1. Born in 1964, Lee Thiam Wah was about 8 months old when he was diagnosed with polio.
He was paralysed waist down because of it.
2. The young Thiam Wah only studied up to Standard 6 as his family cannot afford any further.
His father, a construction worker, and his mother who was a hawker at that time worked hard to support their lives and eleven children.
3. To keep busy he read books borrowed from neighbours and sold snacks in a roadside stall.
“I have to help myself. Nobody would hire me due to my physical limitation.”
4. He managed to save RM17,000 when he was only 23 years old.
Thiam Wah used the money to pen a grocery store.
5. In 1987, he started a traditional “mom and pop” sundry mart called Pasar Raya Hiap Hoe in Tepi Sungai, Klang.
This humble beginning has allowed Thiam Wah to gain firsthand knowledge and insights into the sundry retail market through personal interactions with customers and suppliers.
6. After five years in the industry, he wanted a challenge and decided to sell of his store to a relative for RM38,000.
He took the money he made from his first store to open his first mini mart, Pasar Mini 99.
7. The very first store that bore the name “99” opens in Klang Utama.
Pasar Mini 99, represented the very first step Mr.Lee takes to realize his vision of building an integrated chain of mini-marts.
8. From 1992 to 1998, Thiam Wah expanded Pasar Mini 99 to eight other outlets in Klang ala chain store format.
“I wanted the challenge of running a bigger business. If you don’t have scale you can’t compete with Chinese medicine halls on pricing, and you can’t compete with hypermarkets in terms of range.”
9. In 1999 he changed the name of the store to 99 Speedmart.
“We chose the number 99 because it implies that even though we are not perfect, we still aim to offer our customers the best services and products we have at a competitive price. This also reminds us that there is always room for us to improve.”
10. In 2017, 99 Speedmart launched its 1000th outlet in Shah Alam Seksyen 13, Selangor.
Thiam Wah has plans to expand to more than 2,000 outlets in three to five years but he wants to have a 99 Speedmart in every corner of Malaysia before expanding internationally.