Mary has over 20 years experience as the editor of our Malaysian sister magazine, The Tyreman. Based in Kuala Lumpur, she writes articles for us on the Malaysian and other South East Asian markets.
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Metro Tyre is one of the pioneers in the tyre servicing industry in Bintulu. When the company started its business in 1st January, 1987, there were only 6 established tyre shops there.
Director John Tan was involved in various industries before venturing into the tyre sector. From being a temporary teacher, restaurant owner to travel agent, Tan finally found an industry that best suited him.
“Lee Hock Eyang, the founder of Sabah-based Metro Tires Group, wanted to expand his business to Sarawak and approached us. We decided to give it a try and that was how the story began. It started as a joint venture business with four shareholders. Lee and Ngen were the majority shareholders, while Lee’s brother and I were the minority,” he said.
The economy was not very good in 1987 and Tan retained his full-time travel agent job. Initially, the shop was run by his wife, Chieng Swee Sing, Lee’s brother and Ngen’s daughter. It was only after two years, when the company became stable, that he quitted his job and joined them.
First Goodyear Servitekar
“We are the first tyre shop in Bintulu that carried the Goodyear Servitekar signage. At that time, Goodyear was the number one tyre brand in the Malaysian aftermarket segment and we were proud to be associated with Goodyear. Goodyear placed a lot of emphasis on training, covering products, technical and soft skills such as selling and marketing skills. They also held related seminars to make sure that we were well equipped with the necessary knowledge, for instance tyre safety, market trend, new tyre servicing equipment and technology, to name a few. All these benefited us a lot, especially for me who was not from this line.”
As the company’s technicians were generally not well versed in English, Tan said he had to learn how to operate the tyre servicing equipment in order to teach his staff. “All the equipment that we used were premium brands and were bought them from Newera. Way back then, we did not have spare units and Newera’s technical team was based in Kota Kinabalu. We could not wait as we need the equipment to run the business. I had to refer to the manual and tried to conduct repairs on my own or called a Newera service personnel and did the repairs according to his instructions. That was how I picked up the skills, through training provided by Newera and through repairing our own equipment.”
The company obtained the Lorry Association’s bulk purchase tender of commercial tyres in 1988. However, Tan said the association told them that the company’s premises at the time were not spacious enough to service trucks. This led them to open the Goodyear Khidmat Truck in 1989.
“None of the trucks from the association was sent to us after the opening. When we talked to them, the answer given was that it was an open market and that truck operators were free to choose their service provider. Yes, it was indeed a challenge for us. But I always believe that every challenge is an opportunity to learn something.”
The timing was just right. Demand for good quality commercial tyres was increasing due to the booming oil and gas industry from both government and private sectors. “There was an incident in which a trailer truck of a Korean company had a tyre puncture at the entrance of the Bintulu port. As the entrance was extremely narrow and only one truck could pass through each time, the entire operation of the port was affected by this broken down trailer truck. After many unsuccessful attempts by the various tyre servicing providers, we were called to the site. I managed to dismount the punctured tyre and secured the tyre servicing contract with the Korean company for 4 years.”
Over the years, Metro Tyre grew tremendously. However, Tan never rested on his laurels. Both centres operate daily from as early as 7.30am to 6.30pm. “This is a servicing industry and we need to open early to support our customers, especially those who are involved in projects, and have to travel to their work sites. In order to ensure seamless operation, we hired a sufficient number of technicians that consist of different races, including Malays, Chinese and the indigenous people. This allows us to open almost every day and observe only certain holidays, such as Labour Day, Chinese New Year, Gawai Harvest Festival and Hari Raya. In addition, we invested significantly in advanced tyre servicing equipment.”
The company currently has 5 tyre balancers and tyre changers, 6 lifts as well as 6 compressors. “We were among the first few Newera’s car wash machine customers in Sarawak and the majority of our tyre servicing equipment is from them. Newera is very reliable; they provide good after-sales service and technical support.”
The services that the company provides include tyre replacement, balancing, wheel alignment, tyre maintenance and repair, along with a full range of automotive and mechanical services that include engine overhaul.
According to Tan, during the leadership of Sales Director Yoong Pak Shing and his Sarawak state team of Kueh Geok Yong (Sarawak Manager) and Clarence Chin (Senior Technical Manager), Goodyear had very good rapport with all its dealers. He shared that Yoong and his team treated dealers as business partners. For instance, he would bring the dealers from small towns to visit the Lim Tayar outlet in Kuala Lumpur.
“It was a good exposure for us as we could see the layout, product display and presentation, reception area as well as how they took orders and handled customers. All these helped us to enhance our services and further grow the Goodyear brand.”
Tan continued that Yong demonstrated the power of ‘personal touch’ leadership. “He was instrumental in changing the ownership equity of our company, which led to each of us owning an equal share (25 per cent) of the company on 1st March, 1995. After several years, the other three shareholders decided to withdraw from the business and sold all their shares to us on 21st December, 2005. Now, we are on our own.”
Partnering with Goodyear, Tan said, was a great experience. As Goodyear believed that growth and Corporate Sales Responsibility (CSR) went hand-in-hand, he added that Goodyear also involved its dealers in its CSR Programme. “I remember that in one of Goodyear’s CSR initiatives, Goodyear donated the tyres that the participating dealers sold while the dealers donated all the tyre servicing charges that they made on a particular day to a non-profit organisation.”
Apart from that, the company also had very good rapport with Dunlop Malaysia Industries Berhad (DMIB), which is now known as Continental PJ Malaysia Sdn Bhd during the same period. Tan said the company learned a lot and received great support from the Sarawak state team that comprised Manager Robert Lee, Ong Beng Kui, Yeo Kim Ann and West Malaysian sales personnel Lee Hock Bian.
Today, besides being a tyre servicing centre, the company also owns a Shell station and a Bosch Car Service Centre (BCS). The BCS centre, which was opened on 9th November, 2005, was the first such outlet in East Malaysia.
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