February 2012 Commentaries (latest at the bottom)

“Parents in a bind” – Star, 4th February 2012

 Couples are facing a myriad of problems to care for their kids

Is it a reflection of modern times in Malaysia, or is it the failure of working Malaysians to manage their families while they are busy trying to make a living?

Recently, cases of infants dying at nurseries have again brought to the public the problems with Malaysians not being able to cope with taking care of their children while they are at work.

The recent freeze by Indonesia on Indonesians working in Malaysia as maid has exacerbated the problem.

The over-reliance on foreign workers is not only taking its toll on local businesses but also on parents! Having cheap maids have turned people into lazy parents!

How many times have we seen families with their maids in tow at shopping centres or restaurants? And when the children misbehaved or in need of attention, it is the maid that has to handle the children while the parents will be too busy shopping or eating!

No wonder there’s been a lot of controversies with maids! One would think that the maid is there to take care of the children when the parents are out working. But from the looks of it, the maid is there to take care of the children 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s no wonder that in many cases the children are closer to the maids than the parents. So why have children in the first place?

“Simply having children does not make mothers.” - John A. Shedd

“Give me the life of the boy whose mother is nurse, seamstress, washerwoman, cook, teacher, angel, and saint, all in one, and whose father is guide, exemplar, and friend.  No servants to come between.  These are the boys who are born to the best fortune.” - Andrew Carnegie

Are children just becoming status symbol for career women to show that they can have it all, besides the LV handbags, nice cars and nice houses?

Is family time now just a time for shopping and going out dinner while the children are taken care of by the maids?

And yet these parents expect their children to take care of them in their twilight years! How do you expect them to take care of you when you never took care of them in the first place?

“Let parents bequeath to their children not riches, but the spirit of reverence.” - Plato

 

Bumiputera firms to gain– NST, 10th February 2012

“Government divestments must be carefully thought out” – Star, 11th February 2012

That was the view of a business writer in the Star on the plans by the government for Khazanah and PNB to divest their investments in companies to successful Bumiputra businessmen.

It is a view that is shared by most people. And that is not surprising. Ten companies have been selected so far, 5 from Khazanah and 5 from PNB, though the two bodies have not revealed which companies are being sold. Despite that there are already rumours that Time Engineering will be sold to Syed Mokhtar! From my own sources, Syed Mokhtar’s people have already approached UEM, the owner of Time Engineering!

Now, the decision is to divest non-core businesses, but most non-core businesses belonging to GLCs are not doing well. So, the question is, will these companies be better managed by these so called successful Bumiputras?

In a way, the government is also saying that the GLCs have failed in these non-core businesses! And to some extent that is true!

The government has also said that these non-core businesses, once disposed, will not enjoy government “protection”. And the disposals will be done via open tenders.

There are gems amongst the non-core businesses of the GLCs, one of which is VADS (a company I was involved in for more than 2 years). VADS was listed on Bursa Malaysia, and had enjoyed 16 years of uninterrupted growth. Unfortunately VADS was privatized by its major shareholder, Telekom Malaysia (TM).

Before privatization, VADS had a revenue of more than RM500 million. Two main businesses contributed to the revenue, Managed Network Services (MNS) and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), contributing 53% and 45% respectively.

The MNS business unfortunately was also competing with TM and on many instances, enterprise clients prefer to work with VADS rather than TM!

Was that surprising? Off course not! TM, despite having been corporatized for many years and even publicly listed, is still very much a company with government mentality. When an enterprise client request for a quote on network services for instances, it will take sometimes as long as 2 months. VADS did it in 2 days!!! 

Many times enterprise clients were surprised when they hold briefings on network requirements, they will find representatives from both TM and VADS there, and when quotes were requested, both TM and VADS will bid and were competing with each other. And not surprisingly, TM staff resented the fact that on many occasion clients prefer to work with VADS. Fortunately for VADS, the previous top management of TM was fine with that, as even if VADS beat TM for a job, the revenue is still within the Group. Very logical business thinking!

TM staff also resented VADS staff as VADS’ shares were doing well on the stock market while TM shares were languishing! Typical Malay PHD (Pikir Hasad Dengki). To the non-Malay speaking readers, there is no direct translation of the phrase, other than “envy with no logical reason”.

As for the BPO business, VADS became the largest call-centre operator in the country with more than 5,000 Call-Centre Representatives (CSR) spread over two countries, Malaysia and Indonesia. Of course the bulk of the business came from TM, and TM staff never failed to remind VADS at every opportunity that VADS was “given” the business. As with a lot of stupid Malays, TM staff doesn’t know the difference between being awarded a business and running the business well. What made it even worse was the fact that VADS had a Chinese CEO, and the management team was mainly Chinese.

There are so many businesses in the country that the government has given (on silver platters) to Bumiputras, and many of these companies are nowhere near as successful (if there are successful at all) as businesses built by the sweat and tears of the Chinese.

So VADS that was planning to be the largest home-grown Customer Service BPO service provider in South East Asia, is now languishing. Last year they lost a major client, M1 of Singapore. They have failed to increase their client base, even 2 years after privatization!

This is a good example of a privatization by a GLC that has killed the value of a good business, a business ran with purpose and conviction. What the idiots at TM do not seem to understand is that it is the management that makes a company successful, not the shareholder or the government. Another major mistake was averted when PNB realized their errors with SP Setia. Thank God, the people at PNB have some brains, unlike the people in TM!

What made me most disgusted was when someone (in power) in TM told me this before I left VADS; “You know, my friends are asking me, why let a Chinese run the company?”

Why does that even matter? You own the company! The Chinaman is working for you! The market capitalization of the company grew to over RM1 billion from less than RM300 million in less than 2 years. If someone had invested RM1 when VADS was listed, the person would have received RM23 upon privatization, not including the dividends received over the years. In less than 7 years!!! And how much did TM invest in VADS, not more than RM2 million, and just before privatization, their 63% holdings was worth almost RM650 million!!!! TM had to pay more than RM400 million to minority shareholders to privatize the company!!! Is the company even worth RM400 million now??

So the decision to privatize was made not based on business logic but based on emotions!

And that statement above was the most sickening thing ever said to me in my 23 years of corporate life! And there and then, I decided that I am not going to work with this racist bigot!!! And it is people like this that will be the biggest threat to this country’s future!!!

 

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