Humble beginnings ...The tycoons of Batu Road


  • Business
  • Monday, 02 Jun 2003

Tan Sri Kishu Tirathrai

TAN SRI KISHU TIRATHRAI  

Chairman & Managing Director Globe Silk Store  

 

GLOBE Silk Store was perhaps the earliest memories of a departmental store for most Malaysians and an integral part of their childhood.It was also one of earliest stores to engage in price tagging and offering of gifts for purchases. 

It is no wonder that the store, in its heydays, received 20,000 visitors a day. 

Its history dates back to 1930 when the late Tirathdas Jethanand began with a small general store measuring 2.4m by 4.5m in Segamat. 

By 1947, Globe had come to Batu Road and was competing alongside giant retailers such as John Little, Robinsons and Whiteways. Despite that, Globe remained the fastest growing. 

A decade later, Don, which was among one of the country's first local brands of menswear, was born. And in 1960, Tirathdas' only son, 19-year-old Tan Sri Kishu Tirathrai, joined his father after foregoing his dream of reading law. 

Kishu took over the helm of Globe Silk Store when his father passed away in 1972. His focus was to grow the business. 

From just a shoplot in Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Globe is now housed in a 10-storey building with each floor catering to the different needs of consumers ranging from men’s, women and children's wear to home furnishing. 

Along the way, the family bought over Mona Industries in Melaka, a business which synergies with the departmental store concept. 

“Most businesses over 50 years tend to disappear. This happens when you do not manage change as the environment and circumstances force you to change. 

“If you look at our business, we have grown by eight-fold,” Kishu said. 

His three sons help him run the business and his younger daughter is toying with the idea of joining her brothers. His eldest daughter manages the family jewellery business known as The Jewel Mine.  

Apart from Globe, the group has landbanks and various other assets. Kishu is satisfied with the progress he has made and his motto is to “try and excel in everything we do (everyday).” 

 

Datuk V. K. K. Teagarajan  

Managing Director V. K. K. Diversified Holdings Sdn Bhd  

 

THE humble beginnings of V. K. K. Kalyanasundram date back to 1940 with the opening of a mini-market in Slim River, Perak.  

The idea was to serve the planters in the estates and later, the enterprising Kalyanasundram expanded his business into other towns nearby such as Sungkai and Teluk Intan. 

Twenty years later, he ventured into textiles and the first V. K. K. Kalyanasundram store was opened in Ipoh. Later, he set up stores in Penang, Klang, Kuala Lumpur and also Singapore. 

In its hey days, the VKK stores were the king of sarees and a “must visit” during the festive seasons for they sold all kinds of clothing, electronics and even furnishings. Along the way, Kalyanasundram accummulated a lot of property. 

His son, Datuk V.K.K. Teagarajan, joined him in the business in 1973. But after the death of the patriach, the group became fragmented. 

“Now, the stores in Klang and KL are controlled by me and the others by other family members. It is up to me to grow my part of the business.” 

He also owns the Kowloon Hotel, located in the middle of Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, several other properties in the vicinity and a beach resort known as Beach Hut in Pangkor. 

“The textile business is a tedious one and after the economic crisis, we had to scale it down. We are fairly diversified now and have interests in plantations, trading, landed properties and hotels,” he said. 

Teagarajan's son has joined him while his daughter prefers to work at Bank Negara.  

 

Datuk G.S. Gill

Datuk G. S. Gill  

Chairman G. S. Gill Sdn Bhd  

 

WAY back in the 1940s, Datuk G.S. Gill had dreamt of becoming a doctor. However, he did not obtain a scholarship. 

So he decided to venture into business. He asked his father to sell a small plot of land to help him start off but was told to find his own way. So he did. 

He began by writing letters to various firms in England asking for distributorship of goods. Sure enough, Armstrong responded and offered 25 bicycles for distribution. No letter of credit was demanded. “They (Armstrong) must have thought that G.S. Gill was a British company. If they had asked, (they would have found out that) I did not have the funds. I had hardly RM200 at that time. But I sold the bicycles and paid them,” Gill recalled. 

From then on, he was onto distribution of jams from Australia, shuttlecocks, footballs and many other sporting items. 

Later, Gill expanded with a store in Singapore where he got to know about Adidas. A customer had walked into his store to ask if he sold Adidas sports item. 

Gill landed with the franchise for Adidas not just for Malaysia but also Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand. G.S. Gill is now synonymous with the Adidas. 

From then on, there was nothing to stop him from expanding. He now has his own house brand known as McGill and still distributes Adidas, Eider and several other brands. 

His business is housed in an 11-storey building, Wisma Harwant, which is named after his wife. 

Gill's two daughters now help to manage the business although he is there all the time.  

 

RAJAISH SAIGAL  

Executive Director Syarikat Makhanlal (Saigal Brothers Sdn Bhd)  

 

HE joined his family business at the tender age of 21 after returning from his studies in Britain in 1981. His late father, Datuk Makhanlal Saigal, had started the business, now under Syarikat Makhanlal, back in 1947. 

The family business was into wholesaling and retailing of textiles that were imported from Pakistan, India and South Korea. They had two outlets in Malaysia, one each in Singapore and Dubai. 

“Over the years, we have expanded and grown our lines of products to include furnishing, electrical products and are now distributors for Aiwa, Sony Playstation and Nintendo. We even distribute sporting gear under brands such as Dunlop, Slazenger, Crocodile and New Balance,” Rajaish said. 

But the recession in the mid-1980s had dented the finances of this group; it had problems collecting debts on goods it sold on credit. Over-expansion of product lines had also taken its toll.  

The later years, especially during the 1997 Asian financial crisis, saw this group hit by foreign exchange losses as most of its products were imported. 

“But friends helped out and we have now downsized our operations to concentrate on textiles and electronics. We have sold our sporting business and only operate from our two outlets in Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman,” Rajaish said, adding that further consolidation of the business was on the cards. Eventually, the plan is to focus on core areas. 

 

LACHMAN NARAINDAS  

Chairman Jethwani Enterprises Sdn Bhd  

 

SELLING over the web to reach the global audience is Lachman Naraindas' next aim. 

Over the next five years, he wants to move his business of selling T-shirts and knitwear to becoming a supplier to suppliers. By that he needs to create a layer of core agents. 

Lachman had started his business at the age of 31. Armed with RM20,000 cash, he had plunged into the distribution of T-shirts and the knitwear business in 1980. To him, it was a niche business. The capital outlay needed was small and most importantly, the terms was in cash and not credit. 

“Then, not many Indians were in the manufacturing line. I had some previous experience and that helped,” Lachman said. 

He rented a shoplot in Cheras and began his operations. Over the years, his business has expanded and now is spread over seven shoplots. From mere downstream activities, he has gone upstream where he knits the fabrics for production of ready-made clothes with imported raw materials. 

“This is a business which is performance-based, price sensitive and we operate in a market where competition is intense. It is all about speedy deliveries which is one way to beat the competition,” he said. 

He outsources 50% of his work to low-cost places such as India and China and concentrates on high value areas. That is another way to beat competition.  


   

Across The Star Online


Air Pollutant Index

Highest API Readings

    Select State and Location to view the latest API reading

    Source: Department of Environment, Malaysia