The CEO of Al-Faiz Holdings Sdn Bhd, Dato’ Azhar bin Md Yusoff is a man with a clear vision and staying ahead of the game to conquer the industry. In just a few years, Al-Faiz has carved a prominent presence in the Malaysia cosmetic pharmaceutical industry and he has more plans under his hat to see it grow into the future.
Dato’ Azhar is a passionate man who has a sheer determination in building his own company from zero. After graduated from ITM Kuantan Pahang and now known as UiTM, he was offered to further study in Japan but economic crisis in Malaysia during that year hindered him from doing so. He then chose to study at IKM (Institut Kemahiran MARA) taking Wood Technology course because he wanted to run his own furniture factory. Alas, owning a furniture factory remained as a dream as it ain’t easy to achieve it.
“I wasn’t sure what to do next and financial was the main problem.” After much thoughts, he decided to work at Sime Darby and did odd-job at night; selling burgers and banana fritters in order to save money.
The first fall was the toughest lesson
In 1996, he met Tan Sri Yahaya Ahmad and was offered to start a telco franchise named MobiCom. With only RM 15,000 in hand, he made it and the business was a huge success. After 2 years running the business, he then found himself in a serious crisis to the extent where he lost approximately RM 24 million. 1999 was the year that left such a big impact on his life when he was declared bankrupt.
It wasn’t easy to build an empire as it takes blood, sweat and tear.
He stayed in his house and only went out at night because he was so embarrassed. The routine lasted for four months and his mother thought that he was insane because he hardly spoke to anyone.
He then decided that something must be changed. “Do I want to quit now? So I decided to register my own company in 2000, without any money or idea what kind of business I want to venture and also the fact that I was bankrupt at that time.”
Success after multiple trials
An interesting fact about Dato’ Azhar is, he is an avid fan of Tun Mahathir. “I like the way how he always thinks forward. So I adapt his style of thinking in deciding what I want to do next. I was thinking what kind of business that will be relevant in perhaps 10-20 years ahead.” Inspired by Tun Mahathir to think forward and beyond, he got an idea that natural-based products will be relevant in the near future.
Previously, Tun Mahathir brought back Roselle seeds from Sudan to plant in Malaysia but the project failed. He did research and trying to find the solution because he knew Roselle could be the answer he was looking for. With only RM 200 that was lent by his friend, he bought a book on Roselle and a big pot to cook it. He tried to make Roselle a success in creating cosmetics and supplements.
Despite his shortage of money and equipment to manufacture Roselle, he finally made it. In 2002, he produced his first Roselle juice after multiple trials and errors and started selling it from house-to-house.
He then secured a fund worth RM40,000 from SIRIM that gave him full access to do research on Roselle. With that money, he went to SIRIM Shah Alam weekly to learn on cosmetics and supplements manufacturing. “In 2007, I completed my paperwork and officially launched my first product which is Roselle juice and for a second, I thought it was going to be a huge success but it wasn’t as I expected. I failed because Malaysians still can’t accept cosmetics based on natural ingredients.”
Go all out while you are at it
After a few years, the market trend had changed and his products gained much attention from the local customers. In 2010, he got an idea to fully utilise his knowledge and skill by providing formulas for customers to establish their own brand. “The first product that Al-Faiz produced was Aurawhite and it became a huge sensation. We garnered around RM 14 million and increased from year to year.” Since then, the company has been going from strength to strength and bought a factory in Sungai Korok, Jitra.
In 18 years running the business, Al-Faiz Holdings, being the first OEM company has successfully launched 13 sub-companies. “To date, we have successfully produced approximately 400 brands and almost 100 brand owners are millionaires,” said Dato Azhar who shared that his biggest achievement in business is receiving Anugerah Perdana in 2015.
In tackling the industry game, he spent on R&D as a strategy to keep the momentum in the business. “We send our R&D all over the world to learn new technology and bring it back to Malaysia to utilise it. That’s one of our keys to secure our place as the big player in the local industry.”
Further diversify Al-Faiz
Asking about his big plan on further diversify Al-Faiz Holdings, Dato’ Azhar shared that he is currently working with MARA to train local entrepreneurs. “We will do road tour around Malaysia and conducting entrepreneurial talks and workshop to train local entrepreneurs.”
But despite the difficulties, there is satisfaction.
Currently, Al-Faiz is planning to produce their own body care products named La Roselle. “It’s not easy to convince big players in the market and to shift the mentality towards Bumiputera products requires me to work harder.”
Besides, Al-Faiz is trying to venture
Dato’ Azhar’s secret weapon when it comes to business is to always put mother as the main priority. “For me, my mother is my muse. She is my biggest supporter and I always look up to her whenever I need advice,” said Dato’ Azhar who plans to list Al-Faiz Holdings in the Main Board.