A Rags to Riches Story from Chan Kee Siak

CEO of Exabytes, Chan Kee Siak or more warmly known as ‘Ah Chan’ by his fellow colleagues and friends, has recently appeared in one of the most renowned local newspapers, Malaysia SME to talk about his dreams and how he started off as a 19-year-old enterprising lad from Penang and a college dropout from Tunku Abdul Rahman College.

With the current Exabytes serving more than 32,000 clients from both Malaysia and overseas and generating RM8.5 million revenue yearly, Chan has more to tell than all these commendable numbers.

It all started off back then when he was just a helper at his father’s Koay Teow T’ng stall in Penang. When he was young, he didn’t have the slightest idea that he would be a businessman one day. “During my younger days, I never thought of being a businessman or having my own business. It just came rather naturally with each step I took along the way. Maybe because from young I had helped out at the stall, I was exposed to handling money and communicating with customers.” Chan was quoted as saying.

His first year at college was not a ‘honeymoon year’ as deemed by many. Instead of enjoying his first college year, Chan sold and repaired computers while dabbling in website design. He soon realized the difficulty in finding reliable and specialized web hosting service providers in Malaysia.

At merely 19, he knew that he had to seize the opportunity before someone else saw it. Chan’s very first office was his bedroom, but it didn’t take long for him to turn his bedroom operation business to the largest hosting provider in Malaysia before went on to receive MSC status in 2005.

Recalling his tough old days, Chan couldn’t help but remembering all the uncertainties and dilemmas he felt back in college. “At first I skipped lectures and later on, I skipped tutorials. In the end, I even had to skip exams due to the overwhelming response from my clients.”

The decision he had to make was clear: either quit the business or quit his studies. He decided to quit his studies after one year. “I decided to give myself one year to fully concentrate on the business. I managed to convince my parents that if the business failed, I would go back to college.”

Today, with average business growth of over 20% annually, Exabytes has 55 staff members in Penang and KL offices and servers located in both Denver, Colorado USA and Cybercity in Malaysia.

Chan’s next challenge is to lead the company to become a globally managed one with more consideration for better working procedures and proper financial management.

For now, Exabytes is not looking at other forms of IT businesses as they intend to focus primarily on web hosting. However, while the team are kept busy updating themselves with the latest tools and technology pertaining to web hosting, they are exploring various applications that could add value to their customer hosting plans, including Online HR Management Systems for SMEs who want a cost effective way to handle their payroll and basic HR operations, as well as the recently developed Online Marathon Management System for the Penang Bridge Marathon.

To the soft-spoken yet highly ambitious Chan, his dream is to make EXABYTES a multinational IT conglomerate one day.

You could download the PDF format of the interview here.

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