start Wisdom Woods®?
I am thankful that throughout my career, I discovered I like helping people grow. When I was involved in setting up an international school, that was the final confirmation for me that I really enjoy growing talents. I believe strongly that everyone has talents and Everyone Can Learn. Therefore, just like the mysterious forest, I hope that Wisdom Woods® can be a place for everyone to keep learning, uncover talents and grow wisdoms.   

The Successful & Passionate Scion of the Aidid Family

SYED AIDID SYED MOHAMAD
Managing Director of EGLOW SDN. BHD.

The history of the notable Aidid family is intertwined with the founding of Penang in 1786, 

when Sir Captain Francis Light invited Tengku Syed Hussein Aidid, a wealthy Yemeni merchant prince from Acheh to help establish a colony in the then, backwater island of Penang. More than 200 years have passed since the founding of Penang and the Aidid family continues to contribute to the transformation of the island. Penang today has transformed it is very much into a major hub for tourism and manufacturing in Asia and the Aidid family are very much in the forefront of these industries. 

Penang today has transformed itself into a major hub for tourism and manufacturing in Asia and the Aidid family is very much in the forefront of these industries。”

Syed Aidid, the scion of the Aidid family, continues to contribute to the artistic landscape of Penang by being actively involved in the growing F&B scene in Penang as well as the manufacturing of LED lights. Born and bred in Penang, Syed Aidid Bin Datuk Syed Mohamad is the only son of Penang’s favourite son, Datuk Syed Mohamad Aidid, a very successful businessman and a prominent leader of the society. Educated in Penang Free School in his early years, Syed Aidid Bin Datuk Syed Mohamad then pursued his studies in the UK for 8 years, in Arts & Design and subsequently in Business & Management. Rather than returning home to helm the sprawling business empire of the family, Syed Aidid followed the rites of passage of his predecessors by building his own business ventures. Today, Eglow Sdn. Bhd., a successful LED lights manufacturing firm, Mindcraft Production & Inspiraz Events, an event and production firm, as well as a chain of restaurants under the Proud & Loud Group, notably the Safe Room and other business ventures are the results of the resilience and determination as well as hard work that were put in by Syed Aidid over the years. 

Striving to add to the family legacy, Syed Aidid hopes that he can further grow his plethora of businesses as well as contribute to the growth and everchanging landscape of Penang. Syed Aidid also hopes to contribute back to the community and to the state of Penang that has been kind to both his family and himself by being actively involved in various organisations and associations. Such roles include   being the Deputy Commander of St John Ambulance, Southwest District- Penang, Committee Member of The Penang Chinese Chamber of Commerce’s Property Development Management Committee (PDCMC), a director of Penang Tourist Centre Berhad, to name a few. Syed Aidid, representing the youth voice of Penang as well as the Bumiputera community, and look forward to earnestly contribute towards the transformation of Penang into the future.  

Syed Aidid hopes that he can further grow his plethora of businesses as well as contribute to the growth and everchanging landscape of Penang.”

THE PERFECT WORK-LIFE BALANCE

Datin Yap Shin Siang

CEO of YYC


Be ambitious and have courage when chasing your dreams! It is not easy to strike a balance between chasing dreams and family, but I believe we should go all out and live life!”

Beautiful, Inspiring, Bold, and Ambitious are probably the four best words to describe Datin Yap Shin Siang or Shin, CEO of YYC. Kids commonly do not fancy following in their parents’ footsteps because they have spent so much time with their mums and dads while growing up and have their own dreams. On the contrary, Shin’s ultimate ambition since she was young was to take over her dad’s accounting firm. When asked why this was her biggest ambition, she laughed and said: “Dad told us that accounting is a very glamorous, respected, and high paid job. I later only found out that none of that is true.” 

A graduate of Melbourne University, Shin spent 2 years in the Big Four before entering her dad’s accounting firm. “I felt like the Chinese character Mulan, who in the ancient times took the place of her father and went to war. Initially I was very excited to join the firm, but after some time I got bored.” Her dad told her that there was a Chinese saying that goes: “The first generation creates the business whilst the second generation defends it.” Shin started off strong, but it was short lived because the Chinese saying really affected her and she believed that she had to strongly defend the business. 

Soon she realised that it was not her mindset that was the issue but rather working for someone and not owning the business. She decided to step up her game and started playing both defensive and offensive. This was not the only hurdle as good old thrifty dad was not all that flexible to changes. “There were many disagreements and I got very upset. I eventually became emotional and cried which made Dad give in,” she said, revealing her secret weapon. Her younger brother, Chau, joined the company immediately after his graduation. “I thought that we will be making changes smoothly together, but we ended up arguing a lot. Chau had a few side businesses, and we did not have a clear direction for the company. I was also going through post-natal depression after having my first child at that time,” said Shin. 

2010 was the turning point for the company, Chau discovered a strategic business programme from abroad that increased YYC’s performance from 30% to 4000%. 2019 was yet another milestone for Shin and Chau as OCBC became a partner of YYC. Shin told EZ Malaysia: “OCBC invested in us because of our past achievements and they have faith in our dreams to become an international homegrown accounting firm.” Since then, YYC has been searching and investing in good accounting firms both locally and internationally. 

Today, Shin is probably better known as the face of YYC and an inspiration to many young successful and emerging women entrepreneurs. “Be ambitious and have courage when chasing your dreams! It is not easy to strike a balance between chasing dreams and family, but I believe we should go all out and live life! I was afraid of public speaking before, but today I enjoy it as I can share my journey and advice to so many individuals in the business industry. Being a female entrepreneur does have its advantages as we sometimes stand out among the men,” Shin explained. 

When it comes to what she thinks success is all about, her answers were very well defined. According to her… 

Success is doing better every day and every time. 

Success is being able to empower entrepreneurial success. 

Success is positively impacting 100 million lives. 

Success is being able to inspire everyone to overcome their odds, unleash their potential and find fulfilment in life. 

When Shin was asked about her brother Chau, she acknowledged that they both did struggle initially but then managed to work brilliantly together by utilizing each other’s strengths. She said: “My brother is very good at mapping and strategizing whereas I am good at executing the strategies. It is a perfect business partnership.” Shin also expressed that she is very blessed to have a husband who support her unconditionally and two beautiful children, Megan and Cristian,  This very busy lady makes it a point to exercise daily, love to read biographies of successful entrepreneurs especially on topics how they overcome challenges in life and watches Korean dramas to release stress if any. 

Journey Of Chef Nette

Annette Isaac ‘Chef Nette’


Chef Nette has worked with a wide range of companies to introduce innovative local flavours to diverse audiences, not only  Malaysians.

In the time-honoured tradition of apprenticeship, Annette Isaac, better known as ‘Chef Nette’, learned early at the kitchen tables of cherished Aunts whose culinary arts hail from across Malaysia and the world. While studying in England, she became an avid traveller, picking up flavours and developing recipes from Southampton to South America. Upon returning home, it wasn’t long before Chef Nette set up a restaurant that became famous for its classic specials, Ayam Masak Merah, Roast Beef, and even Lancashire Hot Pot. 

After nearly a decade, Chef Nette has focused on being an entrepreneur and today, she is one of the country’s most sought after food stylists, providing culinary consultancy services in Recipe Development, Culinary Lessons, and Catering under the brand ‘Nette’s Nosh’. 

Chef Nette creates new recipes and styling for international brands including Nestlé, Unilever, Quaker, Hellman’s, ABC Indonesia, Care Food (Asian Meals), MAS, and Air Asia, among other favourites. She has also travelled again, although this time as a professional chef, attending food exhibitions and often promoting Malaysian food in countries in Europe,America and Asia .With a fervent belief that cooking is a vital part of heritage, as important as art and music, Chef Nette has worked with a wide range of companies to introduce innovative local flavours to diverse audiences, not only Malaysians.

Chef Nette has an exclusive book series with publisher MPH, which will see her tastes, talents, and creativity become even better known.

Turning a crisis into an opportunity

Datuk Wan Latiff Wan Musa

CEO of Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE)


“The crisis is real for a lot of businesses, but we’ve seen it as an opportunity where digital operations are the new norm, even for MATRADE.”

While he’s affectionately called “Mr Nice Guy” by some, Datuk Wan Latiff Wan Musa prefers to be recognised for his strong principals in honesty and integrity.

As CEO of Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE), he firmly believes in treating everyone equally, to give them a fair go. In addition, he constantly strives for transparency and accountability in order to create a successful organisational culture. 

“I didn’t know that I’m ‘Mr Nice Guy,” he chuckles. “There could be a number of reasons for that, but when it comes to running this organisation, I follow the traditional Japanese management style which is to ensure that everything is planned carefully, implemented and followed through with comprehensive measured outcomes. This applies to the entire organisation because everyone must be on the same page with the same end-goal to achieve.”

Wan Latiff is likely referring to ‘Kaizen” – a Japanese philosophy that means operations to facilitate “change for the better” or “continuous improvement” that involves all employees.

He’s been heavily influenced by this practice after spending more than seven years working in Japan and quietly admits that he can speak some Japanese.

Wan Latiff’s appointment as CEO of Malaysia’s national trade promotion agency in January 2019 was a natural progression in his 36-year career in export, trade and tourism. 

“I’ve always worked in these sectors from the time after I graduated to now. I started with Tourism Malaysia after graduating and stayed there for 13 years (that time it was a tourism development cooperation at that time). In my time there, I had the opportunity to serve abroad for more than five years. I joined Matrade 12 years ago and my last post before CEO was the deputy CEO. 

“I won’t say I have a big job. Everyone who works for MATRADE has key responsibilities to meet the same goal- Help Malaysian businesses become and remain competitive on a global scale.”

Putting Malaysian companies on the global map

While many admire him for his top role in this agency under the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), he carries with him overwhelming responsibilities that have little margin for error.  

MATRADE is a fully integrated organisation, whereby it is the coordinating agency for all export activities in the nation undertaken by various ministries and agencies. With over 46 members operating in 37 countries, it’s no doubt a challenging appointment to ensure that the entire organisation stays aligned and clear to its mission. 

“I won’t say I have a big job. Everyone who works for MATRADE has key responsibilities to meet the same goal – help Malaysian businesses become and remain competitive on a global scale. “

“Realistically, we can’t cover all bases so we collaborate closely with ministries from other countries who have funds to promote specific sectors that will feature imported goods (from Malaysia) into their country, whilst our network of officers promote our products worldwide,” explains Wan Latiff.  

Getting to the top

Currently, Malaysia ranks as the 25th trading nation in the world out of 160 members in the World Trade Organisation. While that’s certainly something to be proud of, Wan Latiff says that Malaysia can further improve its position. 

“98% of entities registered in Malaysia are SMEs, yet their export contribution is only 17-18%. The larger contributors (82%) are from MNCs and foreign investors. We want to assist SMEs to contribute more to exports and create more job opportunities, especially during and post Covid19 because this sector has been hit hard. 

We are helping them revisit the need to export to sustain their business and to operate, then later to create jobs. We do this by working with other ministries and agencies who are responsible and critical for SME development. We hope SMEs will leverage on our provision to help them on their entire journey of their export value chain.

A pandemic that turned into an opportunity

While 2020 has been a turbulent and distressing year for many due to the coronavirus pandemic (Covid 19), Wan Latiff observes that technology companies are thriving from the event.

“The crisis is real for a lot of businesses, but we’ve seen it as an opportunity where digital operations are the new norm, even for MATRADE. We physically can’t bring Malaysian companies abroad so our online business matching activities have been key to continue our mission.

The agency’s programme, E-Biz Match (E-Business Matching) is like its trade matching services but for online platforms including webinars and business pitching for trade related enquiries and activities. 

He remains optimistic for the rest of the year and 2021, despite exports falling by 20% when the Movement Control Order (MCO) was put in place in late March 2020. “COVID 19 has actually brought new opportunities to totally leverage digital platforms,” says Wan Latiff.  

by Karina Foo

Rock & Light

Dato’ CJ Eng

Chief executive officer of Asia Gemological Laboratory

by Billie Ooi-Ng Lean Gaik


“Focus single-mindedly on what you do best and your passion, then you can make a difference and stand out from the crowd.”

A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials.  Polished and rather close to perfection, Dato’ CJ Eng is the inspiration behind the Asia Gemological Laboratory (AGL).  

After graduating in accounting and finance from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), Dato’ Eng spent the early years of his career in public accounting firms, developing accounting and financial expertise.  Corporate management and business development came naturally to him.  “CEOs who started their careers in accounting and finance tend to be successful and excellent leaders.  I constantly engage in strategic planning of business, running a team and having commercial ownership of various products.”  He is a firm believer of the Hedgehog Concept from the book Good to Great.  “Focus single-mindedly on what you do best and your passion, then you can make a difference and stand out from the crowd.”

His dream team comprises the diplomatic ace turned corporate honcho Dato’ Zainuddin Yahya, pioneering genius and gemstone specialist Ng Lian Im and the fearless and multitalented chemical engineer Dato’ Billy Lai.  Together with Dato’ Eng, the four of them have charted AGL’s course to the pinnacle of success in just three short years.  “When I first met them, I knew that we share a deep passion for the earth’s beauty as well as an understanding for authentication and expertise in minerals and gemstones.” 

AGL’s international group of professionally qualified and dedicated gemologists aims to make AGL the number one preferred gemological laboratory in Malaysia, providing comprehensive services like authentication and certification of gemstones, manufacturing and retailing, workshops and courses, and educational mining field trips.  “We have the most sophisticated technology and equipment for gemstone identification, design and manufacturing.”

Future plans include establishing laboratories in mining countries like Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Pakistan and Sierra Leone.  “We are excited about these opportunities and we want to make Malaysia proud by being the Malaysian gemological laboratory providing assistance in the gemstones industry to these countries.”

Gemstones and jewelleries have always been a part of human society and history.  Urbanisation has increased its demand.  

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“Eighty percent of the gemstone market is dominated by diamonds.  However, there is a promising growth in emeralds, rubies and sapphires.  There will always be interest in precious gemstones.  During a recent Sotheby online auction, the ‘Tutti Frutti’ bracelet by Cartier was sold for USD1.3 million as the most expensive jewel traded online.”

Gemstones are revered by many, for the appreciation in value or simply for its beauty or the pleasure it brings to the owner.  “I still remember vividly the magical feeling when I first held an investment grade natural non-heat Royal Blue sapphire during my first mining trip in Sri Lanka.  It was an incredible feeling of pure joy.”

For adrenalin, Dato’ Eng loves football, golf and high-altitude sports.  He once hiked to Mt Everest Base Camp, with his own chefs and porters, and descended by helicopter.