EY honours Malaysian entrepreneurs

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SILVERLAKE AXIS LTD executive chairman Goh Peng Ooi was named EY Entrepreneur Of The Year (EOY) 2014 and Master Entrepreneur Of The Year at the 13th edition of the prestigious business award for entrepreneurs.

Coinciding with Silverlake Axis’ 25th anniversary, the EOY 2014 award gala dinner last Thursday was officiated by Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed. Five hundred guests comprising Malaysian entrepreneurs, corporate captains and EY Malaysia’s partners were also present at the event.

When accepting the award, Goh said he was glad about the recognition. He also talked about the challenges faced by Silverlake Axis in its journey since inception and thanked those who had pursued the near impossible together with him to make the company’s dream a reality.

He tells The Edge that the current business landscape is an interesting one for aspiring entrepreneurs as the generation gap is clear.

“A lady asked me a question on this and I told her that one thing to remember now is that in her lifetime, a lot of norms would no longer be applicable. In fact, diversity will be more of the norm … We are going to see more people with multiple professions in future,” says Goh, who is a billionaire thanks to the success of his banking system solutions empire.

Having founded Silverlake Axis in 1989 with a primary business in customised software solutions, Goh has expanded the group’s capabilities — it is now a leading provider of state-of-the-art digital economy solutions and services for the banking and financial services industry as well as for payments, retail, logistics and insurance businesses.

The group has grown into a multibillion-dollar organisation and is represented in over 20 countries across Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa. It is listed on the Singapore Exchange and now has a market capitalisation of S$2.72 billion.

EY partner and EOY Malaysia programme director Philip Rao said that Goh is an excellent example of an entrepreneur who has the foresight and vision to challenge the status quo and ask questions that some haven’t even thought of yet.

“He (Goh) has provided comprehensive methods and tools, business applications and technologies to help his customers capitalise on opportunities, thereby contributing to their success in the digital economy. We have no doubt that Goh will do us proud in Monte Carlo next year,” Rao added.

Goh will compete against 60 other country winners for the coveted EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year award in Monte Carlo, Monaco, in June next year.

Meanwhile, Pat Liew, group CEO and founder of BTC Clothier Sdn Bhd, was the winner in the Woman Entrepreneur category.

“I’ve never gotten any awards before. This is my first time winning anything,” Liew says, adding that her happiness in accepting the award is shared by all her staff who have been with her through thick and thin for the past 20 years.

After leaving a well-loved job of 15 years as a fashion director, and inspired by the period of British Raj, Liew created BritishIndia — a fashion lifestyle brand that appeals to people’s romantic longing for the past.

Starting off with just five employees, she began operations in a makeshift office that was her home. Within four months, she opened eight stores across Malaysia and Singapore. By 1994, BritishIndia was set up as a vertically integrated group of companies.

Currently, Liew has over 200 employees to oversee six different collections per year. She operates 20 stores and has franchised 21 outlets within Southeast Asia.

“I think they have to be very disciplined and must possess a lot of curiosity if they’re in the fashion line. They also need to learn from people who already know the business, be very hands on and not be afraid to work hard,” she says.

EY also presented two other awards for entrepreneur excellence to Ivan Teh, Fusionex Corp Sdn Bhd’s managing director, in the Technology Entrepreneur category and Datuk Calvin Khiu, founder and group CEO of MK Wedding Sdn Bhd, in the Emerging Entrepreneur category.

“Well, I’m simply elated. It’s a wonderful feeling and I feel very privileged. But I think it’s not just a personal recognition and it’s more for the team that I’m actually proud of. They have worked very hard and without them, I wouldn’t be here today,” says Teh.

“I’m sure that this recognition and award will spur the team and motivate them to do better and reach greater heights. I’m actually very proud right now and very appreciative of EY for this award.”

Teh founded Fusionex with the vision of solving the most complex problems faced by businesses through the development and innovation of a more humanised and intuitive software and technology. Today, the company is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is one of the largest Asean-originating software companies in the region.

Khiu says he is glad to have even been shortlisted for the award. “Since the company and I have been recognised with this award, this means that the market has confidence in our products. We must not be afraid to lose but we must also know what our weaknesses are to succeed.”

Established in 2005, MK supplies a wide range of home furnishing products such as curtains, bed sheets, wallpaper, blinds and home decoration. In nine years, the company grew from a single shop operating in Nilai, Negeri Sembilan, to a retail chain of 25 branches in Malaysia.

EY Malaysia country managing partner Datuk Rauf Rashid said in his speech that the firm is proud that through its EOY awards programme, it is able to showcase the best of Malaysian entrepreneurial spirit on a local and global scale as well as promote principled entrepreneurial excellence.

“We are pleased that the awards programme continues to attract the interest of the community of entrepreneurs in the country as attested by the high number of nominations received this year, one of the highest in the history of the programme.

“It is also exciting to see more women entrepreneurs stepping forward to be recognised for their contributions and achievements,” he said.

The winners of this year’s awards were among the 16 personalities shortlisted from the local corporate scene. The recipients were selected by an independent panel of judges guided by a set of globally benchmarked criteria.

This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on December 8 - 14, 2014.