Datuk Samsul Husin, the Group Managing Director of Century Software Holdings Bhd (Censof) who will turn 50 come this December, has come a long way since he started out in 1996 with two other partners, who are also accountants by profession like himself. In this issue, Top 10 of Malaysia gets to speak with the man whose entrepreneurial skill continues to spearhead his company to impressive heights.
Shamsul Husin recalls that was a time when they could not even afford to employ full-time staff. It was the time they had just started out. Today, Censof has a total of some 200 staff of which 40% of them are accountants.
Censof, which has bagged numerous awards in the last few years, received yet another accolade, the Prominent ICT Company Award, at the recent third Malaysia Independence Award 1957.
The modest Samsul adds, “If we do not improve and innovate our products, we will not be able to maintain our position.”
Last year, the company’s 100% Malaysian-made software, Century Financial Government, clinched the “Best Software Product” at the NEF-Awani ICT Awards 2010.
At the PIKOM ICT Leadership Awards 2011 last November, Samsul was honoured with the Technopreneur Excellence Award, which is given to outstanding ICT entrepreneurs with a proven track record in playing a significant role in growing the company to a respectable level of success over the last three years.
Samsul, who has over 24 years of experience in government financial systems, has not only developed a successful homegrown software company but also had Censof listed on the main board of Bursa Malaysia and spread its reach to Indonesia last year.
An accountancy graduate from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Shamsul started his career lecturing at the Malaysian Entrepreneurship Development Centre at Universiti Teknologi MARA before he joined the Accountant General’s (AG) office from 1987-1990.
He was training others to be entrepreneurs but realised one day he himself was not one yet. “Entrepreneurship is very much in my blood,” says Samsul.
When he was young, he was already assisting his father run their sundry shop in Kampung Sungai Buah, Dengkil and selling agricultural produce like coconuts, corn and rubber.
“I have always had this vision to set up my own business. The role model in my life is my father who was a village head, a small-time entrepreneur and the mando or supervisor/manager for the estate.”
He decided to take up a diploma course in information technology (IT) and to also get valuable exposure in working as a system software engineer in an IT company after he left the AG’s office. His decision, supplemented by his accountancy background, has certainly borne fruits.
Samsul was involved in Century Software (M) Sdn Bhd (CSM), a subsidiary of Censof, initially as a shareholder and later joined Censof’s management as its executive director.
Censof’s two core businesses are the provision of financial management system services (FMSS) for the government sector via CSM and the e-Payment Gateway solution under T-Melmax Sdn Bhd.
CSM is mainly involved in the design, development, implementation, maintenance and marketing of FMSS.
While it controls almost 90% of the FMSS business from the federal government agencies, Samsul said the other segments from the state governments, local councils and the federal government are growing.
Samsul adds, “Our sister company in Sydney, Australia is 100% commercial while our Indonesian investment management arm, PT Praisindo Teknologi, caters more to the private sector and financial market such as banks.
“We aim to be a regional player within three to five years with plans to expand to countries like Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia and further afield.”
Having set his sights on the global market, Censof is currently in talk with companies from Taiwan and South Korea.
To Samsul, building a brand name is a step-by-step journey, adding that Censof’s vision is to be the market leader in providing the next financial management solution.
Under the group’s strategic plans, its goal is to join the league of RM1 million companies. Samsul sees outcome-based budgeting (OBB) as the new catalyst for Censof, which was awarded a RM22.5 million OBB project by the Finance Ministry last June.
Samsul, who does not believe in asking the government for grants but projects, says that the group has been relying on its own internal resources so far.
“We do not like to borrow as we want to work with a clear mind. In our capacity building and financial management, we need to be careful and prudent, which explains why all our directors drive second hand cars.
“We put 10% of our revenue annually into software research and development and have 35 staff working in this area.”
In tandem with the global e-initiatives, Censof has transformed to become a world class solution provider in line with other players in the software development arena.
Samsul says its staff turnover rate is below 3%. “We are one of the IT companies that never fail to pay the salaries of our staff and the suppliers on time. We not only pay on time but also ahead of time.”
Besides getting people to work for them, Samsul says the ability to maintain them is crucial as you need adequate manpower to deliver the product. Furthermore, it takes time to develop staff.
He attributed the low staff turnover to the three Cs practised by Censof, namely Credible, Caring and Committed. “These are the values I emphasise to the staff and they tie in with the qualities that a leader should have,” he says.
“Leadership without credibility will not go far. We have to deliver our products within a certain time frame. The most important thing is trust. We need people to trust us”
“We take care of our customers as well as the staff. Yearly, we give the staff bonus and take them for overseas trips as an incentive. Last year, we went to Bali. This year, we plan to go to Medan. It is a family environment here. The staff can freely walk into my office. Some of our staff who have resigned would return and ask to come back into the fold,” says Samsul.
While the challenges Samsul faced today are very different from those faced by the company when it first started, he says that they are worth it. For instance, now they have to convince the market that their software is as good as the international ones.
“In terms of cost, the price of locally developed products is almost half that of international products,” he says, adding that over the years the company’s products have undergone many upgrading in terms of technology advancement.
Samsul says that at Censof, all the directors are “working” directors. “We have just completed our first international conference in Bandung with 150 participants from Malaysia.”
Despite his busy schedule, Samsul ensures that he has time for his family and social activities as he believes that “happy families make happy businessmen”.
For recreation, he plays golf and has taken up this sport for a decade now. Samsul has no qualms about mixing his golf game with business for network purposes and also to build up his relationships.
“I enjoy my golf holidays as well. Prior to golf, I used to play futsal and games like sepak takraw.
For my annual holidays with my family, we would go overseas to countries like Australia and Indonesia.” Well, we will certainly see more exploits, including those covering unchartered territories, from Samsul, the visionary.