The business world is dominated and monopolised by men for the longest time and it seems true in Malaysia setting where business is like a “man playground.” We hardly see women who hold such high-level roles of leadership and entrepreneurship but that doesn’t mean there is none who try to break the ceiling. Besides, it is not easy for women to build or run a business when other have the stereotype thinking relating to women capabilities.
Here’s our editor’s pick of 5 remarkable Malaysian female entrepreneurs who prove that it is not impossible to break the glass ceiling even though the ceiling is hard to crack and to break through.
1. Hooi Ling Tan, a low-key co-founder of Grab who prefers to stay behind the scenes.
Compared to Anthony Tan, Tan Hooi Ling is the lesser known co-founder of Southeast Asian ride-hailing major Grab. They came up with the idea of Grab when they were both at Harvard Business School. The 34 years old co-founder of Grab is bent on staying humble and grounded even though Grab has already settled high-turn profit.
In the early days, she had to use a small storage room in Segambut KL for free on planning the Grab business ideas as well as went out to places like Bukit Merah View Market and Food Centre to persuade taxi drivers to sign up as partners.
2. The Iron Lady, Rozita Ibrahim is a true example of the rags-to-riches success story.
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Not many know the humble beginning of the rich businesswoman, Rozita Ibrahim. She is truly one woman who has really made a name for herself. Prior to becoming a successful businesswoman, Rozita Ibrahim life’s journey has been one hell of a roller coaster ride of emotions. She was forced to marry a guy she barely knew at the of 16 and divorced a year later. At such a young age, she used to work as a rubber tapper to keep food on the table for her children.
It’s not an easy and smooth-sailing process to start the business as it involved hundreds of trials and errors and experimenting the product on herself to see if it would work. After all the blood, sweat and tears, she began her company, Sendayu Tinggi in 1997. To date, she has over 2,000 distributors all over the Asian continent.
3. Melinda Looi, an ambitious fashion designer who spent most of her childhood time working.
Melinda Looi has established herself as an outstanding designer in the region of Southeast Asia. To the outside world, it would seem that Looi’s journey to triumph was easy as she was coming from a family who earns income from tailoring and fashion manufacturing. But, the truth is she had been working since the age of 12. While her friends went on trips during school holidays, she had to work all day. Their house back then wasn’t a proper family house, but a small shop.
She bought her first sewing machine using her first sales and now her loyal customers ranging from royalty, celebrities to socialites such as Cameron Diaz and Britney Spears to name a few.
4. Faiza Bawumi Sayed Ahmad started with doing odd jobs before having a ‘rice empire’.
The Egyptian-born woman, Faiza Bawumi Sayed Ahmad migrated to Malaysia in 1964 following her husband. She started with doing the odd jobs as in sewing embroidery with only RM4 earning and also various small-scale business to make a living. With her saving, she then made a brave step in operating a small business using the brand name ‘Bunga Raya’. From a small shop, she sold the products from house-to-house to gain trust and the business began to grow well.
In 1998 Fiza Marketing Sdn Bhd was established and manufactured various other products under the brand name FAIZA that has become one of the trusted household brands in the region.
5. Chan Yoke Chun, a great leader in the business industry monopolise by men.
Chan Yoke Chun is the founder and chief executive officer of a company listed on the ACE market of Bursa Malaysia, HLT Global Bhd. The company involves in a glove-dipping lines maker that serves customers in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, India, Saudi Arabia, and China. Her name is no stranger to the concept of women in the boardroom. She herself is a powerful example, in a company where the chairman, as well as chief financial officer, are both women. She proves that women are able to become a successful leader in the business industry monopolise by men.
This business-minded entrepreneur cited that the toughest challenge she had experienced is her employees. She believes that employees are very important for a company and they are the asset.