Stephen Choo has been making waves in the investment scene in Malaysia and internationally, putting Malaysia on the investment map of some of the most famous and extraordinary people in the world. Choo is the founder and CEO of CTIN Investment, an investment company which has made it globally. Always hungry to learn from the best, he has rubbed shoulders with the likes of Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Barack Obama. In a recent interview with Top 10 of Asia, the investment guru talks about his journey towards becoming a successful investor and entrepreneur and shares some insights about investing.
Stephen Choo never wanted to settle for an ordinary life. At the young age of 19, he already knew he wanted to be a millionaire. He also knew that his goal could never be achieved as an employee earning a fixed monthly salary. So, for him, the logical choice was to become an entrepreneur.
Stephen Choo & Warren Buffett
“My STPM (pre-university) results were good enough for me to enter University of Malaya (UM), but I chose not to accept the offer to study for a degree in the prestigious university. At age 19, I already made up my mind to be a millionaire, and to me, studying for a degree was not one of the ways to achieve my goal,” says Choo.
He was inspired by the book ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’ by Robert Kiyosaki, which taught financial education to people across the world. He was motivated by the concept of ESBI in the book, which is basically a cashflow quadrant showing what each person does in each quadrant, and where people get their income from. Choo decided that he would not be an employee or a sole proprietor, because he would not be able to make enough money to become a millionaire.
“I made a bet with my friends on who would be able to make more money. I went to Johor Bahru, (the southern-most state in Peninsular Malaysia) and sold Nu Skin products. In just two years, I was able to buy a Toyota Camry and a double-storey terrace house while my friends were still studying at university. I was 21 years old then,” says the confident Choo.
“Perspective is important. I chose to adopt a global viewpoint. Three years ago, I was a team leader in the property industry, with 200 agents under my leadership, but I felt the property market was not the way to go. So, I started CTIN Investment. It was my dream to have my own investment company. I started in Malaysia and then in 2018, I opened offices in Shanghai, followed in quick succession by Taiwan and Korea. In 2020, I will set up an office in Singapore. In 2021, I will open an office in the USA,” he says.
“In Shanghai, I started in June 2018 with a team of 7 pax. By September 2018, I had 10,000 in my team. The growth was remarkable. On 26 September 2018, we opened our present office in Menara Prestige, in the heart of Kuala Lumpur city centre. The cost of the renovations of our office came up to some RM4 million,” he adds.
“On 28 September 2018, we organised a conference in Malaysia and 3,000 agents flew in from China to attend it. Only 5% of the participants were Malaysians. Most of our team members and network are from China,” Choo explains.
Choo described the first few months when he started CTIN Investment as highly challenging because it was hard to convince potential investors to put their money into something new. It took a lot of effort and convincing to gain their trust. It required a lot of courage, perseverance and determination to stick to the dream, but Choo and his team made it.
Stephen Choo & Barack Obama at the Obama Sustainable Development Lecture organised by the Global Alliance of SME (GASME)
“Our achievements and successes are not measured in monetary terms. We succeed by helping other people to succeed. We should help people to buy their dream houses and cars and ultimately aim to help them achieve a happy and meaningful life. That is the true measure of success,” explains Choo.
“My team helped me to build CTIN Investment. The fact is they helped me to succeed. We built our success together. Without my team, I would not be able to achieve the level of success that I enjoy today,” he adds.
Choo’s leadership style is to help other people to be the best version of themselves, to be better than they could ever have imagined to be. He believes that we should not be afraid that others will become more successful than ourselves. When we help others to get what they want, we will get what we want.
He regards his greatest achievement as being able to meet Warren Buffett, the American business magnate, investor and philanthropist, who is considered to be one of the most successful investors and one of the richest persons in the world. Choo attended his company’s shareholders meeting in Omaha in the USA. The meeting was attended by 50,000 people, of which 12 were selected to meet Buffett and 20 were selected to play cards with Buffett and Bill Gates for 3 hours.
“I asked Warren Buffett how to be a global leader and he said, ‘Invest in yourself – invest in your brain and your network. If you want to be a millionaire, then you have to mix with millionaires and learn from them.’ Buffett also said that investing in yourself includes investing in your own health,” he explains.
“I also asked Buffett how to become successful like him and he explained that we have to invest in things that we know about and are experts in, and not simply invest in things one is not familiar with,” says Choo.
When asked about investment strategy, Choo says people must learn about investment before they invest in anything. “You must get to know it, become familiar with it, or end up getting burnt. If you are familiar with your investment, you can make money. Otherwise you will lose money.” He also emphasised on lifelong learning for learning is the best way to move forward in life.
Choo continues to dream big and to chase after his dreams. He envisions that in the span of some 5 to 10 years, his company would be handling global investments and that it will become a public listed entity. He also hopes to acquire bank and insurance licenses.
Choo’s advice for youths who are just starting out in their careers is to have the courage to try something new. “Have a dream and have the courage to chase after that dream. Do not be afraid of failure. Be the best that you can be, and give your parents and children the best that life can offer.”
“The ideal scenario is to be able to enjoy what you do. I enjoy my work and my work is my life. We should always have goals and targets to keep on becoming better versions of ourselves and achieve greater success. Keep on learning. Keep on reading. Always be hungry to improve yourself,” says the ambitious and entrepreneurial Choo.
His mission is to ensure that Malaysians from all walks of life have access to clean and healthy water at an affordable price. In 2014, Malaysia had many non-established brands in the water and home appliance industries. The visionary CEO of CUCKOO International (MAL) Sdn Bhd, KC Hoe, saw it fit to bring an established brand, CUCKOO, to Malaysia. KC Hoe shares with Top 10 of Asia about CUCKOO’s journey and the reasons that enable his brand to stand out in a competitive marketplace.
WITH A HIGH average annual rainfall, Malaysia is blessed with abundant water resources. A high majority of its population has access to water and the country’s water tariffs are among the lowest in the world. Although water is readily available in the country by just a turn of the tap, is it safe and clean for consumption?
KC Hoe feels that drinking water has to be safe and clean. He has a mission, and his goal is to ensure that all Malaysians enjoy drinking clean and healthy water – at an affordable price.
Hoe is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of CUCKOO International (MAL) Sdn Bhd, a leading home appliance brand of water purifiers, plasma ioniser air purifiers, pressure multi-cookers and other appliances including an outdoor filter and hybrid induction cooking hobs. Hoe established CUCKOO in Malaysia in 2014, and since its inception, the company has grown and expanded into a Southeast Asian hub for CUCKOO.
“I first ventured into the home appliances business in 2007. In 2014, I quit my job to start my own home appliances business. I wanted to offer another brand option for Malaysians to choose when buying home appliances because I wanted Malaysians to have better choices and to enjoy a better quality of life at a comfortable price. I researched 100 home appliances brands and I chose to work with CUCKOO,” says Hoe.
CUCKOO was first established in Korea in 1978. Its first overseas joint venture was with CUCKOO International (MAL) Sdn Bhd which is helmed by Hoe. “I chose to work with CUCKOO because of its strong R&D background and good product quality. For example, the CUCKOO water purifier introduces a healthy water technology concept in which chemicals, heavy metals and toxins are eliminated from the water producing safe drinking alkaline water that meets the standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO).”
When Hoe first launched CUCKOO water purifiers a couple of years ago, there were not many companies offering similar healthy water technology in the marketplace, thus consumers did not know much about alkaline water technology and its benefits which resulted in Hoe and his team undertaking a huge task in providing consumer awareness and education about healthy drinking water and the technology that enables it.
Today, there are several water purifier and home appliances brands in Malaysia. But what sets CUCKOO products apart from others?
Hoe explains, “We offer a localised rental payment scheme called the GOOOD Plan which is based on the customer’s affordability. The GOOOD Plan consists of a variety of rent-to-own payment packages that let our customers choose the amount that they can afford to pay per month and the duration of the scheme that they can commit to – it’s a flexi cost-savings plan. They can also opt to purchase the product outright if they want to.”
“Another thing that makes us stand strong is that we provide a comprehensive after-sales maintenance service every four months. The maintenance service for our water purifiers includes changing filters and steam sterilisation, all of which are part of our 15-point check to ensure each part of the product is functioning well and clean.”
CUCKOO Malaysia’s Natural Care Service (NCS) specialists remind their customers of the month when maintenance service is due, and the home appliances company is the first in the market to introduce servicing appointments booked via their mobile app, CUCKOO+. Maintenance service is also conducted on a periodical basis for their air purifiers, outdoor filter and induction cooking hobs.
“The effectiveness of our after-sales service is measurable through the standard Natural Care Service point check which helps to educate our customers about the product and which part of the product is being fixed or serviced,” says the young CEO.
CUCKOO Malaysia celebrates its fifth-year anniversary this year. The home appliances company has expanded into a large organisation comprising 400 employees, 2,000 servicing specialists, and 6,000 to 7,000 active resellers. It has achieved RM450 million in revenue last year, and hopes to meet the target of RM1 billion in 2019, in spite of the seemingly gloomy economic environment.
While the company has grown in leaps and bounds over the past five years, Hoe admits that it hasn’t been easy. “For instance, when we first started introducing CUCKOO water purifiers in Malaysia, I was concerned about market acceptance and how to make people believe in what we believed in, that is, having access to clean and healthy water. This is because I feel that drinking clean and healthy water should be a right for all Malaysians to enjoy, not just for rich and wealthy people.”
With the willingness to challenge the status quo, being open to accepting changes and having good team support, the visionary entrepreneur pushed ahead to overcome those challenges. “By introducing flexible and affordable rent-to-own payment plans, Malaysians from all walks of life can enjoy clean and healthy drinking water, breathe cleaner air and ultimately live a good quality of life.”
Hoe plans to do more in giving back to society and the community. He aims to continue leading CUCKOO Malaysia to be a socially responsible organisation and to be the number one healthy home appliance brand in Asia. He also aspires for the organisation to be a public-listed company in the next couple of years.
“My leadership style is like this – I paint a big picture for the team. I give them a vision of where I want to go with this company. The team is very clear about their roles and responsibilities, therefore they are able to work together and execute what is needed for us to achieve our goals,” says Hoe.
In addition to being a people-oriented person and open to new ideas and changes, the entrepreneur also shares, “Many people have big ideas about running big businesses, but fail when it comes to execution. My advice is to never give up. There will be challenges and obstacles for sure, so the important thing is to have a never-give-up attitude to overcome those challenges and to be successful.”
Dato’ Anthony KH Lim is not your traditional accountant or bookkeeper. The CEO of KH Lim Group of Companies travels frequently providing accounting and strategic corporate advisory services to clients all around the world. Calling himself as the keeper of the books, Dato’ Lim shares with Top 10 of Asia how the complementary role of a strategic business advisor makes his accounting firm different from the others.
Most people assume that the accounting profession is dull and that accountants crunch numbers all day. But Dato’ Anthony KH Lim doesn’t think so. In fact, he finds the accounting profession rather interesting as he sees many new and exciting opportunities from the various businesses and different trends in financial data that he has worked with.
As Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and founder of KH Lim Group of Companies, Lim is a professional certified chartered accountant with extensive experience in accounting, audit, tax, secretarial and corporate strategic advisory for 25 years.
“Have a ‘Bigger Heart’ so that the road you walk on will be wider and that you have a vision that goes beyond distance.”
His accounting career began during his college years when he was working full-time in an accounting firm while studying part-time in the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) course. As a result of his early accounting work experience, Lim was able to become a member of the Malaysian Institute of Accountants (MIA) upon graduation in 2000.
Over the next eight years, Lim’s career went remarkably well. In 2002, he became one of the youngest licensed tax agents in Malaysia, and in 2005, he became a fellow member of Malaysia Institute of Accountants (MIA), the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and Chartered Tax Institute of Malaysia (CTIM). By 2006, he became a Branch Manager in an accounting firm. However, he had other ambitions.
“Although I was a Branch Manager, I realised that it was time for me to start my own accounting practice in the year 2008. My friends were concerned about me. They asked if I was doing the right thing to quit my job that was paying me well,” says the enterprising CEO.
“At that point in time in my life, three major events happened. First, my wife was expecting our third child. Second, I was going to buy my first house and third, I was going to set up my business. I literally used up all my savings as my mother supported me with RM18,000 to ease some of my burdens. I bought a very small office in Kelana Jaya near Kuala Lumpur and used my savings to spend on renovation and office furniture. 2/3 of the 1,500 sq feet of office space was sub-rented out which means I started with 500 sq feet of office space. I started my business with only one staff, and from there, we built and grew our business providing book-keeping, accounting, taxation and secretarial services to 200 clients for seven years.”
“I started my business with only one
staff, and from there, we built and grew
our business providing book-keeping,
accounting, taxation and secretarial
services to 200 clients for seven years.”
“But I wanted to see and experience more things. I wanted to travel. My first trip was back in 2009, where I travelled to Vietnam and Cambodia to set up an audit firm. During that journey, I obtained an audit license in Cambodia. I became the 22nd Auditor of Cambodia and the 4th Malaysian to do so. My journey did not end there. In 2012, marks the milestone of my acquaintance with international clients. I took the opportunity to travel to Hong Kong (HK) to deliver an accounting report to my client. My client was surprised that I flew all the way to HK to deliver a report which could have been easily sent via courier. But I mentioned to him that I wanted to explore HK and to see if there were any potential business opportunities there.”
The CEO continues, “During that visit, my HK client introduced me to more clients, one of whom was the former Chairman of China Airlines who is now my mentor and friend. Subsequently, from the work experience I had with him, he referred my services to more international clients. Since then, I started to travel abroad more often to work with overseas clients.”
Lim does not regard himself as a traditional accountant or “bookkeeper” who merely reviews the clients’ accounting books and produces financial reports for them. Instead, he breaks that stereotype by evolving his role into a strategic business advisor for his clients.
“I was advised that to be an accountant, I must always be one step ahead of others. Because I wanted to see and experience more things, I take the time to observe and learn the client’s business workflows and end-to-end operations. Along with my accounting and regulatory knowledge and expertise, I’m able to provide the right consultation and solution to the client.”
“The strategic business advisory role magnifies the existing accounting and bookkeeping services that we provide to our clients. This is where my role has changed from a bookkeeper to a keeper of the books,” smiles Lim.
“I become a partner to my clients. I collaborate with them to grow their businesses together via corporate strategies.”
Today, KH Lim Group of Companies provides accounting and bookkeeping, taxation, corporate secretarial service, auditing, corporate trust and will, and business advisory with emphasis on merger and acquisitions exercise. Since its humble beginnings in 2008, KH Lim Group has grown and expanded from a one-man outfit to some 45 employees servicing more than 600 clients from their new and bigger office with 6,000 sq feet prime office space located in Centrepoint South of Mid Valley City in Kuala Lumpur. The Group services clients located in Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, United Kingdom, France, Croatia, Hungary, United States, Canada, and is expected to venture to Brazil and the Middle East soon.
Since many of his clients are based overseas, Lim travels frequently. While he feels that the frequent travelling can be tiring especially on long flights, he is grateful for the immense amount of knowledge and experiences gained from overseas projects and shares best practices with his international clients including those in Malaysia.
Lim shares, “As I evolve from a bookkeeper to keeper of the books, I become a partner to my clients. I collaborate with them to grow their businesses together via corporate strategies. I increase my knowledge and resources by observing through participation in various industries in several countries. From there, I document and translate all that information into financial data and values, and draw up a feasibility and strategy report, after which I propose an appropriate corporate exercise, direction and execution plan.”
Because of the invaluable business insight and advisory experience that complements the accounting services that Lim brings to his clients, he has been privileged to work on a number of strategic – and prestigious – projects around the world, one of which is working with one of the financial institutions related to the French Government on a heritage building design project in Paris with rich culture and tourism elements.
“Although I’m not in the design or tourism business, I shared what I’ve learnt from similar projects in other parts of the world. It’s a great achievement for us to be part of this project, and even more so when I’m the only Malaysian and Asian in the project team,” beams Lim.
Apart from the project in Paris, France, KH Lim Group recently signed a strategic partnership agreement with FCB Construction which is owned by PowerChina, a Global Fortune 500 company, and TUS Global Beijing which is related to Tsinghua University of Science (TUS), China’s biggest business incubation arm, of China’s Tsinghua University. KH Lim Group is the first accounting firm that the clients have signed a strategic partnership with. Lim is very proud that no other traditional accounting firms had ever been appointed and assigned for these collaborations as Strategic Partner.
“I increase my knowledge and resources by observing through participation in various industries in several countries.”
With these upcoming projects, the CEO of KH Lim Group is indeed very excited about the prospects of his business. At the same time, these exciting times motivate him to drive his passion in his professional career and entrepreneurship forward.
“I’m doing this for my family. I have my wife and six daughters, so seven ladies in my family!” Lim says with a hearty laugh. “I feel it’s my responsibility to provide for my family to ensure that they are taken care of.”
With the frequent travels and multiple projects, how does the keeper of the books strike a balance between professional and personal life?
“I try to spend as much time as possible with my family especially during the weekends, though sometimes I have to attend business meetings. I like to watch movies with my family. I also keep in touch with them regularly via video calls whenever I travel.”
Lim also shares, “I always advise my daughters to do their best and to focus on their studies. I don’t force them to go into the same business like me. Instead, I say to them what my mother always said to me when I was younger – have a ‘Bigger Heart’ so that the road you walk on will be wider and that you have a vision that goes beyond distance.”
Dato’ Calvin Khiu is one of the most notable and influential figures in the Malaysian business landscape. He is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of MK Curtain Group of Companies (MK), a leading company in the curtain industry with more than 20 outlets throughout Malaysia. Dato’ Calvin Khiu’s story from humble beginnings to being an extremely influential figure has inspired many people. By founding Outstanding Entrepreneurs (OE) about two years ago, he has been able to turn this inspiration into guidance and help for young and budding entrepreneurs to achieve their dreams. In the recent interview with Top 10 of Asia, Khiu shares more about Outstanding Entrepreneurs (OE) and his role as Chief Lecturer.
It was not obvious from the beginning that Dato’ Calvin Khiu would achieve the great success he enjoys today. Born into poverty in the small town of Bukit Gambir, Johor, he was raised in a single-parent family. This helped Khiu to form his strong character and taught him to be independent and responsible from a very early age. By the age of 12, he was already working several part-time jobs and running various errands.
His 70 year old grandmother was a big influence on him when he was 18 years old. After graduating from school at the age of 18, Khiu worked in his first full-time job as a curtain salesperson in a local textile store. Using this experience in the industry, the ambitious Khiu decided in 2005 to start his own curtain business, MK Curtain Group. A leader in fashion curtains, it has also ventured into other products such as sheets, wallpapers, cushions, carpets, home decorations and even handbags.
Khiu established Outstanding Entrepreneurs (OE) Business School in October 2016. “When I started OE, I thought that I needed to take the challenges I faced to be a learning example for youths in Malaysia. I didn’t expect it to have such a good reception and many students joining the college every semester. I never expected to earn money from OE and it has led me to a wonderful improvement of my life,” says Khiu when asked why he started OE.
Khiu wanted to inspire people who were unclear about their own position in life and what they wanted to achieve in their business. He wanted to share his experience of the various challenges he faced in the past 13 years of his entrepreneurial journey and believed in delivering the right message. “Everyone could be outstanding entrepreneurs,” says Khiu.
As a successful entrepreneur, Khiu certainly understands the need to offer something unique and stand out. In a world full of business schools, Khiu elaborates on the unique offerings of OE which makes it stand out. “What is special about OE is that our teaching subjects start from culture, then it goes to the business model and then it focuses on working with the correct people. I then guide my students to the top management which is to cultivate an entrepreneur team. After all, having a good business model requires a good team. Not only is trust in the leader vital for success in an organisation, but an organisation also needs to have a team of employees who yearn for improvement. So a good leader, good business model and a group of employees who have dreams to improve will determine a company’s success. The next step, we need to learn to have a good tolerance. That is the system of our syllabus.”
OE Business School provides six courses. OE for Entrepreneurship (Thoughts) trains entrepreneurs to have the right mode of thinking to unleash their enterprise’s potential. OE for Entrepreneurship (Practical) emphasises on strategic thinking. OE for Top Management (Team) focuses on how an entrepreneur can build a management team to run business operations and face challenges together. OE for Business Model (Strategy) goes through how entrepreneurs can form business partnerships, secure financing and run capital operation. OE for CEO (Pitching) focuses on two crucial aspects of being a CEO—making decisions and giving presentations or talks. It trains entrepreneurs in public speaking, including how to draw attention from the audience. Khiu believes that all successful CEOs are capable of standing on stage to share their brand and enterprise story. Lastly, OE for WWW Model (Profit) focuses on the profit aspect of running an enterprise.
Khiu explains that the courses were designed to help four types of people. The first is for those who are hardworking but with no experience in the market and do not know how to create their own value. The second is those with experience in the market but with no management experience. “Many entrepreneurs with market experience know how to gain profits but do not know how to be prudent and keep the main bulk of their profits,” says Khiu. “They also lack knowledge on how to manage their team.” The third is those with management skills but no experience in the market. These people possess management skills but do not know how to generate sales and hit sales targets. And lastly, there are those with management skills and market experience, but do not have their own team.
Khiu’s work has earned him plenty of awards. The 2014 EY Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year, 2017 McMillan Woods Global Awards and 2018 Sin Chew Business CSR Excellence Award are just some of the awards he has received. One of the awards that have made him proud is the 2013 Ten Outstanding Young Malaysian Award in Asia. “I’m very grateful and touched by the awards and I’m grateful to my team and students for their support,” says Khiu. “Success didn’t come easily. I’m thankful for people who have assisted us, our team members who supported us and also the production companies and students. I wish that my business will spread from Asia to around the world and influence more people who have dreams to be outstanding entrepreneurs. There would be no awards recognition without my team and students and because of them, OE has developed quickly in a short period of time. I still think that my greatest achievement is the respect I get from my students. This is my greatest satisfaction in the educational field I’m pursuing.”
On what the future holds for OE, it is no surprise as with his other projects, Khiu has ambitious plans and convictions. “OE has spread its branches to Indonesia, Macau, Guangzhou, Beijing and we have shared about OE in these countries and also spread the news of our entrepreneurial culture and values,’ reveals Khiu. “We have achieved a high degree of recognition. I believe that in the next 10 years, OE will be one of the most influential business colleges in Asia.”
Khiu is currently investing in some small and medium enterprises involved in hotels, technology and products and he hopes he can invest in more of them in the future. He hopes by doing this he can build closer ties with the younger generation (those born in the 90s) and nurture those who are willing to become outstanding young entrepreneurs.
On sharing his knowledge and advice to young and budding entrepreneurs, Khiu is generous. “Young and budding entrepreneurs should walk the talk,” he advises. “For example, if you hold the value of being thankful in high regard, you should first learn and practise being thankful to others. Also, success comes with hard work, dedication and determination. I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth and through these values, I have been able to lift myself to a higher station in life.”
Dr. Michael Ong and Dr. Terrence Teoh established One Doc Medical Sdn Bhd two years ago with the goal of being the number one laser treatment in Malaysia. They have since achieved that dream but the young and dynamic aesthetic medical doctors are not in any way resting on their laurels. They want to continue delivering the best results for their clients.
Photoshoot venue: Hotel Majestic Kuala Lumpur
Beauty is big business, and the beauty business is gaining traction in Malaysia in tandem with a growing population, rising income levels and increasing awareness of medical tourism. With the increase in the number of aesthetic clinics in the country, aesthetic medicine has become a fairly robust field with more procedures being introduced without the need for invasive surgery.
One Doc Medical focuses on non-invasive facial treatments and is currently recognized as a leading laser and aesthetic centre in Malaysia for skin-related problems such as acne, pores, pigmentation and ageing skin. Established by young and dynamic aesthetic medical doctors two years ago – Dr. Michael Ong and Dr. Terrence Teoh – One Doc has been rapidly expanding across the country ever since.
A graduate from the University of Melbourne in Australia, 34-year old Dr. Terrence Teoh has been practising aesthetic medicine in Singapore for the past eight years. Seeing the aesthetic business maturing and becoming competitive in the island nation while observing the growing demand for skin perfection treatments in Malaysia, Dr. Teoh decided to implement the successful aesthetic business model and high standards from Singapore in Malaysia. Along with Dr. Michael Ong, an aesthetic medical practitioner for three years, they set up two One Doc outlets which subsequently expanded to nine locations in major cities across the country.
“When we first started One Doc, our concept was to specialize in skin treatments for problems relating to acne, pores, pigmentation and anti-ageing,” says Dr. Ong, the 30-year old University of Malaya medical graduate. “This is because 90% of skin problems are related to these areas. As such, we spend a lot of money and efforts in Research & Development (R&D) on how to give the best treatment that targets these four skin problems.”
From its research, One Doc has come up with the 4-Step Signature Medical Facial treatment which had won the Marie Claire Beauty Awards 2018 for best medical facial. “The 4-Step Signature Medical Facial treatment targets the superficial and deep layer skin to treat skin problems. We have seen good results in customers who apply a combination treatment that includes this signature medical facial,” explains Dr Ong.
“We initially started with laser treatments. However, to achieve the best results, we need a holistic approach in combining different types of treatments to tackle skin problems in various parts of the face. This is to remove different root causes contributing to the problems. After going through a number of cases, we realised that a combination treatment is the best approach.”
Dr. Teoh comments, “The effectiveness of this holistic approach has helped us to grow our business. We have other businesses as well – nine outlets for facial treatments and four outlets for hair restoration treatments. All in all, we have thirteen outlets.”
Dr. Michael Ong and Dr. Terrence Teoh
With the aggressive expansion of their aesthetic business – a new outlet opening every two months – One Doc is now known as the top laser centre in Malaysia. “We aim to be the number one and best laser centre in the region,” Dr. Ong shares. “When people think of laser treatment to beautify themselves, they think of One Doc. We are a results-driven company, prioritizing our clients first. At the same time, we are transparent about our treatments and pricing.”
“We intend to be the number one derma care of choice, hence we chose our name as One Doc. ‘One’ for number one and ‘Doc’ is short for Dermacare of Choice,” says Dr. Teoh with a hearty laugh.
One Doc outlets do not offer plastic surgery or injectable treatments like botox but instead, specialise in non-invasive treatments such as lasers, stem cells and microdermabrasion. With a total staff strength totalling seventy both in management and at the retail outlets, the One Doc aesthetic doctors train their team well following strict standard operating procedures (SOPs), ensuring that the same protocol and procedures are applied in every outlet and treatment. With the support of a strong team, they were able to grow their business by leaps and bounds to overcome major obstacles.
Dr. Teoh admits, “We have to thank our team for the rapid expansion of our business. In the early stages of our business, we faced challenges in marketing ourselves but we knew that challenges happen in every business. Therefore, we invested a lot in digital marketing – in fact, One Doc is one of the top digital marketers in aesthetic business – we produced interesting content and were transparent in what we were doing and what we could do to serve our clients. Hence, people are willing to give us a try”.
“Apart from using digital marketing, we overcame challenges by focusing on R&D, acquiring advanced machines, keeping up to date with the latest technology and constant efforts to improve ourselves,” he adds.
“The main challenge in aesthetic market nowadays is that new laser technology and new stem cells are produced every year,” reveals Dr. Ong. “As a result, clients have higher expectations, wanting better treatments. For the past six months, we have visited other countries such as Korea and Thailand to find out the best treatment protocol and the best laser machines available. We recently acquired the latest advanced laser machine – Pico Laser – with the intention to upgrade all of our outlets with this new laser machine.”
That said, there are people who are still skeptical about facial laser treatments, concerned about side-effects and the potential downtime that may prevent them from working or their daily routine. To this, Dr. Teoh explains, “With the latest technology, treatments are non-invasive and do not have any side-effects. The reason why people are concerned about side-effects because they have been influenced by talk about laser treatments using old technology that was twenty years ago”.
“Furthermore, non-invasive treatment is the latest trend,” affirms Dr. Ong. “Everyone wants to beautify themselves and still able to continue with their daily activities as well. People used to be concerned about the downtime and skin-peeling effects for they were afraid that they could not go to work or pick their children up from school. With the current laser treatment, they can put on their make-up and continue with their daily routine.”
As a young aesthetic start-up company, One Doc has recently won two awards for their outstanding performance: The 2018 Emerging Asia Award for ‘Outstanding SME’ and the 2018 Frost & Sullivan Malaysia Excellence Award for ‘Aesthetic Medicine Growth Excellence Leadership.’
Looking at the awards, Dr. Teoh quietly smiles and says, “We are very proud and honoured to have won the awards. This shows that our hard work is being recognised. To me, we are still very much in touch with our clinical work. To be able to help patients who have severe skin problems that bothered them for many years, seeing them smile and thanking us for their skin improvements is hugely rewarding. As such, I don’t see any problems in expanding our business further because our aim has always been to deliver good results to our clients.”
He adds, “The awards are just a milestone in our business for there’s a lot more to do. It depends on how far you want to go in this business or how far you think it’s enough. We want to do more and we believe we can deliver more.”
The young aesthetic doctors have ambitious plans for One Doc, intending to target a total of twenty outlets in their home country in the immediate future, to diversify into hair restoration treatments and to roll out to other markets in South-East Asia within the next three to five years’ time.
Such ambitious plans are awe-inspiring and its rewards are potentially attractive particularly for young medical practitioners who wish to go into aesthetic medicine. However, Dr. Ong advises, “To become an aesthetic doctor, this means going into business and giving up the conventional career path of being a specialist. Many medical doctors want to try aesthetic but hesitate as it requires stepping out of their comfort zone. So, dream big and dare to fail.”
Dr. Teoh concurs, “Be Brave. Competition is everywhere in this market, therefore you need to think about your unique selling point, only then you will be able to survive in the market and be prosperous.”
Medical Director of M.A.C. Clinic (formerly Malaysian Aesthetic Clinic), Dr. Hew Yin Keat is one of the pioneers in aesthetic medicine in Malaysia and is the first doctor selected as a trainer in botox and fillers treatment. He has helped many people achieve optimum skin health using minimally invasive cosmetic procedures. Dr. Hew shares his life story and why he believes that ethical practice and quality diagnosis and treatment are needed in aesthetic medicine.
While we like to believe that beauty is more than skin deep, studies have shown that aesthetically-pleasing features provide measures of overall attractiveness, health, intelligence and success. As such, women (and men) have gone to great lengths to find the right product and treatment to make themselves look better.
Dr. Hew Yin Keat is no stranger to the business of making people look better and feel more confident. He is an aesthetic medical practitioner and one of the founding members and former President of the Malaysian Society of Aesthetic Medicine. Garnering an impressive reputation for more than a decade in non-invasive aesthetic medicine, Dr. Hew is the medical director of the M.A.C. Clinic (formerly Malaysian Aesthetic Clinic) in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur which has served a variety of patients comprising Malaysians from all over the country, expats, VIPs and celebrities including Formula One race driver Kimi Raikkonen and pop and R&B singer, Ning Baizura.
Now having a successful career, the journey that Dr. Hew undertook to be where he is today hasn’t been easy. Born in Ipoh and raised in a village near Kampar, Perak, Dr. Hew moved with his parents to Kuala Lumpur (KL) when he was four years old. He shares, “My father was a printer while my mother was a homemaker. When we first moved to KL, we stayed at the YMCA in Brickfields for a while – we were not very well off.”
When he was in Form 3, Dr. Hew’s father encouraged him to apply for an ASEAN scholarship. Dr. Hew was selected for the scholarship at the age of fifteen and moved to Singapore. He studied at the Raffles Institution for two years and subsequently, at the renowned Raffles Junior College for another two years. He was in the medicine stream in junior college but did not apply for the medical course at the National University of Singapore due to limited places for foreign students. He was advised to consider the chemical engineering course instead.
“I went ahead to apply for the chemical engineering course but at the same time, I looked for medical courses in other universities. And then I came across the Irish universities roadshow in Malaysia, enquired and applied for the medical course at the Royal College of Surgeons, passed the interview and eventually I obtained a place in medicine.”
However, to study in Ireland required financial support which his parents were not able to provide. Determined to pursue his goals to study medicine, Dr. Hew drew managed to secure the necessary funds from relatives and sponsors such as Kuok Foundation and Sports Toto Foundation and completed his medical studies.
Dr. Hew underwent housemanship training in the United Kingdom in 1997 but returned to Malaysia in 1999 due to family circumstances. He worked in a government hospital and was placed in the anaesthesia department for three and a half years. Although he was interested in internal medicine, he actually enjoyed the anaesthesia specialty which also has relevance to aesthetic medicine – accuracy and precision in using small amounts of potent medicine on patients.
“I wanted to remain in the anaesthesia department but it was tough to get further training in Malaysia. Alternatively, I could have gone abroad to study but I wasn’t earning a lot of money at that time,” he says.
Medical Director of M.A.C. Clinic (formerly Malaysian Aesthetic Clinic), Dr. Hew Yin Keat
A significant turning point happened in 2001 when a friend contacted him about a Singaporean doctor wanting to set up a centre in Malaysia to improve and enhance people’s looks using aesthetic medicine like botox and laser technology. Dr. Hew was initially hesitant but after much research and study, he found aesthetic medicine relevant and rewarding and began training with the doctor.
He obtained his Diploma in Practical Dermatology from the University of Wales, continued to pursue trainings in cosmetic dermatology by attending international workshops and conferences to learn the latest technology, findings and techniques.
Two years later, he met the previous owner of Malaysian Aesthetic Clinic, who is considered one of the pioneers in aesthetic medicine in the country. He underwent further training from him and upon the doctor’s retirement, he took over the clinic in Bangsar Shopping Centre and the Lorong Maarof bungalow.
The process of taking over an established clinic was challenging. Having only worked less than two years and with no external business investors, Dr. Hew was forced to manage cash flow, hire qualified doctors and acquire cutting-edge machines to stay at the forefront of the industry. A laser system from a reputable company can cost some MYR300,000 and from just having two basic laser machines, M.A.C. Clinic now has twelve laser machines across different platforms and more than twenty medical devices like the CoolSculpting machines for body contouring and shaping.
One of the major challenges that he had to overcome was the misconception that the public and other doctors have about aesthetic medicine.
“Aesthetic medicine was viewed as ‘non-evidence-based medicine’. Many assumed that beauticians make people look good while dermatologists help with conditions related to skin disease. Doctors then didn’t understand that they could also help patients to feel better by improving and enhancing their skin health.”
He adds, “Nowadays, there are more and more clinics pushing beauty packages to patients with the primary aim of making money. Such clinics don’t provide proper diagnosis whereas we emphasise on ethical practice and quality treatments. We diagnose our patients properly and help them make the right choice based on their budget.”
In addition, Dr. Hew had to address concerns raised by the Ministry of Health (MOH) about botched aesthetic procedures performed by non-medical or non-qualified medical practitioners. He explains, “There were patients who had consulted at places that did not have or claimed to have doctors but were not suitably trained and had bad experiences because wrong treatments were given or procedures used were too invasive. Our procedures are usually minimally invasive, produce remarkable results and have faster recovery times. We have taken the efforts to be properly trained and have been doing this for sixteen years.”
After a few years of engaging with MOH and its stakeholders, Dr. Hew was appointed to be on the board of the Medical Practice division of the ministry to oversee aesthetic medical services in Malaysia and to help draft Guidelines on Aesthetic Medical Practice for Registered Medical Practitioners. The guidelines help serve as a framework for all doctors intending to practise aesthetic medicine to safeguard public health.
All these challenges had taught him to be more positive, optimistic and to come up with creative ways to overcome challenges. Most of all, he’s indebted to his team and patients who have stayed with him for many years, trusting his diagnosis, treatments and service.
“My patients are discerning people and I take care of them well. I have had patients telling me that they prefer my treatments even though they have undergone the same in US or Europe. Some of them travel to Malaysia for my treatments on a yearly basis. That’s when I realised that I’m doing things right,” smiles the medical director.
“I believe I have come a long way – from accidentally stumbling into the field to running a reputable and multi-award-winning clinic, leading the aesthetic industry and spearheading its growth. As a key opinion leader for some medical devices and lasers as well as delivering regular lectures for aesthetic medicine courses to doctors newer to the field, I keep abreast of the latest findings as well as help educate my colleagues. Because I am regarded as a thought leader in the field, I have also been invited to be a visiting consultant for other clinics including international brands.”
Aesthetic medicine is now a big business, attracting many young doctors to specialize in the course as they assume that they can earn a lot of money quickly. However, Dr. Hew urges young practitioners, “Be a doctor first and be ethical. Work hard and have a good judgment in delivering treatments to patients based on what they need. Also, don’t overclaim and make false promises.”
The demand for non-invasive cosmetic procedures is increasing in Malaysia. Does Dr. Hew wish to expand his business further?
“I’m always looking at expanding my business and growing my reputation but I want my practice to be ethical and my treatments of high quality and world-class. As much as I would like to have more clinics, it’s not easy to find suitably qualified doctors with a high degree of integrity and passion in this field. Nevertheless, I’m open to partnerships to perhaps open a major regional aesthetic centre and to have satellite clinics in other areas throughout Malaysia and beyond our shores.”
“Achieving all this is not possible without a passion and a keen eye for aesthetic or beauty. To that end, beauty in all its forms has immeasurable value in a universal way … and my passion is in finding and unlocking it.”
For an extra-ordinary talented doctor, one who had also participated in the 200 mile Dublin to Belfast Maracycle when he was a medical student and was a part of the Mercy Malaysia team of 5 doctors sent to help out after the Gujarat earthquake in Bhuj in 2001, the future certainly augurs well for Dr. Hew.