FOR The Lotus Family Restaurant Holdings Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Datuk R. Doraisingam remembers vividly that day in 1975, when he was 15 years old and about to present his LCE report card to his father N. Rengasamy Pillai.
The former student of St Xavier’s Institution Penang had failed his Form Three exams and could not imagine how his father would react. He was feeling nauseous and his hands were trembling.
“I was prepared to get a slap from my father,” he told StarBiz in an interview.
But even at such a young age, Doraisingam knew he wanted to be a businessman. Before approaching his father, he had prayed, asking that his father would allow him to join him in his business.
When his father saw his results, he raised his hands. Anticipating a slap, he closed his eyes. But his father instead tugged his shoulders. His father gave him a hug and said: “Tomorrow, you start working for me.”
Doraisingam's prayers were answered. Since then, there has been no looking back for the self-made businessman, entrepreneur and father of three.
Doraisingam, who described his father as his mentor and the strongest influence in his life, followed and observed the latter in his daily business dealings. Thus, he learned the tricks of the trade.
“My father showed me the ropes on how to build contacts and develop new business,” he said.
His career stemmed as far back as the age of 12 when he sold coconuts from his father’s plantation.
“I would buy 200 peeled coconuts at 12 sen a piece and transport them in my father's car.
“I would then sell it for between 25 to 30 sen a piece,” recalled Doraisingam.
With the savings from his school days and profits made from the sale of coconuts, he ventured into fishing.
“I went into a partnership with a friend and invested RM500 in a fishing business. With the money, we purchased 25 nets,” he said.
With the first day's catch using the new nets, Doraisingam earned his capital back.
“I felt so encouraged by the results,” he said.
Not stopping there, he continued to save up more and bought three fishing boats and leased it out to fishermen. In the evenings, he would sell the catch along the shores of Gurney Drive.
In 1987, Doraisingam migrated to Kuala Lumpur and started his first restaurant, the first Lotus Family Restaurant, in Jalan Masjid India.
Today, not only has his restaurant business grown into a chain of 18 outlets around the Klang Valley and Ipoh, but he has also diversified his business empire to include properties, hotels, film distribution, information technology and food distribution.
“Competitiveness requires the Lotus group to be constantly ready to improve and do better for its customers. All managers are required to report to me on a weekly basis.
“Every outlet must always be clean and offer good service,” he said, adding that he was hands-on and regularly conducted spot checks at his restaurants.
He practices an open door policy and places staff well-being as his top priority.
“Employees must be happy,” he said, adding that this was the secret to his success in running his chain of restaurants.
He also attributes the success of his businesses to his younger brothers, Datuk Ramalingam Pillai and Nagasundram Pillai.
“Through collective thinking, the business group has grown,” he said, adding that they allowed him to make all the important decisions and assisted him in every way.
Doraisingam believes the Malaysian market had opened up more opportunities for Indians to participate in business.
“Many Indians are rising up and holding top positions in businesses,” he noted.
However, he feels many entrepreneurs are easily deterred and hence need encouragement to be bolder in participating in business.
Acknowledging that the marketplace is becoming more competitive, Doraisingam encourages all budding entrepreneurs to equip themselves academically but emphasised that success requires bravery, hard work and determination.
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