The root of success

Koo is one of those self made millionaires from Malaysia that come from humble background. He did not make his money from stock market manipulations or doing Ali Baba’s businesses for Malaysia’s infamously corrupted politicians.


He made it rich in China. It was very difficult for outsiders to succeed in Chinese domestic markets. But he overcome the hurdles, and has done extremely well. I have nothing but admiration for this guy. His generosity and determination to contribute to his ancestral land certainty paid off .  


Shanghai Bund (The Star Online)



The young Datuk Koo Yuen Kim would have dropped out of school but for some philanthropists. Today the entrepreneur is repaying the favour more than a hundred-fold.


MENTION Perfect (China) Co Ltd, and chances are eight out of 10 people in southern China will know the health and beauty care product manufacturer.


Not only is the Perfect brand well established in the Chinese market, but the entrepreneurial tale of its founder Datuk Koo Yuen Kim has also inspired many Chinese and Malaysians back home.


The Malaysian entrepreneur brought along his passion in business when he set up the company with his partners 15 years ago in Zhongshan in Guangdong province.


“I am the third generation of Malaysian Chinese,” said Koo. “My grandfather left China to come to Malaysia during the most difficult times of China.


“My grandfather, father and I have never forgotten our roots in Zhongshan. Now that the new China has emerged economically, I thought why don’t I take the opportunity to come back to do something for my ancestral home.”


In 1993, Koo returned to Zhongshan to prepare for the setting up of the company with the help of the city government and the overseas Chinese relations department.


“It was with hope and expectations that I came back to do business. I wanted to execute my plans for the company to perfection,” he said.


Over the past decade, Perfect has grown from strength to strength in the direct selling industry. In 1998, the company was among the only 10 organisations authorised by the Chinese authorities to market its products through dedicated outlets.


“We are very clear about our corporate philosophy. We keep clear of politics and religion. We also don’t talk bad about others,” Koo said.


Perfect has a long-term investment plan in China. The company recently added a 23ha manufacturing plant in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province, to its existing 8ha Zhongshan production base and 33 branch offices throughout China.


Its products are also available through some 3,000 outlets in Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand and Indonesia.


The figures speak for the contribution the company, under the management of two Malaysians (Koo and president Woo Swee Lian) and a Singaporean (vice-chairman Hooy Kok Wai), has made to the Chinese society.


In the 2006 Top Chinese Income Tax Contributors list, Perfect ranked 439th. Among foreign companies Perfect was placed 97th with a contribution of about 421 million yuan (RM205.8mil).


The company is also among the top 50 tax contributors in Guangdong province.


Koo came from a poor family and worked his way up the social ladder. As a child, he used to wake up at 5am to sell newspapers to help out his family. He would have dropped out of school had it not been for the Chinese philanthropists who saw him through his studies.


Koo has brought the values of perseverance and benevolence from his childhood to the business arena.


He guided his company to new heights in charity work. Perfect aims to build 100 Hope Schools in China, apart from the millions of dollars the company has donated to charity.


“The 100 schools are not our ultimate goal. We want more. So far, we have built 71 schools in various poverty stricken parts of China,” Koo said.


And the company’s philanthropic culture has taken root in the employees. Whenever they return home during their holidays, they will participate in local charity activities.


“Some entrepreneurs feel that it’s sufficient to build a strong company and leave charity work to the government. I don’t share that kind of opinion. None of us are poor enough not to help others and none of the companies are small enough not to do charity,” he said.


“We have to create a humane environment in our company. If a company can do equally well in its business matters and in charity work, it will win the hearts of its consumers.”


Thus it is no wonder that Koo is well known in Zhongshan. His face regularly appears in the media.


Koo was honoured with the Top Ten Philanthropist 2008 Award at the 2008 China Charity Ranking announcement ceremony in April this year, the only foreign Chinese to have been accorded the reputable title, which he also won in 2006 and 2007.


Koo was bestowed honorary citizen of Zhongshan for his tremendous contributions to the city. He travels between Zhongshan, other parts of China, Malaysia and other countries on work.


He is a great Malaysian ambassador, indeed.


On the recognition he has received in China, Koo said: “Whether it’s Top 10 Philanthropist or Honorary Citizen awards, all of them are simply titles; what touches me more are the letters and artworks we received from the children of the Hope Schools as well as people in the area.


“Whenever I read their greetings and see their works, I will imagine the smile on their faces, and it’s a very good and peaceful feeling. That’s the force of charity,” said Koo, who is also Selangor Zhongshan Association president and an active Malaysian Chinese leader.


Whatever he does is based on love and industry.


“If you ask me what’s the recipe of success, I think being hardworking in everything you do is very important, even though you may not succeed initially,” he said.


“Perfect has undergone ups and downs. During difficult moments, I would think of how the late Sun Yat-Sen, also a Zhongshan native, preserved and toppled the imperial government. And his virtue of universal love has been embraced by every Chinese,” he said.


“Even though nothing is perfect in this world, I will still pursue this goal and try to close in on it.”


About kchew

an occasional culturalist
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