This 34-Year-Old Malaysian Proves How Renewable Energy Can Become A Profitable Business

His solar company has brought in over RM50 million in revenue within the first five years.

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This Spotlight is sponsored by AmBank.

The AmBank BizRACE is a business competition focused on helping local SMEs unlock their business potential, with RM2 million worth of prizes to be won

Image via AmBank

This competition is designed for small Malaysian companies from any industry looking to scale and grow their businesses to the next level. Development prizes include overseas trips and programmes in China and the UK, as well as marketing and educational awards.

Find out how you can register on their website.

Ko Chuan Zhen, co-founder and CEO of Plus Solar, came in as the first runner-up in AmBank BizRACE 2018

Ko pitching to the judges at AmBank BizRACE 2018

Image via AmBank

One of the leading solar solution providers in Malaysia, Plus Solar Systems Sdn Bhd has already achieved RM50 million in revenue within its first five years, with the company on track to hit RM100 million in revenue by 2019.

We sat down with Ko and asked him to share his journey of entrepreneurship with us:

What’s the story behind Plus Solar?

Solar panels on the roof of IKEA Tebrau, Johor

Image via Plus Solar

"I first got to know about renewable energy while studying in Taiwan. After graduating, I worked for solar companies in 11 countries across the globe before returning to Malaysia. In 2012, I partnered with my high school friends Ryan and Poh to start Leaf Energy, Malaysia’s first solar consultancy firm.

In 2013, we established Plus Solar to provide turnkey solar solutions for residential, business, industrial, and utility sectors. Since then, we’ve delivered more than 100 megawatts of solar energy to 700 buildings, including the iconic IKEA buildings in Cheras, Tebrau, and Batu Kawan."

Why solar energy and why Malaysia?

The team behind Plus Solar

Image via Leaderonomics

"When we started Plus Solar, the timing and conditions in Malaysia were just right. In recent years, there has been a green movement, with our country hoping to increase renewable energy consumption to 20% by 2030. Companies are also starting to see the value of solar energy, both economic and environmental.

While we’ve had opportunities to venture overseas, we’ve chosen to focus on Malaysia because we believe it is the best place in Southeast Asia to run renewable energy projects."

What are some of the challenges you've faced with the fast growth of Plus Solar?

"We grew really fast, expanding to over 50 employees in just a few years. Somewhere along the line, I realised we lacked the structure to make the company scalable. This is when we started hiring more senior people that would fill the management roles.

As a founder, I had to move from doing everything to hiring people who were better than me at doing one specific thing. Now, I have taken on more of a strategic role, envisioning the future of our company instead of getting tied down with daily tasks."

How did AmBank BizRACE help you along your journey?

AmBank BizRACE finalists in China for a learning trip.

Image via AmBank

"I joined this competition not with the motive of winning something, but to learn as much as I could. And thanks to AmBank BizRACE, I got the chance to visit Shanghai and learn about the market there, as well as how I could tailor Plus Solar to our Malaysian market.

I also networked with many awesome people, including some who've become my mentors and coaches. My management team and I have also experienced many "aha!" moments from the training sessions, which have shaped the way we run our business."

What is your advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Founders of Plus Solar: (From left) Ryan Oh, Ko Chuan Zhen, and Poh Tyng Huei

Image via The Peak

"I believe that you should always start your business with the right purpose. Know why you do what you do. The next thing is to have passion, because passion is the activator that will kickstart your journey early on. But the most important thing is to have persistence, because it’s the thing that sustains your purpose and passion."

Ready to bring your business to the next level? Register for the AmBank BizRACE 2018-2019 today for a chance to gain media exposure as well as win these amazing prizes:

Image via AmBank

STEP 1: Register on AmBank Biz Club by 24 December 2018.

STEP 2: 
Submit your business plan online by 14 January 2019, and wait for the AmBank BizRACE team to contact you about your business via email or phone.

STEP 3: The top 100 participants will enjoy a total of RM140,000 in development prizes including a Strategic Talent Management course by UTM-Azman Hashim International Business School and an interactive learning session by Leaderonomics.

STEP 4: The top 100 participants will also get to pitch their business ideas to a panel of judges on 26 February 2019 and obtain valuable insights and advice.

STEP 5: The top 30 chosen participants will walk away with other amazing prizes, such as a learning trip to China, plus media exposure and other development prizes.

For more information on the AmBank BizRACE 2018-2019, check out their website today

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