Fang Koh Look, a village boy from Seremban is certainly familiar with the dangers of uncertainty and understand how damaging they are.
He had 9 siblings and grew up in a small village in Sepang, not far from where the existing Malaysia Formula One circuit is. His parents were rubber tappers and from an early age, Fang Koh Look decided that village life is not suitable for him after seeing his parents’ hard work.
While two of his elder siblings studied in American and Canadian universities, Mr. Fang chose to go to Singapore because he heard good things about the schools in Singapore.
Upon arriving in Singapore, a family friend helped Mr. Fang to get into Mayfair Secondary School. Due to his poor English, he barely scraped past the entrance examinations. As a result, the school placed Mr. Fang into Secondary in the arts stream. Not happy with the decision, he appealed because he was he was older than his classmates and he wanted to study science.
Finally, the principal agreed and he went to Secondary 3 science class on probation. Mr. Fang said settling in was not easy because his classmates would laugh at his poor or kindergarten standard English. However, he told himself to stay positive and he was there to learn so they can laugh all they want.
He worked hard and passed with flying colours. He then went on to study civil engineering at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) after his dreams of being a military pilot with the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) did not materialize because he failed his personal interview with a panel of senior SAF personnel.
During NTU, he fell in love with his current wife and he did not know how to balance between romance and studies. As a result, he failed 5 major subjects in the first year. Luckily, he sat for the supplementary examinations and passed them.
Finally, he graduated with a pass degree in 1993. He did not even get a third class honour. According to him, all was not lost because NTU taught him how to manage his failures and it was an important lesson.
As he did not have a good qualification, he ended working for a contractor and worked on construction sites for 2 years. He then went from one job to another over the next few years but he did not experience the career fulfilment that he craved for. Thing got worse during the Asian financial crisis in 1997 and Mr. Fang lost his job the following year. Despite that, he said it was the best thing he experienced.
During then, his friend, a safety auditor gave some advice to Mr. Fang and told him that the safety industry was worth exploring. Being an opportunist, Mr. Fang decided to study on safety education at Ngee Ann Polytechnic. During the same time, the National University of Singapore (NUS) also offered a master programme in safety, healthy, and environmental technology. Mr. Fang signed up for the master programme and he had to travel between NUS and Ngee Ann 4 to 5 days each week for over a year. To finance his education, he sold his Bukit Batok’s flat and rented an apartment.
To make up for his poor grades at NTU, he did well and aced his masters. He went on to join a management consulting firm where he learned more about safety management and environmental technology services.
Seized by having the urge to control his own destiny, he decided to start up a company to offer safety consultancy services to construction companies with Edward Lim, his university classmate who was searching for a business partner. The plan did not work out but Mr. Lim gave Mr. Fang his first contract worth $45,000. It was a breakthrough for Mr. Fang and he formed AKC from his bedroom.
He experienced many uncertainties when he started Absolute Kinetics Consultancy (AKC), a safety consultancy services provider, more than 15 years ago. He had no savings, two babies to feed, and a third one on the way. He worked from his bedroom and had to borrow money from his wife to get a laptop. His wife gave him the money but also showed him her bank account. She only had a balance of $300 after giving him the money. It was during that moment that he knows he must not fail.
Although he experienced one challenge after another, he did not fail. He grew AKC from a one-man operation to a company with more than $100 million in revenue and 100 staffs. AKC also diversified into other businesses including Telco and F&B services, and property investments.
However, not everything Mr. Fang touched was gold. His company’s earnings dropped after the Singaporean Government introduced the Risk Management Assistance Fund, he nearly died from dengue, and he had to close two medical clinics because of bad accounting.
Since 2010, AKC has won many different awards for its staff-friendly human resource practice and the awards include WDS Best Companies for Mums (2013), Most Enabling Companies for Dads (2014), and NTUC Model Partnership (2014). AKC also offers job opportunities to past offenders, disabled people, and deserving NTU students.
When Mr. Fang was asked if he has any advice to give to Singaporeans, he said:
“Dare to dream, go out and pursue that dream and never say die. Do not be discouraged by setbacks. They make you stronger.”