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Proton, Gas and the Government

The fuel price increased had attracted various opportunists for cheap publicity but it did not attract any effort by our Prime Minister or its cabinet Ministers to find means of overcoming the public’s burden in absorbing the price increase of most essential items except for the RM625 one-off subsidy for road tax rebate which cannot even pay for the increase in chicken price annually let alone the petrol price hike.

Amongst the many opportunists is our very own Proton whom made headline for its plan to fit the Waja, Saga and Persona with NGV (Natural Gas for Vehicles) kits by year-end. These NGV kits will be installed at the production level and will come with a warranty.

For the warranty to be extended with the NGV fitment, Proton Edar authorised workshops must be sanction to undertake the NGV service and repair. The mechanics and technician has to obtain special licence and the workshop must apply for special permit to service gas engine. The workshop also requires special tools for the service. Currently, none of Proton Edar service dealer network is authorised for NGV servicing or even aware of any administrative requirements to obtain the mechanic licensing or permit for the workshop. The process and procedures for the application may take longer than the expected year end for launching of Proton vehicles with the NGV kit installed. If these are not resolved, how do we expect the customers to be able to claim any warranty or servicing associated with the NGV vehicles.

But assuming the licensing and permit administrative procedures are complied with and in the absence of great thinkers in the Government or the ‘4th floor’, does Malaysia infrastructure is ready for gas? With Proton and other car manufacturer following Proton's moves for gas, soon there will be an influx of NGV vehicles.

To keep the electricity price low, the government during Tun Mahathir era did not allow gas price to be increased. The government decide the price of gas to be sold to power stations. Petronas sustained losses from the low gas price but not as much under Tun’s Government given the crude prices were only around US30 dollar per barrel then. Today, it is US139 dollars per barrel. The cost of gas, likewise had increased and the losses suffered by Petronas is much higher but then this is again for the Abdullah’s Government and Petronas to resolve. Hints.. gas price may increase soon too…

Petronas also supplies NGV for motor vehicles but the amount is limited because the sale of NGV incurs a big loss in profit to Petronas as there is no reimbursement by the Government. Other oil company refuse to sell gas as they would also lose money given the low gas price that was fix during Tun Dr Mahathir’s government, hence, if all car manufacturer start producing vehicles with NGV, the price of gas may be increased to make it attractive for Petronas and other oil company to provide gas at all the petrol stations.

Currently there are very limited petrol stations providing gas for vehicles which is mostly used by taxis. Once Proton began selling cars with NGV kits, consumers will be burden with limited source for petrol stations with gas supplies and may have to queue a few kilometres long with all the taxis to refuel their gas. Notice the queue at all petrol kiosk (such as the one near KLCC and kelana jaya) with gas supplies.

So really, does the NGV kit by Proton and other car manufacturer the answer for the public outcry due to petrol price hike? A proper planning preparing the authorised workshop dealers network for NGV vehicles service licensing, permits and training and an affordable price for the NGV kit alone will not ease the public burden. The Ministry of Domestic Trade & Consumers Affair has to ensure that all petrol stations are able to supply gas and more importantly, can Petronas sustain the loss in profit from the increase in sales of gas to the public, or will there be a gas price revision to attract other oil company to supply gas at their petrol stations for the convenient of the public. With the possible price revision, what will happen to proton vehicles with NGV fitment?

Unless the Government spearhead the gas as an alternative to cheaper fuel for cars, Proton and various other automotive manufacturers move towards NGV will just be another failure. But thumbs up to Syed Zainal and Proton as well as other car manufacturer for the effort to ease the public outcry.

The corridors of power and our power within..

What would be more ironic than to have our fate determined by those in the Corridors of power? We know that the Petrol price has increased and we cannot stop bitching about it. Similarly, we know the price of electricity, water and most essential items will be increased (if not already increased).

We know (though some maybe doubtful) that Anwar Ibrahim is probably gay and is homosexual and we bitch about his sex life as if his sex life is more important than the price of petrol. We know that we as the citizen do not benefit from any policies of Abdullah Badawi (except Abdullah’s family members that we learn from fellow bloggers like Raja Petra- RPK). We know that Najib Tun Razak having spend almost half his life as a cabinet Minister had never made any stand on his own beside yes sir yes sir and we know that his decision is probably the decision of his wife Rosmah which is doubtful if it is any better than Abdullah whom allow the 4th floor to decide for him on almost all Malaysia matters.

But what would be more ironic than that fate that was determined by those in power is to let the power that you have to be out of control. Yes we don’t agree with all the price increases but hey vote against our MPs that passed and did not debate against the price increase in the next general election. That is your power and your right and what is also within your power and control is your survivability which is more important for now. Even if we bitch every second and every hour and every day about the government’s policies, we still have to refuel our car petrol, pay the toll, pay our utility bills and even have to buy chicken when the price doubled up soon. We cannot stop using the car (or use the bicycle like the stupid display of disagreement by the opposition MPs) especially with the lousy public transportation and we cannot stop eating chicken or use candles instead of switching on the light to avoid paying the electricity bill. The next general election to channel our grouses is in another 4 years. What we need now is to survive more than bitching about everything which does not and will not solve anything. Even Anwar is probably busy with boys when he is not debating. Everybody has to survive.

Let us forget for a moment everything that is not in our control and take control of everything that is in our power? Yes, our disposable income! That is what we can control. True our disposable income is much less now with all the price increase whatever the amount is. Soon the government may use the interest rate to manage the economy and that will further decrease our disposable income. Generally, almost 90% of the working population has either a mortgage or a hire purchase loan or perhaps both. More often, 30% of our income per month is spend on the mortgage or house rental, another 30% on hire purchase car loan and another 10% for income tax, EPF and SOCSO leaving only 30% as our disposable income or the percentage that makes up our lifestyle. The 30% disposable income is usually spend on the following categories:

1) Petrol, car maintenance and toll
2) Utility bills (electric, water, astro)
3) Household expenses (Groceries, toiletries and gardening)
4) Healthcare, doctors, medicines, vitamins
5) Shopping and entertainment
6) Savings.

To be able to sustain our current standard of living or disposable income, we either need to (1) increased our salary or (2) have a higher disposable income. The recent price increased in the essentials also affected the cost of operation of our employer and the likelihood of getting a pay revision is highly unlikely. So we are left with only the latter option, to increase our disposable income.

Generally a total of 60% of our income is spent on mortgage or house rental and car hire purchase loan. We can dispose of the house and/or the car or the second house or second car and buy a cheaper one to have more disposable income but this is too tedious. If we want to maintain the same house and car but would like to have a higher disposable income, we can try to refinanced both the car and the housing loan to a longer period. Housing loan can be extended to a maximum of 30 years and car hire purchase loan (depending on year of manufacture) can be extended to 9 years. Most of the Banks now have various package of refinancing housing loans. This is imperative to ensure that the fix percentage of our spending on fix loans is reduced. A car is a necessity and is inevitable given the current state of our public transportation in Malaysia. Refinancing the car loan will ensure that you can service your hire purchase car loan regularly given further increase in the essential items prices.

With all price increases and soon the interest rate too (hopefully not), if we do not refinance our existing loans and fix the interest rate at the current rate which is still low, we may not only have a lower disposable income but we may not be able to even afford the monthly loan repayment. Thus, take action now before it is too late. In 1998 recession, all new loans we frozen and any refinancing of loans (once we are in recessions) will be impossible.

This reduction in fix loan payment per month can ensure we are ready for any inevitable price increase or interest rate variation (given our indecisive government) but it is also best to avoid any other inevitable expenses such as exorbitant car maintenance and health care.

With smaller disposable income given all price increased, any inevitable cost such as car repair or healthcare will further deplete our negligible disposable income and savings. For a start, our driving behaviour can save petrol consumption by more than 30% if we drive slow and do not step and accelerate above 2500 rpm. Driving behaviour is a start but regular car maintenance will warrant any inevitable damage to the car engine which will cost you a bomb. A normal engine lubrication service starts from only RM80 but will ensure the engine is well maintained and this regular engine lubrication service will also save your petrol consumption further which is a great savings in the long term. Proper wheel alignment and balancing will promote greater fuel savings as well as prolonging the wear and tear of any tyres which otherwise will also cost you a minimum of RM200 per tyre change. With a proper wheel alignment, balancing and driving behaviour, a tyre can last more than 20,000km. Unfortunately, the tyre and engine oil lubrication price will also increase as a chain effect of the fuel price increase… it would be good if we, the public, can hedge the tyre and lubrication oil price at the current price to avoid any further increase in the future as lubrication oil and tyres are essential expenditure for car owner. If we can hedge similar to how Airasia hedge their fuel price, then even the public can enjoy the savings by not paying more when the price increase. Yes, I will make sure Fasfik has this package extended to the public so that car owners can hedge their engine lubrication oil price as well as their tyre price fix on the current price. This is important so that you will not have to further reduce your disposable income unnecessarily.

Medical and healthcare is also a pinch in the pocket. It does not cost you much to be healthy but every time you are sick and have to visit the clinic or hospital, there will definitely be an additional cost for the travelling petrol, time and clinical bills. To avoid unexpected sickness, we have to ensure we are always healthy. All that it takes to be healthy is just a regular daily 30minutes exercise. Perhaps 30 minutes run or a walk in your neighbourhood. These 30 minutes run can improve your stamina, increase your body antibody, reduce your cholesterol or sugar level and keeps the doctors away.

Historically, the economic recession is a 10 years cycle with the last recession being in 1998. Since our country is still recording growth, theoretically we are not in recession.. or rather that is what the Government are misleading us to think. Even the CPI is said to be 5% lower than the inflation rate but we know that we are spending more than 30% our regular spending in bill payment (pertrol, electricity etc) and groceries.

Therefore and needless to say, let us not get conned by whatever the government is saying and let us not bitch too much on whatever the government is doing, let us take control and do something with our ownself before it is too late. Afterall, we need to survive..!

International school, private school or sekolah kebangsaan

The toughest choice as a parent (okay.. one of the toughest choice) is to choose the best school for the children. Aaraf will be 6 years old this December and i have to choose a primary school for him really soon. But before choosing the school, I must first decide if I want the Malaysian education syllabus or the international syllabus perhaps British or Australian syllabus but not American.

I went to 3 primary schools from Sekolah Rendah Sultan Ismail 1, in Kelantan to Sekolah Rendah Sultan Iskandar in Kedah and then Sekolah Rendah Kampung Tunku in Petaling Jaya. Primary school very much affected my upbringings. Though these were all Sekolah Kebangsaan and teaches similar syllabus, the environments and cultures (in three different states) shaped up my thought and mind. The quality as well as the approach of teaching differs too. So my first consideration will be the teacher’s attention (perhaps the teacher and student ratio) and the school environment hence, cleanliness especially toilets and canteen or cafeteria. During my time at school, some students shit and pee in class because the toilets were too stinky and unbearable to enter.

But I have to decide first to choose either a Malaysian or international syllabus. In choosing the syllabus, my main criteria is the time factor. Malaysia education system wasted too much time. Primary school starts at the age of 7 years old and ends at the age of 12 (standard 6). Secondary school starts at the age of 13 and finish with the Secondary Education Certificate (SPM) exam at the age of 17 but have to wait for the following year to begin their form 6 or A’levels. They will complete their A’ levels (or form 6 exam) at 20 years and start their undergraduate degree course for three years to graduate at the age of 23 years old.

British education system starts their primary school at the age of 6 and sits for their General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) (Malaysia SPM equivalent) at the age of 15 (or 16 years old the most). They began the A’levels the same year in September as the GSCE exam is in June. Students will complete their A’ levels at the age of 17, to start their normal 3 years undergraduate degree course and graduate at 20 years old.

That is a saving of 3 years in studies. If the A’ levels is expedited to 1 year (instead of the normal 2 years) then there will be a total savings of 4 years in studies. There are other factors to consider but these years of saving in studies is important and should be a major factor to consider.

However, there are a long requirements and wait list to get into an International school. An assessment (with a high standard of passing) will be conducted and priorities are given to the expatriates and the Ministry of Education approval must be obtained. Aaraf is now on a wait list for the Garden International School which Aaraf is supposed to start in September this year (even before his 6th birthday). ELC international school is the second option given the logistic nearest to my house but both can only consider Aaraf for next year's intake.

Since Aaraf cannot start at the International school this year, I have to enrol him in a Malaysia education syllabus. Now I have to decide if I want to send Aaraf to a government school or a private school. What would be the criteria that I need to consider in deciding the choice between a government school and a private school?

Yes, the school environment especially the canteen and toilets are of utmost importance as well as the teacher and students ratio. Given the teacher and student ratio that would pleased my level of acceptance, I would think Sekolah kebangsaan will not be an option. With a teacher to 40-50 students per class, it will be difficult for even a good teacher to ensure all students received sufficient attention in details. It is even more ironic when most of our cabinet Ministers especially our Education Minister Dato Seri Hishamudin Tun Hiussein sends their children to either private schools or an international school signalling mistrust in our school and education system.

Since our Education Minister as well as other cabinet Ministers disbelief in our government schools, I shall not make government school an option and will consider private school instead. Since the nearest private school to my house is the Sri KDU with a teacher to only less than 30 students per class ratio, Sri KDU seems to be my best choice for now until Aaraf is accepted into Sri Garden International School or ELC.


The new millennium has seen a drastic change in Men’s behaviour which confuses many. Gone were the days of the Macho rugged look or the weary rocker style but the birth of what is called the metrosexual men (sorry Razak, Rhiza.. get updated! You too Suso…!).

I was inspired to write about metrosexual men having overheard some arguments between a bunch of friends at the Hilton hotel. Metrosexual man was made popular by David Beckham as a metrosexual posterboy. There are various definitions of Metrosexual by Simpson 2002 etc and there were various debates on the terms used but many seem to misunderstood the meaning and relate metrosexual man as gay or homosexual. Some men were embarrassed and some took offense (like the bunch at the Hilton Hotel) when being called metrosexual without even knowing its real meaning. Wikipedia defines metrosexual man as a neologism generally applied to heterosexual men with a strong concern for their appearance, or whose lifestyles display attributes stereotypically seen among gay men.

The traditional old fashioned men, simply makes and earns money for the wife to spend. Metrosexual man simply makes and earns money for himself (and perhaps his wife) to shop, be fashionable and spend in grooming to be well polished.

So what typically does metrosexual man do? They walk fashionably in the latest collections of designers wear, the latest collections of shoes, watches, ties or even designer jeans and t shirts. Metrosexual man grooms themselves well and regularly with facial and spa, manicure and pedicure, hair treatments as well as a gym members keeping themselves lean and maintaining the model physiques.

Vanity works similar between man and women of the new millennium irregardess of age. My buddy Abu is 51 years old and is as metro as those in their 20s. Whilst many men are more conscious about their wear, look and care, there are still many men whom still hesitate to groom themselves in fear of being associated with fag. The truth is, every men wants to groom themselves but doesn’t know where to go. Most ladies (definitely mine) prefers their man to groom with most had to nag to their man endlessly but there are some ladies that refuse to allow or accept their man turning metro probably in fear of losing their man to a younger girls...

So for a start, for a trendy and fashionable designer clothing, try the Louis Vuitton sports, Polo Ralph Lauren, Zegna and Hugo Boss. A good facial care for man definitely the Valmont and there is no better place for a good manicure and pedicure than the Nails retreat. Watches are very much personal to the person but the In now is the big watches like Panerai and Audimars Piguet. Diamond ring too is a default accessory for man.

So guys, since we are the family’s breadwinner, we have to work double hard to ensure we have enough to spend over and above the spouse’s needs.

Local or Foreign labour?

The number of foreign worker in Malaysia now is alarming with many foreign workers with an expired visa and permit continued to stay and work illegally in Malaysia. I will not bore you with all the statistics but it’s a fact. I was even offered by many agents to take illegal maids and illegal foreign worker for my company without having to pay for permits, levy or insurance etc…

The truth is, there is a lot of demand for either legal or even illegal foreign workers and many employers could not care less about the legality of the foreign worker as long as they are hard working which is subjective but if they are not, they can easily be disposed of as there was no money paid for permits, air fare, levy etc.

It is arguable that foreign workers are cheaper and more discipline and hard working. Having interviewed more than 1,000 potential local fresh candidates (from school and colleges) for recruitment and shortlisted more than half of the candidates to finally recruited 200 of them on the first intake, there is less than 10 employee that can really performs the job description that was required. Thus, intensive training was provided for most freshies or those with no experience (fresh graduate) only to have them leave the soonest they get other job offering an extra RM50 per month from their current employment. The cycle continues and we end up having to re-train more freshies and they keep leaving for an extra RM50 salary p/mth or when pressured or when given extra responsibility. The next best option is to take those with relevant experience that requires less training. We then advertised daily since January this year and managed to recruit less than 5 employees of the total 200 that is required.

Illegal immigrant or illegal foreign worker is a big NO. I will not risk any unnecessary problems with the authority. No matter how easy and cheap illegal foreign worker is and how easy it is to dispose them if they don’t perform, the risk of being caught will jeopardise the company.

Foreign workers on the other hand, travelled to our country to make a living. What our locals deemed as low pay (and leave the soonest they get RM50 extra offer) are a good remuneration to foreign workers. Foreign workers from Myanmar and Thailand as an example, can even converse in Malay language in the shortest period to quickly adapt and make a living. Most foreign workers even work extra hours without being asked and works harder to have their contract renewed. The contract they signed will ensure their commitment for at least the duration of the contract which will be worth the training that we will be investing in.

These are both extreme scenarios as I am sure they are many employers with bad experience employing foreign workers and there are also many employers with good experience employing local labour but in the absent of quality local employees, the next option is to recruit foreign workers.

Being patriotic, I would like to maintain 100% Malaysian workforce but with at least 200 employees urgently required, do i have to resort to employing foreign worker?

The Mosque and other religion...

When I first arrived in the United Kingdom in 1990 I was so excited to see all the tourist attractions available. Amongst the many tourist attractions that I visited were the many churches and cathedrals. I was treated with respect whilst the churches and cathedrals officials explain its history. My visits were merely appreciating the architectural designs and history whilst respecting and understanding other races and religions. The place was packed with people of various races and religions. I received similar treatment when i visited buddhist temples in Thailand.

I visited various mosques too around the world and was as impressed of the architectural design as well the multi races of muslims that prayed at various mosques but there were less people of other religion who visited the mosques.

I graduated from a University that won the Queens award for biggest foreign students from various countries, the University of Buckingham. When I returned to Malaysia I had many friends from various other countries (whom graduated from the same university) who came to visit me in Malaysia and as always, being proud of Malaysian, I brought them to our Mosques (even though they are not muslims) as our Mosque too have an impressive architectural designs but was not amused when my friends were not allowed to enter the mosque for wearing dress and some with shorts. We were there during late morning and a few hours before Zohor or noon prayer. Since they could not enter, I asked the Mosque officials to give some history of Islam, the Islamic symbols and also the meaning behind the beautiful architectural design but to my disappointment, none knew anything at all. We left with no stories or history to tell except for how beautiful the mosque is.

When I brought them to a few churches, temples in Malaysia, we were sincerely welcomed and brought around to see the interior and was briefed the whole history and background information of the place, its origins and the population of those that prayed there.

Whilst I am proud to be a Muslim and is a strong believer in my religion having also performed my Haj but I believe something is not right in the way we restrict other people (non-muslims) from understanding our religion and culture. Islam is a beautiful religion but had been misunderstood by many. Islam is not just a religion. It is also a belief and way of living which we are not portraying in our daily life by being sensitive and angered by stupid remark from non-muslims. If our belief is strong and we belief in our god and religion, then we should not be easily affected by remarks made by others as we know what is right and what our religion says but if cannot even attend (without the sharp stare of the muslims) to non-muslim visitors (at our mosque) and wait for them to make the wrong move to chase them away than how do we want to preach our religion and make non-mulsims understand the mis-understood or portray how strong is our belief.

Our mosques are only used for praying (and some for learning to read the quran) whilst the churches or temple even provide medical care such as haemodialysis, free house maintenance care and even free food as well as other charitable event such as blood donation to all races irrespective of their religions.

Our religious departments should educate their officials (instead of their fanatical idealism that is scaring even the muslims away), and make use our of mosques for the benefits of the community rather than just for the muslim. This is a better way to open our religion to be understood in a multi-religion community and especially in preaching our good Quran.

Xtreme Heaven

One of the best pleasure after a good run is a well deserving good body massage or a reflexology. I did a good 10km run this morning at my regular training venue, Kiara Hill and i believed i deserve a good massage.

The golden question to ask is the location of the best place for a massage? My regular massage centre is either at Just Relax @ damansara perdana, Touches De Siam @ the Centrepoint, Bandar Utama or the Sanwa massage @ desa Sri hartamas (next to Soul'ed out).

The Just Relax is really relaxing and the masseur are from indonesia. Touches de Siam masseur are all from Thailand and Sanwa Massage are from china. At all the 3 centres, all guests are required to change and wear a pyjamas type clothing that they provides, so for the shy people (like me..) you dont have to go naked when being massage.

The masseur @ Touches De Siam and Sanwa Massage can neither speak English nor Malay... So i have to use the sign language. For a body massage, i prefers the Touches De Siam but will die for a reflexology @ Sanwa. I have not tried the body massage at Sanwa but i can sleep well while being pampered with relaxing massage at the Just Relax...

So depending on your preference, you should check each of the centre and judge for yourself. The telephone number of Just relax @ Damansara Perdana is 0123710829 (speak to Theresa) and Touches de Siam @ Bandar Utama Centrepoint 0377107866. i lost the number for Sanwa massage but if you are familiar with Souled Out @ desa sri hartamas, it is along the same building.

What does it take to run..?

When most of my friends heard that I took up running, some were very surprised (Armin Baniaz running??!!!), some never believed but those that were indifferent, will tell me how much they admire the fact that I am so fit to run (yaya.. this being polite thingy does not work here…). Really and honestly, I am not fit nor was I ever an athlete. Infact, I have never played any sports, exercise and never thought of running. As many would know, half my teenage life … was spend in hospitals and all my working life.. in meetings and office! Of all the people… if I can run marathon.. anybody can run.. yes, if they wanted to.

A good friend of mine, who is also my IT advisor, Sayf, once told me that he runs after women.. and runs after money… and definitely runs away from problems.. but will never run for nothing.. ie marathon.

I woke up late this morning and could not go to my usual running place at the Kiara Hills (next to Taman Tun Dr Ismail) so I ran surrounding my neighbourhood at Penchala where I stayed. I planned a slow jog to sweat, considering I did not have enough sleep last night reading and Raja Petra till morning. My slow jog did not start well when I did an almost at 100% max Heart Rate intensive running being chased by 6 stray dogs. There were only a puppy and its mother at the corner 10 minutes away from my house. I jog slowly minding my own business. I have never been a great fan of dogs and choose to ignore them until the tiniest puppy start barking endlessly. Suddenly, the whole family of stray dogs, 6 of them, appeared out of nowhere and started barking. I did not want to wait till the whole bunch chased me and immediately pace-up my jog speed to sprinting mode. The stupid dogs chased me! Obviously the dogs ran faster than me and my heart pumped like a V12 turbo engine. I ran for at least 8 minutes with the dogs continued to chase me. I think they were really laughing rather than barking having fun looking at me freaking out. When they were tired chasing me (hah.. looks like I have better stamina after all..), they stopped and turned back. Dogs…..

Getting a good running track to train is difficult. I used to run from my old house in Kelana Jaya all the way to work at Damansara Perdana. I started my run daily at 6:30am along the roadside in SS3 to SS2 and across Damansara Jaya before having to take the LDP highway to the Curve. The distance is slightly more than 10km. My driver will wait for me at the Fitness First gym @ the Curve with my working attire where I would shower and change to be at work by 9am. This works well although my bro Simon (Singapore) called me stupid having to run to work whilst my driver enjoy the luxury car but I had fun until I moved house to Penchala. My new house in Penchala is only 5 minutes away from my office and running to my office is too short a distant. Kiara Hill became my training track. Kiara Hill is a tough running track given the hilly terrain but the track in the jungle makes it a perfect place for a peaceful jog. Peace with the morning breeze, trees, birds and away from the pollution but hey… Monkeys are the permanent residents there. Goodness, similar to the stray dogs, they seem harmless but yes, once I got chased by the monkeys too.

Having to wake up in the morning daily at least at 6am to start running before going for work is another story. What is more important than the actual training, exercise schedule or discipline, commitment and time to run is to have the right spirit and willpower. When you have the right spirit, being chased by dogs and monkeys became a routine way to make your run faster. With strong willpower, you will find the time to run and to withstand the rain, hot sun and the hectic work schedule. When you can self aspire yourself to be in the right spirit and build a strong willpower, then you will find any training schedule to be helpful. The commitment and discipline is a default result from the spirit and willpower to run but HOW to get the right spirit and willpower? For a start, running increases cardiovascular strength. If anybody should have a reason to run.. it should be for better health (once you lost it, then you will regret it) but if it is not good enough a reason, then running is the best way to burn fat and lost weight… hence beauty!

If good look and health cannot be a good justification, then equate running with sex.. if you can complete marathon in 5-6 hours.. imagine how many hours you can have sex!!

But if even sex cannot justify for you to start running…. Then you will be better off NOT living!!!! :-p

My first Triathlon.. Ironman!

It was after the New Year 2006 celebration that my crazy thought went wild to make this year a different. Yes… we all have a new year resolution.. in fact there are so many new years to have many resolutions.. thanks to our multi culture harmony… 1st January.. Chinese new year, muslim new year etc….

So a new year resolution is really nothing new unless we really make it happen... i mean the resolution.. no the new year party! I wanted to make 2006 a year to remember.. I decided to partake the IRONMAN TRIATHLON… 3.8km swim, 180km cycle, 42km run…. Complete madness especially since I did not know how to swim and only had 5 weeks to train.

I was more confident (or naïve rather) to hear the inspiring word from Halim Jantan whom mentioned to me that nobody can be ready for the Ironman triathlon. You just have to jump and do it!! yes… 5 weeks later... I jumped!!

But before I jumped, I was very religious with my training. I am trying to train for an event in 5 weeks that other participants otherwise trained for a year. I started my swim training at the Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club swimming pool. The first day was daunting. I struggled and probably even bleed to complete 1 lap of 25 metre. I was already breathless half way through. All that I can think of whilst swimming at the club pool was the scary deep sea water. In three weeks, I was doing 100 to 120 laps at the club’s 25 metre per lap pool. I swim in the morning and run in the evening. I can only cycle during weekends but will do the RPM and studio cycle class at the gym.

My intensive training got me sick 10 days before the ironman event. I was off-training for a week and could not peaked up my training before the real day. I have never swim in an open sea water. I sat by the shore on the eve of the event to see the red buoy that marks the 3.8 swim route. My heart sank when I cannot even see the end of the buoy. It was so far.

This is also my FIRST triathlon. I have only done the Malakoff Malaysia dualthon series 10km run, 60km cycle and 8 km run but I have never done any triathlon.

I jumped into the water a few minutes before the gun went off signalling the start of the Ironman triathlon 2006. It was not difficult to recognise me amongst the hundreds of other participants as I was the only swimmer swimming breast stroke.. (hihii but that was the only stroke i knew...) The swim did not start well when I was kicked by front swimmers a couple of time. However, I continued to swim to be kicked again and again. Half way through the course, I was gulped by an aggressive tide which I was caused by the rescue boat engine. Though the boat was far but it created a big wave in the water. I stopped to see the nearest rescue boat in fear of drowning and realized that there were none. All the boats were quite a distance away. There was no turning back and there was no way anybody could spot me if I drowned. I quickly comfort myself and slowly swim ignoring the other swimmers and the rescue boat.

I completed the swim in 2 hours 16 minutes. 4 minutes before the the cut-off time and I was NOT the last…. I was the 2nd last!!!!

My knee was weak and almost tumbled as I walked to the changing room to change into my cycling gear. I was happy that the worse part was over though my energy was all drained out. I took my Proton T’sprint bicycle and immediately began the cycle. I was privilege to have both the police and ambulance escort behind me. This privilege was only accorded to the First participant and the last... i was obviously the latter. I completed 126km cycle and dropped off when I simply do not have any energy left to even speak. I was driven by the ambulance and brought to the medic centre and was given some transfusion.

Though I did not complete the race in 2006, it became my new year resolution for 2007 and this year 2008. I could not participate in the ironman 2007 but I registered for the Ironman 2008 in Langkawi but I chickened-out though I did go to Langkawi. Nonetheless, my sparing partner Jasmin, had an unfortunate accident and had to back-out form this year’s langkawi ironman too.. since we both promise to jumped in (the ironman) together… I did not feel right to do the ironman without her.. (ya ya ya….). I was disturbed by the death of the triathlete at the Port Dickson triathlon last year. I wanted to be more confident in my swim and quickly enrolled for the Nagasaki, Osaka Ironman in June 2008 this year. Abu and Nawal were my other sparing partners also agreed to participate with me.

We bought MAS airline ticket to Tokyo as that is the only destination that MAS flew to Japan and trained for the Osaka Ironman without knowing the logistics in Japan. After buying the MAS airline ticket and registered for the Osaka Ironman, we discover that we had to change flight 3 times in Japan before we can arrive at the ironman event @ Fukue island. I should have known my limit geography knowledge having failed my last Geography exam in high school. It is logistically not feasible to travel and change flight 3 times with three of our bicycles and belongings. We abandon the race and lost our flight fare, hotels, registration fees.

We were too eager and too excited to complete the toughest race on earth. But I still have 6 months before the end of 2008 to materialize my 3 consecutive new years resolution to complete the ironman race.
I am thinking of the Ironman Western Australia in December this year.........

Armin, cigarette and cancer...

Why do I smoke? Having survived terminal cancer and being given second lease of life, I should really stopped smoking. It pisses my sister Rose Emini the most. Emi donated her bone marrow when I underwent the Bone Marrow Transplant for Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia more than a decade ago. My dad will say it is all in the mind reminding me that I can do whatever I want to do.. if I want to!

Moreover the fact that I now run marathons and participated in various dualthon and triathlon series, I have all the reasons to stop smoking. My parent, siblings and friends had retired in their many attempts to ask me to quit smoking.

Why I did not stop smoking? When I was an undergraduate at the University of Buckingham, I took an optional dissertation Health Economics paper to research and study Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALYs) of a terminal cancer patient. QALYs is usually used as a measure to calculate the utility gained (quality of life in years) against cost (of treatment). In my case the quality of life that I would have gained, against the cost of the Bone marrow transplant,

I was keen to understand the quality of life that I will have in QALY measurement. In short, given the age of diagnosis, the age I underwent the bone marrow transplant, the year I had the relapse, the post-bone marrow transplant (after relapse) treatment and assuming similar technology and lifestyle, I will have a good quality of life until the age of 45 years old.

My quality of life as a smoker, given the number of year I have been smoking, the amount of cigarette i smoke and lifestyle, will began to deteriorate after the age of 56 years old. Meaning, given my past medical history, my life will end before the cigarette takes effect on my quality of life.

Yaa.. lame excuse but it is a logic :-) Nonetheless, I can participate in various dualthon and triathlon series and can run the full 42km marathon as well as ultra marathon which many non-smokers cannot do. BUT really unless you have had terminal cancer, you should really stop smoking… :-D ;-)

Bernama News TV Interview

On Monday morning, I received a call from Laili Rahman, Broadcast journalist from Bernama News TV for an interview on my capacity as the Deputy President of the Proton Edar Dealers Association Malaysia to be aired this Saturday 21 June 2008 on Bernama News TV channel 502 Astro. I was asked to comment on the possible effect on Proton car sales due to the increase in petrol price. The interview was set on Tuesday and we had the interview yesterday but I am sure some of what was said will be censored.

The morning did not start too well with lots of screaming on my end when my Fasfik sales performance did not meet my half month target. I sat with all my Head of Departments and brainstormed on various measures to overcome the shortfall in our sales performance. I only had 30 minutes before the scheduled interview with Bernama and in temperament quickly conclude the brainstorming discussion when Laily arrived. I greeted the charming reporter and began our conversation with what other industry feels with all the price increase. Almost all industry extended a very negative view. The followings are the excerpts from the interview.

Laily Rahman: How do you see the sales performance of Proton's car after the announcement of new fuel prices?

Armin Baniaz: The fuel price increase will not have a major direct impact on Proton car sales as Proton is a people’s car. The bulk of Proton model variances ranges from 1.1, 1.3 to 1.6 cylinder capacity and are economical to use. The petrol price increase may instead improve the sales of Proton cars when the public then realise it is more economical to use Proton cars. For example, Proton Savvy was recorded in the Malaysia Book of Record for the best fuel consumption with 24km per litre.

Laily Rahman: You mentioned that it will not have a direct impact, is there an indirect impact?

Armin Baniaz: Yes indeed. The fuel price increase may affect the existing hire purchase loan repayment due to having less disposable income. The majority of proton customers are from the middle to lower income group and they usually (before the petrol price increase) do not have any extra disposable income. With the increase in the petrol price as well as the price of other essential commodities such as price of chicken, electric bills etc, they may realise then realise that they cannot afford to repay the car monthly repayment. This will increase the Bank’s Non-Performing Loan (NPL) and Banks may be more stringent with hire purchase loan approval that will eventually affect the sales of Proton cars.

With the increased in price of fuel, and the price of some essential expenditures such as electricity, water, even chicken etc.., the lower income earner that comprised of a large majority of the population who also purchased a car under hire-purchase loan usually can only meets end without any further savings or other disposable income. Any increase in essential expenditures, will be the opportunity cost to their current expenditure such as the monthly car repayment.

Laily Rahman: Will the petrol price increase effect the operation of Proton Dealers too?

Armin Baniaz: It should affect both Proton as well as the dealers, the cost of operation will be increased (especially the movement and the logistics of our stocks are cars). Currently, although Proton sales have picked up, but the dealers network is still far from profitable (due to the over-congestion of the dealers appointment). Proton dealers cost of operation is much lower than that of Proton’s own-branch. I can safely assume the dealer’s cost of operation is only approximately 30% of the Proton own-branches. Proton’s own-branches in the aggregate are selling less than double what the dealers are selling, hence there is no way Proton’s own branch are making profit (given the same profit margin as the dealers). It makes more sense for Proton to close some of their branches (rather than subsidising the lost incurred by their own branch) and convert their Platinum branches into a WARRANTY AND AFTER SALES CENTRE to further enhance and signal better confident in their cars to the customer.

For proton to cost-down operation and close their branches. All resources should be channel towards enforcing the neglected Proton IP rights and moulding every dealers towards similar goal without any biaseness to their own branch. The Dealers invested their money and is more sales, customer and profit oriented (being business owner). Nonetheless, the cost of maintaining the sales network will then be borne by the dealers.

Since the inception of Proton back in the 1980s, dealers margin were kept low to ensure long term survivability. However, the Government then under Tun Dr Mahathir, requested other sectors to assist the national carmaker but extending (similar to the developed nation) a ‘Hire-Purchase commission’. Hire purchase commission is a payment to proton dealers for marketing the packages offered by Banks and financial institutions. The hire-purchase commission accounted to 2/3 of our total margin. Profit margin per car was only 1/3. This Hire-Purchase Commission that was first extended ONLY to Proton dealers were open to all car dealers of other makes in the early 1990s and that was when I believe the benefits were abused. In the early 2000, the Central Bank revoked the hire purchase commission but later regulate and impose a ceiling. Proton dealers profit margin per car was never revised (when the hire purchase commission was revoke) though it was earlier kept low with the support of the hire-purchase commission. Todate, there were negligible revision of our profit margin though our rental has increased more than 60% since we commence operation and had spend almost RM1million in total for three times compliance to Proton Corporate Image since 1996.

With the increase in the operating cost such as Petrol, electricity etc… the dealers will incur more losses. All the increase in the operating cost are absorbed by the dealers.

Laily Rahman: Have PEDA written to the Authorities since this is of national interest?

Armin Baniaz: Yes we have. We have written twice to the Governor Bank Negara for the hire purchase commission with a detailed independant study by Ernst & Young benchmarking the dealer's responsibilties pertaining our roles as the agent to the bank and our remuneratoin (hire-purchase comminssion). The Benchmarking was done against developed and neighbouring countries like Singapore, Thailand, United Kingdom, Australia and japan. We have also written to the Prime Minister?

Laily Rahman: What was their response?

Armin Baniaz: there were no response whatsoever from either the Central Bank Negara Governor (or its officials) or the Prime Minister (or its office) and we will write again soon.

Laily Rahman: Do you have any forecast for the next 6 months.

Armin Baniaz: I do not have the overall forecast. Proton would be in a better position to forecast. However, currently most of the model variances are on waiting list!
But overall we expect a total of a minimum 13,000 deliveries per month or an equivalent to approximately 30 cars per dealer that is still not our break-even sales.

Laily Rahman: Do you have any suggestions to ensure sales remain good?

Yes, since automotive is neither the buyers market nor a sellers market but instead BANKER’S LED market, the government (ministry of finance/ bank Negara) should stimulate the automotive sector by allowing the public to restructure their hire purchase refinancing to ensure that the public disposable income that is now affected by the petrol price increase (as well as all other essential expenditure price increase) can afford to pay the monthly repayment. When the public can afford to pay the monthly payment for their cars (given the increase in price for essential expenditure), the bank’s NPL will be reduced and Proton customer risk profile will be adjusted.

PEDA understand that Proton’s customer were categorised as high risk due to fraud loan, big loan default rate or high NPL. But the major cause of the loan default rate, as well as the NPL was the syndication by unscrupulous brokers and sales man. There were previously no measures or supervision of the sales personnel appoinments. PEDA together with Proton had taken the necessary (via centralised registration of all salesman) step to eradicate this practice but if we want to wait for proton customer risk profile to be re-adjusted by the market then we will have to wait for another year or even a few years.


Having taken the necessary step to register all salesman in the network, the bank can rest assure fraud, default rate and NPL rate will be drastically reduced if not eradicated.
If the bank can adjust the customer risk profile now, than our sales can increased by at least 30% (via reducing the current 60% rejection rate due to customers with high risk profile and affordability if loan period is extended)

When PEDA did the ‘gulur tikar’ statement last year or two, our predicament was on the same basis. Yes the uncertainty pertaining to the foreign partner (eg Volkswagen) affected our sales because the pubic were waiting for the newer model line-up expected from the joint venture. BUT the main caused of the decline in sales were due to the Bank’s stringency (Customer RISK PROFILE) and the bank’s valuation of the second hand car in anticipation of the new ‘foreign model’.
SECONDLY, because of historical syndicate to falsify customers documents and the HIGH NPL, Proton customer’s risk profile are higher than other model makes. This will happen again NOW when customer simply cannot afford to pay their hire-purchase loan repayment due to less disposable income as a result from most essential expenditure price increase.

Laili Rahman: Have you heard any complaints/comments from customers regarding new fuel prices? What do you do to explain to them.

Armin Baniza: yes everyday… though the price increase is inevitable and beyond our control (as a citizen), we can mitigate the price increase through changing our driving behaviour, proper car maintenance as this will promote better fuel saving as well as restructuring our finances. For example, refinancing the car or change car to a more fuel saving car.. such as Proton Savvy// 24km per litre- recorded in the Malaysia Book of record. This is important as not only the fuel price is increased but everything from electric, water, chicken etc…. a short term measure is to ensure we can maintain our monthly disposable income.

Laili Rahman: Thank you Armin.


I frequently drive to Singapore for sports, shopping, business and entertainment. The latest being the recent Adidas Sundown Ultra Marathon on 31st May 2008.

The driving condition from Kuala Lumpur to Johor was good and so was my stay in Singapore but our authorities namely the custom. Immigration, the police and the traffic control at the Johor-Singapore causeway was disappointing and this is what I wanted to share.

My passport as well as the passports of 4 other passengers in my car were never cited nor checked or endorsed at the Johor immigration checkpoint. The condition and state of our custom and immigration checkpoint were embarrassing with litters everywhere and all rundown. There were no soldiers or police (or tourist police) or any custom officers standing on standby by the roadside during this peak’est hour. There was no traffic control. Most Singaporean cars were driven at our checkpoint by hooligans. All Singaporean registered cars were overtaking and bypassing all other cars but keep honking and screaming when other Malaysian cars overtook their queue. One of the Singapore registered car almost bang my car when I refused to allow them to overtake my queue.

I drove slowly along the heavy traffic on the causeway for an hour to reach the Singapore custom and immigration checkpoint. There was armed Singaporean police standing at every corner and everywhere along the roadside. All vehicles were thoroughly checked and inspected and all passports were properly cited against individual passengers causing slower traffic flow.

Every time I reached the Singaporean checkpoint, I was always amazed at the beauty, cleanliness and how systematic Singaporean authorities are. The Singaporean custom and immigration building are well kept and modern. The trees were so green and the landscape is well maintained. I immediately felt that I am overseas although Singapore is only 30 minutes drive away from Malaysia.

I was more amazed when I drove on Singapore highway to see all bus and lorry drivers driving politely on the first lane of the highway without any driver bypassing the speed limit or overtaking each other. All other cars were politely driven within the speed limit. There was no existence of the hooligan-behaviour of Singaporean driver on Malaysian road…

When I returned to Malaysia, I was again ashamed at the impression of the state and condition of our Custom & Immigration checkpoint. Johor Bharu is the tourist’s first impression of Malaysia and our authorities (Police, custom & immigration etc…) professionalism & presence must be increased and upgraded. Our buildings and checkpoints should at least be clean, well kept and maintained (if the government do not have any money to upgrade). I strongly support the construction of the scenic bridge as that, amongst other reasons will give a strong impression of Malaysia.

True Fitness VS Fitness First gym...

Whilst waiting for the Incredible Hulk movie at the Cineplex yesterday, I met Jasper. Jasper was one of the Personal Trainer at the True Fitness gym. He is now a Personal Trainer at the Fitness First. He adamantly insisted that the Fitness First has a better package for instructors than the True Fitness gym. Many of my Personal trainer friends that i befriend when i was a Fitness First gym member for 6 years left for Fitness first for the TrueFitness gym (and adamantly claimed the opposite of Jasper)… hence, it is always greener on the other side.

I have tried many 7-days free trials at the California gym (Mid Valley Mega Mall), Celebrity Fitness (One Utama Shopping Mall) and Clark Hatch and is a gym club member for more than 11 years at 3 of the ost established gym in Kuala Lumpur namely Fitness First, True Fitness and Fitness Network.

What is important to a club member (to be consistent with their workout) is the convenient for parking and the location to the work place as well as the resident… then of course the quality and varieties of the equipments. BUT what is more important to me as a club member are the maintenance of the gym toilet as well as the equipments and the opening hours.

I was quite content with the Fitness First gym BUT am VERY PISSED OFF with their loyal customer policy programme. There was no customer retention programme and certainly no package for loyal customer. Being a pioneer member (310th member- membership number ending with ..00310) when Fitness First was first open in 2001 @ Menara John Hancock, I inquired if there was any package for loyal customer like me to be answered with a big NO. Since I joined the Fitness first, I have brought more than 100 friends between the year 2001 to 2007 (the year I terminated my membership).

The monthly fees for Fitness First gym is RM170 per month or approximately RM2,040 per annum. Being a Fitness first club member since 2001, todate I would have paid a total of RM28,560 for me and Nawal and what do I get for being a loyal member to Fitness First…. NOTHING. I paid ONLY 1/3 of the total amount spent at Fitness First gym to the TRUE FITNESS GYM VIP black card membership and got a membership for life (with a negligible yearly payment after the 5th year).

So friends.. please choose your gym carefully as gym club membership is a lifetime investment for a good health. When I have some extra time, I will write and do a thorough comparison of all the establish gym terms and conditions of membership. Until then, stay tune…

running for life.....

How did I start running? I get this question asked once too many. Of all the person, nobody actually believed that I run marathons and everybody think that I am mad to even attempt the 84km Ultra marathon. Many friends refused to believe that I run marathons since I never played sports or exercise and moreover because I am a passive smokers (smoking is a topic for another posting).

I started running a few years back when I celebrated my 30th birthday… Oh god.. did I just tell you my age… hihii.. but really, age does not matter, it is how we look that matters most. Of course you have to also feel younger at heart. My best friend Abu lais is 51 years old this year but nobody really believed his real age. Most will think that he is in his late 30s.. yaaa.. just kill me… oh god.. did I just mention Abu’s real age… ? Abu’s secret for looking and feeling young… exercise regularly and never stop exercising…

I was upset and was very depress when I celebrated my 30th birthday. I was fat with a waistline of 36 and weigh 80kg. Well, I was happy that I actually reached 30 years of age considering that I was only given 3 years to live because of leukaemia but being too ambitious I expected more before I turn 30. But the recovery from the 1998 recession held me back a few years away from my plan.

I first became a gym member at the Fitness network in 1997 (membership number B0888) until the first Fitness First branch open at the Menara John Hancock in 2001 (last three digit of the membership no...310). I was a Fitness first gym club member until 2007 when I changed my gym again to the Truefitness gym VIP Black Card member at Desa Sri Haratamas. Yes.. I have been a gym club member for the longest of time but not really a gym-goer. I changed gym so frequent because I get bored easily. But everytime I changed my gym, I end up getting bored again.. and the cycle continues.

Going to gym as a routine can be really boring.. yaa… evidently from the past 3 gym club membership. Changing gym does not change the boredom or laziness (from the gym routine). It is only running away from personal boredom (or problems) similar to many people who goes job-hopping and those who changes girlfriend and wives (out of boredom or problems). Change in environment is a quick escape from a real livelihood boredom. What I needed to do (or anybody for this matter) was to face the problem. The problem was I never had the real aspiration to go to the gym. I just wanted to be healthy but that was not enough an aspiration. Before I turn 30, I discovered that Abu had climbed the highest peak in South East Asia, the Mt Kinabalu and had agree to climb again to keep me company.

An expedition that initially comprised of only me, Nawal, Abu and Nita ended up with 100 people. I had to limit the expedition to a maximum 100 pax as it had received an overwhelming response. When I was training and planning for the Mt Kinabalu trip, I was so discipline with going to gym as well as other outdoor training. We climbed up Mt Buah in Genting, Mt Nuang, Maxwell hill (Ipoh), Mt Jerai (Kedah), and a few other day trip mountains. I refused to attempt climbing mountains that requires overnight camping… I can’t shit without toilet..

All my mountain expedition ended when I successfully reached the peak of Mt Kinabalu. As my expedition ended, my daily gym routine became boring and dull again than soon became non-existence. My waistline and weight immediately grew. I needed a target to continue making my gym visits more inspiring.

This was when I think of the unthinkable.. to run. Well, running was unthinkable because I never took up sports in my whole life having spent half my teens at the hospital or solitary confinement of my room because of leukaemia which I later turned into a boring workaholic and spend all my time at the office. I enrolled and started training for the PJ half marathon… well not really half marathon. The shortest distance was the 10km. I learn to use the treadmill at the gym and ran my first training for 20mins… 2 km!!! and that was hell….. I have to stop a few times to avoid my heart pumping out of my mouth.. my heart beats so fast it sounded like a disco bass sound. I trained hard every day with only 1 day rest in a week for 1 whole month and ran my first race expecting to be the last to complete and reach the finishing line… It turned out there were still thousands of runners behind me. 1 took approximately 1 hour and 30 mins to complete my first 10km run. I never run to win any prizes nor do I run to compete with anybody, I run to finish the race without giving up.

Ever since that day and for the last 4 years, I have participated in many 10km runs, 21km runs and had completed 3 full 42km marathon. To keep my fitness at the peak, I became very religious with training and gym.

Boredom and routine gym visits can be easily managed if we have a goal. My running goal now is to run the famous Boston Marathon. But before I get bored with running, I took up dualthon and participated in the Powerman ualthon as well as triathlon. The dualthon is a run, cycle and run event with a distance of 10km run, 40km cycle and 10km run. I attempted the Ironman Triathlon in Langkawi in 2006. The Ironman was tough starting with a 3.8km open water swim, 180km cycle and 42km run. The dualthon and triathlon is a story for another posting.

I am now addicted to running and simply cannot describe the ‘runner’s high’ (when your heart beats so fast and your body lacked the oxygen) that I get every time I run passed 10km. I am more addicted to the sense of achievement every time I cross the finishing line during any marathon. For a man who only had 3 years to live, the feeling from conquering the peak of Mt Kinabalu (the highest peak in south east asia) and the achievement to complete a 42km marathon is simply a multiple orgasm.

If only anybody can understand and feel the same indescribable sense of achievement from completing a race, I believe, we will all live in a very healthy society. Now my waistline has been reduced to 29” to 30” and I only weigh 66kg.

Syed Zainal Contract as PROTON MD should be renew or terminated...?

The main question we should ask, before getting all emotional in speculating the renewal of Dato Syed Zainal contract as the Managing Director of Proton, is what he did or is doing during his tenure that will expire end of this year?
To answer this question, we have to ask another question, what did he inherite when he accepted the post as the Managing Director of Proton.

I will avoid making statements that is not relevant to me as Proton Edar dealers and as the Deputy President of Proton Edar Dealers Association Malaysia.

I am of the opinion (personal opinion) as a dealer (since 11 years ago) long before Syed Zainal's appointment as the MD of proton, that the MD of Proton's main responsibility (in the eye of the sales dealer & the public since we are the front line interacting daily with the public) is to ensure prompt deliveries of Proton cars to the dealer and hence the customer. Secondly, the quality of cars that is delivered and finally, the profitability of the dealer's network.

Before Syed Zainal's tenure, Proton's ex-stock level was so high that even if Proton factory ceased to operate (without producing new cars), there will be a healthy flow of cars for at least 4 months. NOW, ex-stocks were liquidated and almost ALL Proton variance are on waiting list.

Before Syed Zainal's tenure, there were approximately 400 Proton Edar branches and authorised sales dealers network in Malaysia selling in total approximately 140,000 cars per annum. NOW, it has been rationalize to approximately 300 branches and authorised sales dealers. Of course, i am still angered and still pursuing meeting the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Cabinet Minister, the government backbenchers and if need to, even meet the opposition political party for Proton to CLOSE their own branches (from selling Proton cars) and mould and groom their dealers who are pure entrepreneur to perform (hence, even a Ministry of Entrepreneur existed ONLY in Malaysia for the same reason) and in line with the second Industrial Masterplan for entrepreneur development. Why should the tax-payer pay to sustain lose-making Proton own branches for their Corporate Image sake. Proton Edar sales dealers, even without any customer relation training or salesman training, can take better care of the customer as it is their own business. (see my earlier blog-posting).

Before Syed Zainal's tenure, Proton manufacturer's warranty was only for 1 year or 2 years for some models. NOW, Proton manufacturing warranty is extended to a total of 5 years signalling confident of proton management on their own products.

Before Syed Zainal's tenure, customer will have to wait for a warranty claim and the onus to claim warranty falls on the customer. hence, customer has to ensure and prove that their car was properly serviced at proton authorised workshop etc etc.... NOW, Proton even have a "Proton iCare" department to handle and attend to any customer's complains from warranty claim to grouses of proton customer stuck in traffic jam.

Before Syed Zainal's tenure, there were no sales man tagging or registration hence inviting unscrupulous appointment of sales man that led to many syndicated or falsification of customer documents that eventually place proton customer profile at a higher risk than other brand cars. NOW, all sales man must be registered centralise and any irresponsible act of any salesman, will lead to the blacklisting of the respective sales man in the Proton Network.

Before Syed Zainal's appointment, Proton never seek dealers feedback or opinions on the launching of new proton cars when the last end of Proton value chain is actually the dealers. Certainly, Proton dealers who interacts daily with the public have some important comments to relay. NOW, dealers' feedback and comment are taken seriously and dealers are invited to participate in most discussions pertaining to the development and the launching of new model variance.

Before Syed Zainal's appoinment, khazanah, Proton Board of Directors all wanting to sell proton to a foreigner or the much speculated Volkswagen. As a Malaysian as well as a proton dealer, i am very proud to sell Proton cars and not a stupid re-badge Mitsubishi or re-badging of daihatsu into Perodua or Kia into NAZA. Indeed, Proton Waja, Gen 2, Savvy, persona, the new SAGA, soon to be launched MPV are all MALAYSIA PRODUCT. There is no pride in assembling cars and rebadge them to call it a Malaysian car. we are now in the new millenium, re-badging stories in the early 1980s... If we still looking at rebadging cars, then we will not move forward. I never agree with Volkswagen or foreign company taking control of Proton. The truth is, Khazanah or Proton wanted Volkswagen for their under-utilised Tanjung Malim plant. Even if Volkswagen is localised, the price of VW cars will still be above RM100k, and that wont help dealers selling extra cars. Both Proton & Perodua makes up the biggest market share because of car price variance below RM40,000. So why should the dealers be bothered whether the VW deals materialise or not. It is only to make full use of Proton's investment in Tanjung Malim. The economies of scale from VW committed production of 350,000 cars per annum by may provide some economies of scale to the Proton production and make Proton more profitable but what the dealer want is a more value for money car and better quality. It makes more economic sense to mass produce all Proton cars (not the re-badge VW of foreign cars) and target exponential sales for export market (hence, what Syed Zainal is doing now!). Nonethelesss, Proton already have Lotus for technology. Proton factory is one of the most hitech factory available worldwide (but way underutilised) and Proton has the biggest sales network domestically (if properly rationalize, Proton network can be the strongest network!). What we actually need is QUALITY CARS and AFFORDABLE pricing!!! Proton Iswara.. a 20 years old car, was still defective in many aspect, 20 years after it was launched. NOW, PROTON REMAIN A MALAYSIAN COMPANY and proton quality has improved drastically. Even the smallest or the slightest problem as per the Proton Savvy Re-call was for nothing BUT to maintain Proton's quality! The new SAGA and Persona are both affordable and evident from the 40,000 bookings still pending deliveries for each model.

These are factors that is evident and what we see (from dealers' & customer perspective) as effort by Syed Zainal and his team. For those who knew me, they will know that i always argue, debate and never blindly supports (especially previously with TIFLI, Teo Aeng Kyet, Tan Ghee Chow, Dato Donald Choo and Dato Razak Dawood, and now with SIDIK) BUT i strongly believe in Syed Zainal and his team's passion, enthusiasm and humbleness in making sure that Proton stay and remain profitable.

So, my verdict as one of the longest serving dealer (since USPD days) and the Deputy President of Proton Edar Dealers Association Malaysia, is a MUST for Syed Zainal's contract to be RENEW & EXTENDED. Though i have to say that i am still in strong debate with him to close Proton Edar's own-branch!!!! Without the branch, Proton may impose any requirement to increase the dealer's requirement or any upgrading for corporate image but until then, please re-engineer proton own branch (as per my earlier blog), rationalize the dealer's network then dealer may consider further investment on Corporate Image. Now, with shortage of all model variance and an average sales of 30 cars per dealer per month (if lucky, otherwise an average of 20 cars per dealer), any upgrade of the showroom or corporate image will not increase the dealer's car sales. It is evident from previous CI upgrade. Honda dealers invested almost RM1million to Rm3million in their showroom and corporate image. BMW dealer spend more than RM30million in their 3S building (latest being Ingress showroom near Penchala) but they can do so, because with 80 car sales average per month, their return of investment (on the millions of ringgit spend) are attractive and lucrative. With the current overcongestion of Proton dealer's (in the market with an average car sales per dealer of 20-30 cars per month.... and with proton net profit of only a few hundred ringgit per car... hihii

Malaysia Politics

i was privileged to have a cup of coffee.. or cappuccino rather, with Emran, the Chief Operating Officer, Suria FM radio.

Our cappuccino chat was planned since last week but again.. due to scarcity of available time, we only manage to meet today. A plan for a quick cappuccino lasted for hours. We both share some common interest especially in marketing. how to draw, attract and capture the attention of the public mass. we chatted and discussed and chatted and agree for a tie-up... but that cant be discussed in this article pending the Press conference.. soon.

Amongst other topics that was discussed is the topic that is close to our heart as well as many Malaysians, the Malaysian Politics. It occur to me, every time i chatted about politics, that i am a direct by-product of the government policies.. yes we all are but i really felt the benefit of a good and a bad policy.

Without being subjective on what policies worked and what doesnt, i would like to relate to the government policies that directly affected me. For a start, i was sick... almost dead and requires a Bone marrow transplant immediately. I was lucky to have Emi, my sister as a donor... though initially, After testing all my siblings for a match, my younger sister Dr Ta and Amnan, my youngest brother was supposed to be the bone marrow donor but was found incompatible a month prior to the operation. Imagine my reaction when i was told that both Dr Ta and Amnan who were supposed to be a match turn out to be incompatible and i was in London without any donor. Thank god when the hospital did another test on all my siblings, they discover Emi, my youngest sister's bone marrow was compatible. (wait for the launch of my book for full detail).

Anyway, being sick, the total cost of the Bone marrow transplant was a few hundred thousand Malaysia Ringgit.. oh god! My dad being a civil servant simply cannot afford the exorbitant cost. But being a civil servant, and a good health policy, the government paid for my bone marrow transplant (thank you god). getting the initial approval for my transplant was another story (I cant wait to launch my book... ) My transplant was made possible because of certain policy in place.

Having successfully underwent the bone marrow transplant in London (Malaysia cannot perform the bone marrow transplant during that time), i studied and pass both my GCSE (Malaysian SPM equivalent) and A'levels the same year. i pursue my degree in Buckingham University, England under MARA scholarship and graduated when i was 20 years old.. the MARA scholarship or... well a convertible loan which was converted into a scholarship when i graduated with honours and a good result, was part of the Government NEP.

After my graduation, i worked for the Commerce International Merchant Bankers Berhad in the Corporate Finance department and gained the best insight into the Corporate sector and had the best exposure from Malaysia rapid growth, again thanks to the government far-sighted Vision 2020.

I left a comfortable banker's life to i started my own business operating a Proton Edar dealership in 1997. Thanks to the government vision & enthusiasm in the national car project, i was able to learn the automotive trade. i started my second business a Proton Edar Service Centre which was my only breadwinner during the 1998 financial crisis.

Hence, the benefits i gained from the governments vision and policies. However, during the 1998 financial crisis, similar to most businessmen, i suffered major set-back. My dad sold our house in Kelantan to salvage my dealership though it was my business and not his (thank you god for blessing me with a lovely dad). During the financial crisis, from my naive observation, i noticed and observed what i deemed as the root of our country's problem.. that almost led to my death as a business man. i was only 23 years old when the financial crisis started in late 1997.

The Prime Minister during that period was Tun Dr Mahathir and his deputy Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim was also the Chancellor of the Exchequer or Finance Minister.

TDM wanted to retire (that is how i perceived when Tun took many holidays and did a lot of travelling leaving Malaysia to Dato Seri) and had allow Dato Seri to resume many of his responsibilities. Dato Seri knew if Tun retires now and he became the PM, he would have nothing left (giant Conglomerate) to control. At that point, almost all of Malaysia infrastructure the PLUS highway was under Halim Saad, What goes on the road, Proton cars (DRB-HICOM & PROTON) was under Yahaya Ahmad. Malaysia Airlines was under Tajudin Ramli, Bakun was under Ting Pek Khiing, IPP, Konsortium perkapalan, TNB were all privatised to Tun so called cronies. thus Dato Seri would be the PM but Tun will still have a major influence of Malaysia. Dato Seri knew that he had to regain some control of Malaysia infrastructure and increased the interest rate to the highest knowingly Tun's cronies were all highly geared. When these Cronies were not able to repay the gearing, their companies will be under the administration of Danaharta. Danaharta is under the Ministry of Finance inc... hence Dato Seri.

In his greed for control and power, raising interest rate for personal gain, small time business fellow like me suffers and almost died. My dealership end-up having to pay the bank all my profit from selling new proton cars and some cars that was under the 'floor-stocking' facilities had accumulated interest rate so much that all the proceed from the sales of the bungalow (that my dad sold to help me out in business) was paid for the acumulated Bank floor-stocking facility interests. During the financial crisis, hire-purchase loan for customers to buy cars were frozen. I was stuck with more than 40 cars under floor-stocking for more than 1 year. you can calculate the interest rate that had accumulated.

It did not help having people like Stanley tan, Proton Edar (formerly known as USPD) General manager (now happily retire with a few proton dealership that he had accumulated during his tenure as well as a golden handshake for serving Proton Edar) forcing us to pay for all cars allocated (that we never wanted) although the economy was so bad.

When Dato Seri was sacked, Tun took the extra responsibility as the Finance Minister, and a month later, all hire-purchase loan was re-open and interest rate was reduced and i was able to sell Proton cars again. We, the small businessmen can see who makes a better Finance Minister.

I became a vendor shortly after the recession and appreciate the opportunity that was made possible by the government's vision in the automotive.

In short, i am not aligned to any political party (this is another story for later) and i am not interested to become a politician (not yet..) but we have to be careful with the person that we elect to hold office as our lives as a business man will be effected. We should never vote for individual. we should vote for the political resolution and manifesto.

Now with Pak Lah as the PM, the same thing what Dato Seri wanted to do, was recycled again but instead of the Danaharta taking administrative control, all the privatised projects was re-corporatised under a new term called GLCs and then the government initiate PFI (private fund initiative) which is simply another word for 'privatisation. so... why re-corporatise all Tun M's privatised project to privatise them again under GLC and PFI..? Thus far, our life as a business man is very uncertain with all the commodity price increase. if the interest rate was again used for political mileage, all businesses will collapse similar to the 1998 financial crisis.

Me and Emran, spoke about many other issues but that will be a topic for another session.
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