Rags to riches stories have always captured the public imagination and Ipoh has its fair share of these. Aside from the towkays and tycoons who made it big in the heyday of tin, smaller stories of valour, guts and determination abound, scattered amongst the memorabilia and languor that characterizes Ipoh which has long been denigrated as ‘sleepy’ and bright young talents are lured to the bigger cities to make their fortunes.
Learning To Live Without Fear
One such success story is that of P.R.Chandhran (Chandrasekaran), a young man who stayed behind, resisting the lure of the bright lights, and now the proud CEO of CST Auto Sdn Bhd. a car-dealership founded by him that is Perakean through and through. His is a typical rags-to-riches story, founded on the twin pillars of success: hard work and commitment to customer service.
Chandhran now 45, came from humble beginnings. Educated in Tamil in primary school, he moved to Malay in secondary school and left after Form 5. The rest was self-taught, beginning with working in a local coffee house after school to help support his family. During this time, the affable young Chandhran met people from all walks of life and made a lot of friends. He also learnt one of life’s biggest lesson and a debilitating one for most people, holding some back from pursuing their dreams: to live without fear. With this lesson well and securely tucked under his belt, he was ready to take on the world, and to leave no stone unturned in search of solutions.
He loved cars and the first job he took in 1983 was as a car salesman selling Isuzu vehicles under the mentorship of Tan Sri Yahaya Ahmad the group Chairman of DRB HiCom. He built his experience over a period of seven years and in 1990 started his own business under CST Auto an acronym for his motto of Commitment, Service and Trust. His first showroom was in Silibin selling first Isuzu, then Mitsubishi followed by Citroen, Chevrolet, Suzuki and Proton. This rapidly grew into a chain of showrooms that numbered 10 by 1997. Then came the downturn and people stopped buying cars.
This was when his fearlessness and true grit learnt from the streets of Ipoh came to the fore. He cut his losses and closed 7 showrooms in 2 months! In a mere two years, he was back in the black and since then has been operating 3 showrooms in Ipoh and now looks set to expand again with plans for Gerik, Sitiawan and Taiping coming up this year.
Today Chandhran sells Proton, Suzuki, Mitsubishi, HiCom and the luxury range, Jaguars. He also has a not-so-secret hobby in classic cars which he collects, refurbishes and if there is an interested buyer, will sell and reinvest in another Classic. He is also keen to begin renting out his classic cars, especially the Rolls Royce Silver Cloud 3, 1964 for people looking for a touch of class for their wedding cavalcade.
Collector of Classic Cars
As one of the biggest collectors of classic cars in Ipoh, Chandhran is gaining a reputation for his meticulous restoration, and connoisseurs are now beating a path to his door to ogle his collection which he houses in his Fair Park showroom, which currently includes an MG TD 1953, a Jaguar Mark 2 1967, an MGB 1967 and the aforementioned Rolls, each of which he drives at least once a week to keep them in good running condition.
Now at the pinnacle of his career, Chandhran has no plans to expand out of the state of Perak. Last year, he was chosen as the Successful Entrepreneur of the Year by the Perak Indian Chamber of Commerce and received his received his award from Menteri Besar, Dato Zambry himself. His Proton dealership also received the highest recognition award in 2008 (SSI – Sales Satisfaction Index) out of a list of 100 for the northern territory in Malaysia.
Secret of Success
When asked for his secret of success, he modestly says that “you have to love what you’re doing and not do it for the money alone”. “I also spend all my time with my team of 35 sales people, talking to them, giving them new ideas, creating a team environment, counselling them and providing after-sales service. We even have our own Customer Service Index (CSI) that tracks from when a customer first walks into our showroom, on booking, after delivery, after sales and the treatment received from our sales people. This way, we are always improving our service to customers”, he added.
On giving back to the community, Chandhran has this to say, “I believe in personally being involved in charity. I am not looking for chairmanships and dislike sitting on committees. There are 5 orphanages that I support and I take care of all their needs. I get a great deal of personal satisfaction from the direct interaction with the people involved and I can see with my own eyes what my contribution is doing for them”.
And for the next challenge? Chandran has plans to set up the finest collision repair centre for all his brands. Currently CST services and sells cars but does no body work. Soon all that will change when Chandhran sets up his repair centre in 146, Jalan Lahat (Former Ford Showroom). Mr P.R Chandhran, can be contacted at 019-5558556.