By GYNNIE KERO
BORN in the small village of Kuching in Sarawak, Malaysia, Sang Chung Poh (or Martin as many call him) dropped out of high school because of financial difficulties.
He was ambitious and wanted to land a sales job but with limited English, delivery boy was the best he could do at a pharmaceutical wholesale company. He was 18.
With self-determination and encouragement from his superior, he learnt English and became a fulltime salesman, however, along the way, he realised that he actually wanted to be businessman.
Poh realised that to achieve his goal he had to be many things:
l Work hard
l Honest and create healthy relationships that are built on trust
l Be humble and friendly; and
l Help those in need
After three years of working as a salesman, he and four others started a company which focused on pharmaceutical wholesale in Sabah and Sarawak.
It was small business but the drive was big and the five partners and the medical team formed a tight bond.
In 1996 a colleague suggested that Poh should look at Papua New Guinea and explore opportunities here. Poh followed his colleague here to look at the market – and stayed.
In 1997, he started Borneo Pacific Pharmaceutical Ltd.
The company did well and grew. It also diversified into construction and property development, engineering and wholesale distribution, hardware, tours and travel, trading, mobile clinic operations, pathology, IT and hydropower engineering.
Today, the Borneo Pacific Pharmaceuticals Group of companies, which Poh chairs, is one of the country’s major suppliers of medicines and medical consumables. It also supplies medicines to Fiji, Samoa, Vanuatu, Tonga and the Solomon Islands.
Being successful in business hasn’t stopped Poh from looking at the people around him in his adopted country – the weak, the vulnerable, the poor. The suffering of people with kidney problems and their state of hopelessness touched his heart and he wanted to do something about it.
In 2009 he did and founded the PNG Kidney Foundation.
In 2013 the foundation set up a dialysis clinic in the Port Moresby General Hospital.
Poh is a true philanthropist, a businessman who once was poor. With the Kidney Foundation up and running he turned his mind to other things and today runs a charity programme that donates to churches and other groups.
Poh became a PNG citizen in 2007. Last month as part of the Queen’s Birthday honours, he was made a Knight Bachelor for his services to PNG commerce and the community.
Also made a Knight Bachelor was Nathaniel Poya, for his services to the community and business. He is chairman of PNG Ports Corporation.
By GYNNIE KERO