A Penang boy made good defines the entrepreneurial journey of Dato’ Dr Reza Ibrahim, Founder & CEO of Maxxima Group of Companies Malaysia. A UK-based microbiologist by training with pharmaceutical industry experience, Dato’ Reza chose business to add value to the lives of others whilst being able to achieve his goal of retiring at the age of 42. In this issue, Top 10 of Malaysia celebrates the success story of a Malaysian entrepreneur whose company won the Top 20 Malaysia Business Excellence Award 2016.

A family of three shifting back and forth from Bayan Lepas to Kuala Lumpur epitomises the childhood years of Dato’ Dr Reza Ibrahim. “There were three of us, my mother, sister and myself,” recalls Dato’ Reza. “We left Bayan Lepas after my father passed away when I was 13 and came to Kuala Lumpur where I continued my education. At the age of 17 my mother left for Penang and I lived an independent life, maturing early and wanting to make something of myself,” he adds.

Upon completing his studies in Kuala Lumpur, Dato’ Reza left for UK to complete his undergraduate studies in microbiology. Along the way, he got married and was settled with a child at the age of 21.  “Yes, I was young but I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I knew my responsibilities and had a game plan for execution,” he shares.

The game plan was to gain working experience before venturing into the world of business. “Education credentials are important but the more important significance of a life is to build a legacy,” Dato’ Reza stresses. “My game plan is divided into three phases. The first is to educate myself as much as possible which I have done by earning three degrees. The second is to build a legacy in a business venture and the third is to retire at the age of 42. I am proud to say all three have been accomplished,” Dato’ Reza says with a smile.

Having worked and gained experience in public relations with Malaysia Airlines, the pharmaceutical industry was his next target. “The exposure from both industries has helped me a lot. I gained knowledge in marketing and industry knowledge in pharmaceuticals,” he says.

“I was looking for a niche company that was new to the market as I wanted to focus on marketing a product without worrying about competition. In 2010, the opportunity came in the form of CellMaxx, an alga based health supplement from the US,” Dato’ Reza shares. “We got the patent and distributorship rights for 10 years which meant I had 10 years to focus on building the CellMaxx brand without any competition within Asia,” he adds.

The Maxxima Group of Companies has since expanded into various areas of the healthcare industry ranging from Maxxima Resources, Maxxima Capital to Maxxima Nutraceutical. Maxxima Resources specialises in the production of nutraceuticals in the form of health drinks which is the main product, CellMaxx. CellMaxx has expanded its operations with 500 distributors within Malaysia and offices in Jakarta. “The initial years have been spent in building the brand as I believe once it is recognised, it can stand on its own,” explains Dato’ Reza. “This is proven by our sales which have seen tremendous growth. In the first year of operations, our profits were RM800,000 and the following year we achieved 32 million ringgit worth of sales. The third year, it tripled to RM100 million! However, there is more to be done in establishing a market in other Asian countries,” he states.

“The inspiration I get from building the brand, CellMaxx, is the benefit it has brought to people in terms of health improvement. That is my contribution to society and it inspires me to do more for local communities,” Dato’ Reza shares.

“As the product is sold in sachet form, it can be consumed by people of all ages including the young,” he explains. “We deliberately changed the packaging from capsules to sachet. In the US, it is sold in capsules which makes it difficult for the young to consume. Here, the product is sold in sachets and the young can consume it easily because it is in powder form,” he adds.

The management team of 21 is based in Kuala Lumpur with a great number of distributors around the country. Moreover, Dato’ Reza believes in a consultative style of leadership and management where it is alright to make mistakes and to learn from them. He also has plans in the near future to build a recreational hub for the distribution team to be located in Glenmarie, Selangor. “This will be a place where my staff can spend time in relaxation and getting to know each other. I want to reward my staff and this is one of the ways I intend to show my appreciation for their hard work,” shares Dato’ Reza.

As for his work-life balance, Dato’ Reza shares this. “I am always working and thinking. There is no such thing as work-life balance for me. Even when I am supposed to be relaxing, I am thinking of new ventures and ways of improving my business.” However, his favourite hobbies include retail therapy and travelling. “I love shopping regardless of time, place or duration,” Dato’ Reza says. “I have a large collection of shoes and clothes. In fact, I have a bigger collection than my wife has. It is just a hobby, a time for me to let go of the stress,” he elaborates.

As for travelling, Dato’ Reza has already covered half the globe with the other half coming up next on his agenda but a destination that remains a favourite since his student days is Europe and London. “I feel very much at home in London as most of the places are familiar to me as I have frequented them during my student days,” Dato’ Reza recalls. When it comes to interacting with other cultures, an open mind and a non-judgemental stance dominates. “Everyone is different with their own set of peculiarities but all of us believe in God regardless of form or identity,” he says.

Dato’ Reza has three children and they are away from home furthering their studies. The eldest is studying economics in Dusseldorf whilst the second is studying business at UITM in Sarawak and his youngest will be flying off soon to UK for law studies.

As for words of wisdom for those intending to start a venture of their own, Dato’ Reza has this to say, “You will never know until you try. Learning and seeking opportunities are the two main factors required for seeking success. You cannot have one without the other. The two must integrate for success to happen.” Invaluable advice indeed from a visionary entrepreneur who has made it to the pinnacle of exemplary success.