Growing up in the humble town of Paloh, Johor, Arun Namasivayam had his heart set for a future in law. As his finances became constraint, life took an unexpected turn. He soon found himself moving in the opposite direction, where the real challenge began. We sat down with the CEO of Blaze Avenue on how he turned from a one-man-show into a multinational training corporation.
Like most Malaysians, Arun didn’t have a silver spoon upbringing. He started in a Tamil vernacular school and continued his education up to STPM. To fund his tertiary education, he picked up several odd jobs in Singapore at age 19. From packing items in a manufacturing factory to 12-hour graveyard shifts at 7-Eleven, he did everything within his means to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a lawyer.
“Whatever job I could get my hands on, I grabbed it,” he said. While working in Singapore gave him the money he needed for law school, his academic performance wasn’t promising. Upon failing his final year, Arun struggled to juggle between his job and studies. Work life in Merlion city was exhausting and his degree was hanging by a thread.
In 2009, he packed his belongings and moved to Kuala Lumpur. “It was a drastic change for me adjusting to Malaysian wages, having rents to pay and being on my own,” Arun recalled. He worked as a Sales Executive at Standard Chartered Bank, but quit a month later for a Supervisor position in ship construction and repairing in Singapore.
Due to its tough nature, Arun left the ship and was unemployed yet again. Jobless for several months, he came to a realisation of his inconsistent work history. “I was chasing after money rather than building a career,” he said. “I also needed to earn a decent living in KL and a Sales position gave me that opportunity and fast.”
He soon landed a Sales Executive role in the training industry. “I had poor command in English; I messed sales speeches; and I was under constant stress… but it was exciting,” Arun said. Along the way, he picked up myriads of new programmes and subjects. Four years in and a Sales Manager post later, he took a leap of faith and handed his resignation to start his own company.
With a loan of RM50, 000 in hand, Arun got to work – in a tiny shop lot in bustling Brickfields in 2013. From dealing with his website domain to Inland Revenue Board of Malaysia (LHDN), he built everything himself from scratch – during which he also redid and completed his Bachelor of Laws (LLB) (Hons). Today, Blaze Avenue is 20 employees strong with offices in Kuala Lumpur and New Delhi, India.
At its initial stage, Blaze Avenue offered general training programmes such as project management, communication skills and IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standard) – just to name a few. With the evolving market trends, the team shifted their focus to high-grossing industries like oil & gas and banking. However, 2014 saw a major recession in both industries causing training courses to a screeching halt.
Arun knew he had to stand out from his competitors. After months of research, trials and errors, the team discovered an untapped potential in one of the most crucial markets: Power industry. While he knew his business strategy would eventually take Blaze Avenue to the global arena, he didn’t foresee it happening so soon.
With the help of the late Dr. Prabha Kundur, former President and CEO of Powertech Labs, Blaze Avenue covers power-related training programmes including transmission, renewable energy, power producers, stability & control and more. His expertise allowed them to further collaborate with other world-class subject experts to conduct in-depth courses for power transmission and distribution companies such as Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) and National Transmission Corporation of Philippines. “Not only are these courses catered to risky and evolving natured power sectors, but there is also a high cost and risk involved in the planning and execution of these training programs,” he explained.
In 2015, they decided on a different approach: A training session in an exclusive resort in Bali. With major industry players attending from Indonesia, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Hong Kong, and even Kenya, they saw a high demand for these courses; a demand that paved their way to other countries like Oman, Abu Dhabi and more.
“It all boils down to diversifying your services,” Arun claimed. Paying close attention to market needs, requirements and risks give training companies an extra edge. As every country and sector have unique needs, Blaze Avenue works closely with trainers to curate personalised courses. “There is no one-size-fits-all solution; the key is to tailor make them,” he continued. The team also help breakdown course outlines based on their client’s business objectives. And when budget is a constraint, Blaze Avenue ensures transparency in costing to match their expectations. Arun mentioned, “Sometimes you have to make certain sacrifices if you see potential in growth.”
Looking back at how far he has come, Arun believes his progress comes from a simple philosophy: The ability to believe. In order to succeed, one should always dream big, believe and conquer. “You don’t need to be an MBA holder to prosper. Even small changes can result in big outcomes,” he said.