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My Southeast Asia Ventures: Joining family business in Malaysia as the boss' daughter was a challenge, but I'm glad I did it

“Why me?” I thought to myself when my father asked me to move to Malaysia to join the family’s logistics business nine years ago.

I knew the journey was not going to be easy from the start.

However, I never thought that language would be my biggest barrier of all.

Though most Malaysians can speak and understand English, many are more comfortable in their mother tongues and I can instantly feel an invisible wall between us the moment I converse in English.

It was even more apparent as I visited the company’s offices and warehouses in the other states of Peninsular Malaysia.

With the limited Bahasa Malaysia I knew at the beginning, I “forced” my colleagues to speak to me only in Malay, so that I could pick up the language fast. In turn, I would reply  in English. This organic exchange helped improve their English too.

Truth be told, I started my journey with little to no knowledge of the logistics business and I was afraid I could not uphold my family’s legacy.

Looking back, I am glad I took the leap of faith and pushed myself into uncharted territory.

I’ve found Malaysians to be enthusiastic and warm people. When they learnt that I was from Singapore, many of them invited me to dinners, parties, and activities like yoga and golf, and introduced me to their network. Over time, these vendors and clients have become friends.

My experience here has taught me humility, respect and resilience, which are keys to success, especially when venturing into foreign lands and unfamiliar situations.


Ms Isabelle Lim, 32, is a fourth-generation owner of Hock Cheong Group, a third-party logistics service provider in Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei and China. 

If you have an experience to share or know someone who wishes to contribute to this series, write to voices [at] with your full name, address and phone number.

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