Leadership and Management

Inside Billionaires: Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary – A Muslim Billionaire’s Journey of Triumphs and Setbacks in Business

Being a billionaire is something that we often cannot imagine, especially for those who are born with just enough. However, life always has ways to surprise us with unexpected turns. This happens with Syed Mokhtar Albukhary, a Muslim billionaire currently with a net worth of 1.5 billion USD as of May 12th of 2023; and the highest was during 2014 which is 3.1 billion USD, according to Forbes.

Initially he gained entrepreneurship skills by helping his mother to sell vegetables at the market and involved in a cattle business run by his parents in the 1960s. However, the cattle business did not end up well due to a disease spreading to the livestock. Then, moving forward to the 1970s is when his business story started. He was issued four permits under bumiputra quota to handle four lorries but could only afford two of them which led him to apply for a MARA loan to buy another two lorries. With the knowledge of rice and paddy which he received from his paddy plantation work owned by his grandfather, Kedah-born Syed Mokhtar Albukhary made use of the lorries he bought to transport rice and became a rice trader in the early 20s of his age.

A part of the RM 1 500 salary he has gotten as a rice trader is donated to 15 poorer families and half of it is kept for the family, following his mother’s advice. After he applied to be a licensed rice trader, he successfully acquired a contract to provide rice for FELDA, MARA Senama, Pernas Edar and Sergam Bhd. After 3 years of growth in the rice business, he successfully paid back the MARA loan. He made a name as a rice trader and also acquired plantations and ports. His rice business has expanded rapidly until 2005 where he is recognized as the seventh richest man in Malaysia and fiftieth richest man globally in 2013 by Forbes.

He also involved himself in the manufacturing sector. He acquired a contract to provide the military army with shoes and uniforms. After he bought the shoes and uniform directly from a supplier, he started two more companies to produce shoes and uniforms. His company is listed on the board called “Papan Kedua Bursa Saham” in Kuala Lumpur. He gained profits from it and started to produce and market a branded clothing, Crocodile. His subsidiary company, Amtek Holdings, now produces military shoes. Meanwhile, Amtek Garments Sdn Bhd produces branded clothing.

While still in the rice business, he started a venture to grow the shipping business for his rice company. He bought a German-made ship to transport rice from Thailand to Sabah and Sarawak. However, he experienced a business failure and had to sell the ship at a lower price.

Due to an economic crisis in 1988, he experienced more losses. He lost RM2 billion in order to protect the interest of bumiputra. He did not give up and tried to be involved in housing projects but instead joint venture with a New Zealand Milk Products. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s he was able to capitalize government privatization drive under Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad. He tried to seek guidance on several business projects from the prime minister, known as a hardworking businessman.

Syed Mokhtar Albukhary started to acquire MMC corporation in the 2000s and takes over DRB-Hicom in 2005, a business that is debt-ridden. The business-ridden company gained a healthy profit after his takeover. He then continued on his success in buying the national car maker, Proton, during 2012. Despite that, sales and returns are deteriorating even with high tax rates on imported cars. Even with the struggles, he continues to find ways for more strategic assets. During 2021, his net worth started to rise again after he offered 714 million USD to buy minority shareholders of MMC Corp. His net worth rises steadily until today.





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