malay entrepreneur

14 Successful Malay Entrepreneurs in Malaysia

Malaysia holds a strong Malay population of 70% and that certainly contributes a large pool of malay entrepreneurs throughout the years even before she gained independence. With the destitute of entrepreneurial references or lessons, the Malay entrepreneurs very quickly studied and learnt trading from various global traders that landed on the shores of Malaya. The list below is non-bias and not in any particular order.

Malay Entrepreneurs making waves in the Asian economy

Tan Sri Syed Al-Bukhary1. Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar al-Bukhary 
A humble entrepreneur, often shying away from publicity and media. Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar al-Bukhary is the richest Malay Entrepreneur at US$2.75 Billion and bumiputra in Malaysia, and has continued to hold the status for a long time. In his childhood, he found difficulties to do school revision because of the inadequate house facilities and small space. But that did not stop him from achieving his current status. Syed Mokhtar is a great giver; his very first salary received during his youth was divided by 2 halves – one for him, and another for charity. Companies that Syed Mokhtar al-Bukhary are affiliated with are MMC (utility, engineering, infrastructure, and logistics group), DRB-HICOM (automotive manufacturing, assembly and distribution), Tradewinds (plantation, agro-based and property sectors), Puncak Semangat (Telecommunications-4G) and many more which covers from Ports, Postal services, Banking.

maznah hamid2. Dato’ Maznah Hamid 
When an almost bankrupt security company was offered to her, Maznah and her husband, who were eager to change their ordinary life, took the plunge and sacrificed RM5,000 of their saving. Only then she realized that apart from managing the operation, she also had to be a manager, a clerk, an accountant and an a receptionist. To grow their business, they had to sell their house and moved to a slum that came without electricity. But she persevered. What a phenomenal woman malay entrepreneur she is. Today, it’s difficult to find someone who has never heard of Securiforce, a company which now been securing transportation of money, jewelry, VIPs and what not. She has now grown to venture in many other industries such as the hospitality, training, healthcare and so on. Securiforce has also expanded its logistics business in Singapore, Thailand, Korea, China, Turkey and Germany.

azman hashim3. Tan Sri Azman Hashim
A horrible car accident almost wrecked his life, but Tan Sri Azman’s never-say-die attitude eventually rewarded him with larger than life achievements. With the true spirit of a malay entrepreneur and good academic background in accounting field, Azman was quick to maneuver his career along the corporate path, joining several established corporations in the process. Since acquiring Arab Malaysian Bank (now Ambank), Azman is credited for his effort to transform a relatively unknown bank into one of the largest financial institutions in the country. Currently, Tan Sri Dato’ Azman Hashim is Executive Chairman of Amcorp Group Berhad and Chairman of several subsidiaries of the AmBank Group and also Amcorp Properties Berhad. At US$ 810 million, he is known as the 17th richest in Malaysia.

mustapha kamal4. Tan Sri Dato’ Mustapha Kamal 
Tan Sri Datuk Mustapha Kamal is the co-founder of MK Land (an associate company of Emkay Group), which started as a small company and eventually grew to become one of  the property icons in Malaysia. At the height of its prominence, the company was picked as one of the major developers of Cyberjaya, Malaysia’s very own cyber city. Among other successful developments carried out by MK Land are Bukit Merah Laketown, Damansara Perdana and Bukit Raya Beruntung.

mokhzani mahatir5. Datuk Mokhzani Mahathir
Mokhzani is the second son of Former Prime Minister of Malaysia Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. He began his career as a Wellsite Operations Engineer with Sarawak Shell Berhad in 1987. Not following his father’s political footsteps after having played parts of his life in the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), he ventured to a more challenging entrepreneurial life. He later joined Tongkah Holdings Berhad in 1989 and was appointed as the Group Managing Director, a post he held till 2001. He was also the Chairman and Group CEO of Pantai Holdings Berhad till 2001. He now sits on the Board of Opcom Holdings Berhad, Sime Darby Auto Performance Sdn Bhd, KCSB and Several private limited companies. He is also the Chairman of Sepang International Circuit Sdn Bhd, a post he had held since 2003. Mokhzani Mahatir is now 15th richest in Malaysia, valued at US$980 million.

shahril & shamsuddin6. Datuk Shahril & Shariman Shamsuddin
The Shamsuddin brothers crack $1 billion mark for first time. Their father, Shamsuddin Kadir, who founded the Sapura Group and named it after his late wife, sued the sons last year, demanding return of shares and properties valued at $150 million. (Update: The family reports that it has resolved the matter out of court.) Group completed merger of SapuraCrest and Kencana Petroleum, run by Mokhzani Mahathir, in US$3.7 billion deal. Elder brother is chief executive, president of SapuraKencana; younger brother sits on board. Together, through Sapura Group, they are 12th richest in Malaysia at US$ 1.05 billion.

wan mohammad salleh8. Datuk Wan Mohammad Sani Salleh
Wan Mohammad Sani Salleh is known among the young malay entrepreneurs as a great success due to his persistence of being a self made millionaire. He runs a network of buses under a company named Sani United Sdn Bhd. At age 35, he has received many awards such as the young entrepreneurs award from the Association of Young Malay Traders and Entrepreneurs and often referred to as an new generation icon.

hassan marican9. Tan Sri Dato Sri Mohd Hassan Marican
A significant personality in the Oil & Gas industry, this former Petronas President & CEO of a world renowned conglomerate has taken Petronas somewhere a small country like Malaysia had once dream of, compared to the oil giants of SHELL and ESSO, to become the top 500 companies in terms of income returns as published in the Fortune Global 500. With a net profit of US 4.3 billion, it was placed 254. His experience as a chartered accountant (formerly audit manager in Touche & Ross) and in handling the multi-faceted aspects of the oil business had enabled him to manage the biggest engineering concern in Malaysia, employing more than 4000 engineers. Through these great works of this malay entrepreneur, he was honoured by the French government, which bestowed him with the ‘Commandeur de la Legion D’Honneur’ in 2000 and also awarded the ‘Friendship Medal’ from the Vietnamese Government in 2001.

SM nasimuddin10. Tan Sri S.M. Nasimuddin S.M. Amin
S.M Nasimuddin was the founder, chairman and CEO of Naza Group. With an impressive portfolio of industries, The Naza Group, formed since 1974, has 14 business divisions including motor trading, bikes, manufacturing, transport services, machine tools/parts, engineering, plantation, cigarette distribution, credit & leasing, water crafts, properties, hotel operation and insurance agency. In 1974, when he was 19, he had RM80,000 in his bank account which he saved from his remunerations from helping out his contractor father. He started his automobile business with an allocation of Approved Permits (APs) to import foreign cars. After starting up the business, he flew to Japan where he spent three months purchasing his first 20 units of used Japanese cars. Upon his return to Malaysia, he sold off all 20 units within three months. From then, as they may say, the rest is history as this true malay entrepreneur steered that very adventure into a formidable business in the automotive industry in Malaysia. Upon his passing, the businesses are now led by sons, Datuk Wira SM Faisal & SM Nasarudin.

kamarudin meranun
11. Dato’ Kamarudin Meranun

Kamarudin Meranun runs AirAsia with Tony Fernandes and owns 11% of it. Also invests in virtually all of group’s other ventures, which include longhaul discount carrier AirAsia X; hotel, mobile phone, education, insurance and automaking businesses; and a Formula 1 racing team and a soccer club. AirAsia plans to start a budget airline in India with the Tata Group. AirAsia X plans to sell a one-third stake in IPO this year. Kamarudin is now 20th richest in Malaysia with a networth of US$ 635 million.

12. Ahmayuddin Ahmad
Ahmayuddin bin Ahmad co-founded Westports Malaysia, a major terminal at Port Klang, with G. Gnanalingam who owns 17% stake. Serves as director of Kuala Lumpur Sentral, which is developing the property around city’s largest transit hub. He is the 32nd richest in Malaysia at US$ 315 million.

Raja Eleena Azlan Shah13. Raja Dato Sri’ Eleena Azlan Shah
Another woman malay entrepreneur that has made it well into the predominantly male-dominated career path. Eleena Azlan Shah, daughter of reigning Sultan of Perak, is a partner in her own law firm (Messrs Raja Eleena, Siew Ang & Associates in 1987, of which she is presently a senior partner) and a director of Gamuda, infrastructure, construction and property group that is 6% owned by her family. Company among biggest contractors for Malaysia’s transportation mega projects, including the $2.7 billion in tunnels for Kuala Lumpur’s mass transit rail system and a $2.5 billion upgrade of a 329-kilometer national railway. She is now 41st richest in Malaysia with a networth of US$ 200 million. 

Nazir Razak14. Dato’ Seri Mohd Nazir Razak
Nazir Razak heads ASEAN region’s fifth-largest bank, CIMB Group, and its parent company, Bumiputra Commerce Holdings. In April company bought most of RBS investment banking and cash equities business in Asia for $142 million, and in May it snapped up 60% of the Philippines Bank of Commerce for $287 million. This malay entrepreneur is the youngest of a family of 5 sons, his eldest brother is Prime Minister Najib Razak; father was Malaysia’s second prime minister, Tun Abdul Razak, who died in 1976. Nazir is the 49th richest in Malaysia with US$ 147 million.

As the list grows, we see many opportunities within the malay entrepreneurs competing in the international arena, thus making waves to highlight Malaysia. It is therefore a great sight to see many returning talents and great minds, paving the way for the younger generation (Gen Y) to shape the future not just locally. Hopefully we will see additional names in the coming years in this list.