Malay Indian Valiram Group growing from strength to strength

December 15th, 2007 - 8:10 pm ICT by admin  

Kuala Lumpur, Dec.15 (ANI): Established management mantras have no meaning for the Valirams, a Malay Indian family that has taken its family business from importing textiles to being the biggest luxury goods company in Malaysia over three generations.
Patriarch Utumal Valiram first came to Malaysia in 1912. He used to divide his time between Malaya and India,” explains his grandson Ashvin Valiram, 36, who is the director of the Valiram Group.
“But in 1947, the Partition of India saw the state of Sindh (where Utumal was from) being allotted to Pakistan so he moved his family here. This has been home ever since,” The Star quotes Ashvin, as saying.
The family’s history mirrors that of Malaysia. Their shop - No.3 Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman was bang in the commercial heart of Kuala Lumpur.
“Those days, it was called Batu Road. My grandfather died when my father was only 16. So, he had to step up and take over the business,” says Ashvin.
“My brothers and I are the third generation in the company and this is where many management books will say the business falters.”
Management lingo suggests that the first generation that starts the business, the second builds upon it and the third wastes or squanders it. This is far from the case with the Valirams.
In fact, the third generation has taken the company from its core business of importing and distributing textile raw materials to being the biggest luxury goods company in Malaysia.
Sharan, Ashvin and Mukesh each bring a different strength to the business.
Sharan takes care of finance, logistics and human resources while Ashvin is in charge of marketing and business development and Mukesh manages operations.
After returning from university, the boys went into the airport retail business.
“We first ventured out of the core business when we set up a fabric shop at Subang International Airport in 1996. It was the first shop selling cloth by the metre at the airport. Nobody believed how popular that shop was; business really took off,” recalls Ashvin.
That first taste of retail - they had been in wholesale previously - led to the opening of more stores and the expansion of airport retail.
Dunhill was the first foreign brand the group acquired. By the time, they opened the first Coach store in 2004, the Valiram brothers were ready to fly.
The Valiram Group has officially opened the first Giuseppe Zanotti store in Malaysia (only the second one in South-East Asia).
Today, there are brands lining up to do business with the Valirams.
“While my grandfather chose to do business in Malaysia, his brothers went to Japan, Thailand and Vietnam to do the same. We are now in Indonesia and Australia. Next year, we are going to Thailand and Vietnam.”
So the Valiram story is continuing in these countries.
Ashvin reckons that much of their success is due to the fact that Malaysia is a land of opportunities.
“If you are hungry and willing to work hard, you can achieve anything. Take my family, for example. We had a good name and not much money, but the environment was supportive and we managed to move forward.”
He is especially disdainful of people who think the grass is greener on the other side.
Ashvin dismisses any suggestion that for anyone to get ahead in this country, some political connection is needed. “Our family has no political connections. We just have good business practices.”
He tells of their family’s experience in 1997 when the market collapsed.
“On hindsight, it was the best learning experience for us but at the time it was tough. Like many others, we had too many liabilities.
“The banks were forced to act on repayments and this one particular local bank was threatening to take action. We went to see the manager and told him we want to pay, but we had no money.
“The amount we could pay did not even cover the interest. The banker was impressed by our honesty, because he said many people were running away without paying.
“He gave us a chance and said one day we would do better and we could do business again. Today the bank remains our biggest local bank; only a Malaysian bank would show such compassion.
“That is why this is a great country. To succeed, just work hard. It’s a sea of opportunities out there.”
Ashvin Valiram knows what he is talking about. This year, their company won the bid to manage the fashion retail space at Singapores Changi International Airport. (ANI)

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