26 Oktober 2013


By Zuhaila Sedek-De Booij

MOHD Janis Abu Bakar seized the opportunity in his kampung when others decided to leave for the big cities, writes Zuhaila Sedek-De Booij.

At 15, most boys are busy playing, acting silly or falling in love for the first time. But not Mohd Janis Abu Bakar. At that age, he had to quit school and sell rubber scraps in his kampung in Johor, to help support his family.

Today at 56, his hard work has paid off. Not only is he a success story in the oil palm business, with a plantation that spreads over more than 81ha but he is also building a hotel in Bukit Gambir, Johor. If everything goes well, the hotel will be opened next year.

For any businessman, building a hotel is definitely one of the ultimate achievements.

Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to want to disclose much about his latest endeavour. When asked what the hotel would be called, Mohd Janis looks a bit embarrassed, laughs and says: "Oh no, I'm not sure yet. But I've saved enough money for it. The hotel will occupy three shop lots and is currently under construction."

In his hometown, Kampung Parit Kassan, in Tangkak, Mohd Janis is fondly known as Haji Janis, an exemplary individual who, despite not having an impressive academic background, has climbed to the pinnacle of success through sheer determination and hard work.


Mohd Janis has nine siblings. His mother was a rubber tapper and his father, a construction worker. They didn't earn much. Wanting to lighten his parents' load, Mohd Janis took a leap of faith and left school. Even at that time, he knew it was the right decision.

Clad in a white shirt, a pair of slacks and a white kopiah (headwear for Muslim men), Mohd Janis recalls his younger days when he rode around on a bicycle, selling rubber scraps. It was tough for a young person to shoulder such a huge responsibility but he was very motivated. He wanted to make money and be "somebody".

"I was so pumped up to make it big on my own. I worked really hard selling rubber and I started saving money. I wanted to start my own big business," says Mohd Janis who became an agent (a middle-man) for rubber.

After two years, he had saved enough to buy a motorcycle. "It was just a simple 70cc bike. I needed it to move around so that I could expand my business," he says.

"My capital was only RM4. But I doubled the sum afterwards," he adds.

After obtaining a licence which allowed him to sell rubber directly, he opened his own rubber trading shop. With the funds from his rubber business, Mohd Janis started buying and selling oil palm fruit.

He saved much of the profits. "I didn't want to squander the cash. I always believe in rolling money to make more money," he explains.

The rubber and oil palm business improved his family's welfare gradually. He also had a food stall run by his mother. Profit from the stall went towards his siblings who were still in school. Thanks to Mohd Janis, all his siblings completed their studies up to secondary school.

"I woke up at 5am every morning. After morning prayers, I would go to the wet market to buy ingredients for the food stall. At 7.30am, I'd sell oil palm fruit and rubber. That was my routine every day," says Mohd Janis.

His hard work slowly bore fruit. At 18, he was able to buy 1.2ha of land in his village and planted oil palm trees.

"The land price back then was much cheaper compared to today," says Mohd Janis who was awarded a licence as an oil palm planter from the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB).

Thanks to MPOB's Tunas (advising agency for oil palm planters), Mohd Janis was exposed to the dos and don'ts of running an oil palm plantation. That helped him ensure he reaped quality oil palm fruit which, in turn, helped to generate a large customer base.


Luck seemed to be on his side. At 26, Mohd Janis became a millionaire. "My habit of saving is the key. Maybe this comes from my difficult life during my childhood," says Mohd Janis. He is extremely proud of the fact that he was wise enough to save his profits. As a result, he was able to finance new businesses without loans.

Other than his meticulous saving habit, he credits his success to his desire to remain in the kampung.

"Most boys would leave the village in search of something better in the city. But I stayed because I could see potential in the agricultural business. I grabbed the opportunity that people left for me and made something out of it. Agriculture can really generate money, if you do it right," he adds.

Another secret to his success is planning. "I count my blessings every day for having achieved all that I planned," he says.

The father of six didn't just rest on his laurels. In 1984, he bought a small lorry, which was used to bolster his distribution network. The acquisition enabled him to sell to big companies, one of which was the Rubber Industry Smallholders Development Authority which produced palm oil. Today, Mohd Janis owns several trailers and numerous heavy machinery.

In 1993, he established his eponymous company - Mohd Janis Sdn Bhd. With a larger business operation, he turned to his village for manpower, creating job opportunities for his community.

Along the way, Mohd Janis bought more land in Ledang and Tangkak for his oil palm plantation. Later, he started other businesses such as a dairy farm, sundry shops as well as real estate.

But oil palm still provides the most revenue for him. Mohd Janis says his company currently generates sales of about 9,000 tonnes of oil palm fruit per month.


Thanks to Mohd Janis' entrepreneurial skills, his family is enjoying the results of his success. Four of his six children are working for him. The two younger ones are still in school.

"I'm so thankful that the boys listened to me and decided to work in the kampung for their dad. They all live near me," he says.

Each of his children is assigned different roles and responsibilities. His second son, Mohd Anuar feels blessed to be able to work for his father.

"My brothers and I were exposed to the business from young. After SPM, we decided to work for dad," says the 30-year-old.

His father's sheer determination and drive are a source of inspiration for Mohd Anuar. He says: "My dad reminds all of us to always seek advice from old timers in the business. He believes that for a young businessman to triumph, he has to learn from an experienced businessman."

For Mohd Anuar and his siblings, working with their father is easy, as long as they listen to him. "We've never asked for higher pay or anything. Our dad has given us everything. From a house and car to monthly salary ... everything is taken care of. We are so blessed. We can never ask for more," he says.

He and his brother will discuss business with their father after dinner.

"If there's anything to discuss, we will send messages to one another using WhatsApp and then gather at my parents' place. My dad also uses WhatsApp these days. He is adapting well to our ways and we adapt to his ways too," says Mohd Anuar, who hopes that one day his father will take a back seat and enjoy his retirement.

"Sometimes it hurts me to see how hard he works when he should be relaxing with my mum," says Mohd Anuar.

Initially, Mohd Janis had planned to retire last year. But due to unforeseen circumstances, he has decided to continue for another five years.

"When that time comes for dad to slow down, we will look after the business using the knowledge he has taught us," says Mohd Anuar.

Talking to him, I can sense how united the family is.

"We will all do our part. It doesn't matter how many hours we work. What's important is to keep our dad's legacy going. He has worked so hard for it," says the father-of-two.

Mohd Anuar and his siblings have no regrets for not pursuing tertiary education. But they are hoping their two younger siblings will.

"It'll be nice to have someone from the family setting foot in a university," says Mohd Anuar.


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