From burgers to hotels: Malaysian businessman expands business during pandemic


By AGENCY

When he turned 16, Norizam opened his first burger stall with a capital of RM1,500 in Kampung Tuah Jaya, Taman Perling, Johor. — JAMES SUTTON/Unsplash

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the hotel business in the country, forcing some of them – including a few five-star properties – to close down.

However, for the founder of the Zamburger Hotel chain Norizam Tukiman, 40, the pandemic gave him the opportunity to expand his business by taking over 67 boutique hotels, including three hotels in Indonesia, within a span of 15 months.

He said he was able to buy over the hotels as they were offered to him at a low price by the owners as they could no longer cover the operating costs and pay the staff salaries.

“Most hotel owners have given up on their business which has dropped to 99% because of the pandemic with some receiving no guest at all.

“So to save the hotel industry and avoid more people losing their job, I took over the budget and boutique hotels which are rated three-star and below,” said Norizam.

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Norizam’s humble beginnings has pushed him to work hard and create a business empire. — FilepicNorizam’s humble beginnings has pushed him to work hard and create a business empire. — FilepicComing from a poor family, Norizam said his interest in business started when he had to help his father, Tukiman Jasemo, 73, at a roadside stall selling banana fritters and Chinese crullers or cakoi.

When he turned 16, Norizam opened his first burger stall with a capital of RM1,500 in Kampung Tuah Jaya, Taman Perling, Johor.

“The money I got from selling the burgers was enough to cover my daily expenses. Besides selling them at the roadside stall, I also delivered my burgers to office canteens and the Larkin bus stop,” he revealed.

His early difficult life pushed him to study hard, following which he was able to pursue his studies at Universiti Teknologi Mara in Segamat and got a diploma in Investment Analysis. After graduating, Norizam worked as an investment consultant at a bank in Johor.

Last June, he completed a course and received a Diploma in Financial Strategy from the Oxford University in England.

With his experience in selling burgers and as a remisier in stock investment for over 20 years, Norizam established his own brand of products, UZ Food Berhad, before venturing into the hotel industry in 2015.

He started with only three hotels – two in Senai, Johor and one in Sepang, Selangor – before expanding his business empire.

When questioned how he could take over a large number of hotels in a short time, Norizam said he used three business strategies.

The first strategy is to buy the hotel; the second is to buy the hotel “business”, in which the hotel itself is still owned by the original holder. The third strategy is to get it through a lease.

“To build and renovate a 30-room hotel costs an average of RM3mil and that amount is quite expensive, so what I can do instead is to lease the hotel from the owner for between RM15,000 and RM20,000 a month for 15 to 20 years.

“In a year, I’ll have to spend about RM240,000 on a hotel, which I consider an investment or the cost to build a hotel. Hopefully the hotel industry will recover next year,” said Norizam, adding that he aims to have 100 hotels by the end of this year.

Norizam, who is also the owner of Kelantan FC, said the Zamburger hotel chain is syariah-compliant.

On why he named his hotel chain Zamburger, Norizam said it was to prove that burger sellers can also be successful if they work hard and have the determination to succeed. – Bernama

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