Saturday, May 30, 2009

Tun Daim Zainuddin's Lecture - L4T

Attended the 2nd L4T Leadership Series given by our former Finance Minister, Tun Daim Zainuddin. Today's lecture attracted more than 100 youth, with some had to stand throughout the lecture, due to limitation of the seats. It was a sold-out crowd!

Among the attendees include Dato' Mokhzani, Dato' Amrin, Syed Naqis etc. It is a platform for Malaysian youth to interact with captains of industry.

Tun Daim Zainuddin does not need further introduction. He has served as Minister of Finance twice and Minister of Special Function. He was a MP for several terms. He has owned many businesses in various regions. He is founding Chairman of The International Commercial Bank Group (ICB). For his introduction, do read up in Wikipedia .

For today's lecture, Tun Daim would share on "Jaguh Kampung: A Personal Perspective on Business Outside Malaysian Shores".

The sharing below is based what I jotted down during the lecture. So, if there is any error on my part of misquoting what Tun Daim said, please kindly let me know. The purpose of this is just to share with others who might not have the chance to be there to listen first hand from Tun Daim.

This is the 1st time since 2004 that Tun Daim has spoken in Malaysia. Since his retirement from Malaysian politics in 2001, he has only spoken once before in 2004. So, it was our honour to have the chance to listen to him to speak. Tun Daim mentioned that it took him some serious thinking before accepting this invitation. He has great faith in young people and that was the reason he accepted this invite. He hoped that the youth can grow and succeed in the future and become "Leaders of Tomorrow".

Tun Daim thanked Tengku Zafrul for the invite and highlighted that the topic is interesting.

He first highlighted that the term Jaguh Kampung has been too often used to suggest failure, where people like to use that term to portray people who fail overseas. It used to be used in sports, but today it is used in business as well. Tun Daim questioned how one could succeed globally, if one can't succeed locally. So, local success is a starting point for us to learn, hone our skill and learn from mistakes, before we embark on overseas venture.

Tun Daim mentioned that Malaysians are often too comfortable. For Malays, often they claimed that when they venture overseas, there is no NEP to help them and they don't have history of business. However, Tun Daim highlighted that among many non-Malays who succeeded locally, they were helped by government too. And some of those fail overseas. We have to know why we succeed and why we fail.

Tun Daim used his personal experience to illustrate and see how one can grow from a kampung boy to global stage. Tun Daim grew up in a small kampung in Kedah, where his kampung produced 3 doctors (including Tun Dr. Mahathir), 2 veterinary surgeons, 1 dentist, many civil servants etc. But there is no lawyer, and hence Tun Daim's father wanted him to be a lawyer.

Tun Zahir helped him with his admission to Lincoln and he learned politics from many people. Tun Hussien Oon shared with him on political history. Tun Daim was saying that his first offer of standing in election was by PAS.

At the age of 28, Tun Daim had the privilege to go to Cabinet meeting to brief them. Little did he knows that 18 years later, he would be attending cabinet weekly.

Before he made it, he used to write to Prime Ministers, often unsolicited advice and often ignored.

Back then, he once got RM60,000 loan from MARA. He put some in doing up his office and spent the rest in stock market. He lost most of it in May 1969.

Later in his life, he learned to invest in quality stock and made $ through his law practice. Believing that he needs to succeed, he needs to go beyond being a lawyer.

His first business was an investment into a saw mill business. It didn't turn out well. Tun Daim mentioned that luckily it didn't work out, or else he might end up losing even more money.

He then went into property, where he paid premium to get a piece of abandoned mining land in Selangor, where he had to fill up many lakes, before even can construct.

Tun Daim highlighted that failure is a great teacher. Never give up and be determined.

"Success is not final. Failure is not fated. It is the courage that counts" - Winston Churchill.

Tun Daim became a millionaire in his 30s. When he was offered to go into Cabineet, he had to let go of many of his investment. And that time, he owned a few factories and stakes in many companies. Tun Daim shared that his sharing of his achievement is not to show off, but to show his journey.

He has to sacrifice to join the government to do national service. He has to sell his stakes at cost to bumiputera (despite getting much higher offers from others). He gave up his wealth, carefree life and more importantly his privacy. Before, he had no one to answer to. It took him more than 1 month to decide on whether to take up position as Finance Minister. He pointed out that sometimes we need to look beyond wealth and personal interest. There was call for service then, and his father wanted him to serve the nation and do what is best for the country.

During his term, Malaysia succeeded from being an agricultural country to an industrialized country. The only regret he has was his loss of privacy. The friends and networks that he built earlier is very useful. We can't be successful if we are just hermit. In anything, networking is important, just as the Chinese term guanxi.

Tun Daim pointed out that he is not suggesting that we make friends with ulterior motives. If we are using others, it can't be for long term.

Tun Daim has the habit of writing to others in those countries, when he visited the countries and meet up with them, to keep up with his friendship.

After his retirement, he has no ministry or company to take care of. He spent his time at Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University reading books. After several months, he became restless.

He felt that if he do business and be successful in Malaysia, people will question him. So, he tried to do it overseas, and he owes it to Malays to prove it to them that they can be successful abroad too.

Tun Daim started his bank in Eastern Europe and it was tough to do it. It is tough too to get Malaysians to work there. And he has to drive home the point that businesses are to make profits. When he ventured into Africa, it is even tougher.

Most African Presidents/Prime Ministers knew Dr. Mahathir and Malaysia, and Tun Daim credited Tun Dr. Mahathir for the good name of Malaysia. That definitely helped Malaysian companies to venture there. Petronas is a potential beneficiary of that too.

On Africa, Tun Daim highlighted that there isn't much discipline, and little expertise. Not many are with experience. And the ones with experience would leave the continent to work elsewhere. It is even tougher to entice Malaysians to work in Africa. He has to start from scratch.

Tun Daim stressed that team work is very critical and he is determined to succeed. Money and reputation is at stake and they have left the comfort of home. Without a good team, he can't be there. The bank has even won the Eurobank award. And has a good reputation in Africa, where most of the Presidents/Prime Ministers/Finance Ministers/Governor of Central Bank knew of the bank and happy with the performance of the bank. It did business fair and honest. He treated them as partner of equal and trained the local (who ended up being poached). There were a lot of requests to open more branches in more cities/countries, but limited by resources. Quality is important. It is in 10 African countries, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Laos.

Tun Daim highlighted that it is crucial to start with business plan, but do need to reassess and reevaluate it. Business cannot be static.

Tun Daim' advice for those who want to differentiate between success and failure is that we have to make sacrifice and defer immediate gratification and leisure. Be the first to arrive at work and last to leave, and plan, execute and change the plan.

"It is not the strongest person nor the the most intelligent person to survive, but most adaptable " Darwin.

Tun Daim stressed on reading up a lot and keep up with the latest trend. If we did not venture out, we did not gain. There is no embarrassment, and we shouldn't be too proud. Don't follow blindly either. We should know ourselves.

"Choose jobs that you love and you don't have to work a day in your life" Confucius.

You are your best asset and you are your master of your destiny. You should be disciplined, determined and work hard.

Tun Daim's advice for the Malays are that they shouldn't be too afraid of competition and don't believe in handouts. Handouts don't guarantee your success.

Tun Daim's advice for non-Malays to not find excuses when they fail, and don't be afraid to fail and take chances.

When one door closes, another door opens. Move on and look for the open door.

Be confident and look for opportunities, but don't compromise. Do face the mirror everyday and make sure you have your conscience. Have faith in yourself and don't live in extravagance and arrogance. Don't rest on your laurel too. Be humble and reach out and success means we have obligation to give back.

Tun Daim ended his speech with leave your kampung, and go where you want to be and claim your future.

Below are some of the responses for Q&As.

Tun Daim commented that it is the right time to open our banking sector, but currently no bank has money to invest.

On what drove him to success, he highlighted that many people in his kampung succeeded and everybody knew everybody. So, he has to be successful.

Tun Daim aid that he used to sleep in office and 1st to go there and last to leave.

On Proton, Tun Daim shared an insider story which is much untold of. It was an Iraqi who came to approach Tun Dr. Mahathir to start up Proton. After the idea, the Iraqi went missing and Tun Dr. Mahathir worked to start Proton. From the start, the agreement was one-sided, where Proton can't export, and if it does, it has to pay commission. So, during recession, it was hard to sell the car. Tun Daim tried to negotiate with the Japanese, but didn't manage to get much support from Proton.

Tun Daim highlighted that we need to penetrate American markets to succeed. Tun Daim highlighted that recently he found opportunities for Proton in Africa, but they are not interested. The question is that Proton should make money back for the public.

When Tun Daim was first became Finance Minister, 80% of government companies were making losses. He hoped that KPI would work. it is crucial to make money, even though it ended up with smaller percentage of stake. If lose money and own 100% stake, would have to absorb all the losses. This can be enhanced with some common sense.

Looking back then, Malaysians were more friendly, and races were more together. There are more in common among all races in Malaysia. We should be more understanding and work together.

We shouldn't take things for granted. All of us can succeed, if we are prepared to work hard.

Tun Daim highlighted that he has written to Dato' Bandar several times giving views on how Kuala Lumpur is developed and he felt that there should be a lot more green lungs and planning.

Africa is changing and there is tremendous opportunities. It is right time to go in now. China is spending lots of money there, and in every African state, there is a Chinatown there. China people work very hard and often in shift, to make it 24 hours a day. Labour is cheap, productivity is high and the people are very hardworking, as well as with government backing.

When Japanese and Korean companies go abroad, their governemnt gives them interest-free loan.

In 2007, Tun Daim highlighted on the recession coming, but it was not published.

Tun Daim pointed out that Morocca, Algeria, Angola, Nigeria are doing well. South Africa current President understand the needs of people.

On Iskandar, Tun Daim highlighted that any development is good, provided that the local interest is taken care of. For housing projects, we perhaps have relaxed the rules too much.

Tun Daim also highlighted that the approval process still takes too long. Comparing our own Security Commission vs Singapore's or Hong Kong's, ours is still very slow. Connection is still crucial in Malaysia.

On the RM40 Billion investment in Iskandar, Tun Daim hoped that it is well managed. The new CEO highlighted that they need local support. Tun Daim's suggesetion is that we take the best idea and move on.

On affirmative action, as long as whole exercise is to help the less fortunate to do well, then it is good. The main issue is implementation. NEP is to eradicate poverty, irrespective of race. It started off well, but its implementation was not perfect after that. NEP was meant for every Malaysian.

The ruling of 30% for Malays stake in listed companies, that is not part of NEP.

On how to move forward, good education would be a solution, where people can stand on their own. At that juncture, Tun Daim said that our education system has failed.

He also commented that at any point in time, 30,000-40,000 people are studying religious studies in Middle East. But there are only limited positions as imam.

We need to ask are we producing the right type of people for Malaysia. What is the problem of our education. Know the ground issues and solve the problems with real solutions.

Tun Daim highlighted that education, security and economy should be the top 3 agenda for the country.

Tun Daim said that Dr. Mahathir is not a dictator. He used to debate with Dr. Mahathir with logic, and Dr. Mahathir appreciated that. It is just that a lot of other Cabinet ministers are not on par in terms of intelligence and they preferred to keep quiet.

Tun Daim ended with saying that Malyasia has tremendous potential, and we need to have intelligent people, and that can be done through education.

The sharing is based what I jotted down during the lecture. So, if there is any error on my part of misquoting what Tun Daim said, please kindly let me know. The purpose of this is just to share with others who might not have the chance to be there to listen first hand from Tun Daim.
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Sebastian said...

Hi CC, good notes as usual!

YAB Tun Daim's first business is salt production :)

kuc1n993m0k said...

oh man.. I miss this lecture.really wanna hear this lecture.its just im too far in perak. any new series of lecture after this?

Chen Chow said...

Seb, thanks for the correction! :)

kuc1n993m0k, hope that the write-up above can give you a glimpse of it. Of course, being there would still be the best. There will be many more speakers coming. Would update in my blog, as I hear from L4T and Young Corporate Malaysians. Do check out their website too and join their facebook groups!

Amir F said...

Thanks for sharing this Chen Chow.. I very much wanted to hear this man talk in person but unfortunately I couldnt. This review of yours is highly appreciated.

Chen Chow said...

Amir, thanks for dropping by! Am sure you would have a lot more chances to hear from him. It is an interesting talk!

You're going to be back for summer, right? Will catch up then!

Amir F said...

Yes I'll be back for summer.. I'd be glad to.. :)