Friday, September 4, 2009

From Dubai to Perlis (Part 3)

Note: I got many requests to continue writing on this story... so here it's.

This part of the story is called: Meeting the King

As planned, the Managing Partner from London, Y made his 'touch down' at Langkawi International Airport late in evening. We arranged for transportation from Hotel to pick him up and he checked in quite late. Y gave me a quick call to my room and told me how excited he was to be part of this 'expedition'. I briefly told him about meeting the King, he got even excited.

"It may or may not happen, no promise!" I brought his expectation down a bit. Many people get excited very quickly. In business, you need to 'under promise, but over deliver'... I learn this from the owner of Burj Dubai, the world tallest skyscraper in the whole wide world, Mohamad Alabbar. Few years back, my firm was engaged with his group to undertake a project in Dubai. I met him in his office with Dr A. This very sharp and shrewd businessman got what it takes to become 'the player', as my partner put it. Alabbar surprised the world on Dubai's recent exploding growth using this simple motto.

Coming back to the story: We met for breakfast at 7am, as usual. This was more like a breakfast meeting. We got a nice spot overlooking the pool nearby with a forest and beach in the background. We need to convince Y that Perlis was a right choice for investment.

"Why not somewhere closer to KL?"
"Why this far remote in Perlis?"
"I heard the Kuwaitis are very heavy in the South - Johor?"
Y was asking to get more comforting answers from everyone.

The rest of the team were looking at me. I laid down the big picture, some geography lesson and some comparative figures to show potentials etc etc. Dr A picked up from where I left and presented the plan. He kinda mentioned about Langkawi in the plan without any details. It would be a distraction to indulge into Langkawi at this stage.

I received a call from Naz and he told me the plan to bring Y and show him around the location was on. It was a big area... We are talking something like few kilometers development in Perlis! Naz informed me that the King wanted to meet us at the Palace, but we have to follow palace protocol etc.

This wasn't easy because we would be dressing down and seriously sweating with the humidity reaching more than 90% in Perlis. Dr A proposed that we shouldn't go to see the King as of yet. We do in our upcoming trip, with proper attire etc. We agreed. After all, this was all business. We need to convince everyone in our team that this was the right move. We're talking RM3 billion investment here! I text Naz our decision to postpone meeting the King and we were ready to make a move. In two-hour-time, we will be in Perlis!

We took a large ferry (and first class). After 2 minutes from departure time, we asked to use 'open air' facilities of the ferry (on the roof). It was stunningly beautiful. For the rest of 20 minutes ride to Kuala Perlis, we were on the roof top, watching waves and shouting to one another (the engine was too loud).

It was a nice change for all of us. Getting away from stockbrokers, meetings, offices, telephone and fax...into more open space. The American partners were glad to get away from freezing 7 degrees chilling snow in New York. Over here, everywhere you see is blue and fresh air!

Three 4x4 sport utilities vehicles were waiting for us at Kuala Perlis jetty. We got in and Naz told me a slight change in plan. The King would like to see us immediately at his office (outside palace). This means, everyone can dress down and no more 'palace protocol' to follow. That's good! It will be more friendly atmosphere, told Naz and the King was known as someone down to earth and lovable by the people. The jeeps brought us to downtown Kangar to one of the King's office. Surprisingly, there were many people waiting downstairs, also excited to meet us. Apparently the words have spread around that there are new investor in town! We were special to them but we definitely humbled by this warm experience from the people. A guy approached me and said, "En Fauzi, glad to meet you. I was your junior at Alawiyah..," with a friendly smile. "Glad to meet you too" I replied short. We were on our way to see the King upstairs. "I have small IT firm here. If you need my help, let me know..." He passed on his business card and stepped back to let me through. Gothca! Anyway, I was very pleased to see 'my people' having their own business.

We were directed to enter a room. The guy pushed in the door and there you are, the King His Majesty Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin... He was smiling and stood up from his chair to receive us. Wow! the King was so humble... I said in silence. We pay proper respect to him (shake hand) while a photographer snapped pictures. We sit down. No word.

"What brings you down to Perlis?" His Majesty started the conversation. He kinda looking at everyone and stop at me. A little nod. Just wonder what was his thinking. "What's this Malay guy doing here with this Dubai group?"

Dr A, as usual did the introductory remarks. And of course he would touch on me being the local and a partner in the firm lured us to look at Perlis. "We like what we saw... and we look at Perlis as a diamond in the rough! Apparently, Dr A was talking about this during his short speech at signing ceremony the nights before.

"Well, I'm glad you choose Perlis," said His Majesty. We were all looking at his watch while he was talking. "But do be careful in your decision. Take your time to study the area... Your firm is planning to invest big, so better do everything right," he finished with a smile.

We were so pleased to hear him talking that way. Clearly, he is a wise King. A very good advise! We talked about some of our initial thoughts - universities and education, health facilities and we got a bit off track when talking about golf... We end our meeting with photo session and another bag of momento from the King! Look at my people, they're very nice. We got golf t-shirts... and my colleague said he would like to frame it, just as an act of appreciation!

After paying due respect, we came downstairs. Ya Allah! The crowd was getting bigger! It look like a political campaign of some sort. Everyone was looking at us and smiling. One of them approached me and whispered, "En Fauzi, I have a construction company. You can outsource small job to me..," and he gave me his business card. By the time I reached the jeep, I got like 6 business cards in my hand. Then I saw His Majesty came down. The crowd approached him and pay proper respect to him. So, we figured out that he just came down to the office to accommodate us because we coldn't go to the palace at the first place. I smiled at him and a little nod. The jeep was slowly passing the crowds. We were supposed to get a closer look of the site.

To be continued...

No comments:

Post a Comment