Sailing in Hardships, He acquired Success!

He was bankrupt not once but twice at the age of 22 and 27. Yet, he managed to fight back and, today, is a reason for many start-ups to breathe.
IJ Anita Tejwani
Published on: 8th June 2015
The ten two-letter words he says, “If it is to be, It is up to Me,” ignites every mind to do what it takes to fulfill one’s dreams.

Growing in a small rural town named Johor in Malaysia, Andrew Tan always thought on how his dreams of travelling the world and understanding it through adventures could be brought to reality. A seed of money was sown in his mind to ensure freedom to pursue all that he wanted for his life. He started off with working in an old style coffee shop as a waiter at the age of eight, then in fast food chain restaurant, to pushing shopping cart trolley in hypermarket, to owning a car wash business, newspaper distribution business, ice cream stall owner to a laundry business which continued to make him work at a multinational corporate.  This journey of Andrew taught him the hardest lessons which make him what it takes to be a super talented investor at just thirty five having lived in London, Spain, Germany, South Africa, Thailand, Myanmar, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore. 

Andrew’s academic journey has been from an IT educated degree holder to Master of Science in International Trading and E-Commerce which later made him receive a Dean Award for his Post Graduate Thesis about Identifying Online Scam through Prevention. His interest turned passion is to make business a force to solve the world’s growing issues of inequality, unemployment and unsustainable use of natural resources. “Business is integral to society, but it has also created most of the negative environmental challenges of this century. My aim is to help to catalyze a shift away from the existing short term unsustainable mindset, towards the long term interest of people, the planet and the wider economy,” states Tan, who is now in midst of starting up a School of Value Investment with few like-minded business entrepreneurs who would share their experiences and hardship stories with new entrepreneurs.
 Andrew Tan
They will be sharing more about real life experiences regarding ‘How to Fail Elegantly as an Entrepreneur’, ‘How to raise funding from Venture Capitalist’, ‘Creation of “Power Team” for business’, ‘Identifying Opportunity in Value Investment in Real Estate’, ‘Equity and Businesses’.  For this school, they are working with government agencies, the social sector and business leaders to get on top of some of the world’s seemingly intractable challenges. “We are keen to listen, learn, and share with others to build businesses that do what’s right for the people and the planet,” he says. 

Andrew Tan faced failure and rejection over and over again in his life and that is what he considers is the reason for his success today. To Andrew, it’s not the fame or the material gain which he terms as success but the positive impact he can cast on the other. His life like other successful people hasn’t been smooth sailing. He was bankrupt not once but twice at the age of 22 and 27. He hit the rock bottom of his life and that was when he realized that making a choice was in his court. “It was when I had to endure my second bankruptcy with eviction letters from banks, letters from lawyers for debt owed and friends and relatives distancing me away, I needed to take actions to make a change,” says Andrew.

It was in 2008, that his successful MSC status company was running on large annual deficit losses and went bankrupt. He got back to his employee quadrant and sent across resumes to hundreds of companies but didn’t manage to land in a job. It was a phase of economic crisis and most Malaysian companies were resizing. After continuous efforts of months together, Andrew finally landed up for an interview with a MNC. “The HR manager, who interviewed me, stated the reason for not offering me the job saying that I was over qualified for middle management designation. My efforts to explain him that I wouldn’t mind a lower salary or designation were in vain and I was still jobless,” he narrates. When Tan was just about to give up, when no one around could have helped there was a major turnaround in his life. He was invited by a friend over a dinner as a translator for a meeting his friend had with his US associates and China counterpart on joint venture of some recycling plant deal in Malaysia. They were interested to buy scrap electronic waste materials for their precious metal full recovery plant.

This came as a co-incidence as Andrew had built a network with several well established brands in Malaysia like Intel, Samsung, Kyocera, Flextronic to name a few. With this he knew that he would find his way through. This wasn’t easy but he started using his network to spread the word. When all this brought him to square one, he started making calls to manufacturing plants in Malaysia finding their contacts from the telephone directory, and yet no one entertained him. He adds, “The best part about the telephone directory is that it has addresses mentioned. I borrowed a motorbike from a friend and made my way to those plants and decided that this adventure won’t end until I bring back the scrap.”

Reaching the manufacturing sites, he was acknowledged that he couldn’t go inside without any prior appointment. The journey was only getting tougher and the fire inside grew stronger. He would wait by the fences on daily basis and try talking to the workers, buy them drinks or cigarettes, hoping they might introduce him to the head and fix up a meet. Days went by and all efforts just failed. Out of desperation and frustration, he took up a big pebble from the road and threw it against the window glass and broke it! “The security guards were making fuss and shouting at me and that was all I needed to get through at that moment,” he laughs recalling the incident which will remain with him forever. 
The guards took him to the admin office asking him to compensate for the damage where he met the admin lady who copied all his details to get the bill to be paid by Andrew. Given the opportunity, Andrew told her that he represented a China consortium that is very keen to buy all the waste material. This brought all the lady’s attention to what Andrew said as this manufacturing plant was paying others to get the waste disposed. “Suddenly, I felt that God was listening to my prayers and she was impressed with the proposal which resulted in securing the first batch of sample and off to go with my most awesome adventure in the recycling business,” he says smiling.

Andrew’s inspiration has been to keep discovering new peaks and learn each day. He doesn’t just want a life worth living, but a life worth writing about. To establish a start-up accelerator that encourages entrepreneurship and fosters positive development for society is on his list for the coming years. “I aim to select start-up teams with marketable ideas in various fields, including web or mobile applications, e-commerce, e-learning, sustainable living and healthcare technology and provide support to the selected start-ups with funding up to $30,000 USD, per team, mentoring and training in exchange for a stake in the resulting business,” Tan states. Also he is targeting rural people, especially women, for his micro-credit project which offers appropriate and reasonable loan terms based on trust, accountability and participation. With women, he feels that the money is well distributed and the impact on the family is much greater. “Children get better fed, better clothed and better housed. Women are very cautious with their money; men are more casual about it,” he says. 

Entrepreneurship is not risky, being unprepared is risky”- Andrew Tan.
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