Dr Abu Hasan Ismail made his first RM1mil at the age of 45. His drive towards forming his company, which is worth around RM580mil, was based on ideas, determination and someone who believed in him and gave him a chance to prove himself.
THOSE who have met Prestariang Bhd founder and group managing director Dr Abu Hasan Ismail will be familiar with his unconstrained thoughts, his great mission to look for people with the X-factor and the need to be punctual.
Restless with a tinge of impatience, Abu very much resembles your typical eccentric professor with a vision that goes beyond just making money.
However, life is such that when you create value or have that value creation mindset, money will follow somehow.
“Small people like me who work hard can make it. I didn’t have money when I started my business. I only had ideas, determination and someone who believed in me and gave me the opportunity to prove myself.
He made his first million at the relatively late age of 45, before Prestariang was listed in 2011. But for him, it has never been about net wealth.
Abu has always been passionate about architecture and computer-aided design (CAD), and has always been keen to differentiate himself and break boundaries.
Fast forward 15 years since Prestariang’s birth and we can safely say that he has done just that.
Today, Prestariang is one of the more successful companies to be listed on Bursa Malaysia under the government’s Skim Jejak Jaya Bumiputera.
It has evolved from being Malaysia’s largest information and communications technology (ICT) software and training service provider to a leading technology and talent platform innovator.
Through its transformation plan, the group launched an integrated immigration and border control technology platform for the Malaysian government called SKIN (Sistem Kawalan Imigresen Nasional).
Prestariang is also the largest Microsoft Licensing Solutions Partner in Malaysia.
Through its Technology and Talent Platforms, Prestariang will deliver its innovation through six core deliveries, namely Analytics and Business Intelligence, Cyber and Information Security, Cloud Services, Change Management, Digital Ecosystem and SKIN-in-a-Box.
Abu’s advice for wannabe entrepreneurs or someone just starting out is: “Plan for the worst and hope for the best. Once you have done this, don’t worry about taking the risk and making the jump because the safety net will always be there to catch you. Finally, get ready to roll your sleeve and dig in for the long haul.”
As the country celebrates Merdeka, Abu is embracing the changing environment positively. He believes that being able to adapt to change is the hallmark of a great company.
“I believe that the same goes for a country. The promise to change is great, but the endgame must also be clear. We are still unclear about what kind of country we want to be in 10 or 20 years.
“The current narrative is too engrossed about the past when we actually need greater direction for the future. The country needs a reboot and we must do it fast,” he says.
Abu says Prestariang will continue to do its bit for nation building.
“We have trained and certified over 50,000 ICT professionals. The majority of these talents are now in the ICT industry ecosystems and making a contribution for the better. Our next phase is to upskill those that are already in the systems and align them to the needs of Industry 4.0.”
Abu, who was born to a Chinese mother and a Malay father, has had a natural talent for all things technical from an early age.
Thus, it wasn’t surprising that while pursuing his diploma in architecture at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, he was offered a scholarship for a bachelor’s degree in architecture in the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland.
It was in Strathclyde that Abu was first exposed to the new wave of digitisation in architectural practice. It was also where he first discovered CAD. All this was back in the eighties, when computer simulation was still a foreign concept.
Abu convinced his UTM Dean that CAD was the next big thing in architecture and off he went to the University of Sheffield, UK, to pursue his master’s degree.
This would lead to Sheffield awarding him a master’s degree in 1988 and a PhD in 1996 for his work on the integration of technology to support collaboration in architectural practice.
Armed with these newfound skills, Abu returned to Malaysia, where his services were soon needed.
In the nineties, then prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad conceptualised the birth of Putrajaya. He was looking to transform Prang Besar, which mostly comprised plantation land, into the new administrative capital of Malaysia.
Abu was summoned by Dr Mahathir to visualise Putrajaya as an aesthetically pleasing capital that was also functional and eco-friendly.
It wasn’t long before Abu was commissioned to do a real-time 3D simulation of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport and subsequently Cyberjaya. These projects sealed his status in corporate Malaysia.
In the early 2000s, after a two-year stint with the Malaysian partner unit of Tokyo-listed Fujitsu where he learnt “how not to run a business”, Abu was resolute about starting his own company.
He had no money so he roped in Kencana Capital Sdn Bhd, owned by K.C. Yeow and Tan Sri Mokhzani Mahathir, to finance him.
In 2004, Yeow wrote him a cheque for RM1mil for an 85% stake in the newly formed Prestariang Systems Sdn Bhd.
Prestariang began to grow from strength to strength and starting winning government contracts too.
While Prestariang was first established in 2003, it was only listed seven years later in July 2011. Starting off at a market capitalisation of RM198.1mil, it now stands at RM583mil as of the end of August.