Tan Sri Datuk G. Gnanalingam was educated at the Royal Military College and he is a graduate of the University of Malaya and Harvard Business School, Boston.
His initial career was with the British American Tobacco group where he started as a Sales Representative and became the Marketing Director within 10 years. He then started his own marketing company, G-team Consultants, which handled the commercial operations of RTM, the national television station. The revenues of RTM grew from RM 55million to RM 360million. In 1994, he started Westports from a barren, swampy island into a RM 1billion enterprise.
Tan Sri Gnanalingam is acknowledged and recognized for his marketing skills, not only with British American Tobacco, RTM or Westports, but also with the organization of the 1989 SEA Games which was the best ever and truly a commercial success. He was also bestowed a ‘Datuk’ and ‘Tan Sri’ by His Majesty, The Yang Dipertuan Agong, in 1998 and June 2000 respectively. His revolutionary concept of ‘Garden Port’ has changed the perceptions of how a port should look like and this concept is now followed by many ports.
Tan Sri Gnanalingam has taken Westports to great heights and is today recognized as one of the top 10 terminals in the world. This has been achieved by employing 100% Malaysian staff, 70% whom are Bumiputeras. Malaysians can definitely stand tall being one of the best port operators in the world.
Through his undaunting leadership, Westports has won 30 awards in all walks of the industry and also holds the world record for vessel productivity and turnaround of vessels. Westports efforts have helped Port Klang catapult from 27th position in 1990 to 13th position in terms of world container volume handled by a port.
Tan Sri Gnanalingam has been rewarded for his efforts as the Transport Man of the Year in 2001. In 2007, he received the Malaysia Tatler 18 Years At The Top Award for his accomplishment and contributions to society, followed by the SME Platinum Award, the CILT Malaysia Achiever of the Year Award and elected a Chartered Fellow by the CILT, United Kingdom. Tan Sri Gnanalingam was also presented the Outstanding American Alumnus Award 2007 in the field of Logistics and Transport by the American Universities Alumni of Malaysia for achieving outstanding entrepreneurial skills and leadership excellence in different industries.
In March 2009, he received the BrandLaureate Brand Personality Award for his active involvement in brand development for the country. In November, he was awarded the Malay Chamber of Commerce “Lifetime Achievement” Award. The award is a mark of honour and recognition toward the achievements acquired by Tan Sri Gnanalingam for his exemplary leadership skills in driving excellence within the port and logistics industry and for his perseverance to withstand the global economic turmoil. In July 2010, Tan Sri G. Gnanalingam was conferred the Asia Human Resource Development (HRD) Congress Award 2010 for his contributions to society in the development of human resources.
Tan Sri Gnanalingam is currently the President of Harvard Business School Alumni Club of Malaysia since 2004 and elected to the Pemudah committee by the Prime Minister in 2007.
He was also the Co-Chairman of the Special Implementation Task Force (SITF) set-up by the Prime Minister to handle Indian issues. He was instrumental in bringing to close the long outstanding issue of Maika Holdings by returning 66,000 shareholders their original investment.
He is also a strong supporter of Khazanah Nasional’s Global Lectures series, underlining his long-standing relationship with the Malaysian community. Westports was the main sponsor at last year’s Khazanah Global Lectures 2010 whose eminent speaker was Dr Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India.
Tan Sri Gnanalingam is known for his trademark management style, which includes leaving no stone unturned, initiating mind-shifts and quantum leaps and thinking out of the box. He is also well-known for his generosity and social work. In terms of community and social services, his work renowned among the people in Pulau Indah, Port Klang, where Westports is located. Due to efforts by Westports, the poverty level on the island dropped tremendously over the years.
He strongly believes in 3 factors when operating a business. Profits, Passion and Compassion are the bottom line of any company. At Westports, profit means sustaining business, ability to control and expand as well as satisfying shareholders return. As an organization, the port is also passionate – for its people especially in creating total employee satisfaction.
Westports is also synonymous with its location, Pulau Indah (adopting it at the core of its CSR Initiative), and this has brought about the compassion for its surroundings, most importantly the island’s people can say goodbye to living under poverty, thanks to the port’s poverty eradication programme. The programme in Pulau Indah continues to provide a helping hand to the needy. Since it’s opening in 1994, Westports has adopted long-term policies with regard to poverty eradication.
Today, Westports not only provides job opportunities for the locals, but also provides monthly financial assistance to those who are poor as well as orphaned children. About 60% of Westports employees are Pulau Indah residents. The success of Westports Poverty Eradication Programme is evident from the sharp decline, if not Zero, in the incidence of poverty.
Besides the resounding success of being a garden port, Westports significant contribution towards environment management in 2009 was the formation of the Oil Spill Response Team. It is a dedicated team comprising of personnel of the Port police, Fire and Rescue Department. Their main job is to tactically fight oil spills at ship berthing areas at Westports as well as the channel passing through the port.
Additionally, Westports also has competent teams for monitoring of Noise, Chemical Hazard Risk Assessment and Ambient Air Monitoring. Notably, the Environmental initiatives that will have greater significance is the ISO 14001 project, certified in Year 2009 for the entire port operations. Westports proved itself to be a truly world class terminal, setting standards for all other terminals in the country, by receiving the coveted environmental management system ISO 14001 certification as well as the OHSAS 18001 occupational health and safety management system.
With a contingent of 200 auxiliary port police officers Westports police was assigned policing powers in 2009 under the NKRA program for the entire Pulau Indah where the port is located. It is now their mission to ensure not only the security aspect of the port, but also to make Pulau Indah a crime-free island.
Westports strongly believes that healthy employees would contribute to the growth of the company. Its objectives are to create awareness and educate employees on healthy living and to instill in employees to take ownership and importance of their own health.
Several healthy living initiatives were planned by the company and were successfully implemented in 2009 to promote healthy living condition in Westports. The most significant one was the Healthy Passport program, which made it compulsory for all staff to undergo medical screening. They were tagged as Green (Good), Yellow (Moderate) and Red (Danger Zone), after the screening.
In January 2009, the company had 454 employees in the red zone or critical time bombs waiting to explode because of Pressure, High cholesterol and Diabetes (PHD). We are pleased to say that this has been reduced to 143 employees by December 2009 and to below 100 in 2010. This shows that when employees are guided in terms of taking their medicine, proper diet and appropriate exercises, they can be saved or rescued from the PHD problem.