Low Fang Kai was born and raised 20 kilometres from Kluang, Johor in a kampung (village) called Renggam. Although raised in a Mandarin-speaking family, his father always made it a point to speak to his family in English to cultivate their speaking skills. Low eventually went on to get a degree in Chemical Engineering, majoring in Natural Gas, from University of Technology, Malaysia (UTM), which he completed while working part-time to support himself. He got his first job before his 22nd birthday, as a Sales Engineer in which he spent a good amount of time doing door-to-door sales, promoting equipment to engineering companies.
Not long after that, he was head-hunted for a South East Asia regional dealer executive job. Low continued to climb the corporate ladder, but not without a few hiccups on his way to the top. Taking his failures within his stride, it was not long before he decided that he should take the necessary steps to set up his own business. At that point, he had served in top level posts, such as a Country Manager based overseas, for almost three years.
Having honed his skills and considered his strengths and weaknesses, Low realized he could put his passion for people to good use. He knew he had the gift of the gab and being an influencer, he decided to explore the head-hunting business, an industry which, at that point, was alien to him. He had been managing people and making hiring decisions but to dive into the recruitment business at that point in his career would almost surely mean taking a pay cut. However, Low braced himself and took the plunge by joining an MNC recruitment firm in 2011. It was a bold move because he had to take almost a 70 per cent pay cut.
He quickly discovered that head-hunting is all about one’s networking, but he also knew that this was not going to be an easy job. It is not uncommon for a new head-hunter to take four to six months to close a deal. By his fifth month, Low had not only closed several deals, but had been awarded as the company’s top biller and was given the honour of representing the company in Beijing at the ASEAN summit. Low was on a roll, and it didn’t take very long for him to become the top biller again in 2012. That was when he took the boldest move of all: leaving the recruitment firm to set up VHR Consultancy.
Today, VHR Consultancy is a multi-award winning specialist recruitment firm that focuses on the engineering business, spanning manufacturing and construction, equipment and trading, as well as automotive and transportation industries. The company was benchmarked by LinkedIn as a ‘Successful Staffing Firm in Asia’ in 2015 and won the SME 100 Awards in the category of ‘Professional & Business Services’. VHR also won the ‘HR Vendors of the Year 2015’ (4 awards including gold). This is an astounding accomplishment, considering VHR’s competitors are mostly MNCs who have been in the business far longer.
As the founder and managing director, Low brings with him his experience with people, a no-nonsense results-based approach and a profound ability to apply knowledge to his business. VHR Consultancy recently completed the set-up of their Indonesian office and is looking to expand to Bangkok. The company has 14 permanent staff and various part timers. Since its inception in December 2012, VHR Consultancy has achieved more than 50 per cent year-on-year growth, with a turnover of over RM2million. Low believes that the company’s core – focusing on the engineering industry – contributed significantly to VHR’s success. Low also places importance on efficient customer service, leveraging on digital marketing, an organized internal system and most importantly, investing the time and energy into training his staff, something that many SMEs neglect to do.
If there is one statement that defines Low in a nutshell, it is “Think Big, Start Small, Build Strong.” He firmly believes that this can be applied not only to a person’s professional life, but also his personal life. “You must first have a goal, a destination in mind. You must visualise what you want to do. Then, clearly identify and understand your strengths and weaknesses. Know your situation and decide how you will achieve the goals you set for yourself. Yes, you will face a lot of challenges, but do not give up. Keep going and build on what you have learned through your failures,” explained Low.
Low’s vision for his company is to grow it to be the largest engineering specialist recruitment firm in the APAC region in the next decade. He intends to keep his business niche, as he sees that as an important element to his success. Building on his passion of interacting and positively influencing people, Low sees his calling as a holistic way to build an empire that will provide jobs to people that have an impact on their lives.
Another important aspect of VHR’s success certainly lies in Low’s team. He enthusiastically mentors his young workforce, in the hope that he can add value to their lives, even if they decide to move on someday. He strongly agrees with Richard Branson on this point, “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” But if Low’s track record is anything to go by, he won’t be facing a high staff turnover anytime soon. Since VHR’s inception, his key people have stayed put, and have nothing but praise for this dynamic leader. In turn, Low is extremely grateful for the trust placed in his hands. “We built this business from nothing in the last three and a half years, with a lot of hard work and a bit of luck. It makes me very proud that we have come so far, not to mention the satisfaction of being recognised by my peers in the industry. What makes me even prouder is that my team believes in me every single day. We are very much a family and we have grown together through ups and downs. Money cannot buy the trust that my team has in me and in the business,” said Low.
It is clear that Low not only believes in his motto, but is also the very embodiment of it. VHR’s mission is to bridge the gap between client and candidate, and they thrive on building sustainable partnerships. The company strives to provide integrated solutions, and go beyond what is expected by educating the client based on their wide knowledge of the industry. His advice to other entrepreneurs? “Transform the vision you see to your team members. Ultimately, that is key, otherwise you’re just an illusionist. You must also be prepared to bring your team to the battlefield and equip them with enough resources to perform,” he shared.
When he’s not building his business and mentoring his team, Low enjoys returning to his first love, which is books. “I love to read. I internalise what is useful and apply it in my daily life,” said Low. This hunger for knowledge only strengthens Low’s belief in continuous learning. He encourages his staff at VHR Consultancy to regularly visit online portals that prompts them to read and log the hours spent on it.