Malaysia’s home grown supermarket chain, Everrise was founded by the late Simon Sia in 1993. Today under the leadership of the second generation, Everrise has become one of the largest lifestyle supermarket chains in East Malaysia.
Jeffrey was born and raised in Kuching, Sarawak. He is the middle child among the siblings of three in the family. After completing his senior high school in his hometown, he moved to Australia to further his studies in Curtin University. Following his graduation in the Bachelor of Commence with Honours, he pursued a research career by taking up Doctor of Philosophy in Finance. His research interest was in the immediate aftermarket trading liquidity of IPOs in Australia. A turning point in his life occurred in 2004 when he had to suspend his research study and moved back to Malaysia to assume the management role of his father’s business when his father was terminally ill. Simon Sia subsequently passed away in 2005.
A sudden change in life and career means Jeffrey has to learn the ropes of the retail industry from scratch. He spent the first few years in the company getting to know the market, people and competitors well. He fast tracked his learning by actively engaging with the stakeholders and industry experts as well as attending industrial courses and conferences. That took a lot of hard work and late nights but it was an important step in getting acquainted with the business.
In 2008, Jeffrey started to invest into the growth engines of the business and took some drastic steps consolidating the business. These involved closing down underperforming outlets to free up valuable but under-utilised assets and talents as well as reinvest in training programs to upgrade the skills of the team. These efforts paved the way for a new phase of growth a few years later and in turn improved the company’s market competitiveness.
In 2011, Jeffrey led the company to embark on a total rebranding exercise to capture the relatively untapped mid-upper grocery market in the region. The move was timely as both the Everrise brand and its core customer base were in need of a refreshing concept to bring new life to the brand. He did that by improving every customer touch points from customer service, merchandise-mix, pricing strategies, marketing communications to shopping atmosphere in the retail stores. He also realigned the mindset of the management team to the new business direction. With the company’s background in departmental store and Jeffrey’s eye for details and extensive research, the result is a successful formula of market-share-winning grocery format, one that positioned the company to sell lifestyle and experiential shopping more than just selling products sitting on shelves.
Walking into an Everrise flagship supermarket today, one will be greeted with a colourful display of fresh produce, a sit-down section for coffee and bakery, a playground for children, a gourmet Italian restaurant for family gatherings and even an open kitchen for Japanese sushi. It’s this passion for food and the merging of food and beverage with grocery shopping that makes Everrise’s retail concept unique. Today, Everrise is one of the largest lifestyle supermarkets in East Malaysia with 19 outlets operated by a team of 1,000 staff. The value of the company has increased threefold over the last decade and Everrise has also become one of the most profitable supermarket operators in the region.
Jeffrey’s passion for retail started from a young age. He often helped in his father’s supermarket during school holidays during his high school and university years. Throughout the years, he has worked as a cashier, artist, store keeper, security guard, stock receiver and import merchandiser in the company. It was all these exposures that equipped him with the experience needed for his subsequent management role.
Jeffrey feels that a successful entrepreneur should not be afraid of taking calculated risks at the right time. This includes being constantly innovative and making changes to stay relevant and ahead of the market. Over the years, Jeffrey has learnt that if you combine passion and vision with an enduring work ethics, nothing is impossible.
Since retail is a detail business, he feels it is important to instill the mindset of simplicity in the company in order not to further complicate systems and processes. He encourages the management team to always keep things simple not only for the staff but also to the customers and other stakeholders. In the long run, simplicity promotes better efficiencies and sustainability.
As a group executive director, Jeffrey maintains an open door policy where anyone in the company can reach out to him directly. Having this level of approachability means any staff can provide valuable feedback and ideas directly to the director level, allowing him to keep his finger on the pulse of the business.
Marketers often say it costs three times more to recruit a new customer than to retain an existing one. Jeffrey puts this into practice by keeping in touch with his customer base. Together with his team, he does this by personally attending to enquiries and feedbacks from customers and form corporate-wide strategies along the way. It is this personal touch that sets Everrise apart from its competitors.
With the ability to see the potential in people, Jeffrey is able to develop a team of highly skilled and loyal staff. He values talents and often goes the extra mile to recruit and retain them. One thing Jeffrey learnt from his late father is to treat the staff well and reward them according to their performance. For more than two decades, the management team is rewarded with annual incentive overseas holidays whenever targets are achieved. These incentive holidays serve not only as a team building and bonding exercise but also an opportunity for the qualifiers to explore the world for new retail ideas which will help them in their personal and career development.
At home, Jeffrey is a son, a husband and a father of two boys and a girl. During his free time, he enjoys spending time traveling with the family. He makes it an effort to spend time with the family for holidays overseas every year. Being an Apple product enthusiast, he is also a passionate collector of all things Apple. He is thankful to his wife, mother, mentor and uncle for their support throughout his career. He feels honored to be the recipient of the Asia Pacific Entrepreneurship Award 2016 and dedicates this milestone to his team of loyal and hardworking staff.
With a strong local knowledge base and a team of dedicated workers, Everrise is looking into expanding to new regional markets in the next five years. In the longer term, Everrise will continue to serve the communities, nurture its term of professional managers and seek new business opportunities to strengthen the Everrise brand.