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Not too long ago, the Forbes’ 35th annual list of billionaires for 2021 saw 4 Malaysian faces new to it added. They are the Tan brothers of MR DIY Group (M) Bhd, Tan Sri G. Gnanalingam of Westports Holdings Bhd, and Tan Eng Kee of Greatech Technology Bhd.

The Tan brothers, Tan Yu Yeh and Tan Yu Wei, have estimated net worths of US$1.8bil and US$1.1bil respectively, whereas Tan Sri G. Gnanalingam’s is US$1.7bil and Tan Eng Kee’s is US$1.1bil. 

These Malaysians didn’t rise up to their billionaire status today out of nowhere, so here’s a look back at how they rose up the ranks to become newly recognised billionaires.

The Tan Brothers

While both the Tan brothers play an important role in Mr DIY today, a local home improvement retail chain, it was actually founded by Tan Yu Yeh, the older brother, in 2005. He is currently the Non-Independent Executive Director and Executive Vice Chairman of Mr DIY.

Tan Yu Yeh graduated from University of Malaya in 1996 with a Bachelor of Science in Physics. He then worked as an engineer with Komag USA in Malaysia for a year before working as a remisier with Inter-Pacific Securities until 2009.

In July 2005, he opened the first Mr DIY store in Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman and today, his brand has grown to over 700 outlets all around the country serving over 80 million customers per year. 

The younger Tan brother, Yu Wei was a director at De Little Chinatown, a wholesaler for Chinese products prior to joining the Mr DIY team in 2011. 

He graduated from Universiti Sains Malaysia in 1998 with a Bachelor of Management (Honours) and later worked as a production supervisor at Solectron Corp. (USA) in Malaysia for 2 years. When he joined Mr DIY, he was in charge of the Group’s logistics and procurement departments. 

Together, they grew Mr DIY rapidly, and an easy and efficient expansion was credited to their investment into a POS system.

From their financial highlights, Mr DIY has been seeing an increase in profits from 2017 until 2020. In 2020, the company debuted on the Main Market of Bursa Malaysia as the country’s largest IPO for the year, with a market capitalisation of RM10 billion, and the IPO exercise raised approximately RM1.5 billion from both institutional and retail investors. Their shares also hiked up to as much as 9.4% on its first day of trading.

While the pandemic did affect them, they were able to maintain resilience with a V-shaped recovery in May and June 2020 with an aggregate revenue 11.9% higher as compared to the pre-COVID-19 period of January and February 2020.

From 2018 to 2020, Mr DIY has been consistently emerging as the winner in the national tier of the World Branding Awards as a retailer under the Home Improvement Category. Last year, they also received the Best Practices Award from Frost & Sullivan for the Malaysia Home Improvement Retail Market Leadership Award.

Tan Sri G. Gnanalingam

Westports Holdings Sdn Bhd, a multi-cargo port operator, is chaired by Tan Sri G. Gnanalingam who co-founded it with Ahmayuddin bin Ahmad in 1990. It was commenced in September 1994 when the Port Klang Authority (PKA) handed over the port to them to operate under a 30-year concession.

Tan Sri G. Gnanalingam is a graduate from the University of Malaya in 1968 with a Bachelor of Arts and also has a masters from Harvard Business School, which he attended in 1983.

Prior to Westports, he spent the first 16 years with the Malayan Tobacco Company and was known to be a “marketing wizard”. He later left the company to set up his own company, the G-Team Consultancy, where his most notable achievement was boosting RTM’s advertising revenue from RM60 million to RM380 million.

Westports owns 80% of the market share of Port Klang’s container traffic, and Port Klang is our country’s largest and most important port out of the 8 other federally-administered ports we have. It handled almost 40% of all cargo by Malaysian ports in 2018. Tan Sri G. Gnanalingam was even named Transport Man of the Year in 2001 by our Ministry of Transport.

Today, Westports stand as the world’s 12th busiest port out of the top 50 world container ports. It was listed on the Main Market of Bursa Malaysia in October 2013 and was set to raise RM2 billion. However, this listing wasn’t intended to raise funds for the company, but rather to enhance its profile to market its services and establish liquidity for its shares.

Last year, Westports invested RM323mil in capital expenditure and saw a 10.7% jump in net profit to RM654.48 million from RM590.89 million in 2019 on the back of higher revenue of RM1.97 billion from RM1.78 billion previously. They also saw a 30% rise in net profit for Q4 2020, thanks to higher container revenue and lower operational cost. 

Tan Eng Kee

Seems like the new billionaire entrants of the year are dominated by Tans, and this billionaire is the CEO of Greatech Technology, which makes factory automation equipment. Their customers include electric vehicle makers, solar energy producers, and semiconductor companies. Some of their customers include Fortune 500 companies.

When Eng Kee was 16, he worked part-time at a bakery after school hours to bring in additional income for his family. He obtained a Certificate in Mechanical Engineering from Politeknik Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah, Kedah in 1991. 

Prior to Greatech, he worked as a precision planner then as a sales executive at Prodelcon, a precision tooling company, for two years after his certification. After that job, he founded Greatech in 1997 with a school buddy, Khor Lean Heng, who serves as the COO of the company today. 

In June 2019, Greatech debuted on the ACE Market of Bursa Malaysia. It listed for a market capitalisation of RM381.86 million, and managed to raise RM73.05 million from its IPO previously. Today, the company has 8 factories on top of a testing facility in the US, which is one of its biggest markets. 

Last year, they saw a net profit jump of nearly 68% YoY to RM91.16 million in their FY20 with a share price rise of 267%, mostly thanks to the increased demand for its production line systems from the electric vehicle (EV) energy storage industry.

They’ve also won the Golden Eagle Award by Nanyang Siangpau in both 2017 and 2018 and the Product Excellence Award under the Business Excellence Awards by Sinchew Daily in 2018.

  • You can learn more about the Forbes 35th annual billionaire list here.
  • You can read more Forbes-related articles we’ve covered here.

Featured Image Credit: Tan Yu Yeh, NSTP / Tan Sri G Gnanalingam / Tan Eng Kee

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Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)