Solid Automotive’s Hong Ker and Keddy Ker’s philosophy of facing everything with integrity ensures this 40 year-old family built business thrives as it works to achieve its vision to be the market-leading automotive aftermarket parts provider. And it is well on its way.
Established in 1982 in Johor Bahru, Johor, Solid Automotive has grown from its roots as a family business to being listed on the Main Market of Bursa Malaysia in 2013, but it continues to keep family at its heart – and maintaining family ties and values is something both Hong and Keddy are proud of.
“We have dinner together almost every weekend. And that has continued even after Keddy moved to Kuala Lumpur,” Hong tells The CEO Magazine. “It is something that resonates a lot with our family – remaining united through close ties. It is close to my heart, that’s for sure.”
It is something that resonates a lot with our family – remaining united through close ties. It is close to my heart, that’s for sure. – Hong Ker
Keeping it in the family
Working with family brings its own challenges – disagreements and frictions do occur, however, clear communication allows them to stay on track and is key to their ongoing success.
“This organisation is originally family owned. In 2013 we listed, which has transformed the business and allowed for more corporate growth. But ,of course, there are still accents of the family business within the organisation,” Hong says.
Both Hong and Keddy are representatives of the second generation, and are responsible for transforming the company from its first-generation family roots to a professionally run business.
“Succeeding after the first generation is definitely challenging, however, we are coping very well because we believe that frequent communication is the key to reducing friction,” Hong notes.
Leading with integrity is a key part of their business philosophy in addition to retaining their family reputation, which is high on the agenda.
“For me, integrity means that things are done in the right way, even when people are not looking at you,” Hong explains.
For me, integrity means that things are done in the right way, even when people are not looking at you. – Hong Ker
“It works from the top down. The true measure of integrity in Solid Automotive is not about having fancy vision and mission statements, but how our stakeholders feel about whether top management, through its actions and behaviours, is living up to its promise.”
Keddy agrees: “We share the same philosophy. So 40 years of reputations are in our hands now as the second generation. The first generation worked hard to build that reputation, so we cannot spoil it.”
Solid Automotive prides itself on its people, and sees them as its power and its best asset. And as they look to the future and building the company, Keddy acknowledges that growth doesn’t just happen.
“You don’t build a business, you build people, then people build the business,” Keddy says.
They are thinking outside the box when it comes to their strategy to obtain good people, and are considering investing in their own automotive school or college – something they believe worthwhile as it will also give back to society by up-skilling the community.
“Creating our own college to train people, like mechanics, through our own school is one of our targets. Though it may not happen very soon,” Keddy admits.
Solid Automotive focuses on automotive aftermarket spare parts, including parts for motorcycles, cars and trucks and, looking to the future, its target is to become the market leader in automotive aftermarket spare parts in the region. Already successful in the Malaysian market, it currently has 30 branches and 500 employees and is ready to expand further.
“We would like to bring the business model to more countries in South-East Asia. We are also keeping an eye on electric vehicle [EV] parts as we are seeing a paradigm shift in customer behaviour towards EV,” Keddy explains.
When it comes to sustaining Solid Automotive’s growth, Hong believes joint ventures and mergers and acquisitions (M&As) have their part to play.
“We had our first successful M&A in 2018, which was Win Soon Auto Suppliers, and the second one in 2019, which was when we acquired Borneo Technical. These are two examples where we had outstanding growth in the company through business transformation after the M&A,” Hong explains.
“We are actively looking for more opportunities to expand in order to achieve aggressive growth within Solid Automotive.”
It’s about having more of a long-term and win–win perspective, rather than focusing on the short-term or some sort of transactional type of business. – Keddy Ker
Solid Automotive’s extensive distribution network throughout Malaysia, along with the comprehensive range of automotive parts it carries, sets it apart from its competitors.
“Solid Automotive has more than 34,000 SKUs and a customer base of more than 10,000 customers throughout Malaysia,” Hong says.
Keddy believes the company’s strengths lie in the fact that family harmony and unity are still embedded within the professionally run organisation. “At present, there are 14 family members working in various functions within the company,” Keddy explains.
Listing the company worked to their advantage as everything has become more transparent, and family members now work better together. It produces trust and goodwill while safe-guarding Solid Automotive’s reputation among the stakeholders.
“We have many family members and we work well together, so this is one of our strengths in the market. Being listed keeps everybody doing their job,” Keddy adds.
Collaboration is key
Aside from building customer loyalty, the pair acknowledge that building and keeping a good working relationship with their suppliers is equally crucial to the business.
“Huge efforts were put in by the first generation in building and maintaining these supplier relationships. Frequent visits to the key suppliers helped maintain healthy working relationships,” Hong says.
Keddy elaborates: “By cooperating in a mutually beneficial relationship with key suppliers, we can minimise price volatility, improve product quality, obtain market insights and increase efficiency. These often translate to happier, more loyal customers and further the company’s growth.”
It’s nice to have a collaborative partnership where you constantly help each other in terms of giving insights and ideas, and keep each other up to speed with the current trends and technology. – Keddy Ker
And it’s a win–win for everyone, as keeping in touch with suppliers creates a more collaborative business process. “Information is very important in the business world,” says Keddy.
“It’s nice to have a collaborative partnership where you constantly help each other in terms of giving insights and ideas, and keep each other up to speed with the current trends and technology. It’s about having more of a long-term and win–win perspective, rather than focusing on the short-term or some sort of transactional type of business.”