A Titan in His Own League

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Jothee Subramaniam
Jothee Subramaniam

For some, success is not merely measured with dollars and cents. Jothee Subramaniam is one of those rare individuals. Other than building a successful driving school business, he is also very much a dedicated family man to both his wife and kids at home. In this issue, Top 10 of Malaysia speaks to the enterprising and successful Jothee Subramaniam, the founder and CEO of Sekolah Memandu Jothee about 34-year involvement in the driving school industry, the development of his company as well as how he has grown as a leader throughout the years.

In the early 70s, Jothee Subramaniam was just a small town boy from Sungai Petani juggling multiple odd jobs for survival. However, the now 69-year-old would never have imagined being the leader of a successful driving school in Subang Jaya.

“Back then, I was only working as a driving instructor in Kuala Lumpur. But someone from the industry saw the potential in me and asked me, ‘Why don’t you start a driving school of your own?’ And so, Sekolah Memandu Jothee was born,” he says.

With the establishment of his own driving school in 1984, Subramaniam made use of his sound people’s skills by building and establishing relationships with his students. “I always stood for honesty and trust.” He stresses that he does not believe in cashing in on his students. “Taking my students hard earned cash without giving them their money’s worth has never been my policy. I ensure that I guide them well so that they are successful in their driving exams,” reveals the affable businessman. At present, most of Subramaniam’s existing clients are direct descendants or offsprings from his former students that he has taught way back in the 80s.

Being a man who puts his family first, Subramaniam admits that becoming a millionaire was not his utmost priority. “When I first started out this business, I was thinking of merely making sufficient money to bring up my young family.” He says that surprisingly his now grown-up children did not take after their father as far as careers are concerned. “But I am proud to say that all of them have found success in their own field,” shares Subramaniam proudly.

For more than 30 over years, Subramaniam’s business has proven itself to be rock solid by making it through the test of time. As times have evolved, so has a new direction begun to take place. “Right now, I have plans to turn my driving school into an institution itself,” he shares. “In the future, I hope to leave a meaningful legacy behind,” Subramaniam adds.

Every successful businessman has his fair share of challenges in life and so does Subramaniam. “The process of maintaining and building relationships with all your clients is not an easy feat,” he explains. Subramaniam goes on further to say that the trust forged between student and teacher does not come overnight. “This unification takes years to materialise and that also with a lot of heart-to-heart encounters.”

As a self-proclaimed people’s person, it is not surprising that Subramaniam has inserted this notable trait into his management and leadership styles. “As a superior, I do not hesitate to give credit to the staffs in my company when it’s due. I take pride in praising or giving them a pat on the back if they have really done a good job,” he admits.

When asked what inspires the enterprising Subramaniam to lead his company forward, he unabashedly reveals that the secret lies in his life-long dedication to maintaining the job and building up the business. “Passion is the key to success,” he shares.

Since Subramaniam is an optimistic entrepreneur who also sees the big picture, it is only natural that he foresees only bigger and better things for his business in the near future. “Driving schools are a thing of the past. The amalgamation of my driving school into an institute is the best decision that I can take, and I look forward to it being greatly rewarding,” he says with confidence.

Despite running a business, Subramaniam still views himself as a family person. “Regardless of how busy I may be at work, my family always comes first. I ensure that I spend quality time with my siblings, wife and children,” he shares. As the eldest among his siblings, Subramaniam views himself as the protector and keeper of the family. “Whenever a member of the family needs a lending ear, they can always trust me to be their confidante.”

Unsurprisingly, Subramaniam considers his family to be his greatest achievement in life. “I believe that I have raised my kids well. For example, my eldest son Sivananthan who currently works as an engineer was previously awarded the prestigious ambassador award by the Malaysian Embassy in the United States for being the top Malaysian student there while he was still doing his tertiary education back in year 2000,” he shares. Meanwhile, his other children are not to be outdone. His daughter is currently operating her own early childhood education business. “Suffice to say, I am one proud parent,” says the beaming father.

For those who plan to walk the same pathway as Subramaniam, he strongly advises them to go for proper courses and training before embarking further. “The driving school business in Malaysia is, unfortunately, staged in an extremely controlled environment. Therefore, the best option is to venture into a driving institution itself,” he says without hesitation.