Why I came back to Malaysia

Notes from Sasibai Kimis, Earth Heir’s Founder and CEO


The reasons for why I came back were many and probably need a much longer space for me to express. Here in this post, I hope to weave a summary of some of the key reasons why I returned #sayangiMalaysia.

I left Malaysia to study in Singapore at the age of 13, and I didn’t return to Malaysia for good until I was 29.  My years away from home were fruitful;  I studied at Wharton, University of Pennsylvania, worked in New York with Lehman, did an M.Phil in Environment and Development at Cambridge, worked in Ghana with the UN and a local non-profit, and finally, before returning to Malaysia to work with Khazanah Nasional, I was with a private equity advisory firm in London.  


After being away from home and family for many years, I decided to move back to Malaysia. Why?  I realised that I was tired of sitting back and complaining about Malaysia. I’ve always thought that if you want to create change, you need a nucleus. A nucleus of people doing good. If people leave the cause or leave the country, that nucleus cannot be sustained enough to grow the whole. So I stayed in Malaysia after returning from many years abroad. If I stay, I don’t break the nucleus and we can build enough force to create change.

In many ways, running a social enterprise in Malaysia, my home country, has proven to be harder than anything I have endeavoured to do in my life thus far.  Running a regular business is tough enough, running a social business has higher bars to meet. The gestation period of a social business to reach success is much, much longer than that of a regular business.  I spent the first few years of building Earth Heir by trying to find the artisans, developing relationships with them, identifying what the root problems were, the list goes on. To work so hard and not see that translating to visible results can be incredibly discouraging.  I had to keep reminding myself that this was the groundwork to build the foundations for something greater, for this nation. This has proven to be true. In the last two years, I am seeing the past years of hard work really beginning to bear fruit. Today, Earth Heir impacts over 100 artisans across 6 states in Malaysia, we work across a variety of raw materials, craft techniques and communities.


I often get asked why I left a successful career and financial comfort to found Earth Heir.  My answer is, “So I can live each day knowing my work is helping a man, a woman, a child, and building an ecosystem for good.”  And it is not just me – I can speak with absolute confidence that the entire team at Earth Heir shares the same vision to create impact and to engineer lasting change in Malaysia.  We are not working to build just for ourselves, but to be the first movers in building an ecosystem for the nation. Our vision is to : “To build nations and generations to live as heirs of the Earth” - we hope to raise the value of craftsmanship in Malaysia, to do it ethically and sustainably, so that it makes economic and cultural sense for the artisans to continue in their trade.


In many ways, building Earth Heir has been a journey in discovering my own heritage as a Malaysian. When we first started, I actually thought artisans in Malaysia were few or non-existent! So we actually worked with artisans in Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand and India in the early years. But as we started discovering more of Malaysia, our heritage and culture, I realised how much of my own country I was ignorant of. So, I invite all of you reading this, join us in this journey of discovery, so that together we can showcase the breadth and depth of who we are!



2018, the Year of Change

This year marks a very special year for all Malaysians.  I feel encouraged that it may be possible for Malaysia to move towards the stage of development that it deserves. The perception right now is that corruption will not be tolerated and there will be greater transparency in how government and business is conducted - I hope this will be actioned and become a reality.  I look forward to a more progressive government that will, amongst many things, pass well-researched environmental policies, policies that empower women and initiatives that preserve our cultural heritage.

Perhaps when people know we have a compassionate, intelligent, successful government, they would be more keen to come home and live their lives.

#isayangmalaysia #jombalikmalaysia #sayangimalaysiaku #bountiful2018

A fuller version of my thoughts can be found on: https://thepeak.com.my/people/building-a-new-malaysia-part-1-social-enterprise/