A member of PENAWAR (Badan Amal Dan Kebajikan Isteri Wakil-Wakil Rakyat Dan Isteri Bekas Wakil Rakyat Barisan Nasional Negeri Kelantan), Datin Sri Norihan Ayob is one of the few women leading a successful car dealership in an industry dominated by men. As Managing Director of Seyakin Holdings Sdn Bhd, Datin Sri Norihan Ayob shares with Top 10 of Malaysia the humble beginnings of Seyakin Holdings, her struggles and triumphs in business and her commitments outside the car dealership.
As the daughter of a police officer, Datin Sri Norihan Ayob was brought up to be focused, disciplined and brave in facing challenges. Norihan is a graduate of Universiti Utara Malaysia in accounting and her mother used to own a small sundry shop where she would help out from young, unknowingly carrying her mother’s sense of business with her as she opened her own business later on in life.
Upon graduating, Norihan worked with a car dealership dealing with local and international cars. This was where she learnt the vicissitudes of selling cars and upon meeting her future husband there, Norihan came to grips with the automobile business in no time. Thereafter she went into the engineering field briefly before finally settling back into the car dealership business when her husband asked her to take over one of his subsidiaries. From there, Norihan established Seyakin Holdings, a car dealership dealing with Proton cars.
At Seyakin, the staff are not just Norihan’s employees but are a part of her family. Her employees motivate her to go on with the business even during the toughest times. Some have been with Norihan for over a decade, possibly motivated by her open door policy forming a sort of family environment at Seyakin which she is revered as the head. Though she travels frequently, Norihan never stops working to ensure car sales are consistently smooth and that no hiccups occur when she is not in the office.
As the head of a business in a male-dominated industry, Norihan is proud to have Seyakin make its mark in the region. Dealing solely with Proton cars, the company is required to follow strictly the terms set by Proton Headquarters in regards to car orders, car sales, current promotions and such. “Orders are determined based on the sales reports that are handed from the marketing department but Proton Headquarters is strict so we have a quota and we also have to be careful with every single detail down to how we promote the dealership,” Norihan shares. The company generally achieves its sales target of 30 to 40 units per month and though there are dealerships that have surrendered and closed down, Norihan perseveres even through tough times and she regards all these little things as achievements in their own right.
On the challenges faced in this line of business, Norihan shares that financing is one of the major challenges. “We can only help to a certain extent with bank loans as there are specific procedures to follow and requirements for loan approval and if the individual doesn’t meet the requirements, we can only do so much,” says Norihan. Another challenge is the tight competition between Proton and Perodua as both are competitive in their products and pricing.
Furthermore, balancing work and life is never easy as Norihan is constantly on the move. Not only is she leading Seyakin, she also travels back to her hometown in Kelantan where she actively takes part in the weekly PENAWAR activities. “Although I’m always on the move, I always have my eyes and ears on Seyakin no matter where I am, whether in Kelantan or anywhere else in the world,” Norihan shares with a smile.
Her advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to be humble and patient as there are many challenges to face in business. Another important quality Norihan suggests is treating all customers on an even footing. “A customer who shows up on a bicycle and another who comes in a Mercedes are to be treated equally with respect and dignity. Never judge customers based on their appearance,” Norihan shares, intimating that she wishes to also pass this sound piece of advice to her three daughters in the future.