Interview with Founder – Dato’ Ed Sullaiman Tan Sri Ahmad Johan
It is no secret that he comes from a family with several renowned businesses. However, Dato’ Ed Sullaiman Tan Sri Ahmad Johan has decided to forge a new path with his very own company, Bumijaya Kiara Biotech Sdn Bhd. In his recent interview with Top 10 of Malaysia, the affable Sarawakian entrepreneur shares stories from his past journey, his current venture and some words of wisdom.
Dato’ Ed Sullaiman Tan Sri Ahmad Johan or Ed as he is fondly known, has had an impressive career spanning over two decades. While he did start off by working at his father’s company – a move many would think is an easy way to the top – his success was certainly not handed to him on a silver platter.
“My father has a business doing prefabricated composite sewerage tank in Peninsular Malaysia. The company’s factory in Sungai Petani is operational since 1990.” Ed was not shy to admit that after not being able to continue his third year in finance at Systematic College (now known as SEGi College) for not making the grade, his father got him to work at the Johan Fibres Industries Sdn Bhd factory.
“I started as a general worker in 1992. My pay at that time was RM5 a day,” says Ed. “My first job was picking up all the fiberglass waste and put them into a shredding machine which would turn them into powder.” He spent nine years of his life being tasked to cut fiberglass into the shapes of the tank, a job that he hated with a passion.
Aware of his status as the towkay’s son, Ed says, “I used to curse my father for it.” However, today, he is grateful for the experience of starting from the bottom. He realizes that the journey taught him such valuable wisdom. “It makes you wiser and equips you with greater perseverance.”
Along the way, Ed had the opportunity to go to the United States of America to obtain the composite technician license. He did just that. In fact, Ed was the first South East Asian to have managed the feat. Following the development of his family business, he would later delve into the aviation, aerospace and defense industry working for AIROD.
Upon his return to Malaysia, Ed pursued his studies in Human Resource Management at Universiti Putra Malaysia. This time, he followed through and graduated in 2004. “I then went back to working at my father’s composite company. Fast forward to 2009, I joined yet another family business at the SME Ordnance Sdn Bhd, which is a subsidiary company of National Aerospace and Defence Industries Sdn Bhd,” shares Ed. In 2014, he was promoted to Executive Director Group of Finance.
After many years of working in the family business, Ed finally gathered the courage to work on one of his own. His decision to walk away from a designation that earned him a six-figure salary certainly took many by surprise. However, according to Ed, “Time told me that I have to move on.”
He is now a man on a mission. It is to develop his company, Bumijaya Kiara Biotech Sdn Bhd together with his wife and two other business partners and taking it to greater heights. The story of how Ed got involved in this new venture is not all sunshine and rainbows though. The 47-year-old stated, “My wife started the business but she got conned. That’s when I decided to take over,” says the 47-year-old Ed. It is now an ongoing court case.
The unfortunate event did not hamper their spirits to carry on with their aim. Instead, Ed felt that it was only right for him to reconstruct the business. He even went on to continue investing more in the research and development process. With the knowledge of the company’s bioengineers, they came up with Clarel’s Yoghurt Powder Supplement, a product formulated with 18 types of superfood. “Its star ingredient is none other than blackcurrants. This product has also been certified by the Ministry of Health Malaysia and it has obtained its halal status from the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia,” reveals Ed.
As a consumer of the product himself, Ed certainly knows what he is talking about. “We got more than what we asked for,” he says referring to the benefits reaped from consuming the food supplement. “The 1 year 10 months duration spent for the purpose of research and development certainly paid off. As an avid golfer who spends hours on the course, sun exposure is a normal affair for me,” shares Ed with a smile. “My skin complexion has gotten better after taking Clarel’s Yoghurt Powder Supplement on a daily basis.”
The good response does not come from Ed alone. There have been plenty of positive feedbacks from general consumers on the effectiveness of the product. It does what it was set out to do – to improve skin conditions, particularly skin pigmentation disorders. With its rich-nutrient content, it also helps to achieve the glowing, radiant skin – a feature many seek to possess. “It turns out that Clarel’s Yoghurt Powder Supplement also improves colon health,” explains Ed.
On the backstory of Clarel’s as the chosen name, Ed explains that it was inspired by the French word, clarté, which means clarity.
The company is already working on another product that revolves around weight management. “I don’t believe in weight loss products. To lose weight, there is no easy way but you can manage it,” says Ed, and he speaks of this from experience. “There was a point in time when I weighed 126kg with a 45.5-inch waistline,” says the father of five who was determined to change his lifestyle for the better when he thought of his family. Today, he has managed to reduce his body weight to 90kg and his waistline to 38 inches. That is Ed – the lad with such great will power. It is that very same trait that kept him going when the going got tough.
Ed does not deny that having to start from scratch all over again after working his way to becoming a top-ranked officer is a challenge. “I almost gave up. The business was not going where I wanted it to be,” he says. However, he is no quitter. It is a matter of adapting to the situation. He has been in the game long enough to know that he must plan wisely to make use of the resources he has. “I have faith in my product. It’s about creating brand awareness now,” he says. Ed looks forward to having his son onboard to work on this aspect as soon as he returns from the United Kingdom. Ed says that he is also willing to work with those who would like to join him in elevating the state of Bumijaya Kiara Biotech Sdn Bhd.
Despite the obstacles he faces, Ed has not failed to count his blessings. He expresses his gratitude to the Almighty for the beautiful family he has. Even during his busy days back then, Ed will make time to be there for his wife and children. At work, he is a firm believer in treating employees the right way. “In my experience, the rise and fall of a company lie with employees. Always give good opportunities for them to shine. Don’t suppress people. Never ask for respect, earn respect. Then, people will respect you for who you really are,” he adds.
Ed also encourages one to have a dream. “It keeps you motivated,” he says. “Work as much as you can towards it. God will decide how much or how less you will achieve. At the end of the day, it is His decision. But you do what is necessary on your part.”