Winners exchange effective business strategies

The second SOBA Connect was moderated by Teh (centre) and featured Paw (second from left) and Dang (fourth from left). With them are Star Media Group’s Client and Brand Marketing senior general manager Sharon Lee (left) and Events general manager Douglas Jansz (right).

THE Star Outstanding Business Awards (SOBA) held its second SOBA Connect session at Menara Star on Aug 24, which continues the tradition of sharing ideas with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to inspire them as they tackle challenging changes in the business landscape.

This session invited 2021’s Malaysian Business of the Year (MBotY) winner for RM25mil and above Alpro Alliance Sdn Bhd, which was represented by Alpro Foundation chief executive officer (CEO) Ostwin Paw and SOBA 2011 Entrepreneur of the Year (EotY) silver award winner MyNews Holdings Bhd founder and group CEO Dang Tai Luk to share their knowledge and experience.

Moderating the event was the Malaysia Entrepreneurs’ Development Association (PUMM) national vice-president Datuk Teh Tai Yong, who was also previously one of the SOBA judges.

In the first session, Dang explained that the journey from starting out as a simple news stand at 1 Utama Shopping Centre back in 1996 to becoming a convenience store chain with over 600 outlets with about 3,000 staff today was full of ups and downs.

He said that due to certain changes, myNews had to pivot towards a convenience store concept, which he mentioned was a “tough journey in change, but innovation helps as well as thinking out-of-the-box.”

Then the pandemic hit and it reduced more than half of its outlets and a newly acquired food-processing plant to produce ready-to-eat meals for its outlets had to close.

Dang reflected that “it struck us at our best time and put us in a worse situation”.

He also pointed out that the convenience store concept is a fast-changing industry and due to that, it has to stay innovative.

“This is a mass market business,” said Dang, “The growth for this business is tremendous. If you look within this region, convenience store outlets are counted in the thousands. However, in Malaysia, the penetration rate is still low and that’s why you see many newcomers coming in.”

The myNews Group also has the WH Smith, CU and SuperValue store brands under its wing.

Paw shared that Alpro, which stands for “all professionals” started off as an outlet in Port Dickson and became popular thanks to the quick thinking action of its pharmacist and founder Low Swee Siong that saved the life of one of his customers.

From humble beginnings, the company has grown to become the pharmacy chain it is today with more than 280 locations throughout the country.

“The main call is really about being professional and focusing on that,” said Paw.

He also added Alpro is concerned with medication safety.

In the future, Paw said that the group plans to expand to 600 outlets with more touchpoints.

“We want to build an ecosystem that can do even more, by even opening up clinics, physiotherapy centres, hearing aid centres and to provide services for the elderly.”

He also presented Alpro’s four pillars, which are to provide pharmaceutical care services, a place for people to check and offer preventive measures, elderly care, or silver care and services to mothers and babies.

“We want to provide something extra, something more than just a prescription.”

As the SOBA Platinum winner of the Best in CSR category in 2021, Alpro views ESG as a team-bonding activity.

It runs a safe medication disposal as an environmental effort, while the social aspect is important for the community, an example is its talks to educate school children on health issues.

Governance, meanwhile, is crucial for staff protection and that includes accurate data, bribery rejection, compliance, confidentiality and work ethics.

Dang added, “Winning SOBA does give you inspiration. Basically, it affirms that you are on the right track.”

Paw agreed, adding that the reason Alpro took part in SOBA was because it was “the most authentic” among all the different awards.

This was also the first SOBA Connect to feature a special session for shortlisted SOBA Alumni members to showcase their businesses – four businesses introduced themselves this round.

They are Craftivity Sdn Bhd, which sells raw materials to make hand-crafted products like candles, soaps and more; Mad Hat Asia Sdn Bhd, which offers brand development and community outreach services; MM Century Sdn Bhd, an environment management company; and Eco Bee Biotech Sdn Bhd, which harvests honey and champions bee conservation.

SOBA Connect is part of SOBA 2023, which is organised by Star Media Group with CelcomDigi Bhd, Credit Guarantee Corp Malaysia Bhd, PKT Logistics Group Sdn Bhd and RHB Bank Bhd as the main sponsors, and the Malaysia External Trade Development Corp as the official trade promotion partner.

Supported by Bursa Malaysia, SOBA is audited by BDO while radio stations 988 and Suria are official media partners.

To take part in SOBA 2023 or for more information, call SMG Events (017-231 1789) or go to

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SOBA , Star Media


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