Growing up in a fishing village, a young boy saw the damage vibrations were having on his father’s fishing boat. During the 1970’s, rubber cutlass bearings were imported and priced very high. After receiving his Master’s in Chemical Engineering from Imperial College, University of London, Dato’ Lim began applying his technical knowledge to solve this problem. As fate would have it, Dato’ Lim founded Kossan in 1979, becoming the first manufacturer in Malaysia to manufacture rubber cutlass bearings for fishing boat propellers. Thus, began Kossan’s foray into technical rubber products for a wide range of applications for industries such as ports, infrastructure & construction, aviation, rail, automotive and general applications.
During the AIDS epidemic in the 1980’s, the demand for protective gloves escalated and prompted the company to venture into glove manufacturing in 1988. Ever the industrious man, Dato’ Lim went to Taiwan to study the mechanics of glove making. A man ahead of his time, Dato’ Lim propelled Kossan from a 4-man operation into a world-class manufacturer of gloves and technical rubber products. Today, Kossan is the world’s 2nd largest manufacturer of latex disposable gloves with an annual capacity exceeding 25 billion pieces and the largest manufacturer of technical rubber products in Malaysia with a compounding capacity of 10,000 metric tonnes per annum. In FY2016, the group had a turnover of RM1.67bn, exporting to more than 190 countries worldwide and employing over 6000 employees with offices in Malaysia, China and the USA.
Having grown rapidly, Kossan embarked on a new phase of development, transforming itself from a privately-held entity to a publicly-listed company through the successful listing on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange in 1996. True to its word, the Group has continuously delivered unbroken profits with double-digit growth and uninterrupted returns to shareholders since its listing. Including this year, Kossan is in its 38th year of unbroken profit record since inception under the stewardship of Dato’ Lim. The growth and success are driven by the Group’s long-term vision.
“Our vision is to be the preferred and respected glove manufacturer in the world. We believe in Technology, Innovation, Empowering People and Corporate Responsibility,” Dato’ Lim states.
Kossan places great emphasis on Technology and Innovation. Seeing himself as a technical man first and foremost, rather than as a pure businessman, Dato’ looks at the glove industry from a different perspective. Where businessmen might emphasise capacity expansion as their main focus and driver, Dato’ Lim sees technology and innovation as the game-changer. As a firm believer of technology, he believes only through technology and innovation, will Kossan be able to differentiate and stand tall amongst its peers and make it hard for competitors to follow-suit.
“And even if they do follow, it will take effort and by that time we’ve already moved to another level,” Dato’ Lim adds.
Millions of dollars are invested in research and development to maintain its leading role in dynamic market segments from healthcare to industrial applications. Kossan’s continuous research has led to breakthroughs in glove technology and numerous patents.
As a testament to its relentless drive for innovation, in September 2016, Kossan launched its patented Low Derma Technology for accelerator-free nitrile gloves, which is the first in the glove world to be certified by the US Food & Drug Administration (“FDA”) for the low dermatitis potential claim.
“The low derma technology works to eliminate chemical-causing allergies in the glove manufacturing process while still ensuring the gloves have the same or superior tensile strength, flexibility and sensitivity,” Dato’ Lim adds. This technology breakthrough places Kossan at the forefront of a worldwide solution for Types I and IV hypersensitivity, an immune response that can develop among glove users.
“As a technology-driven company, Kossan has a strong commitment to excellence in technology, innovation and the quality of its products. This is the technical advantage that Kossan has in the global market,” Dato’ Lim says.
Besides technical excellence, Kossan places a high value on people and relationships. As founder of the company, Dato’ Lim’s business philosophy is simple. Having gone through the industry’s ups-and-downs, and seeing many of its peers caught off-guard from the changing environment and competition, he believes that as long as one can provide better quality products at a more competitive cost, one will succeed. Creating value for the customer is one of the key factors of the Group’s success. Being in touch with its customers and understanding their needs are important. This is how Kossan differentiates itself from its peers.
Even after almost 40 years, Dato’ Lim is as passionate today about the business as when he first started. As his people would testify, Dato’ Lim would be one of the first to arrive at Wisma Kossan, the Group’s headquarters in Klang, Selangor and one of the last to leave. “I come to the office at 8am and go back after 7pm. I still enjoy the whole thing, from theory to practical. I like to coach my people and help them to advance,” he adds.
Having built Kossan into a successful brand, Dato’ Lim continues to find new ways to enhance its leadership position. With the business environment becoming increasingly competitive, his philosophy is ‘not to put all of your eggs in one basket’. Hence, Kossan’s business is comparatively diversified compared to its peers, having a good product mix of supplying gloves for various industries including food processing, high risk, laboratory, surgical, chemotherapy, testing rather than solely concentrating on the healthcare medical sector.
Without leaving anyone behind, Dato’ Lim believes the heart of Kossan is its people. The welfare, health and safety of its employees is something close to his heart. Through its leadership and empowerment programs, the Group is building a strong platform for the company by fostering good talents. To further develop this belief and coupled with a vision to make life better for everyone, not just employees, in 2015, Yayasan Kossan was founded as a platform to help those in need with a focus on education, medical assistance and arts & culture. His intention is to give back to the society through Yayasan Kossan. As a business leader, Dato’ LIM also serves as a member of the Board of Trustees for the Malaysian Rubber Export Promotion Council (“MREPC”), President of the Klang Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (“KCCCI”) and treasurer for the Association of Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Malaysia (“ACCCIM”).
His leadership and expertise has led him to wide recognition including being one of the top nominees as Malaysia’s Entrepreneur of the Year 2005 by Ernst & Young and having received the Tan Sri Datuk Amar Stephen KT Yong Award by the Malaysian Institute of Chemistry in 2013.