AS the saying goes, mighty oaks from little acorns grow.
This is perfectly true for Jakel Group, which has indeed come a long way since its humble beginnings in 1983, operating out of a small shop selling carpets, rubber mats and curtains.
With its foundation and perseverance built through the decades, Jakel Group is today a diverse business entity with 22 stores across the country, employing more than 6,000 employees from all walks of life. In 2018, its textile division alone brought RM1.45bil in revenue.
Ably helming the company is managing director Datuk Mohamed Faroz Mohamed Jakel, who provides a much-needed vision to propel the organisation to greater heights.
“Contrary to what many people may think, we did not come from a privileged background.
“Our family was poor and our situation was made worse in 1980 when the owner of my father’s rented shop took the premise back and sold the building to someone else, ” he recalled, noting that his father had persevered to provide for his family of 12 children.
His late father Mohamed Jakel Ahmad founded Jakel Trading in 1983 in Muar, Johor, selling carpets to the local community and at the same time, wholesaling to other sellers around town.
It was a particular incident he witnessed as a child that set the course in his life to come.
He added, “It struck me when I heard our landlord bawling at my father for not being able to pay for our house rental for six months.
“What made me even more upset was when the landlord humiliated my father and threatened to burn the house down as we couldn’t afford to service our rental.
“From that moment on, I was determined to change the fate of my family and not let such a situation happen again.”
Mohamed Faroz is no stranger to hard work, as he has been working while studying from a young age.
He was only eight years old when he started selling gula tarik at school for an average profit of RM15 weekly, which he then gave to his mother to start a small food business.
In turn, this helped in getting his father back on his feet and set up another carpet business.
As the eldest child, he also shouldered the responsibility of helping his father in the shop after school every day.
It was this tough background that pushed him to work hard for success.
A year after opening the shop in 1983, his father realised that there was huge business potential in Segamat, Johor, due to the opening of new Felda settlements around the district.
At that time, business in Muar was slow as people preferred to shop in Melaka or Batu Pahat. As such, his father moved the business to Segamat in 1985 with a quarter space of a shop lot.
The retail space then expanded to the entire shoplot a year later, heralding the family’s relocation to Segamat.
His siblings Abdul Shiraz, Mohamed Nizam, Mohamed Izani and Luqman, together with their sisters, also started helping out.
Together, the brothers persuaded their father to switch to textile trading, as they saw a much bigger potential and took a leap of faith to expand the business from just selling carpets to retailing textiles and fabrics at wholesale prices to the public.
In 1992, Jakel ventured into the semi-wholesale business by supplying textiles from suppliers in Singapore to pasar malam traders.
It wasn’t all smooth-sailing journey, as the business hit another bump in the road during the economic crisis when Singaporean suppliers could not deliver their usual supply.
Mohamed Faroz knew then that the only solution was switch to direct imports from South Korea and Japan.
“At first, the manufacturer and supplier from Japan and South Korea were reluctant to sell their products to us, as they are still bound to their Singapore
“After continuous attempts over a period of six months, the suppliers were willing to supply the goods to us, but at a higher price.
“Since then, Jakel has our own textile importers and in the late 1990s, we became a major wholesaler and distributor in Malaysia, ” he said.
Jakel secured a bank loan worth RM1.6mil in 1997 to purchase the Shaw Brothers’ Rex Theater building in Segamat and turned it into a retail and semi-wholesale outlet for customers.
The building was demolished in 2000 to make way for a new textile warehouse targeting retail customers who buy in bulk.
This newly built three-storey building with a basement spans 40,000 sq ft in total of air-conditioned retail space and was ready for business in 2003.
It was the first leap towards success for its retail business.
He added, “Every weekend, we received 100 to 150 buses from around the country – Singapore, Pahang, Kelantan, Terengganu, Pulau Pinang and others – ferrying tourists to our shop in Segamat.
“Mostly ladies, these customers usually purchase our textiles in big quantities because we offer them wholesale prices.”
Yet another bold step was taken in 2004 to open their first textile franchise in Kuantan under the Perbadanan Usahawan Nasional Bhd (PUNB)’s mentor-mentee programme.
Jakel reached another milestone in 2006 with the purchase of Wisma Jakel in Jalan Bunus, Masjid India with 100,000 sq ft business space for RM13mil.
It spent a further RM50mil to renovate and stock this new retail centre as its first outlet in Klang Valley, which opened the following year.
In 2009, the 80,000 sq ft Wisma Jakel Shah Alam opened with a total investment of RM40mil.
In 2013, Jakel bought over Cap Square, which has a total of 800,000 sq ft dedicated to businesses and 2,500 car park bays.
It was renamed Jakel Square and housed Jakel Mall, Lulu Hyper-market as well as other small local businesses as tenants, since its rejuvenation into a vibrant icon for the surrounding community.
Over the years, the group has acquired many other properties as a landlord.
It collects a good stream of rental income from these shoplots, including in Kuala Lumpur, Shah Alam, Cheras, Senawang, Bangi, Johor Baru, as well as land banks in strategic locations around Klang Valley.
“We see that real estate is very aligned to our retail business, because if the business thrives, then the building’s value will also appreciate significantly, ” says Mohamed Faroz.
To-date, the group has 22 Jakel branches nationwide – with Jakel Langkawi being its newest addition and from these, 16 are franchise outlets.
Together in its group, the leading hijab brand Ariani too now has 22 outlets nationwide,
He concluded, “Hard work and determination have brought us here today and made us what we are.
“By the grace of God, with the strict teachings of my late father and blessings from my mother, as well as the hard work of my siblings, Jakel has become known as the leader of the bumiputera textile business in Malaysia.”
“As the group continues to grow, Jakel Group has started to diversify its portfolio and aspires to be one of the key players in, among others property development, halal food, and defence-related industry, aside from being the leading textile retailer in the country.”