THE HANDS-ON APPROACH

Malaysia 2017 | INDUSTRY & HIGH TECHNOLOGY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Tan Sri Dr. Lim Wee Chai, Chairman of Top Glove Corporation, on listing in Singapore, maintaining global share, and the importance of introducing new products for an ever-changing market.

 Tan Sri Dr. Lim Wee Chai
BIOGRAPHY
Tan Sri Dr. Lim Wee Chai is the Chairman and founder of the Top Glove Corporation. Established in 1991, the group was listed on Bursa Malaysia in 2001 and the Singapore Exchange in 2016. Tan Sri Dr. Lim graduated with a BSc in physics in 1982 from University Malaya, and received his MBA in 1985 from Sul Ross State University in Texas. He holds a PhD in Management from the University of Selangor, Malaysia. He has an honorary doctorate in business administration from Oklahoma City University. He also serves as President of the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) and Honorary President of the Malaysia-China Chamber of Commerce.

In 2016, Top Glove announced its second listing, this time in Singapore, after already being listed in Malaysia. What were its objectives in doing so?

The main objective of the secondary listing in Singapore was to create and add value for our shareholders and stakeholders. Singapore is a good country for us to associate with, develop our business, and learn from. The financial market in Singapore is also larger than in Malaysia. As a business we want to ensure that we invest where we can get a good yield or return. The time and cost involved in this investment will pay off without many extra costs. We want our customers to see us as an international company. The image created is stronger as the regulatory standards are higher in Singapore than in Malaysia. Listing in Singapore is also a sensible long-term strategy for us, should we decide to acquire other companies or enter into any M&As as the new listing opens up the market for us.

Top Glove currently has 25% of the world market and you have targeted capturing 30% by 2020. What growth strategies do you have in place?

We are the world's largest rubber glove manufacturer and currently export to 200 countries. It is not easy to be the world's largest producer of any product and maintaining that position is even more challenging. In business, you have to set a direction and target. Our target is to expand our market share to 30% by 2020. To achieve this target, we have to continue to expand. To this end, we have been building two or three new factories a year, but that has not been enough. Therefore, we also look to acquire new companies in order to grow faster. The cost of doing business is increasing every year and we need to grow as a company to keep up.

Are there any particular geographical areas that you want to expand to next?

We look to expand all over the world into numerous countries. The US is the country that contributes the highest percentage of our sales revenue at 28%. We are present in every country in Europe, which represents 34% of our sales revenue. We have customers in Latin America, including Brazil, which is a major market for us. After the US, Europe, and Japan, Brazil is our fourth-largest market. We are able to expand to almost every region around the globe because standards of living and life expectancy are going up.

How is the ecosystem in Malaysia for glove manufacturers, given the country's numerous rubber plantations and the government's drive to develop the medical equipment industry?

Malaysia is ideal for rubber glove manufacturing because we have the raw materials, good technology, and machinery for production. We also have high quality control in our manufacturing. Malaysia has sound infrastructure in terms of transportation, including seaports and airports, and in communications. The country has a relatively stable government, and is a safe country to operate in. This stability is important for business. The level of entrepreneurship in Malaysia is high and the country has a good banking system. Hence, Malaysia has many advantages that help make us competitive.

Can you tell us about your recent product innovations?

We have recently come up with some new products, for example, a new type of synthetic glove for people who are allergic to natural rubber (latex). Also, we have introduced a polymer coating that enables you to don a glove even with wet hands. Every year we introduce about five new or improved glove products and have expanded our glove range to serve the food industry. We manufacture color-coded gloves for use in different types of food preparation and have also expanded into gloves for hairdressing salons and households. We are always looking to innovate and expand into whatever consumers want.