Growing up in the cultural melting pot of Malaysia in Ampang Jaya, he learned a lot about diversity, integrity and independence from an early age. In this interview with Top 10 of Malaysia, Dato’ Dr Arunan Selvaraj, Managing Partner of Rusmah Arunan & Associates speaks about his law firm, charity works and tips for young people just starting out in business.
“I went to St. John’s Institution for my primary and secondary studies. Then, I did a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) at United Kingdom, a Masters of Business Administration in Hawaii and my PhD in Family Law in Ireland,” says the concise Dato’ Dr Arunan Selvaraj. Upon completing his degree, he was called to the Malaysian Bar and was admitted as an advocate and solicitor at the High Court of Malaya in 1992. In 1995, Rusmah Arunan & Associates was born, specialising in the area of matrimonal and family law encompassing divorce, custody and guardianship, probate and wills, and adoption.
Upon connecting the dots, Dr Arunan came to realise the impact parental advice has had in his life. “I was taught integrity and to never borrow money. Today, many clients return because of our sincerity. I also always had freedom and mixed with all kinds of people, eventually learning many important lessons,” Dr Arunan shares, adding that clients respect his provision of a realistic outcome.
In law, there is conveyancing and litigation. Dr Arunan is into litigation which involves making court appearances. Due to his PhD in Family Law, he specialises in family matters. “I find it fulfilling in being able to help people and often encourage couples to try mending things before resorting to divorce. My book, Saving Your Marriage demonstrates that,” he says. When asked what contributes to his firm’s success, he says it is honesty. “We are selective with cases and maintain transparency with clients so I’d say we grew gradually with our reliable staff as a strong foundation,” Dr Arunan states, adding that Rusmah Arunan & Associates now has 7 offices and 30 lawyers.
Although challenges include going to court and facing difficult clients, Dr Arunan is proud that Rusmah Arunan & Associates created legal history for Malaysia. “We were the first to file an action to obtain settlement for families following the MH370 tragedy. One cannot sue without a body. So, when family members came to us, I filed for dependency claims for children of the victims who needed parental support,” he says.
Formerly working on Saturdays, he now works only on weekdays and leaves at 3pm daily for workouts. “I keep weekends free for family. My two daughters are studying medicine and my son is in school so I spend a lot of time with him. It’s about time management, priorities and knowing your capabilities so you don’t overwhelm yourself,” Dr Arunan says. True to the person he is, he admits he is rather frank as a leader. “I communicate with everyone to ensure they understand their roles,” he says.
Although his greatest achievements include his companies in law, event management and pharmaceutics, his charity work comes first. “It is one of the best feelings and I’ve learned a lot about humility. I did the Jom Botak campaign to raise funds for cancer patients and our Movember – Ultimate Shave Off raised over RM200,000 for prostate cancer,” Dr Arunan explains, adding that all the funds raised from these events were channelled to their respective NGOs. Likewise, his profit share from the sale of his book, Saving Your Marriage is channelled to the National Cancer Society of Malaysia and The Malaysian Association for the Blind. The campaigns are efforts by the Rainbow Volunteer team formed by Dr Arunan to incorporate adventures in corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives.
Nevertheless, his advice to those wanting to venture into business is pretty clear-cut. “Many people are not focused and constantly switch when they hear of the next best thing, making it difficult to maintain clients. Focus on your expertise, be sincere and think out of the box. Most importantly, never give up when times are tough. Failure is the greatest teacher,” he says.