by Intan Abdul
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When Malaysians see the word ‘Kayu,’ one of the first things that come to their mind would be the Original Penang Kayu Nasi Kandar, a franchise celebrating one of Malaysia’s favorite foods – nasi kandar. 

The man behind it all, also known as the ‘Nasi Kandar Man’ was Datuk Sirahudin Y Mohamed Mydin, Group CEO of Kayu Group and  the recipient of the Top Homegrown Entrepreneur of The Year Award at the Northern Edition: SMEs & Entrepreneurs Business Awards 2022 (SEBA).

Original Penang Kayu Nasi Kandar originally started out with a stall at a coffee shop in SS2 Chow Yang back in 1974 and grew to become one of the most popular Penang Heritage Cuisine restaurants in Penang and the Klang Valley.

Over the years of its business growth, the group outgrew many of its competitors and made its way to the top of the food industry. Although the Kayu group has established itself prominently in Malaysia, it is unfamiliar to many that the Kayu Group manages multiple business models that they have ventured into, apart from their Original Penang Kayu Nasi Kandar business.

Some of the businesses that Kayu Group has expanded into are: Di Kayu Arms & Equipments, Kayu Security Services, PWI Aero, and Ringgit Gate Marketing (RGM). When asked about what initiated the venture into different businesses, Datuk Sirajudin said “Kayu Group diversifies on business models. We try to venture into different industries every year and  this helps to diversify our organization portfolio.”

One of their most recent ventures included flying academies for undergraduates and postgraduates to acquire their piloting license. 

Although Datuk Sirajudin makes it known that they are not only limited to their Original Penang Kayu Nasi Kandar phenomenon, their core business is still food. He mentions that everyone loves nasi kandar and he is known as the ‘Nasi Kandar Man’ for his passion and love for the food. 

One of the few missions Kayu Group always had was to cater to everyone and to achieve that, the prices of their Nasi Kandar variations have remained the same since 2010 regardless of the inflation in raw materials. This also serves its mission of attracting regular customers; the strategy turned out effective, as the Original Penang Kayu Nasi Kandar has reported regulars dining-in up to five days a week. 

When the outbreak of COVID-19 happened,  it was inevitable that restaurants and shops were forced to close down as the lockdown period began. What Original Penang Kayu Nasi Kandar restaurants had to adhere to was no different; they focused on takeaways and deliveries throughout the lockdown period. One of the challenges they faced was the prices of their nasi kandar variations being hiked up 30-45% due to the usage of in-app delivery food services. Customers would complain about the pricing of their food even if it wasn’t under the organization’s control. 

Despite the hardships that the Kayu Group went through, the group did not suffer severe losses in terms of financials. Kayu Group has always implemented a system where they plan their budgeting and financial plans two years ahead, therefore, they were very fortunate to not have to roll off any staff or implement a pay cut.

When asked about his plans to take Kayu Group international, Datuk Sirajudin explained how back in 1999, they had proposed to take Malaysian food internationally, however the timing and uncontrollable circumstances prevented them from doing so. Fast forward to 2022, the group has started discussions with organizations in India to potentially expand their branch over there as India has a variety of curries and curry-like foods but lacks the concept of Nasi Kandar. 

By bringing home the SEBA award, Datuk Sirajudin was ecstatic, “I’m sixty years old now; winning this award makes me want to give back even more. I’m the type of person that just wants to make people happy and serve the best food for the public.”  He also added, “It’s very seldom for Malaysian food to be recognized by big names, especially the Nasi Kandar style of food and this award has brought a very happy moment for us.” 

What is to be expected from Kayu Group in the future is very vast, Datuk Sirajudin mentioned that locals can be excited for the future as Kayu Group has plans to  merge their business with organizations from different industries and offer more work opportunities for the locals so as to contribute further to the community.

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