The Genius Business Leader
Awang Habiburllah Bin Awang Ismail is the eldest in a family that came from humble and modest roots in Kuching, Sarawak. From an early age, he learned the values of hard work and perseverance, and gained early exposure to business when he helped his mother sell homemade Nasi Lemak.
He graduated from Institute of Technology MARA with an Applied Science Diploma and obtained his first job at a computer firm earning RM700 per month after graduating. His journey towards success began when he found out about the 30-day Entrepreneurship Development Program (EDP) Series 5 organised by MARA. It was also at this point that his entrepreneurial spirit was first tested.
His employer would not allow him leave from his work to attend the course. And thus he took his very first step towards success. He handed in his resignation letter. To him, attending the entrepreneurship programme was more important than keeping his regular job. He badly needed the regular salary but he had bigger hopes to create a better future for himself. He knew he was destined for bigger things.
Upon finishing the entrepreneurship course, he started his foray into the business world. He had a total of RM300 in his savings. He used the money to register his first company as well as pay for his trading license. His company Cybertech Information System provided computer and electrical services. He chose the computer business in order to leverage what he already leaned from his experience in the industry.
It was a very difficult beginning for the budding entrepreneur. This was in 1999, just after the Asian currency crisis and, like most businesses during this time, he struggled to keep his business going. But he had no choice - he had put everything he had into his venture - he was determined to persevere. He saved costs by conducting his business from home, and would ride around Kuching on his old motorcycle, canvassing shops and offices for business. He got turned away numerous times because he was just a small operator, an unknown. He never gave up though, and put his heart and soul into each and every interaction with his potential clientele. His earnestness and honesty shone through and he gradually built his business up. He grabbed every business opportunity that came his way and his business grew, branching out from computer services into information technology product sales.
With a few years of success behind him, he decided that it was time to take his next step. He decided to leverage on the training and experience of his brother who was a civil engineer. In January 2003, he ventured into the construction industry with the formation of HMN Nadhir Sdn Bhd which was initially registered under the F class. Due to his determination, business acumen and leadership skills, by 2009 the company had upgraded to A Class. Due to rapid economic development, he was able to take advantage of many opportunities that came his way. The company diversified and expanded into maintenance and landscaping services. In 2007 the company conducted an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) audit in 1,430 schools throughout the Sarawak state for the Ministry of Education, and implemented the PPSMI project (Pengajaran dan Pembelajaran Sains Matematik dalam Bahasa Inggeris) across Sarawak. In 2012, HMN Nadhir Sdn Bhd was entrusted by the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry to successfully complete a construction project, Medan Niaga Satok, in Kuching. This project served as another milestone for the company.
The company subsequently ventured into rice wholesaling and retailing by registering HMN Nadhir Sdn Bhd as an owner of a rice wholesaling license. The company now owns three factories in an industrial area at Demak Laut Industrial Estate. Envisioning great potential in this business, the company invested RM 1.37 million in rice packaging machines, which enables them to package Beras Nasional rice for 17 companies under the ‘Sistem Payung’ program. The company is also responsible for packaging rice for COOP 1Malaysia shops and KR1M (Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia) in Sarawak.
Today, the company has a workforce totalling 350 employees and revenues of over RM 40 million per year. To navigate the business world successfully, he needs more than just an eye for business opportunities. He needs to be able to depend on his employees. He is able to do this successfully due to his talent in staff management. Awang Habiburllah realises that the company’s workforce is the most important determinant of his success and considers manpower to be the backbone of any successful company. He is always involving his employees in decision-making and welcomes new and innovative suggestions and ideas for improvements. He even hopes to train his employees to become entrepreneurs and transform them into future business partners. "I'm not looking for a hard laborer, I’m trying to create my future business partners" is his famous quotation.
Awang Habiburllah’s entrepreneurship has been widely recognised by other industry leaders and the Government. HMN Nadhir Sdn Bhd was selected in the first group of 30 Bumiputera companies for Program Teras: Syarikat Berprestasi Tinggi in November 2012. It was the first Bumiputera company in East Malaysia (Sarawak and Sabah) to be included in the core program. The success of En. Awang Habiburllah has all the ingredients of a classic Malaysian rags-to-riches story, one in which hard work and an entrepreneurial spirit enables a person from humble beginnings to climb the ladder to great business achievements.