The entrepreneurial passion for innovative ideas has been an integral part of Chuah Kooi Sang. Hailing from Perak, Chuah epitomises the equation of hard work, risk-taking and innovation for achieving success. Having been involved in the construction industry from the early 1990s, the years spent gaining experience in petrol station construction and developing his company, Permai Ihsan Sdn Bhd, into one of the leading construction companies in the Malaysia Oil and Gas (O&G) industry, is a telling experience. It has been a successful journey of realising innovative ideas within the general construction industry. In a recent interview with Top 10 of Malaysia, Chuah speaks on his passion for the industry, personal achievements and upcoming plans for the future of Permai Ihsan.
One of the leading players in the O&G construction industry, Chuah Kooi Sang, 52, speaks about his childhood. “I come from a tin mining family and we stayed in Malim Nawar, a small town in Perak. Both my parents were involved in tin mining and I have inherited their resilient streak,” says the affable Chuah. “I have always been involved in the construction industry and subsequent to getting my civil engineering education, it was only natural that I was in this industry.”
Chuah started his maiden venture by establishing his company, Permai Ihsan Sdn Bhd in 1994. “I like the name ‘Permai Ihsan’ as it emphasises on aesthetic excellence, a combination that resonated with me,” smiles Chuah. “Our company has received several awards such as the 2015 Malaysian Golden Eagle Award and the 2017 Asia Pacific Award for Excellence and they are testimonies of the excellent quality of services provided by Permai Ihsan.”
“My first petrol station construction venture was completed within a time span of 35 days. I was new in the field then and with a reputation and trust to be gained, I ensured all deadlines were met according to specifications,” recollects Chuah. “We still adhere to the principles of innovative excellence in ensuring the quality of our services surpass clients’ expectations as Permai Ihsan is a recognised name in the O&G industry.”
The striking aspect of Chuah’s construction strategy is the innovation of new ideas which has been recognised by the industry. “There is the launching of the ‘mega stations’ in 1997, the first one was in Setiawangsa, Selangor which combined retail services. The services were further augmented with the building of the biggest green service station in South East Asia along the Sungai Besi Highway in 2012. It also incorporates fast food and coffee chains. The design of petrol stations has been innovated according to market needs with a rudimentary design launched successfully in Africa and the Malaysian East Coast. Permai Ihsan provides a full range of end-to-end integrated services from building to maintenance services including installation of pipelines. “The company has diversified into general construction with several projects in shopping malls and warehouses,” shares Chuah.
“In managing a team of 60 people, both onsite and offsite, within a very competitive field, my leadership style is invariably flexible with high expectations and rewards. We appreciate the employees who are our most important asset and we have recently organised a company trip to Hokkaido as one of our ways to show our appreciation,” says Chuah.
“My work is demanding and calls for a 24/7 focus which can impact my work-life balance. I have four children – three sons and a daughter, all of whom are studying. I do try to spend as much time as possible with them,” quips Chuah. “My wife has been a great supporter of my work and is wonderfully taking care of the children,” says Chuah with a big smile as he casts a glance at his wife who is seated beside him.
“The company’s future expansion plans include becoming a developer and diversifying into other areas within the construction industry, and this reflects on its growing stature. As a developer, we will be able to provide better services for our clients on a domestic and international level,” says Chuah.
As for his advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, Chuah strongly believes that they should be patient, work hard and never give up.