‘Don’t focus about getting rich or famous,’ says Datuk Ameer Ali Mydin as he took the stage of Jiwa SME 2019 to share the secrets to his success.
The retail tycoon, who is the Managing Director of Mydin chain of hypermarkets, clarifies he is not against dreaming big - only that he observes young entrepreneurs tend to focus on ‘making a quick buck’ than putting in the hard work.
“A lasting business that has the staying power, takes time to grow. You can’t be impatient,” says Ameer.
He got the attendees a little confused when he asked them to guess how much Mydin wrote off as a result of his `Kasi Sampai Licin’ (Everything Must Go) end-of-year nationwide sale last year. Some RM15 million worth of goods were on sale, with discounts up to 70 percent.
A lasting business that has the staying power, takes time to grow. You can’t be impatient.
Although the exact hit was not revealed, this was reflective of the softening of the Malaysian retail sector sorely in need of initiatives and incentives to get Malaysians to spend.
Ameer knows very well the perils and pitfalls of the Malaysian retail industry but the success of Mydin is an inspirational story that every Malaysian can be proud of.
Starting out from humble beginnings, Ameer’s late father Mydin Mohamed set up his first store - a wooden one - at Kota Bharu, Kelantan in 1957.
Back then, Mydin sold household and hardware items. It was only in 1997, when they bought over its first supermarket in Selayang that Mydin went into the food line foods and groceries business too.
It is now the country’s largest hypermarket chain, with 74 outlets nationwide including premium store, SAM’S Groceria - and Ameer Ali, the second son - has been instrumental in its success.
What’s the secret to Mydin’s longevity?
“Focus,” Ameer says plainly. “For so many years, Mydin only does one thing, that is trade. We don’t go investing in hotels or other things. All we do is trade - we buy and sell.”
“So, focus on your skills and be really good at it. After doing it very well for over sixty years, it’s hard for anyone to compete with you,” he says.
Mydin has carved a niche in the Muslim consumer segment by offering fully Halal product, enjoys a strong following among low-to middle-income groups.
The business, based on Halal concepts that stresses on honesty and sincerity, are values, according to Ameer, that form the backbone of Mydin’s success.
Be honest with your customers because when there is trust, they will support you
“Makan duit Halal,” (Make an honest living) he stresses. “Be honest with your customers because when there is trust, they will support you. Be honest with your suppliers and always pay your bills!”
“There will always be rainy days, and when it is raining somewhere else, you should help that person with sincerity and, hopefully when it rains on your side, they will help you too,” says Ameer.
Mydin has certainly seen its fair share of ‘rainy days’ over the years, and Ameer admits to making some poor decisions.
“We went into something that we shouldn’t have,” says Ameer, reflecting on its participation in Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia (KR1M), where goods sold at the outlets were supposed to be sold below market price. “It was a good initiative, the intention was to help the poor but when it became a politically driven agenda, the priority changed.”
Ameer said the company suffered losses of more than RM100 million from the failed project.
“The original statement by the Prime Minister was that KR1M is to help alleviate the urban poor. That was why I agreed,” Ameer elaborates. “But later - politicians being politicians - everyone wanted a shop in their area and we spread ourselves too thin. The supply chain and costs became unmanageable.”
After six years, Mydin had to let go of the project in 2017, citing high operating costs as key factor.
The second poor decision taken by Mydin, according Ameer, was ‘growing the business too quickly’.
“We opened many big hypermarkets very fast, thinking that is the way to go. But the business model has changed.”
Mydin’s venture into premium groceries via SAM’s Groceria also faced hiccups. The venture was loss making, forcing the company to convert some of the stores into Mydin outlets, while others were shut.
“People want convenience now. Ten years ago, we didn’t have an online business but we do now.”
“We also supply to the online businesses - a lot of goods sold by brands out there are actually supplied by Mydin."
"We have RM500 million worth of goods in our stores. Everybody wants to sell but not many people have the goods,” says Ameer.
At 63-year-old, there seems to be no slowing down for Ameer. He still has a very hands on approach to managing the company, which he hopes will create something of significant and lasting value to the community.
“We do a lot of Corporate Social Responsibility projects. We also help entrepreneurs and we do things sincerely.”
“The most important thing is to able to change someone’s life. If we can help the community through our business, I think that would be the most important legacy for me,” says Ameer.