HOW UNPOPULAR IS ROSMAH & UMNO: Gardenia a victim of business rivals
Up to the end of 2011, Gardenia could well have had perhaps 90% market share of the local bread supply business. This did not happen overnight. They had to change the old fashioned and pretty much localised bread and related products manufacturing and vendor distribution systems, to go national.
Growing consumer awareness called for better bread formulation, choice and manufacturing, storage, distribution and storage hygiene standards. It's no accident Gardenia bread does not go mouldy easily or quickly. New and modern factories had to be built brick by brick from scratch. New industry standards and systems had to be set up and staff recruited and trained for ISO and Halal certification. True entrepreneurship and free market competition, like genius, is all about 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration!
The profits derived from such dominance were bound to invite new players hoping to chip away at Gardenia’s market share, even with the daunting entry barrier of upwards of RM100 million for a start-up brand new bakery production plant and factory. Factor in the cost of setting up a national distribution system which puts fresh bread on the shelves of hypermarkets, supermarkets and mini marts daily, and you will begin to understand that this is no game for rank amateurs, small boys or those hoping to make a quick buck and run.
Such is the not-so-funny predicament Gardenia finds itself in today.
For each loaf of bread, Rosmah gets 16 cents???
Where big business interests are locked in a tussle for market share, truth and justice are often sacrificed for a premium, in this instance, a huge one. While Gardenia’s competitors have publicly denied any complicity in it, and there are no reasons to doubt them, anonymous, suspicious and sneaky supporters of big business interests have been busy exploiting racism and politics in an attempt to shift consumers away from Gardenia, to its competitors.
Internet ghosts, and even Facebook campaigners, have been promoting the ‘Boycott Gardenia’ rabid cry with grossly misinformed and unsubstantiated claims that for every loaf of Gardenia bread one buys, 16 cents goes to Rosmah and the coffers of UMNO/BN!
The mysterious authors of these vicious and racist email and other hate-attacks against Gardenia seem to be targeting the Chinese in particular, to alter their spending and eating habits in favour of competing brands.
So, where do we start? With the facts, of course!
Gardenia is 70% owned by QAF Ltd. which is publicly listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange. The remaining 30% shareholding was sold to BERNAS at a premium in 2001, in line with MITI’s conditions for granting Gardenia a manufacturing licence. This was long, long before Syed Mokhtar took control of BERNAS via Tradewinds in 2009 and Rosmah was anywhere within sight of Putrajaya!
Since 1986 when Gardenia set up operations in Malaysia, it has invested over RM800 million in 5 (fully halal compliant) plant and manufacturing facilities, all in Shah Alam in the Kelang Valley.
Currently, Gardenia employs about 2,500 personnel, 2,200 of whom comprise Malaysians. The CEO of the company and top managers and staff are all also Malaysians. The company does not employ Singaporeans or any other nationals, other than 300 foreign workers engaged in the production, packaging and distribution lines.
Although, in view of its 30% shareholdings, Bernas has board of directors representation in Gardenia, it has NEVER interfered in Gardenia’s operations or management, nor ever forced it to buy flour from Syed Mokhtar-controlled companies. In fact, in over 25 years of production, Gardenia has not bought a single gram of flour from any flour mill owned by Bernas, Syed Mokhtar Bukhari or UMNO.
Four out of seven directors on the board of directors of Gardenia (including 2 from Bernas) are Malaysians. A quick check at the Companies Commission of Malaysia will confirm this for a fact.
FACT 3 – MOST IMPORTANT
1-Gardenia has not bought any flour from Federal Flour Mills (FFM) owned by the Robert Kuok Group, for over 10 years!!! Therefore, the vicious and deliberately falsified and concocted information circulated in November 2011 that Bernas or Syed Mokhtar Bukhari or Rosmah or UMNO had suddenly instructed Gardenia to terminate business with FFM has absolutely no basis whatsoever!
2-Every bread company has its own secret flour formulations and ingredients for its range of products - white bread, wholemeal, bun, waffle etc. Gardenia decided to part ways with FFM shortly after 1998 when FFM took to also supplying formulated flour to Gardenia’s new competitor. Gardenia then shifted its orders to other flour millers as they felt there was a conflict of interest issue with FFM which could not be resolved.
3-Clearly, Gardenia’s move to turn to other local flour millers as far back as 1998 was a commercial and business decision, to protect its trade secrets. The question of race had no bearing whatsoever on its strategic directions then, or even now.
4-In any event, Gardenia had got wind of FFM’s intentions to launch its own brand of bread before they actually did in 2011. Only a fool would allow his competitors to prosper at his own expense!
So, where does all this lead us to?
This blog has a masthead which says 'We Are All of 1 Race, the Human Race.' In plain, simple English, I abhor racism in any form - overt, covert, subtle, what have you. This scurrilous attempt by a group of, obviously Chinese, Malaysians to appeal to extreme chauvinism in commercial business matters is as in-your-face racism as you can get. Nothing is more detestable!
With one breath they criticise Mahathirism, Ibrahim Ali and Perkasa because they repeatedly bring out the bogeyman of DAP being anti-Malay, anti-monarchy, pro-republic, anti-affirmative action etc., to try and scare Malay voters into thinking they have no alternative to UMNO/BN being the government. With the next, they brand every issue involving UMNO and Syed Mokhtar Bukhary with the same racist brush.
Remember Robert Kuok - was his arm twisted???
Only Prime Minister Najib and Robert Kuok know the real truth behind why Kuok exited the sugar business in Malaysia with indecent haste. It may well have had everything to do with UMNO's paranoia with wanting Malays/Bumiputras to control as much of the food and agricultural business in Malaysia as possible; and that in itself is also an extreme form of racist thinking and philosophy. After all Robert Kuok has been in the sugar and flour and other highly successful businesses here for well-nigh 50 years. He is as Malaysian as they come! He's listed in Forbes rankings as the richest Malaysian, not Chinese.
Was Rober Kuok arm-twisted? Made an offer he could not refuse? Possibly. But he did get paid market price for his shares, if that's any consolation. It would also be pertinent to point out that our government has been subsidising flour, oil and sugar for the last 50 years, to the tune of billions of ringgit every year. Guess whose businesses have been some of the happy beneficiaries of these taxpayer-funded largesse?
To leap from the un-sweet shenanigans of Najib, to equating the Gardenia vs Robert Kuok's and FFM's Massimo Bread to another strong-arming and sidelining of Chinese business interest, has no foundation whatsoever. Currently, Gardenia's main formulated flour supplier is controlled by the Teh family from Perak, while it's other major supplier is owned by Indonesian and Australian parties. So, where do stories of Malaysian Chinese business interest being decimated come from? I suspect that race is being exploited to scare the Chinese in the same way that Mahathir, Ibrahim Ali and Perkasa employ it as a tactical weapon to keep the people apart.
Let the consumer make his own informed decision
Gardenia bread is unhealthy? Prove it, but don't blind us with spurious statistics and dubious analysis. Gardenia is more expensive? Well, what are you complaining about? The consumer is king when he has choice. But, do take cognizance that cheap and quality are usually trade-offs. There is a reason why super-pricey Rolls Royce, BMW and Mercedes outsell Proton and why Nike, Adidas and Reebok sports shoes fly off store shelves while Bata's Badminton Master Shoes appear to be an almost forgotten name!
These racists are also doing a great disservice to themselves and insulting ALL Malaysians by posting UK 'dead rat in bread' pictures on the Internet and Facebook, implying recklessly falsely that Gardenia bread is unhygienic and poisonous.
How low can they get!
With the Police and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedi Commission (MCMC) investigations nearing completion, it will not be long before the identities of these racists are revealed, and prosecutions commence. Nevertheless, it's very sad indeed that after 55 years of independence, many here still look at issues like these from the viewpoint of Malays, Chinese, Indians and others.
The milking of racist sentiments to corner profits is a hallmark of typical Malaysian fraudtrepreneurs and their croneys who cannot go to the toilet without demanding an all-risks free government-guaranteed handout. In that respect, Gardenia comes out smelling of sweet roses with full marks for entrepreneurship, competitive spirit, corporate social responsibility and a truly successful company.