Interview with R1 International

Mr Sandana Dass joined the Rubber Industry in 1973 as a “Rubber Scholar” with the Malayan Rubber Fund Board (MRFB) in Kuala Lumpur and trained in MRFB offices in London, Milan, Vienna and Hamburg.

He served as a Director of Marketing & Operations & Investments for MARDEC Group as well as Managing Director of MARDEC International Sdn Bhd from 1974 – 2001.  He was a Non-Executive Director of MARDEC Berhad from 2004 – 2012.

Dass conceptualized, formed and manages the R1 International Group as its Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer from its Headquarters in Singapore since 2001.  He oversees R1 International Group of Companies as Chairman in Malaysia, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, China, India, Cambodia and USA with an annual turnover which had reached about US$3 billion.


IRSG : Mr Dass the rubber industry has its challenging and volatile oscillations, do share what gives you the drive or passion to drive your passion as a “Rubber Scholar” these 45 years?

Sandana Dass: I have been in the rubber industry for 45 years.  I can say the passion that first pulled me in has not diminished in any way.   In fact, now I am even more excited about the industry ahead and what I can achieve with the plan and responsibility I have.  I think I can possibly accomplish more in the next 3 to 5 years than my previous 10 years.

What drives my passion?

What keeps me excited & going?

The simple answer is the same thing which first attracted me to the rubber industry.

 “To do Good, to do well”

The rubber industry is essential to the very development and prosperity of mankind. The world literally moves on rubber!

Imagine a world without rubber and its products, namely tires, gloves, condoms etc.  This world would not be the same as what we experience and live in today. Hence I feel honored to be part of this important industry.

At a deeper level, for me when I think of rubber, I see the vision of the man behind the tree —- the millions of smallholders who eke out a living from tapping the many rubber trees daily for its produce.  This is also a group of people living with little means and who are often neglected and even exploited.   I find it motivating to serve a higher purpose, a cause — contributing in some way in what you do for the betterment of the lives of these rubber smallholders in general and the various stakeholders in the industry.

IRSG : What was the challenge in writing the book “Passion to serve, grow and prosper”?

Sandana Dass: I must confess that I decided to write this book in haste.  Sometime in 2017, I had a sudden thought that I could leave R1 anytime.  In such a case, what do I leave behind?  It occurred to me that it would be good to leave behind the story of the early history of the company, how it progressed and what had made it become the biggest pure rubber trading company in the world.  In a way a blueprint of its growth and success and to emphasize the need to cherish and preserve its culture which has been painstakingly built over many years.

The challenge in writing the book was two folds;

1. To determine the readership and how they can benefit from it

And

2. To find the right way and tone to get the message across easily

It was obvious that the book would be useful to all in the R1 Group, namely existing members and new comers, the new shareholders, peers in the industry as well as general readership of commodity and business books.

As I faced a number of important responsibilities during that time, I could only write the book during the weekends and during flights. I pushed to complete it in less than 5 months.  Now I feel that I could have done a much better job with the inclusion of more lessons, information and finer details.

I guess all authors do feel the same way.

IRSG: As the author of the book “Passion to serve, grow and prosper”; what is the key factor you like to share with the new generation on pursuing a career in the Rubber Industry?

Sandana Dass: I believe to enjoy your work, to maximize your personal growth and potential, to have a fulfilling and satisfying life, you must have passion in what you do.

Passion arises from a deep desire to achieve something in your life which can contribute and make a difference to the company, industry and the society in some way.

So a career in the rubber industry must mean something much more than a job or making money.  To be frank, this is not a glamorous industry. If you join, you need to stay the course, persevere and only then can you enjoy delayed gratification.

It is not an exaggeration to say it can be a career which can keep you excited and energetic your whole life.  Every day is a totally new day.  There will be plenty of challenges, opportunities, lessons to learn from failures and occasions to celebrate success.  There are scarifies to be made but rewards are plenty too.

Being in the rubber industry, like in other commodities, will give you a world perspective as you will be exposed to geo politics, macroeconomics, environmental concerns and the global community.

There are no boring days and no boring people.  It is no surprise that most who join the industry with passion hardly leave even when they are supposed to fade into retirement.

IRSG : How have your stay in R1 International single handedly drive and gave birth to the biggest pure rubber trading company in the world?

Sandana Dass: I was fortunate to have the opportunity to give birth to R1 and help develop it to be the biggest pure rubber trading company in the world.

Certainly I did not do this single handedly.  The R1 success story would not have been possible without the solid and widespread support of so many involved.

In particular, the great R1 team and family members who share the same passion, made many sacrifices and contributed to make what R1 is today, the members of R1 Board and Shareholders who guided and motivated us, our various worldwide rubber suppliers and consumers who helped build our business and growth, our banks, services providers and agencies like International Enterprise Singapore who have been really supportive right from our beginning.

These are the people and organizations behind R1 success.

IRSG : What was the key factor to ensure a sustainable composition of the culture an Organisation such as “R1 International” that created motivated individualistic traders to work together as a virtual global family?

Sandana Dass: Our culture is the secret glue that binds together all the components in our company that sustain our growth and success.

The R1 culture is the whole eco system within the entire group encompassing the Company Vision (our aspiration), the Company Mission (what we need to do towards our Vision), our Values, our Strategies, our Processes and Systems with the R1 Global family of talented, empowered and motivated people aligned and working together towards our goal.  Good people shine and thrive under such an eco-system.

Culture defines who we are, what we represent, why it is important for us and how we go about living it to achieve our goals.

I have elaborated more on this in my book.

IRSG : Which charity/charities will benefit from the contributions of Royalties from “Passion to serve, grow and prosper”?

Sandana Dass: I do not want to be presumptuous.  It really depends on the amount of contribution of Royalties from the sale of the book.

All proceeds will go to charity and we need to determine the charities at a certain time in the future.

IRSG : what is the benefit R1 International sees being an IRSG industry member?

Sandana Dass: IRSG is the only intergovernmental organization which provides a forum for all stakeholders in the industry (producers, consumers, traders, agencies overseeing rubber interest) from both the natural and synthetic rubber sectors to meet and discuss potential issues related to and affecting the industry.

IRSG also remains the only authoritative source for rubber statistics related to production, consumption and trade.  IRSG also undertakes studies on issues affecting or relevant to the industry for its members.

In short there is no other credible agency like IRSG for rubber.  I have participated actively in IRSG Group meetings, forums and committees for over nearly 40 years.

It would be rather unfortunate to realize the value of an organization only after its demise. It would be too late then. Hence the need to preserve and build what we have in IRSG to continue to promote a healthy rubber industry.

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