Ken Lam was only 20 when he moved to Kuala Lumpur from a small town in Perak.
As a student at Tunku Abdul Rahman, Ken took up part time jobs in the university’s cafeteria, as a math tutor and delivery boy to cover his college and living expenses. Little did he know that one of those dead end jobs would soon lead him to his fortune.
“To get a job as a delivery boy, I bought a second hand car. It was a Proton Saga. It was a very crappy tin can and it cost me RM13,000. I bought it from a small dealership. The car began having brake, engine and transmission problems.
After half a few months there were just too many problems. I fixed it for RM3,000 and sold it for RM8,000.”
By then, friends and classmates began to ask Lam to help them pick out and buy cars. Lam explained that in the Chinese tradition, when someone does you a favor, you repay the generosity by taking them out to dinner.
“More and more friends needed help with buying cars. Soon, many international students and friends were asking — and I thought this should be a business. I told them instead of buying me food, give me RM300 for the car service.” says Lam. “My company started the moment I started collecting money from clients.”
He started getting two to three clients per week. As his clientele grew, Lam brought on his first partner to help manage the business and with no outside funding, he started his own dealership and hired his classmates and friends.
Lam’s business initially acted as the middle-man between the client and the dealerships. They would pick and negotiate on behalf of the clients to get the best deals as well as to inspect the cars to make sure they were in good shape. As business grew, Auto Depot Sdn. Bhd. evolved into a full-fledged dealership offering a wide range of cars.
Eventually a cycle started — international students would buy a car from Lam, but when they had to go back to after graduating, they would go back to Lam to resell their car.
Today, Lam’s venture has grown from two people to 8 full-time employees. He says that he sells more than 400 cars a year at an average price of RM60,000. Luxury cars in the RM200,000 range and above account for 20% of his sales.
One of the most expensive cars he’s ever sold was a Lamborghini Huracan, which retails at roughly RM1,300,000.
As long as I help them save money, they’re going to choose me as a service.”
So far, Lam has done pretty well for himself — he’s been the proud owner of a BMW M3, a Porsche 911 and an Audi R8, which became his dream car after he saw the 2004 film “I, Robot”. He currently drives a Mercedes SLS.