A Niche Above

2470

AMP Corporation (M) Sdn Bhd (AMCOP) is in the business of providing reliable and efficient radar surveillance systems which help detect and curb illegal activities on the high seas and manage air traffic control in airports. The man behind this dynamic company, Dato’ Mustaffa bin Hj. Abd. Rahman thrives on the challenge of conquering niche markets and constantly innovating to offer the best possible solution to customers. In this issue, the affable and down-to-earth Mustaffa shares with Top 10 of Malaysia his unique journey to the top and what it takes to successfully run a company.

Money has never been a primary motivator to Dato’ Mustaffa bin Hj. Abd. Rahman. With a wealth of experience gained from helping his father run a successful restaurant business, he could have easily started a chain of profitable eateries. “Seven out of my ten siblings are involved in the food business. But I never saw myself in it. I was determined on doing something different,” Mustaffa explains. In 1994, having established a comfortable career as a manager in Computer Systems Advisers, he took a lesser position as an entry level engineer in SCM Integrated Systems (SCM), a Canadian-Malaysian joint venture company based in Canada. “After 12 years in the Information Technology (IT) field, I wanted to embark on something uncommon and exciting. The radar business caught my interest and I moved on from there,” says Mustaffa who is now the CEO of AMCOP (short for ‘ampere’, a unit for measuring electric current).

He started from the ground up, working in a team of five Malaysian engineers to design, develop, install and integrate nine radars at the Straits of Malacca for the National Security Division of the Prime Minister’s Department. In 1996, he was promoted to General Manager. “Upon completion of the project, my team and I proposed a partnership with SCM to maintain the operational capability of the nine radars, which was verbally agreed upon,” he says. Unfortunately, the deal went askew, causing Mustaffa and his team to form a new company, AMCOP in 1997. “It was a blessing in disguise on looking back. If the Canadian company did not renege on its agreement, I will still be working for someone else and not establish AMCOP to secure the radar maintenance contract.”

It was Mustaffa’s sheer grit and determination that steered the firm through the turbulent economic times of 1997. At the time, it was hard for businesses to obtain financing from the banks and a new company with no track record to its name will fare much worse. AMCOP had to bite the bullet and limped along. “We did whatever it takes to sustain the company for a year – including refinancing my house and car and pawning my wife’s jewellery,” Mustaffa recalls. However, on AMCOP’s first anniversary, the long-awaited maintenance deal came through just as Mustaffa’s financial resources were drying up. “I soldiered on because I was confident that we will ultimately get the deal despite having to compete with SCM and other well-known companies as we were strong and capable. Most importantly, we were the ones who designed the system, and therefore, the best people to maintain it.”

Other projects utilising AMCOP’s expertise in designing, installing and maintaining radar systems soon came rolling in and it became financially stable within a short span of time. The company then diversified its services to include the provision of equipment, installation and maintenance services for aerial surveillance systems, interactive Use-of-Force and Firearms training systems (for Johor and Indonesia), Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS), Integrated Ballistics Identification System and other niche areas. Apart from Indonesia, the company has other international assignments as consultant when it was appointed by a European radar manufacturer to install a coastal radar surveillance system in Middle East.

Mustaffa views the ever-changing technological landscape in the assortment of niche markets that AMCOP is involved in as an opportunity to bring the company to greater heights. “Our engineers need to be creative and innovative in order to offer the best systems with the latest advances in technology to our customers. The management of the company must also be creative and accept new ways of doing things. Only then can the company move forward as one.” As a hands-on leader, Mustaffa is very much involved in the frontline operations of the business and in securing projects for the company.

AMCOP has come a long way from its humble beginnings and is now well-positioned as the nation’s leading systems integrator providing services in telecommunication, computing and surveillance projects pertaining to maritime, aviation, defence and security. “Our clients acknowledge that AMCOP is the best among the handful of competitors in the radar surveillance industry,” says Mustaffa. “Real time surveillance systems are mission critical and customers want the best people to do it. As specialists in our field, we are capable of handling the most complex technical projects in a timely and effective manner. All our research, design and implementation expertise is in-house.” Rather than sourcing all the project components from one single source, AMCOP prefers sourcing for the best available solutions from different suppliers. “By not attaching ourselves to a one-stop supplier, we have the flexibility of offering only the best possible solution to our clients.”

While there are many benefits in being involved in this niche industry, there are some drawbacks as well. According to Mustaffa, it is common to wait four to five years before a deal is secured. “In one project, we had to wait eight years,” he says. “A project may fetch a value which can range from RM5mil to RM60mil but the gestation period is long. While waiting for new projects to materialise, we have a number of maintenance service contracts to sustain us comfortably. We also have a healthy cash reserve on hand.” AMCOP’s list of illustrious clients includes Port Klang Authority, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), Malaysian Air Force, Malaysian Airline System, Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd, Digi Telecommunications and Malaysian Meteorological Department. It currently has 87 employees and operates from three two-storey buildings with about 25,000 sq ft of floor space in HICOM-Glenmarie Industrial Park in Shah Alam.

Mustaffa is a firm believer that money is best invested in appreciating assets such as land and property. In addition to AMCOP’s office buildings, he has acquired some land in Dengkil, Sepang where he has a farm. “I love spending my Saturdays there. The farm has chicken, a fish pond, lots of vegetables and fruit trees. We ride all-terrain vehicles inside the jungle next to the farm and I plan to build a private amusement outdoor park with rock climbing and abseiling facilities on the land as well,” he says. He keeps fit by maintaining an active lifestyle at the farm, through regular exercise and is also an avid equestrian. “Physical fitness is important in this job as some of the projects sites require me to walk uphill for 2km to 3km through jungle terrain.”

Not one to rest on his laurels, Mustaffa is constantly finding ways to expand AMCOP’s market reach. “The road ahead is long and there is still so much to do. We have only covered a small portion of the country’s coastline and once we secure the whole of Malaysia with more radar systems, then I would have achieved what I have set out to do in establishing AMCOP,” he says. Mustaffa anticipates that the firm’s revenue can be increased from RM60mil last year to RM100mil in the next two years due to new projects forthcoming. In the long term, he is considering the possibility of getting the company listed on the Main Board of Bursa Malaysia.

AMCOP has received a number of awards and accolades such as 4 STARS in SME Competitiveness Rating for Enhancement Program (SCORE) for 2013 and 2014 in recognition of its strength in business performance, financial capability, innovation and management capability. It also garnered the SME Recognition Award for 2012 and 2013, Asia Pacific Entrepreneur Award in Leadership 2012, Asia Pacific Entrepreneur Award for Service Quality 2012, the Star Outstanding Business Awards (SOBA) for Best Employer 2012 and was the only Malaysian company to be shortlisted as a finalist for the ATC Global Excellence Awards 2013 in Amsterdam. In addition, AMCOP has also achieved the ISO 9001:2008 UKAS Quality Standard.

These well-deserved awards highlight Mustaffa’s rare blend of business acumen, industry knowledge analytical skills, leadership capabilities and an entrepreneurial mind-set. Armed with a Bachelor in Business Administration and a Diploma in Electrical Electronic Engineering, Mustaffa believes that experience is the best teacher for budding CEOs. “When you can do everything from A to Z yourself, you can run the whole company. The joy of doing everything on your own and achieving success is a great satisfaction. You will also gain the respect of the staff,” he advises. “It is equally important to find a niche, do something different that excites you and do it well. If you are determined to do something different, you will get there in due time.”

Issue 16/2014