Mara legacy: Recognising outstanding Bumiputera entrepreneurs

Sarah Rahim

KUALA LUMPUR: Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara) has helped to develop Bumiputera entrepreneurs for the past 50 decades.

The government agency celebrated outstanding Bumiputera entrepreneurs in the country, including those who have ventured abroad, during the Mara Entrepreneur Awards (AURA) which were held on Thursday.

AURA 2016 was held at the Premiera Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, and highlighted winners in 11 categories.

The awards were presented by Rural and Regional Development Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

The Entrepreneur Figure Award went to Gading Kencana Sdn Bhd, an energy service company which provides various services including utility scale solar farms, solar street lights, energy management services and solar PV panel maintenance service.

Managing director Datuk Guntor Tobeng said he was interested in the renewable energy business as he believed it would be the trend for the future.

Guntor said he was grateful for the help he received from Mara since he started his business 15 years ago.

“There were too many contractors at that time so I did not want to compete fiercely among one another in a saturated market. I prefered to start something new,” he said.

“When I first started my business I received a grant to produce catalogues for my business and also on marketing efforts which allowed me to boost my branding,” he said.

The company grew from a humble beginning by providing garden lights and street lights.

Among other forms of assistance provided by Mara was the Baron programme, amounting to RM5 million with a competitive ‘hibah’ rate for a solar farm in Malacca which cost about RM100million.

He said it was not always easy for entrepreneurs to get loans from banks but Mara always rendered its help to Bumiputera entrepreneurs.

The company previously had projects in Japan and Dubai and had recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with its Saudi Arabia for renewable energy projects during the visit of the kingdom’s ruler, King Salman Abdulaziz, to Malaysia.

Guntor said he braved through the up and downs in business with his wife, Datin Hasnah Awang who is also the executive director of the company.

For The Woman Entrepreneur Award, Wijasa Media Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Azlynda Jawawi emerged as winner in the category.

Azlynda, 38, said the company is the only Bumiputera Sarawak-based advertising agency that was registered with all media agencies in the country.

“We provide content and advertising through various media platforms including radio and television, as well as digital buntings.

Azlynda said, for digital bunting business, she received a concession from Dewan Bandaraya Kuching Utara to expand the business.

“I sought help from Mara for more funding to expand the business as I did not have sufficient funds, ” she said.

“I am also an alumni of Mara Junior Science College in Taiping and had received funding from Mara for my tertiary study,” she said.

The Young Entrepreneur Award went to Agro Highlands Enterprise chief executive officer Sharol Hafizi Jamaludin. Sharol said he started off with funding from his family to plant strawberries for commercialisation.

He said the company produces about 200 kilogrammes of strawberries per week and it is sold to customers as well as turned into strawberry jam and juice.

He said he received help from Mara in terms of personal coaching, marketing and training.

“Mara Pahang has helped me a lot while the business was growing,” he said.

The company now owns 32-units of chalets in Cameron Highlands from an initial eight units.

“We are planning to open a 4.8 hectare farm to plant 500,000 saplings and provide opportunities for local youth with an interest in the field,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ismail said Mara has to date produced and assisted about one million entrepreneurs.

“For the next 50 years, Mara will guide Bumiputera entrepreneurs to become leaders, both in the region as well as globally,” he said.

Ismail said Mara has contributed to the development of about 70 per cent of middle class Bumiputera.

“The middle-class will help to elevate the socio-economic status of the Bumiputera, eventually becoming the catalyst for the nation’s development,” he said.

Under the 2017 Budget, Mara is allocating RM600 million for entrepreneur development which includes training, food truck programmes, Halal Hub, and mobilepreneur among others. These initiatives are expected to help about 3,500 entrepreneurs.

“MARA also has a RM600 million revolving fund for entrepreneurs based on eligibility. Our target is to develop 20,000 Bumiputera for this year ,” he said.

He said Mara also has 7,206 business lots that give out about RM2 billion in revenue per annum.

“This effort will also provide job opportunities to up to 19,734 people,” he said.

Ismail said Mara will also focus on the development of entrepreneurs through its strategic embedded programmes that instill the culture of entrepreneurism among students in its many institutions.

“Understanding the need to venture into new industries such as aerospace, rails and bio-preneur, MARA has signed various MoU with key players of these industries, to spearhead the development of these industries and foster and encourage their participation,” he said.

AURA was incepted in 2006 to gauge the progress of those receiving MARA entrepreneurship aid to become role model to other entrepreneurs.