An entrepreneurial streak of venturing into unknown terrain and making a success of it, despite the odds, is the determining trademark that has shaped career goals for Alexandar Ronald Kumar, who prefers to be known as ‘Alex Kumar’. Taking a plunge into the building frenzy happening in Malaysia during the 1990s, Alex got his first taste of success and has never looked back. From a three-man construction company, Ganda Sakti, the entrepreneurial forces of Alex Kumar, his partner Kumaresan and their team have since expanded into a wide portfolio of initiatives. In a conversation with Top 10 of Malaysia, Alex spoke of his personal achievements, challenges and spiritual leanings as a people-oriented and visionary leader.
“My father told me to manage his restaurant business, but that was not exactly my passion. Engineering or finance was my passion and I was determined to venture into engineering due to the opportunity available together with some friends, one of whom is still an active partner. My ideas were not aligned with my father’s, but they worked!” Alex recalls. That was in 1994, the year he graduated with a degree in finance from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.
“In the 1990s, despite a looming recession, there was an expansion in the building industry. I had little knowledge of the industry, but I saw the opportunities,” he continues. His first company which did not see much success brought about the idea of starting Ganda Sakti in 1996 with Kumaresan. The total workforce at that time was exactly three.
The earlier periods were a challenge, especially when bidding against established players. A shift to the MNC sector proved rewarding with the added bonus of becoming known within the MNC fraternity, especially among motor and oil and gas corporations. Since then, the company has specialised in construction and design of corporate facilities, corporate workplace, corporate retail space, commercial retail space and others as part of an extension of its services to clients.
With the intention of expanding further overseas, the company changed its name to GSiB upon establishing a presence in Singapore. There are plans to enter other international markets as well, with Myanmar topping the list. GSiB plans to incorporate R&D into its core operations, and through its Value Engineering practices, GSiB has enhanced its operational processes. Value Engineering saves time and cost by improving designs through the latest technology in comparison with conventional designs. “Innovative solutions have enabled us to not only do work more efficiently, but also delighting clients at the same time. The extra mile has become an enduring company culture,” says Alex.
He highlighted the significance of people, such as clients, suppliers, vendors or staff as value creators among the stakeholders. Alex credits his team for the company’s resilience despite the challenges faced within and outside the industry. “Internally, the challenges of the industry are getting suitably qualified personnel and the lack of structure in local regulatory practices. Externally, the industry is confronted with an economic slowdown, the latest being the decline in oil prices,” he explains. “However, in GSiB, I have a supportive team, good strategy, good financial planning and a reputable work record. The company has been successful in getting full orders despite tough market conditions.”
For a company which has secured projects internationally, and a recipient of the 2015 One Asia Award in Singapore under the Distinguished Category, it is indeed noteworthy when Alex says that the company milestones are measured primarily based on employees. “The people who have worked for the company are my milestones. There are many staff members who have worked with me for more than 10 years, and I consider that an important milestone. My current staff strength of 150 in GSiB and another 500 in the other seven companies is by itself a company milestone.”
Alex practises an open-door policy with a flat management approach with colleagues to avoid traditional bureaucratic road blocks. With the help of Head of Departments who are professionals, collaborative teamwork is the culture in GSiB. Staff members enjoy generous opportunities and benefits, such as annual dinners, family day and team building trips every two years. “My people are my main idea generators. After all, they know the job well and are able to propose pragmatic and realistic ideas,” he says.
Furthermore, there is a high awareness of green conservation in the organisation’s business and operational processes. The whole office building exudes eco-friendliness, right down to the refreshments, which are served in glasses instead of plastic. In operations, there are specific, detailed procedures for disposing waste, which is strictly enforced.
Alex says his role model is his grandfather – a lorry driver who raised seven kids as a single parent, having lost his wife. “The fortitude in taking care of seven children by himself while working has inspired me to embrace the ideals of hard work, ethics and commitment,” says Alex, who has 3 children. Spiritual leanings have taken on a deep involvement, and Alex cites his Guru Rambhavuswami as his spiritual master and inspiration. “The worship of God is an important aspect of my life to which I devote daily without fail,” he says.