Sheikh Shujahuddin is only 22, but he displays a maturity well beyond his years.
Case in point: His acute observation of entrepreneurship in this day and age. “It is very difficult for an entrepreneur of my generation to make it big the traditional way, such as dabbling in commodities and real estate development. The market is saturated and almost everything has been done,” says the University of Wollongong Business Management undergraduate.
“The future of entrepreneurship lies mainly in information technology and data analytics.”
Based on this same observation, Sheikh earlier this year co-founded an app development company, Jadeite Technologies. In just nine months, the company’s first game app, Football Player Manager, has already made it into the Top 20 game downloads in the UK on the Google Play store. The company has since developed and launched a second game app, 10 Seconds Game Show. Also in the pipeline is an online property listing website for the Myanmar market, due for a year-end launch.
Born in Singapore, Sheikh, who is also known by his Burmese name Thura Oo, spent his formative years in Myanmar where his mother is from. He shares that he owes his maturity and ambition in part to his tempestuous past. As a teen, Sheikh was quite the rebel — he partied, drank, got thrown out of school and once even ran away from home.
The turning point came when he returned to Singapore to serve his National Service. “I met some men who were former offenders, who had real problems,” says Sheikh, who was a company sergeant major in the Singapore Civil Defence Force.
“They would go AWOL (absent without official leave) just so they could work and support their families. I thought to myself: I have it good, why am I doing all that?’”
Apart from starting his own company, Sheikh took up more positive pastimes such as biking. He also began to read voraciously, in particular investment banking books by the likes of Joshua Rosenbaum, to increase his knowledge of the business world.
Needless to say, his father Sheikh Babu Noordin (a Singaporean businessman of Indian and Arab heritage) and mother Daw Sabe (a Burmese-Chinese) were thrilled with the change. “They are proud. It has come a long way from the time when my dad got so mad he threw a stapler at me,” Sheikh laughs.
These days, the prodigal son spends a substantial amount of time with his father discussing the family business Straits Inc, which spans telecommunications, palm oil, agro-commodities, petroleum, steel, gold and silver as well as property.
As much as Sheikh is determined to make a mark on his own, these father-son sessions indicate that the calling to serve the family business is inevitable. “I try my very best to absorb what he’s teaching me. Admittedly, my younger brother and I have extremely big shoes to fill,” says Sheikh, who is the oldest of three children.
Among the many lessons that his father has taught him, one has left an indelible mark: “My father has always reminded me that no matter how far in life you get, never forget where you came from.”
To get his point across, the elder Sheikh brought his son to visit a one-room HDB flat in River Valley (since demolished). “He showed me a unit that had no bedrooms and told me that was where his parents and siblings used to live. It made me realise that my family has come a long way and that I should be grateful for where we are today.”
I’ve always aspired…to run my own business. I’ve never believed in working a nine-to-five job — why should I work so hard to build someone else’s dream?
A lesson in business…“Only morons start a business on a loan,” says [business tycoon] Mark Cuban.
The risk is high when it comes to start-ups. Before you even start a business, you’ll be thinking about how to pay back that loan. And don’t forget the interest.
Success is…doing more for the world than the world does for me. I take joy in helping others. In northern Myanmar, I met a single mum who was selling souvenirs to pay for her daughter’s school fees. I gave her all the money I had on me. To be able to change someone else’s life by doing so little, that means the world to me.
I’m the type of guy…that walks around in board shorts, a polo tee and a pair of Havaianas. But of course, a nice watch is a must! I opt for watches that will appreciate in value over time or are one of a kind, such as the Rolex Daytona with a Zenith “El Primero” movement that I recently acquired.
Photographer: Simon Sim
Senior Art Director: Audrey Chan
Hair & Make-Up Artist: Joie Leong from Joiè the Makeup Bar