Tohtonku Sdn Bhd is a major player in the personal care products sector in Malaysia, and stands out from many other family firms in the region by having made it successfully to its third generation. It was set up in the ‘60s by Lim Joi Him, and in the half century since then has grown its portfolio to over 200 products, some of them market leaders. It’s also a significant regional player, selling all over Southeast Asia including Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar, Brunei, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
Personal care is a particularly fast-moving segment, driven by changes in consumer taste, new fashion, celebrity endorsement, and new product development. Tohtonku’s work in this area is managed by a member of its third generation – Jasper Lim, its Executive Director.
“We use some of the region’s best-known celebrities to promote our brands, and we’re always looking for the next big thing and the next important fashion trend. We think our own staff are one of the best resources we have to capture how our consumers are thinking, and we encourage a working environment where new ideas can come from anywhere, not just an office marked ‘Innovation’. And once we have a new brand it’s all about achieving market share, which means clever marketing, and an efficient production operation.”
This inclusive culture reflects the values which are important to the family, and which they apply within the business as well. “For us, values are as important as profits – not more important, but equally important. My father cares as much for the welfare of the staff as he does for the family itself. Some of our staff have been here for decades, and many work long beyond their official retirement age, because they feel part of something. We want to contribute positively to the economy and the social welfare of the nation, and we believe our values of humility, trust, growth, and service are the best way to do that.”
The same values have helped the family manage its own affairs, especially in an increasingly fast-moving world which is utterly unlike the business environment Lim Joi Him first knew. “I think the secret to our success is that we understand the importance of harmony. There will always be some disagreements among family members, and differences of opinion about the direction we should take, but we give each other the benefit of the doubt instead of immediately passing judgements. We make an effort to clarify and understand the issue before we come to conclusions. We eat and breathe this company – it completely dominates our lives, and that makes us stronger as a family, stronger as a business, because our customers really respond to the strong values and heritage of family-owned firms.”
About the piece - This feature forms part of the PwC Global Family Business Survey 2016. It has been reproduced with the permission of PwC.