Chairmand and CEO of Texchem Group
Where you start is not necessarily where you end. That’s the journey of life. Tan Sri Fumihiko Konishi is proof of that. Japan may be his place of birth, but he now considers Malaysia, and Penang, his home. He may have trained to be a chemist in university, but his career path has turned him towards business, as the head of the Texchem conglomerate, as well as the founder of the ubiquitous Sushi King brand. Musing over the passage of time, Tan Sri Konishi talks about how Malaysia has changed and the most important qualities in his business and life.
On how Malaysia then and now
I arrived in Malaysia in 1968. Back then I felt a tremendous energy in the people. It was so diverse and so multi-cultural. I didn’t see that diversity as a handicap. It was potential. Say what you will about his pros and cons, but Dr Mahathir did a great job in developing the country. I saw his industrialisation policies from their start in the 70s until today, and I can say with certainty that it has lifted the entire country. High education is now common, and the standard of living has improved so much. But I can still feel the same energy in the people of Malaysia now that I did back then.
On change in Malaysia
The biggest thing that has changed in Malaysia in the 48 years I have been here is opportunity. Everything used to be limited. Education, infrastructure, access. Very few people had the opportunity to grow. Now participation in the economy has been opened up to everyone, as long as they want it. This is the natural path of development in any country, and in Malaysia it happened very quickly.
On advising the new generation
If I had to give advice to a young person starting their job or their first business today, I would tell them to be patient. People have always wanted to job hop, and because it is so easy to do it nowadays, they do it without thinking twice. And they hop to something completely different than before! They should have patience. Spend at least five years focusing on one thing and learn all you can. And always be fair. That is the rule I live by. In whatever I do, I always ask myself: am I being fair to the other person, and is the other person being fair to me? If not, there can be no faith, and business runs on faith.
On life’s challenges
There will always be hardship. That is just part of life. For me, the hardest period of my life was the four years after I graduated from Universiti Malaya in 1969. I didn’t know it then because I was young and naïve, but it was a really challenging time working in a trading firm with terrible pay. But it made me realise what I wanted to do, and I started up Texchem in 1974. In the ten years that followed, I single-handedly built the company up myself. It was very hard, but it paid off.
I like ambition. When I interview someone, I always look for ambitious people. But you need to match ambition with effort. It is okay to being hard-working without being ambitious – you can get by just fine – but to be ambitious without working hard is the worst combination. You will always be frustrated.
I used to relax by playing golf. But now, I travel. I love Europe. I first went there in 1977, for a month for business. Back then, there was no such thing as work on a weekend, so I was forced to explore because there was nothing else to do. I visited museums, parks and galleries. I loved it. Now I visit Europe at least once a year, and more than a hundred times in my life. My house in Penang is called Villa Primavera and is based on a European mansion, complete with European gardens. I even got some Italian artists to paint frescoes on my walls!