As an entrepreneur, one is not spared from facing various challenges and obstacles that will often put him or her to the test. With this in mind, Executive Director of Sumisaujana TCM Chemicals Sdn Bhd (SSTCM), Mr. Norazlam Norbi, has advised new entrepreneurs to always plan ahead and prepare for rainy days particularly in today's challenging global economic environment. Mr. Norazlam together with the management team at SSTCM shared with us their story.
Can you share the background of your business?
SSTCM is a joint venture between Sumisaujana Sdn Bhd (Sumisaujana) (60%) and TCM Chemicals Inc (TCMI) (40%). Our principal activities are producing and marketing products and related services for the oilfield specialty chemicals and additives and industrial specialty chemicals industries. SSTCM together with Sumisaujana develop, market, and supply chemicals products to numerous oil and gas industry players within the Asia Pacific, Middle East, Europe, North Africa as well as the Americas.
In 2012, SSTCM took a step forward by commencing the operation of a specialty chemicals manufacturing plant. Our special products and chemicals and special additives have been used in the upstream and downstream oil & gas sectors, rubber gloves, medicine, and other chemical industries.
Today, more than 80% of SSTCM's products are for the export market, where we supply our products to various Oil & Gas and Petrochemicals operators, service companies and distributors comprising Multinational Corporations (MNCs) throughout Asia Pacific, South Asia, the Middle East, Africa and North America.
We currently have offices and representatives in Malaysia, the United States (US) and the United Kingdom to increase sales in the global market.
What are some of the major challenges that you faced so far amid the global economic uncertainty due to the Covid-19 pandemic?
For one, we had to ensure that the monitoring of our employees’ safety and health was adapted to this new threat.
We immediately implemented new practices within our own Health, Safety, Security, and Environment (HSSE) policies and procedures to ensure our team were safe both at work and at home, when they interacted with their respective communities.
All meetings were held virtually, and this took time for everyone to get used to. Work schedules were adjusted to ensure optimum number of employees were present in the plant, while ensuring that safe working conditions can be guaranteed.
Secondly, we had to immediately address supply chain challenges caused by the global logistics disruption. As materials, resources and freight slots were scarce during the first months of the pandemic, we constantly focused our efforts towards ensuring our procurement, production and shipment planning was attuned to the dynamics of the global market. We were extremely thankful that SSTCM had very much managed to continue to meet our customer’s orders on time until today.
We were also very pleased that we were not forced to reduce our headcount in facing these challenges. SSTCM has over 100 employees and we needed to ensure that their welfare was taken care of. Who would have thought, Covid-19 has such a profound effect on every individual in the world? The world community has to live with new norms.
What are the strengths or unique qualities of your business?
We provide high-performance solutions to meet the specific needs of customers including consulting services, Chemical Manufacturing & Blending, R&D and Laboratory Services, as well as Field Operations Services.
SSTCM has four key pillars to drive business growth throughout the year. First, Research and Development (R&D) as well as technical solutions. To meet the needs and desires of customers, we go through several technical processes including intensive R&D or through product development methodologies. Currently, several SSTCM products are registered under Intellectual Property (IP) copyrights worldwide.
Second, we consistently meet the demands of strict compliance with internal and external regulations, as well as HSSE.
The third is being customer and quality-centric. We make sure that we deliver the highest level of quality assurance and control to meet strict industry standards worldwide.
Fourth, we are very proud to have created and developed local talent in few areas, including Chemistry, Process and Engineering, HSSE, Compliance and Legal as well as Corporate Governance.
What are SSTCM’s recent achievements and future plans?
In terms of human capital growth, SSTCM has opened up employment opportunities to locals with a year-on-year growth rate of about 18% and contributed to the local socio-economic transformation as well as creating highly skilled employment opportunities.
For the record, in 2011, we only had 18 staff, consisting of management, professional technical and supervisory operators as well as factory operators. In over 9 years, SSTCM has a total of 105 staff, comprising management, advisors, professionals, technical and supervisory, support workers, plant operators as well as part-time workers.
Other than that, the SSTCM manufacturing plant is capable of reaching a capacity of more than 10,000 Metric Tons per year and is capable of producing more than 60 different grades of products at any time. The plant also houses a fully equipped, in-house R&D laboratory as well as complete quality assurance.
|The Management Team of SSTCM|
In addition, the performance of the manufacturing segment was good, despite the challenges of the global market in recent years.
The growth is expected to continue in the coming years, as it is driven by regional expansion and sales. For future growth, we plan to expand our manufacturing plant and to diversify our sources of income through several global projects.
What is your advice to new entrepreneurs?
Lastly, regularly study the market opportunities in the future.