If there was one saying that would describe Ms Maya, it would be John Maxwell’s praise to the leader: “The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.”
Born in the most modest circumstances in South India, who would have imagined that one timid village girl would one day rise to take the helm of one of Singapore’s leading scaffolding companies? Ms Maya encountered seemingly insurmountable odds in this male-dominant industry, but she proved that anyone with a steely determination to succeed can make a mark in the field he or she chooses.
The Start Of An Entrepreneurial Leadership
A year after arriving in Singapore after marrying her Singaporean husband 20-year-old Ms Maya took a clerical job in 1996. Realising that there could be so much more to learn and achieve outside her monotonous clerical duty, she left her job to work in a trading company. Under the tutelage of her new boss, Ms Maya flourished in her career until 2009. At the demise of her mentor, the business was turned over to a kin. Had she chosen to stay, this kin was going to be Ms Maya’s new boss. Instead, Ms Maya pondered a question that would change the course of her life forever: “Am I going to continue working for someone or should I be my own boss?” The embers of entrepreneurial leadership were starting to burn in her. Her decision to be her own boss in 2009 changed her destiny.
Ms Maya first ventured into scaffold trading, buying from big suppliers on credit and reselling to smaller companies. Soon problems came about. Customers delayed payments; hence, she could not pay suppliers. Worse, she had overhead to cover, including the wages of her two employees initially. She turned to banks for loans to support her business, but banks disapproved her applications as her business was new. How could she break away from this cycle?
On top of managing her growing business debts, Ms Maya had to put food on the family’s table. She went through deeply troubling times that pushed her to the brink of giving up.
Like a ray of hope, help came from a friend during these dark times. Through her friend’s recommendation, Ms Maya got to know SICCI and through this secured a micro loan with DBS Bank. Ms Maya grasped this spark of hope with a determination to keep it burning.
Inspirations and Supports
The journey may be challenging as Ms Maya started her new venture. When challenges came, Ms Maya looked to her late father for her inspirations and supports. As her mentor and a father, he believed in her abilities to succeed and there were always word of encouragements to push her forward and to excel above the circumstances she was facing.
Doing The Unthinkable
Ms Maya’s tenacity gained recognition from some contractors. Her first project was a meagre $1,200. Her overhead exceeded $40,000 a month. Instead of shrinking at the mere thought of losses she would incur in this project, she did the reverse – she expanded her workforce and employed seventeen more foreign workers. They delivered the work fast and efficiently and with a quality standard that raised the bar in the industry. At this, Ms Maya sent a strong message: She was a force to reckon with, she was a name worthy of respect. This marked the start of establishing Ms Maya’s name and credibility in a way that built her business to be as strong as steel today.
An Unlikely Turn Of Event
After that small value maiden project, Ms Maya secured big ticket projects, the first one amounting $200,000 awarded to her in 2011. All was in the upswing, and Ms Maya built her hopes around this first big project, signing up for bank loans to buy more materials because she had expected significant earnings. Unfortunately, before the completion of the project, the main contractor TienRui builders started winding up the company and could not pay its subcontractors, including Ms Maya. She suffered a loss of $140,000 and increased her liabilities. She once again found herself knocking on doors for help and was shut down for many times. Once again people advised her to quit and go back to employment.
“If You Don’t Build Your Dreams Someone Will Hire You To Build Theirs”
This thought pulled back Ms Maya from the verge of succumb. She also remembered her former boss and mentor who had great faith in her. Ms Maya did not give up and with her good credibility with banks; she was given another term loan.
Dare to go on her third attempt, Ms Maya even got bolder and pursued bigger projects. She expanded her business from construction and made her entry into the oil and petrochemical industry. Her direct marketing into Jurong Island clinched a handsome deal; one that many veteran scaffold contractors have been trying to secure. An advocator of lifelong learning, Ms Maya always sends her workers for programmes to upgrade their skills and knowledge. Their competence as well as efficiency was recognised by her clients. Hence at one period, her company supported five main contractors for the Jurong Aromatics Project (JAC) in Jurong Island.
Building The Future With Increased Strength And Stability
Today, just like her scaffolds, Ms Maya continues to lead her team to grow in strength and stability. Her vision soars boundless horizons, including bringing her company’s branding beyond Singapore. This was fulfilled in April 2013 when she set up A & B Scaffold Engineering Sdn Bhd in Malaysia where she secured a scaffolding project for a power plant construction in Johor Bahru, Pasir Gudang. Today, Ms Maya manages two companies, one in Singapore and the other in Malaysia. Her workforce has now grown to 229 workforce consisting 37 local and 192 foreign staff and currently operates at a 10,000 square feet warehouse.
A once bashful and timid girl, Ms Maya is now well respected by both her peers and staff. At the home front, Ms Maya discharges her duties efficiently as a mother and wife. Till today she cooks for the family. A charitable person by nature, she donates to charitable organisations, places of worship and sponsors scaffold materials to community clubs for their events.
With her steely determination to succeed, Ms Maya is poised to bring her company to greater heights in future by expanding to other parts of the world. Truly, anything is possible to one who never gives up on her dreams and hard work.