Monday, May 25, 2009

Idris Jala, the most brilliant Kelabit of all time

Idris Jala is the one in the middle, in white shirt, singing and playing the guitar.

No, Idris Jala is not a rock star.

Idris Jala or Datuk Seri Idris Jala, 51, is the current Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Malaysia Airlines.

Under his leadership, Malaysia Airlines achieved its highest ever profit in 60 years of RM851 million in financial year 2007.

Prior to joining Malaysia Airlines in December 2005, Idris Jala, a Kelabit from the Bario highlands in Northern Sarawak, had been with Shell since 1982.

For the record, Bario is among Sarawak's remotest district. It is only accessible by air transportation from Miri. It takes 30 to 40 minutes to fly to Bario from Miri, via Malaysian Airlines rural air services using Twin Otter aircraft.

Well, Idris Jala vast working experiences with Shell included a stint in the UK, Sri Lanka and Holland.

He was previously vice-president of Shell Malaysia Gas and Power, and Managing Director of Shell Middle Distillates Synthesis (MDS)(Malaysia) Sdn Bhd, the petroleum company’s middle distillates plant in Sarawak.

He graduated with a degree in Development Studies from Universiti Sains Malaysia and a Master degree in Industrial Relations from Warwick University, England.

After 23 years with Shell, the Malaysian government elected him as CEO of Malaysia Airlines, Malaysia's national carrier, due to massive losses of the company in December 2005.

He was the first non-Malay non-Muslim to be appointed to head a GLC, as part of new government reforms.

A day before he took over as managing director, Malaysian Airlines reported a RM648million net loss for the first half of 2005.

On his first day at work as Malaysian Airlines new Managing Director on 1st December 2005, Idris Jala arrived at the airline headquarters in Jalan Sultan Ismail, Kuala Lumpur at 6.55am. No MAS staff greeted him, except for only a handful of media personells.

In a brief chat with the media he said: “There are a lot of things to be done and I will go straight into it.''

In February 2006, he announced the airline's business turnaround plan from a 9-month loss of USD400 million (RM 1.3 billion) in 2005 to achieving a record profit of USD260 million (RM851 million) in 2007.

And he did it. It was a reality, a success and it happened and it was real.

It was not empty promises or empty talks.

That extraordinary achievement was indeed historic in the business world and some Malaysians even wished that Idris Jala be appointed the Prime Minister of Malaysia!!!

His strengths are his knowledge in human and industrial relations, and his skills in turning things around, and after all that humanly possible efforts, he always prays for divine blessings.

Jala had been named Orient Aviation Person 2008 for being the driving force behind the national carrier's amazing comeback.

While many wrote off the airline when it made its biggest losses ever of RM1.3 billion in 9 months in 2005, Idris joined the airline and turned MAS' record losses into record profits and rebuilt confidence and morale among its 20,000 employees, all within two years.

"MAS recorded RM851 million in the financial year 2007, its highest profit in 60 years of operations, and is only one of the six airlines in the world recognised as a "5-star airline" by Skytrax, United Kingdom, an accolade it has won for three consecutive years from 2006 to 2008" said MAS in a statement in 2008.

Idris said he was pleased and honoured to accept the award as he and his team worked hard to turnaround MAS.

Now, they are embarking on a business transformation journey in pursuit of their vision to become the World's FIve Star Value carrier.

Idris Jala said he is blessed with a great team of people who are passionate about the airline.

Idris also introduced Malaysian Airlines new tagline, MH which means Malaysian Hospitality.

In May 2008, Idris Jala appeared on national television announcing the airline's first ever 'zero fare' for domestic and a selection of international flights, a move that raised his spat between him and AirAsia’s boss, Tony Fernandes, another genius and prodigal businessman, to a new level.

In October 2008, Idris Jala has been honoured with "Excellence in Leadership Award by Frost & Sullivan, a leading strategic market consulting and training services provider.

Idris was the sole recipient from the aviation industry to receive an award at the Frost & Sullivan awards ceremony at Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Kuala Lumpur.

"I am honoured to receive this award. However, this award belongs to the entire team at Malaysia Airlines. Without their support and cooperation, I would not have been able to achieve the successful turnaround of Malaysia Airlines," he said in a statement after receiving the award

In March 2009, Idris Jala received the Grande Ufficiale dell’Ordine della Stella della Solidarieta’ Italiana (Order of the Star of the Italian Solidarity) award from the Italian Government.

Known as the OSSI, the award was instituted in 1948 to honour Italian citizens or foreigners who have given special contributions to strengthen the relationship between their own country and Italy.

Jala said, “I am pleased and honoured to accept this award. My team and I have worked hard to turnaround our airline. We are now embarking on a transformation journey in pursuit of our vision to become The World's Five Star Value carrier. Amongst our key business thrusts include winning coalitions and we are delighted to work closely with our Italian counterparts to pursue this goal.”

The Italian ambassador to Malaysia, His Excellency, Mr Alessandro Busacca said, “The Italian Government awards this special award, the 1st Class OSSI, known as the Grande Ufficiale, to only a select group of people. This year, only 29 recipients will receive this award.

“We are delighted to award Jala with the Grande Ufficiale OSSI for the key role he has played in strengthening the ties between Italy and Malaysia in the civilian air transport sector. He is also instrumental in furthering the industrial cooperation between Malaysia and Italy in the field of regional air transport in South East Asia. All these will go a long way in furthering the business and tourism relationships between our 2 countries.”

On April 15, 2009, Idris launched Malaysia Airlines stimulus package.

He said the airline is looking to acquire another airline with its surplus cash. As at December 31st, 2008, MAS had a cashpile of RM 3.57 billion.

Idris Jala said tough economic times presented opportunities for consolidation.

Companies with huge financial muscle will have the flexibility to act should opportunities come knocking.

“People always ask why we keep so much cash. We are positioning ourselves so that when the chance comes, we will be ready to grab it. In the next two to three years, if the economic downturn persists, we won’t even have to go looking. Opportunity will present itself to us,” he told StarBiz.

Jala said as early as two years ago, MAS had been doing studies on some 30 airlines. The two key criteria that MAS looked at were strategic fit and synergy value.

“When looking at the synergy value, 1+1 must be 3. If 1+1 is 2, then we won’t do it,” he said.

While 2008 had been especially tough for the airline industry with many companies having downsized, undergone restructuring and even gone bust, Jala said MAS was ready because it had been running this “marathon” over the last three years.

For 2009, MAS is aiming to save some RM700 million through continuous cost-cutting and efficiency measures.

Over the last 3 years, MAS has reduced cost by a total collosal amount of RM 2.3 billion.

“I am quite convinced that MAS has the stamina and is built to ride through the current times. We are doing everything we possibly can to counter this economic downturn,” Jala said.

“We have completed the structural changes that were needed for MAS. If you notice, other airlines are now only embarking on their cost-cutting and manpower measures. With these issues out of the way, MAS can focus solely on innovating and achieving its target of being a five-star value carrier.”

The MAS Stimulus Package is an innovative array of nine deals, covering first, business and economy-class travel.

Jala especially sees potential in the “Kids Fly Free” and “Weekend Getaway” packages, as these segments are likely to create new revenue that the company never had before.

“I’ve always been hearing people saying that they get cheaper first-class tickets for their international flights. I feel that our flights are just as competitive. So I challenge these people now. If you can show me the proof (through a ticket that has been purchased within the last three months), then we will match that price,” he said.

Idris Jala current employment contract was to have expired on Nov 30, 2008 but was extended to Nov 30, 2011.

His ultimate aim is to achieve annual profits of RM 1.5 billion for Malaysian Airlines, by 2012.

Well, all works and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Apart from work, work and work, Idris Jala always finds time to be with his family or to do his favourite hobby - singing and playing the guitars - Blues, Rock or whatever, there is no problem and no sweat at all, for him.

I personally had seen him playing Blues and Deep Purple numbers during a gathering in Kota Kinabalu, in May 2008, and the crowd went absolutely crazy and they wanted more, more and more songs!!!

Keep it up Idris Jala... Sarawakians and Sabahans and Malaysians are very proud of you...!!


Jimmy said...


I'm proud to be a Sarawakian.

Malaysian Hollywood 2.0 said...

yezzzaaaaa Salute!!!

Chironex said...

Wow, he really inspires me to pick up the electric guitar seriously again!

Malaysian Hollywood 2.0 said...

yes, i saw him playing live guitar and singing Deep Purple and Blues classic at djunction, lido... and i tell you, it was awesome!!!!!!! the crowd demanded an encore and he obliged at least 3 times!!!!

disney said... wonder he's very hard and pray hard.

Malaysian Hollywood 2.0 said...

that is right Disney...... he works hard, plays hard and prays.... that is Idris Jala... the legendary CEO and musician...

Chironex said...

Finally I saw him in person today - it was totally worth the time spent!

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