Robert Kuok Hock Nien is a big name in both Malaysia and the world of entrepreneurship. With his business empire spanning across the world, Kuok is the richest man in Malaysia, with a net worth of $15.5 billion (approx. RM58.6 billion)
Despite having such wealth, Kuok is probably the most humble person you’ll ever meet, which explains why he seldom sheds light in public about his business and personal life. Surprisingly though, Kuok did an interview a few years ago and shared some juicy bits of his life journey and business tips with the audience.
Kuok founded the Kuok Brothers Company at age 26 and people began calling him ‘Malaysia’s Sugar King’ when he was 38. Two years later, he went up a level higher and became the ‘Sugar King of Asia’. In the heyday of his sugar business, it was said that he was responsible for 10 per cent of the annual global trade volume of sugar, but Kuok humbly said that the true figure was only 5 per cent.
Kuok almost became bankrupt in 1963 Basically, he made a prediction that didn’t turn out in his favour, which caused him a huge financial loss.
“I got too ambitious and stocked up 100,000 to 200,000 tonnes of sugar to cater for the future market. I thought the market would grow and I can make big money, but the market fell sharply in July and August.”
“Success is 90% hard work and knowledge” – Kuok
For instance, in the sugar business, Kuok studied about the demand, supply, production, consumption, and the shipping process in order to stay on top
“Once we’ve seen through the situation, our horse must run fast (we must act fast). Because others (competitors) can see it as well.” “I believe many of my competitors are smarter than me, but their nightlife is a bit chaotic. So, the next day, they would fall asleep on their table and I would not. Therefore, my horse runs faster than theirs (I act faster).”
For example, in April 1973, China was facing a severe shortage of money and sugar. Two Chinese high-level officials from the Ministry of Foreign Trade had secretly asked a favour from Kuok. They needed 300,000 tonnes of sugar, which is equivalent to one million tonne of sugar today. The request had to be kept confidential because if it’s leaked, the insane demand would spike the international sugar price.
He would pick on others’ brains to learn new knowledge and expand his horizon
“All businessmen must possess a certain amount of courage” “Every business has its own risks. It’s okay to back down and miss the opportunity IF there’s a better one in the near future. But if you’re not bold enough and retreat every single time, then you will always be poor.”