Category Archives: Entrepreneur

Public Bank SecureSign device how-to

Finally got our SecureSign device from Public Bank for online business e-banking. Looks similar to HSBC’s security token:
SecureSign PBB
However the way it is used is very different from HSBC’s. There are two stages in carrying out an online transaction. The logic behind is there may be more than one person who can access the business bank account (logging into the account does not require the SecureSign device). But not all of them have the authority to carry out online transactions. So the first stage involves creating transactions, e.g. to pay for utility bills. Subsequently, the person with SecureSign device will approve these transactions, presumably one by one (haven’t tried this out yet).

In the first stage, I made payment in a similar way to how I was accustomed to. But when I was expecting to key in a secure code from the SecureSign device before I confirm a transaction, I managed to confirm without one. But the transaction was then put under “Pending” status.

In the second stage, I needed to click on the “Transaction Approval” tab to proceed:
Transaction_Approval_PBB
On the left hand column, there were “Maker Transaction Status” and “Authorizer Transaction Status”. I could view pending transaction under “Maker Transaction Status” or “Authorizer Transaction Status”. To authorise transactions, I needed to click on “Authorizer Transaction Status”, followed by “Approve/Reject Transaction”. There I was required to search for the transaction to approve, which in my case was just one pending. Here came the unintuitive bit, after clicking on the transaction that I wanted to approve. I was required to key in the secure code. The secure code was to be generated from the SecureSign device. However it wasn’t entirely clear from the Quick Guide that came with the SecureSign device how it could be generated:
SecureSign Quick Guide

First, I keyed in the PIN number into the SecureSign device when prompted. Then I pressed the “1” or “Sign” button on the device, before keying in the first set of data. This first set of data was actually the first line of numbers on-screen in red. After keying in the numbers followed by “OK” on the device, I keyed in the second line of numbers in red (it was the amount figure, but remember to omit the decimal dot) followed by “OK”. Then only the secure code appeared, which I entered on-screen to approve the transaction.

Now do you understand how the SecureSign device facilitates online business transactions for Public Bank?

Updated on 4/12/2015:
Just found out today that if your pending transaction is not authorised within 7 days, the transaction will vanish by itself. Yes, vanish, because it will not show up anywhere, even if you try to search for it. It is not rejected nor deleted. It will disappear from you, or even the Public Bank staff. Initially I thought I can just keep creating transactions, let them stay pending, until I authorise them at a later date closer to actual payment due date for my bills. The reason I did that because Public Bank do not allow transactions to executed on a future date. Absolutely rubbish. Maybank can do that. And how difficult can it be to keep a record of expired (pending) transactions, so that I don’t have to dig out transaction details again to make the payment. Basically their commercial online payment system is just not very well thought out to me. It is appropriate to describe it as rubbish.

Updated on 1/2/2016:
If you damage the device, it will cost you RM50 (plus GST) to replace. Don’t put it in your pocket, especially if your jeans is tight, like mine, with lots of things inside too, as mine cracked. Replacement does not take long, I got mine replaced in 2-3 days time.

Updated on 16/6/2017:


One and a half year since I wrote this how-to and their online portal is still showing up such amateurish message.. Basically this shows up when there is no more transaction to approve or reject when I clicked on “Approve/Reject Transaction”. It is NOT an error if there is no transaction to show here! Before this online portal goes live Public Bank should have inspected it thoroughly, every permutations, to weed out all the loose ends. Users are not interested in software error messages copied straight from the backend. Very poor, embarrassing actually, considering that Public Bank is the second largest bank in Malaysia. 

Such cheap credit available in the UK

Before I came back to Malaysia, I was clever to raise some cheap capital in the UK to start my business in Malaysia, via personal loans and credit cards. Particularly from credit cards. At the time, the best deals were offering 0% balance transfer for 2 years. I only needed to pay the one off handling fee and that would become the interest to pay over the two-year period.

When the two-year period was up, somehow I was able to roll the debt to other credit cards. Deals were not as good anymore as I was only able to take advantage of promotions given to me by my existing credit cards having moved back to Malaysia. And this goes on for almost three years now. Lately I even managed to transfer cash into my current accounts, again 0% interest for a period of time with a low enough handling fee! It is so much easier to get credits from UK credit cards, almost beyond belief, when I can’t even get a credit card yet in Malaysia.

Problem with record low interest rate in the UK is a lot of the consumer spending nowadays is fueled by such easy credits from credit cards. And credit card companies are making it so easy for us to roll debt around. All we need to do is fulfill 0% interest minimum payment to service the debt, which is normally a small sum relative to wages in the UK.

The U.S. has been threatening to raise interest rate for many months now. And the UK is monitoring the situation too. But I seriously doubt they will raise it anytime soon. The implication on consumer spending is going to be huge, and it is going to hit the banks as bad debt rises.

Good news for me, as I can still keep myself afloat as a result. Otherwise with the weak Ringgit, I would need to take a massive hit if I were to repay the credit card debt by early next year! And raising capital in Malaysia is so much harder and more expensive. Double whammy!

AEON Klebang couldn’t fill up retail spaces on opening day

Went to AEON Klebang on their opening day today. As expected, they did not manage to fill up all their retail spaces on their opening day. Instead of putting up green walls, like they did in Kinta City and Station 18 when a shop moved out, they are more clever here by putting up nice wall papers or allowing companies to set up booths to cover up the shame.

AEON Klebang ground floor
Underwater world wall papers and Subaru car road show to obscure three empty lots on the ground floor (opposite Baskin & Robbins).

AEON Klebang empty lot
Astro marketing booth and property road show to occupy retail space on ground floor.

Now to think about it, those nice scenery wall papers on the second and third floors are probably there for the same reason, rather than for shoppers to take photos!

Shops that are yet to open on the opening day are H&M (29th Oct), UNIQLO (30th Oct), Mango (Feb 2016!), Hush Puppies, Nandos, Black Canyon, and a few more which I couldn’t remember. But that is not going to dampen people’s excitement to flock to the new shopping mall. One caution for you all though is don’t let your little ones lean on or stand too close to the barriers that are erected to prevent you from falling down to the ground floor. They look and feel flimsy, and seem to be made of cheap materials. Very concerning!

Kinta City Shopping Centre not closing down!

So according to my “deep throat”, the ground floor of Kinta City Shopping Centre in Ipoh is going to be populated by F&B outlets, with existing (international?) retail outlets closed down after Chinese New Year in 2016. GUESS has moved out first, as written in my previous blog entry, with that lot currently labelled “Renovation in progress”, probably paving the way for the change next year (it is difficult to foresee tenant moving in just for a couple of months anwyay?!). And these F&B outlets can apparently have longer opening hours, probably till later into the night. Old Town White Coffee is going to move in, I heard.

This is good news to me, as I seldom buy clothing and such likes anyway. I definitely welcome more options on food. I think it will appeal to local customers too who like to do groceries shopping in Kinta City. In fact many families do like doing groceries shopping in AEON supermarket. So no, Kinta City Shopping Centre is not closing down. Far from it. It is, in my view, going to be transformed into a more functional shopping mall, with more emphasis on local customers. Bad news for those who harbour hopes that IKEA might move in. And it won’t be turned into a hospital, or airport, however ridiculous that may sound 🙂 What I’d really like to find out though is their new layout on ground floor. Should be interesting.

As for AEON Klebang, which is due to open next Sunday (21st October), there will be some duplicate retail outlets with those in Kinta City, e.g. Esprit, G2000, Giordano etc, for the next few months until CNY next year. I wonder if these shops get a bargain deal from AEON for keeping two shops running at the same time. It will be silly not to 😉

Updated on 16/10/2015:
G2000 Kinta City
G2000 has closed too, with a new fashion tenant to move in in November. Perhaps the ground floor make over happens after CNY next year.

GUESS has closed in Kinta City Shopping Mall

Went to AEON supermarket in Kinta City Shopping Mall for some groceries shopping. On the way out, saw the GUESS clothing shop was clearing up.
image
GUESS
As you can see, all the manikins were gone. And the shop was very empty, with a few staff still packing away things. I suspect they are closing the outlet here and move to AEON Klebang. I wonder if there are more to come. With the space where McDonald’s used to be still vacant, l think the shopping mall might find it difficult to fill up the space behind by GUESS too. It is quite a large space to begin with, on the ground floor, facing the main entrance and next to where events take place in the mall. Rental will be very expensive that’s for sure. We’ll see.

Setting up a commercial kitchen in Ipoh

It is incredibly difficult to find information on almost anything in Malaysia. Information is too fragmented, into multiple languages. And people seldom document information on websites for sharing. Especially the Ipoh folks.

I learned the hard way when I started my business. Basically if you know nothing about starting a business in Ipoh you can’t build up your knowledge from Internet research. You need to find contacts, to begin with. But numbers you find on the Internet are notoriously out of date. And Ipoh folks don’t use email. I had to ask around, and I needed to ask the right people.

So if you want to get into F&B (food and beverages) business, you need a kitchen. Before you proceed to get a builder to have your kitchen done up, it is best if you consult suppliers who will supply your kitchen equipment. Turns out that these suppliers provide more valuable input to the kitchen setup than the builders. For example it might be better to construct a drain from the stove to the drain exit from the outset for easy cleaning of the kitchen everyday, particularly if your kitchen is going to be very oily at the end of everyday. Concealed pipes, however large the pipes are, are not ideal, as pipes can clog easily, and they will clog given time! So don’t make the mistake like I did, thinking that you can just design the kitchen like a house kitchen. Engage these suppliers as early as you can, and ideally together with your chef or cook(s) too.

There are two such suppliers, Jit Fung and Snow Mountain. Jit Fung specialises in stainless steel works, like shelves, walls, and custom made stoves etc. Snow Mountain specialises in refrigerators. But both farm out their business to now overlap with each other. So there may not be a lot to choose from between the two. Workmanship of Jit Fung is apparently better, if you plan to have stainless steel walls rather than tiled walls.

Aliyaa is closed too at De Garden

It is interesting now that I’m in business I am more sensitive to how businesses are doing around. Just noticed another restaurant is closed in De Garden. This time it is a Sri Lankan restaurant, fine dining one, called Aliyaa.
aliyaa de garden
We have been there once. Food is great, service is great. But I guess the pricing is on the high side that it can’t sustain in Ipoh. They have one in Damansara which presumably is doing quite well that they open a branch in Ipoh. But again Ipoh is a tough nut to crack. Many franchises have come and gone without much success. Those that stay apparently are not really doing so well. We used to have Burger King, PappaRich. Not sure what else. But they are no more in Ipoh. The Ipoh folks are misers. Spending power not on the same level as those in KL, population in Ipoh much smaller, and less foreign tourists. In general more difficult to do business. Think we are going to see yet more businesses packing up during this economy downturn.

Nadia Sugar & Spice is closing end of August

Nadia Sugar Spice De Garden
Went to Cheeky Tots indoor playground due to the haze today. Passed by Nadia Sugar & Spice. It wasn’t opened. Tables and chairs outside weren’t there anymore. Asked the security guard at De Garden. Its last day is end of this month. So another shop closing down. We have dined there a couple of times. Hardly a fan, but the family who runs the business are very nice people. It’s a shame. But they do lack a good crowd the few times we were there, weekends or not, so it’s always going to be a problem, for any business. Especially when the economy is not doing so well.

Updated 11/11/2015:
Nadia Sugar & Spice has now become Nurul Sugar & Spice. Looks like business has changed hands. But everything looks the same apart from a slight change in their name and their signboard.

Marianis is closing on the 15th October

Marianis De Gardening
Marianis, an Italian restaurant located in De Garden Ipoh, is closing sooner than I thought it would. Well actually they are moving to Greentown, a bungalow house, not quite packing up shop. Previously I heard that they are closing end of this year. So mid October is sooner than I expected. Location wise De Garden is not bad, and Marianis is located facing the main road. But business is just not up to expectation I guess. I think more to do with the food being rather pricy for Ipoh standard. I rather like to have beer there during happy hours, as they give 25% discount on beers. A bottle of Hoegaarden costs just over RM10 (you still need to pay 10% service charge and 6% GST on top of that though mind you). I think it will be a struggle for me to find another bar in Ipoh Garden where I can pay this kind of price.

So looks like it might be afterall better for Marianis to be closer to the office workers in Greentown. But according to its staff the new place is rather hidden away so we will see how it gets on there. For a start the owner bought the bungalow, so Marianis can “do away” with the expensive rental which apparently is RM9k a month in De Garden. They will however need to do more marketing, and it takes time to build its name there, being rather hidden away. I’m no fan of their food so won’t travel there just for a beer. All the best nevertheless.

updated 8th October 2015:
marianis greentown address
Here you go, their new address in Greentown.

Personal credit ratings in Malaysia

Attended a seminar on Credit Risk Management for SMEs yesterday. Chiefly trying to find out more about business loan application in Malaysia, and the criteria they look at when they assess applications. Turned out that there were not much more information presented that I don’t already know. On the other hand, on the personal side, I found out that:
i) CTOS is one of three credit ratings agencies in Malaysia, apparently the largest;
ii) I can access my own credit report free of charge by registering with CTOS (unlike in the UK you will need to pay £5 to say Equifax to get a copy of it).

CTOS report

Above is a copy of my credit report from CTOS. I don’t know how others’ look like, but mine looks pretty blank, and with a damning entry for being a director of our new company. As you can see, our company is making quite a big loss in 2013, the year we started the company. The figure is one we submitted to SSM from our audited account for the year. It is most likely not very surprising to see losses in new companies in their first year of business. But from a personal credit history’s point of view, it is just bad. You see I have only been back in Malaysia for just over 2 years. I have no credit history. And setting up a new company seems to have plunged me into a deeper hole, as it now appears that I am a director of a company that loses lots of money. I think I now know why I failed in my recent application for a credit card. Can’t blame the financial institution for rejecting me when I have such a huge red flag waving at them can I? Considering that decision making is computerised on whether to approve a credit card application nowadays. But this just means that it is extra hard for entrepreneurs to borrow money, even if they just want to borrow money in their personal capacity for non-business related expenditure?

Great, looks like it is probably prudent for me to wait a couple of months, to allow my credit report to be updated with our latest audited account submitted to SSM which shows a non-negative number, before I apply for a credit card again.