Posted by Joanne Lee Juan Shien .on April 04, 2013
Lee Thiam Wah : 99Speedmart Mini Mart Success in a Wheelchair
Inspiring: Millionaire 99Speedmart, a handicap, highest education Standard 6 (12 years old), and can't speak English.
We in Malaysia, have seen the branches of99Speedmart Mini Mart all over town, with their green and orange signboards.
But most of you probably didn't know that the owner of this chain mart Lee Thiam Wah(born 1964), sits in a wheelchair.
He owns 200 branches all over Malaysia
Lee has been in a wheelchair since he was a kid.
When Lee was a baby, caught the Polio and lost functions of both his legs.
His father, a construction laborer and mother a hawker worked hard to provide for their 11 kids.
Their finances only allowed them to provide for Lee's education till he was 12 years old.
Bored and in lonely, Lee borrowed books from his neighbours and sold snacks by the road side.
"I needed to help myself. Nobody wanted to hire me as I am physically handicapped "
At 23 years old, Lee had RM5,000 in his possession. It was just enough for a convenience store startup.
This was his platform to learn about the convenient store business.
Lee says "I learned what customers buy. I know all the suppliers and their pricing. And I studied my competitors."
By the end of the 90′s, even though the Asian Economic Crisis had happened, he had 8 mini markets established around Bandar Klang, Selangor.
This success is attributed to Lee's conviction that the mini market business has high potential of growth.
The first Pasar Mini 99 was opened on August 1992
By 1995, 7 other mini marts had already been in operation around Klang town. Using the latest inventory and stock keeping technology.
The growth rate for these stores were at 8% per annum.
He gained industry knowledge through experience while running and growing his company.
He developed an acute sense to how his business should be run. Marketing and advertising, location choices, administrations etc.
This resulted in an established and well known brand among Klang-ites.
From this experience, Lee created his own concept of how a modern, Malaysianized mini mart should be operated. A Malaysianized one stop center for all your house hold needs.
Here after 99Speedmart Sdn. Bhd (Ptl Ltd) was established, to open up franchising possibilities all over Malaysia.
The concept of 99Speedmart is to offer customers a quick, easy and comfortable grocery shopping experience without the hassle, parking and queing that comes with hypermarkets
To improve the bond with his vendors, Lee settles his payments with his suppliers instantly, as soon as the goods arrive.
This method creates more trust between his outlets and the suppliers
Lee broke the status quo. Where it was normal and expected for the disabled to depend on government funding, Lee went out and made his money himself.
In the beginning, Lee had to have his siblings help him with loading goods and arranging them on the shelves.
"Of course i had to work harder than everyone else. I can't speak English, I'm in a wheelchair, and my formal education ended when I was 12″ … "But by working hard, it's automatic for knowledge and self confidance to increase" says Lee Thiam Wah
Lee on Forbes.com Magazine