This is a guest-post by Sumi Sam, my lovely wife. She wrote for the first time on my blog, inspired by the lunch meeting with philanthropist tycoon Mr. Koon Yew Yin and Dato’ Yap Lim Sen.

Last Wednesday while I was at work I received a very unusual email from KC. ‘Mr. Koon invited me to lunch!’. A mail with only subject line and no content. I guess he must have been too excited and can’t wait to share this with me thus the empty email.

And I know why he was so excited. A few weeks back he started talking to me about Mr. Koon when we were having dinner at home every night. He told me there is this man, who attempted to donate RM30million to UTAR but was rejected. He told me there is this man, who gives away RM1million scholarship each year to help the poor student going to college/university. He was particularly impressed with how low profile this man is humbly helping the poor, so he googled his story.

As he learnt more about this man, Mr. Koon Yew Yin, he got even more impressed with how low profile he is, with his background and his life journey. He is a co-founder of IJM, a giant company in Malaysia (core businesses are construction, property development, manufacturing and quarrying, oil palm plantations, toll concessions, port operations and international ventures), yet a simple man with his dedication to the nation education and society. I was very touched with the way he managed his scholarship – write him a mail and post it to his house, tell him why you need the scholarship. He will read every one of the application letter and select those that are genuine in need. So ‘back to basic, simple and devoted’.

Last weekend on our journey from Penang to KL, the discussion in the car was all about one of Mr. Koon’s recent article – ‘The Great Malaysian Brain Drain’. We were counting and were amazed with the number of our friends who are residing outside of our beloved country working in the foreign land with their skills and talent.

And then he received an invitation from Mr. Koon for lunch this Saturday. For the first in our life I saw him getting a little nervous about the lunch date. For the first time in our life he asked me what he should be wearing on the day. He was never nervous nor worries at any occasion. From meeting my mom for the very first time to piano performing for the Sultan of Johor to meeting his wealthy clients, he was never, ever worried. Mr. Koon is a very special person to him, I can sense that.

And so we finally met today. KC brought me along to the lunch date he has been looking forward to. I was not going to accompany him when he first asked me to but I am glad that I did. It was a pleasure and life learning. Mr. Koon came along with his best friend, Dato Yap Lim Sen; another founder of IJM, also former Managing Director of IGB, the man who headed the famous restoration of Queen Victoria Building in Sydney.
‘Oh please, don’t call me Dato..’ – Dato Yap smiled as we shake his hand and greeted him as ‘Dato Yap’. All four of us sat down on the lunch table and conversation was first centered around Datuk Yap’s book he authored many years ago ‘The Chinese Dilemma’. It was very interesting seeing how Mr. Koon and Datuk Yap interact with each other, though they have very diverse opinion, but they made really good friends for life, and that was really heart-warming.

From left – Koon Yew Yin, Sumi, KCLau and Dato’ Yap Lim Sen at Mama’s Nyonya Food Restaurant, Penang.

Mr. Koon was quiet to begin with, he was most of the time smiling and listening to our conversation. ‘I admire the work you are doing’ – that was the first sentence Mr. Koon said to KC after a while. I was stunned hearing that and have to take a deep breath thinking that I have heard it wrongly. This was supposed to be what we were going to say to Mr. Koon! He became my idol from that moment.

Someone as successful as him being admired by so many others said that to a young man that is nobody and nano tiny comparing to his success and his life passage. I learnt a tip for success on that spot – a real successful man sees everyone as his teacher in life. Mr. Koon spent some of his time investing in the recent years and is being seen as the Malaysia’s Warren Buffet; and yet he is a subscriber to KC’s financial blog. He said he is admiring the work KC is doing on his blog. I truly am inspired by his spirit of learning as he is the real guru for everyone with his experience and his success.

Interesting enough, both Mr. Koon and Dato’ Yap graduated as a Civil Engineer in KL Technical College, which was the former body of UTM where KC and I met each other and are made engineers. In the older days they were sitting for the professional examination conducted by the Institution of Civil Engineers of United Kingdom and Royal Institute of British Architect. I was again struck with the huge differences of generations graduated from the same college/university. Almost everyone of my course mates are salaried employees from day one of graduation. None of us has courage nor dare to take risk to venture into entrepreneurship. We were offered a pretty good pay soon after graduation and we stay in our comfort zone since then. Our super senior Mr. Koon and Dato’ Yap, and most of their school mates, took risk and had their life adventured maximizing their potential. And they have great achievements.

KC was star-struck and enjoying his lunch and conversation sitting next to Mr. Koon. ‘So, what can I do for you?’ KC suddenly asked. And I almost felt off my chair when he said that. That was so hilarious! KC has always been a very simple-minded person and he is never a good socialist. When he said that I am sure he really meant it that he wish he could do something for Mr. Koon. But I was thinking who are we to ask that question? I am sure with Mr. Koon’s status today he won’t need any help from us.

Mr. Koon’s reply amazed me, again. ‘What can I do to help you instead?’, Mr. Koon said. KC of course, was not prepared for this question. All these days he was only thinking about what he could help Mr. Koon with, and we have had some conversation over dinner table. He said he can’t think of anything for someone as successful as Mr. Koon. The only thing he did expressed interest to me was, he said he wish he could help share Mr. Koon’s scholarship news to his readers hopefully more and more people are aware of this and that it reach the ears of those students really in need. But then he soon threw it off his mind, as he thought Mr. Koon won’t need this help. And guess what, when KC remained quiet after his reply on the earlier ‘What can I do for you’ question, Mr. Koon suggested that KC blog about his scholarship so it could reach more in need. What a coincidence! And it worked out really well as that was what KC wished to do as well.

And the lunch went on with lots of inspiration that has triggered us to think about a lot of aspect of life. Our country, our community, our career, our family, ourselves. On the way home after lunch, KC and I had moments of silent in the car, with the bubbles in our brain as a function of the chemical reaction of the food for stomach from the restaurant and the food for life from the conversation.

We felt ourselves so tiny. It was a precious experience with learning for life. I am thinking about what I want to be able to tell my grandchildren when I am old. I can’t be just doing what I am doing now.


Personal finance author and trainer

    30 replies to "Lunch with the philanthropists – Koon Yew Yin & Dato’ Yap Lim Sen"

    • Dass

      Kc , why not you get mr kyy to provide one or 2 day seminar will help a lot of Malaysian .
      Please consider thx

    • Dason M

      Wow! I am mesmerised at the same time humbled by the humility and great works by this wonderful man, Mr Koon Yew Yin. May God continue to raise up more wealthy good samaritans to help the deserving and needy people of this great nation. God bless, protect and preserve you sir Mr Koon Yew Yin. Warmest regards.

    • joe jason

      Please explain to me why UTAR reject his 30 million donation!?? Let me tell you this, is because he wants to develop hostel and have his say. In that way, he is trying to make himself even richer than ever. Have you seen the terms and condition of his scholarship this year?! I am sure you did. Think about it, how can he just support the foundation year only? What about the degree years?? What if those student can’t get PTPTN? And how many families income is lower then 3,000? Laborers, Road side sweepers you mean? As an investor, i am sure you are quite good in your maths. Try asking how much wealth this guy has, put it in fixed deposit, and how much money he obtain??? i am sure is more than RM 1 million. So is the scholarship money his or obtained from the bank??? Moreover, he claims his credits to help 2 students to study local rather to go Singapore. Let me question you this, would you rather graduate in Malaysia Public Universities or Singapore Public Universities Besides that, IJM is a developer,so how does a developer work without political strings???? This shows he mingles around politicians and to gain more support, he pretend to say against the government. Just so you know, you must never judge a book by its cover. Many billionaires like Warren Buffet are soft spoken as well, so does it mean he is a good Samaritan?? I do not hate this guy nut i pledge to this my countryman never to fall for this kind of people!!!!!!!!!!!

      • KCLau

        Joe, thanks for your comment. I think there are many ways to do charity. Giving all the money of the rich people to all the poor people won’t solve the issue. There is a saying that wealth will still be distributed the way it is after some times, even if you “equalized” everything now.

      • chiong


        Often donors have to impose condition so that the money is used for what it was intended for.

        This press conference( by Mr.Koon himself would put to rest your wild speculations and innuendoes with regard to his donation to UTAR, Kampar.

        As for the involvment of IJM with politics I would rather characterise it as politics being involved in business and this is very pervasive in malaysia. It is an inescapable fact of life here.

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    • BL Lau

      Ben Teo are impressed & phone me to read ur blog on Mr Koon’s article, i ask Ben what he had learn & he reply … in construction … the key point is Team Work.

      Well, in all business success … i believes is Harmony … with all living things & environment … from among human, animals and the natural’s …. society & community.

      & most of all …………… Able to Give & Take.

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    • othman hashim

      after reading your blog, I truly agree with you how humble Mr Koon is. I had the opportunity to have a short conversation with him on 16th.March2012. He had just finished addressing the 4th Pakatan Rakyat anniversary gathering in Ipoh. I just could not believed that such a man would be standing all alone while waiting for his wife to fetch him. He is so humble and just willing to talk to me, a rubber tapper from Beruas. I salute you Mr. Koon.

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    • Jia Xin Yong

      hello, Thanks for blogging this. Actually I am currently having financial difficulties in my studies. I am wondering whether you can provide me Mr Koon’s contact details? I am appreciate with your help. Thank you very much.

    • […] in Blogging,Wealth Management The Perak Academy is a non-profit body which organizes projects and activities involving intellectual discourse, research, writing, fine arts and performing arts. It organizes the popular ‘Perak Lectures” series with speakers of national and international standing invited to speak on a variety of topics aimed at stimulating and disseminating intellectual discussion. Below is a reproduction of a recent talk delivered to the Academy by Mr Koon Yew Yin. […]

    • iznan

      thank you for blogging this. now i get a real opinionof who mr koon yew yin is.and you are one lucky man in this world who had shared a table with this guy!

    • Vincent

      Hi there. I am a lost student who are seeking sponsorship to further my study. Can anyone provide me the way to contact Mr. Koon? If it is improper to talk in public, then please email to my email address – Your help is greatly appreciated. Thank you!

    • Andrew

      This is very inspirational and motivational indeed. I came to know about Mr. Koon via your website and I must say he’s The Man!

      It is also good to know that there are wealthy people keeping a low profile and helping their fellow men and women, not just helping themselves to the Mercs, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bentley and trophy wives.

      I salute you, Mr. Koon.

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