People always say that to be successful, whether in life or career, you have to think big and look high. In this case, we have to look really high, like literally high, because Muhammad Hafizuddin Hiew Abdullah, the CEO of TDC Holdings is really tall. Standing at around 180cm, we are all quite intimidated by his height. But do not let the height deceive you, he is in fact easy-going and friendly. He is also the man behind the million-dollar empire that he built from scratch.
Muhammad Hafizuddin Hiew Abdullah, or Hafiz Hiew, as he is more fondly known as, hailed from Ipoh, Perak. Being the eldest of two siblings, he has been at Ipoh his whole life until he moved to Kelantan to further his tertiary education. “I went to Universiti Malaysia Kelantan and furthered my studies in Master in business administration at the same university as well.”
“Coming from a poor family, I have experienced working since I was 12-years-old. Every weekend, instead of enjoying the day off like any other kids, I’m off to my part-time job to earn extra income for my family.” Most of his expenses are covered by himself through his part -time job as he did not want to burden his family with more financial difficulties. “I’ve worked in a mall as a promoter, to working in factory and restaurants.”
Hafiz’s father managed his own business while he worked part-time. However, as businesses go, it comes with its own hurdles. “There are good times and there are some bad times. Nonetheless, I knew we were at our lowest when I came home to only a bowl of soup and rice for dinner. Although my mum said that it was chicken soup, deep down, I know it was just chicken flavoring cooked into soup,” the charismatic businessman said, reminiscing the past. It was at that moment that he swore to himself that he will bring his family out of misery and poverty. “I do not want my mother to die as a result of bad financial situation.”
Since then, he started educating himself and he even asked his teacher on the secret to become rich. “I remember vividly how my teacher asked me to go to the library to search for what I need as they do not teach it in school.” Since then, he scoured the libraries, bookstores, and even shopping malls to get what he needed. “That moment got me interested in Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, what is business, and how business has the power to determine a person’s wealth,” Hafiz added. Back when all his peers are engaged in outdoors activities, Hafiz was immersed in reading in order for him to pave way for his future entrepreneurial plan.
THE START OF BUSINESS ENDEAVOR
Unbeknownst to many, TDC Holdings is actually Hafiz’s second company. “I established first company during my third year of degree. I was about 22-years-old. I started by doing it part time, which eventually transformed into a full-time business.” After a day of classes, he will continue working on his business at night. He has sold cakes at Farmers’ market, and even selling ayam golek during the fasting month. “In my fourth year, I officially started my business after I finished my final paper. We were in the business of printing, where we will print magazines, calendars, and t-shirts, among many things,” the visionary CEO said. The company was established in 2009, and it remained memorable in Hafiz’s memory, as it the first company he founded.
The company was doing well and in 2013, it made its first million and the following year, its revenue doubled. However, in 2015, the company encounter difficulties when Kelantan was hard hit by flood. The aftermath of the event sees his company losing three out company branches. “We lost two cars and hostel for the staff. We tried to bounce pick up the pieces and continue our business, but we lost all the machines due to the flood.” The incident got him thinking about how business should stop relying on machineries, and stop working offline. “If I want to do another business in the future, I will make sure that it is 90 percent online. So, this is some of the ideas that kept running through my head in 2015.”
The idea comes into realization in 2016 when he founded TDC Holdings. One of the key challenges was doing something that was not mainstream at the time. “At that time, Lazada and Zalora is not popular in Malaysia yet. People are not into e-commerce, internet selling, and digital marketing. Physical shopping is still very popular,” Hafiz said. He further adds elaborate that he wanted to set up a system that people can shop online and it would e a system that is 100 percent reliant on the internet. “Our staff can log into the system and operate everything online, such as accounting and human resource. There is no such thing yet at Malaysia at the time.” According to the businessman, it takes a lot of time to implement foreign system into the Malaysian system. “Finally, we decided to customize everything, so we hire a team of programmer equipped with the knowledge to integrate the system to suit our company.”
It took them six months to actually implement the system and kick start their and eventually the launching of their first product. “However, we started selling our first product before we launch our system. We do not have a physical store, so we go back to the root of selling. Selling it at restaurants and so on, like how I sell products during my degree. That’s how we start.”
Before delving directly into the use of the new system, Hafiz studied the Direct Sales Act, which the system falls under. “We knew that we wanted to do the system and after studying the agent system, it opened up a new door for me as doing drop shipping and agent system are governed under Direct Sales and Anti-Pyramid Scheme Act 1993. We need to apply for different all the license that falls under this category. For instance, Direct Selling License.” Hafiz said. According to him, as he reads more about agent system and direct selling, he realized that there is a need to re-update, refurbish and build the most sophisticated system that will benefit the dealers, as they can easily look at the sales of the products, managing sales, issuing invoices, and deliver orders from customers. “Every dealer that registered under our company have their own account. It’s just like owning a Facebook account, the difference is that the account allows them to do their own accounting, keep track of sales and stocks of products.”
In 2016, TDC Holdings hit a total of RM 200,000 in revenue. Since then, the company’s revenue has been climbing. Last year, the company managed to achieve a total of RM 104 million. The feats do not just stop there, the company has expanded to other countries as well, such as Brunei and Singapore. Currently, TDC Holdings is in the midst of expanding its market to Indonesia.
COMPASSION AS BUSSINESS OBJECTIVE
If there is one thing that Hafiz Hiew wants his staff and dealers to part with, it is giving back to the society. He calls it, Budaya TDC. “We encourage our dealers to give back to the society when they achieved high income. And the best way to lead is by example.” TDC Holdings have donated more than RM3 million to Tabung Covid during the pandemic and the company has also donated more than RM2 billion to Sabah during the spike of Covid cases in the state post state election. “The facilities in the hospitals are incomplete and they do not have sufficient ventilators to cope with the rise of Covid cases at the time. So, we bought 20 to 30 ventilators for the hospitals. We also built mosque, donated to old folks’ home and orphanages,” Hafiz Hiew said.
According to the bubbly CEO, he encouraged his dealers to be charitable as he was once in their shoes before he found success in his business. “I came from a poor family. I know how poor people live their lives. I was born in a dilapidated. Thankfully, I am at a position now where I am able to help these community.” Hafiz added that he felt the sense of urgency to reduce the rate of poverty in the society, especially when the country was hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. He also felt happy when he is able to help people who are in need. “True happiness is obtained when we help others.”
“Right now, our plan is to export our products overseas, countries like Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Asia Pacific and such. We have been importing raw materials from countries like New Zealand, Ireland, Norway, the United States and Italy to use in our products manufacturing, now we are currently importing honey from Turkey for our upcoming product,” the visionary businessman said. Besides that, the company is in the process of relocating their office to a larger space in Bukit Angkat, as well as setting warehouses in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. “Everything has been planned two years ago, but the pandemic caused a disruption. So, now we are hoping that the pandemic will end soon so that everything will go smoothly as scheduled.”
Hafiz shares that there are no secrets to success as there has been many accounts of how people gained success in life, through books, biographies, and interviews. “I used to read about how people become successful, but now I read about people’s failures before they achieve success,” he recounted. Hafiz stated that there are more to learn from the failures as the methodology to become successful is persistent work, intelligent, and teamwork.
“I believe that everyone has those characteristics in them, it is the matter of whether it is applied in their lives. As an entrepreneur, we do not have a fixed working schedule. We do not have to clock in and no bosses to call us. We do not have anyone monitoring us.” Hafiz carry on by stating that persistence and consistency is the key factor to run a business well, while feeling motivated is also a key factor in achieving success in business. “Statistics showed that 93 percent of SME die before reaching their third year because most business owners lost their interest and motivation somewhere along the way. This is why it is important to have perseverance and uniformity.”