Last year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that this year’s presidential election will be reserved for Malay candidates.
Mohamed Salleh Marican – the chief executive of Second Chance Properties – has since stepped forward as a candidate, and officially announced that he will be running for Singapore’s first-ever reserved election.
The 67-year-old president hopeful is also the first Malay-Muslim owner of a company to be listed on the Singapore Exchange Board.
“I have done very well in business and I feel I want to give back to society in a much larger way,” he told The Straits Times.
According to him, his business experience puts him in good stead to be Singapore’s eighth president, as it has cultivated in him traits such as good judgment and strong emotional intelligence.
“In business, one bad mistake can set you back many years or even wipe you out. So good judgment is important.”
This is especially so when the president has to decide whether to approve the Government’s request to use the national reserves for the people’s well-being, he added.
Another quality Mr Salleh identified as crucial in a president is “high EQ“, as he or she has to interact with Singaporeans from all walks of life as well as deal with foreign dignitaries.
“In business, you are used to dealing with different types of people, whether they’re your customers, employees, bankers or suppliers.”
His Life As A Serial Entrepreneur
For those unacquainted, Mr Salleh actually has over 40 years of retail business experience under his belt.
Following in his late father’s footsteps, Mr Salleh made his first entrepreneurial foray into menswear tailoring in 1975, which unfortunately failed a mere four months later.
Undeterred, he decided to try again five months later, aptly naming his business Second Chance. This time, he specialised into readymade men’s clothing as he noted that tailoring is not very profitable.
Back then, readymade men’s clothing was extremely popular in Singapore and Malaysia due to foreign brands such as Lee.
Riding on the popularity, Mr Salleh decided to embrace a Western image for Second Chance when advertising.
With its affordable pricing and Western branding, Second Chance soon became a household name.
By 1988, Second Chance had opened 25 outlets through franchising, with 18 in Singapore and seven in Malaysia.
However, Mr Salleh faced his toughest challenge after he won his first big award and customers realised that Second Chance was a local brand. Sales declined sharply in a short period of time.
Many outlets became unprofitable and Mr Salleh was forced to change his strategy to revive the business, closing 21 out of 25 stores.
In 1992, he identified a niche and diversified into Malay women’s traditional clothing with the launch of First Lady. It proved to be a hit, and remains highly popular today.
Its resounding success led him to venture into retailing gold jewellery under the name Golden Chance.
To differentiate Golden Chance, he allowed customers to weigh the gold before making any purchase. This was a new concept in the market that helped to gain customers’ trust.
When the Asian financial crisis struck, he spotted an opportunity again. As people started to let go of commercial properties, he snapped them up at low prices, marking the company’s venture into the property sector. This proved to be his most successful business diversification to date.
As the Group purchased prime retail properties at good value, the company’s name was also changed to Second Chance Properties to reflect its serious intention of making property its main core activity.
Today, the company’s property arm is the top contributor to the Group’s bottomline.
The company, as of 2014, holds 56 properties in Singapore and one in Malaysia.
And here’s the interesting part: despite us not seeing the Second Chance brand anywhere now, Second Chance Properties is now a listed company.
The retail-cum-property group was listed on SESDAQ in 1997 and made it to the SGX Main Board in February 2004.
This Man Never Gives Up
I guess when Mr Salleh started the business of tailoring men’s garment in 1975, no one really expected him to be able to grow his private tailoring shop into the multimillion-dollar company it is today.
The route to success is never easy, and it was no exception for him. In fact, his early attempts at entrepreneurship threatened to bankrupt him more than once.
Despite the inauspicious start, Mr Salleh did not give up and instead restrategised time and again to eventually build Second Chance into a household name. He has proven that with determination and the ability to seize opportunities, one can easily find success.
It is certainly rare for an entrepreneur to change his business model again and again but still managed to achieve a great success. But as they say, third time’s a charm!
But just because he is a good businessman does not necessarily make him a good president. Go figure.
Is He Qualified To Be The Next President?
Recent changes to the eligibility criteria for standing in the presidential election state that candidates with private sector experience must have run a company with at least $500 million in shareholder equity, to automatically qualify.
According to the ST report, Second Chance Properties had shareholder equity of between $254.3 million and $263.25 million in the past three financial years.
However, it was said in Parliament that the Presidential Elections Committee has the discretion to certify that a candidate who does not automatically meet the criteria can stand, if it is satisfied that he has the experience and ability to effectively carry out the functions and duties of the office of the President.
Mr Salleh said while he may not automatically qualify as a candidate for the upcoming election in September, he is “optimistic” he can convince the Presidential Elections Committee he is deserving as he has the necessary experience and ability for presidential duties.
He added that he “can’t be worried if he will fail” before he starts.
“When it comes to a $2 million or $20 million shop, my thinking process and how I evaluate the purchase is the same. It does not mean I must have 10 times the ability (to buy the $20 million shop).”
Featured Image Credit: Redwire Singapore