P

8
COVER STORY

Inventing
B
orn and raised in the once beautiful and peaceful town of Klang, Selangor, Bugs Tan had significant influences learning under the tutelage of his father that he would carry into his adult life. The middle child of nine, Tan was the first of the remaining five siblings to be English educated. But what was the reasoning behind the succession plan of sorts? “My father is a second-generation Chinese in Malaysia and back then in the 60s, businesses were run by the Chinese predominantly. As such it seemed like a better prospect at that time to be educated in Chinese. But my father had a very good friend who was a head master of a Chinese school and he advised him against enrolling all nine children into the school. He cautioned him not to place his eggs in one basket,” explains Tan who shares the same birthday with two other siblings born in different years. He stressed that his father was aware that the way forward with times would see the English language being used widely. But such is not the route he took for his own children! “I was tricked. Till today my wife laughs at how she managed to accomplish it. I was adamant on them attending a Kebangsaan school. She is Chinese educated and wanted them to follow a similar stream. She convinced me back then that they would only do their first three years in a Chinese school. But once that happened and the kids had settled in well and had friends, my wife insisted we couldn’t possibly take that all away from them. She is good. She knows me well,” says Tan. The two initially met at a squash club at the Royal Klang Club. “She was very fair. Beautiful indeed. She stood out like no other. We courted for about two years and then we married.” But Tan was not established yet. Right out from school, he worked with his father at his hardware machinery shop. “This is my University of Hard Knocks. I got to learn a lot from handling customer enquiries and needs. They come from various industries. Some from construction, some are farmers, fishermen, small factory owners, those in the chicken poultry business. So many different industries. They have different needs. They needed generators, tools, and a variety of things that eventually led to me learning all the necessary parts to meet their sometimes confusing demands. I didn’t just learn the ropes from the users; I also got a whole load of knowledge from the suppliers too. It’s a big range of products to study and learn to best advise the customers on how it can benefit and improve their situation,” says Tan. He left his father after working for him from 1978 to 1984 and went on to start his own trading business, supplying machinery to those in the agriculture sector to known names such as FELDA, RISDA and FELCRA. But it was not a smooth journey entirely when he ventured out on his own. “Participating in tenders was stressful. The problem was this – I bought from a supplier and sold it to those who needed it. Now, how much can you really mark down to compete and win those tenders? That pushed me against the wall and then the realisation dawned on me that if I want to make money I am going to have to create my own products.” And so that new journey begun, hand in hand with his missus. She was there through the transition period. She even experimented with him making home-made beer which they named Bugs Beer and tended to his compost worms too. She was in support of all his ideas. “She was the one who truly had faith in me,” states Tan beaming with pride. Soon enough, Tan managed to secure government loans that allowed him to invent his own products. “The turning point happened when I started to put my designs out there and participated in invention competitions. My first attempt at such a platform was in 2000 and I was the only “Encik” participating. Everyone else had some professional title like Doctor or Professor something ahead of their names. I took home the grand prize and RM20,000,” he shares. It was at this competition where Tan first realised his true potential, which lies in creativity. It gave him a great boost of confidence. “I came to realise that I do have something others do not have. I am able to see things differently. My edge would

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful