| Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia | 31 Aug 2017 | Asia Samachar |
The life and times of Malaysian sports equipment icon G.S. Gill, who passed away at the age of 92 in August 2016, is captured in a biography released some months ago..
Authored by Gill’s niece Nikki Lugun, the biography entitled A Life Lived to Serve was launched in February 2017.
“My uncle talked about writing his memoir with me, but towards the end of his life, he had Alzheimer’s disease. This book is a collection of scrapbooks my cousins (Gill’s daughters) and I had compiled many years ago….I think he (Gill) was one of the heroes who was a part of the country’s nation-builders. He was passionate about developing sports in the country,” the report quoted Lugun. (News Straits Times, 5 February 2017)
It was launched by Olympic Council of Malaysia president Tunku Imran Tuanku Jaafar.
Gill, who was bestowed the state title of Tan Sri, was the man who brought German sports-wear brand Adidas to Malaysia. “He landed the distribution rights for Adidas in Malaysia and Singapore and later expanded his business to Indonesia and Thailand.”
Gill was born in Kampung Benggali, Brickfields, on Feb 4, 1924. In 1946, he took out all of his savings and opened a small shop at No. 108, Batu Road (now Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman), selling everything from jam to cigarettes and textiles.
His lifelong association with sporting goods began at the suggestion of a friend and he started off by selling shuttlecocks. His name became synonymous with sports equipment and the nation’s sport development in 1957, when he supplied sportswear and equipment to the national football team free of charge. In 1983, his shop moved from its No. 108 premises to its new building at Wisma Harwant, named after his wife, the report said.
He is survived by his wife, Harwant Kaur, and daughters Ranjit and Premjit, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
The business built by Gill is still thriving. The throngs of shoppers trawling Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, the ‘grande dame’ of Kuala Lumpur, on weekends will not miss Wisma Harwant which houses the most popular sporting goods shop in the capital, G.S. Gill.
While shoppers are enamoured by sparkling new shops and department stores arraying Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman or Jalan TAR, they cannot help but notice the imposing Wisma Harvant towards the end of the road, noted Bernama in a reported ‘GS Gill’s flexibility wins hearts of shoppers across decades’ (Bernama, 29 Aug 2017).
The Gill sporting goods store started from a small shop in Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman (Batu Road then) in 1946 before expanding to an 11-storey Wisma Harwant which was named after his wife.
The sports equipment and accessories retailer G.S. Gill Sdn Bhd is now run his grandson Mahaveer Singh along with Gill’s two daughters.
More from the Bernama report:
Mahaveer, who is determined to continue the legacy of his grandfather, said the most crucial point in sustaining the brand, while others had moved on or closed down, is flexibility that his grandfather instilled in them when running the business.
“No drastic change but transition. No revamp and be more flexible in terms of pricing our product range, streamlining our direction as we want to cater to everybody. But at the same time we are focusing on our in-house brand, Eider,” he said.
For Gill’s daughter, Premjeet Gill, who used to assist Gill at the shop, her father had his own ways of running the business and it took time for her to persuade him to implement new ideas.
“For Mahaveer, I told him, you run it (the business). Just keep me in the loop of what you want to do. I’m ready for new ideas and he (Mahaveer) is keen to do online trading which is good, something that we should move into,” she told Bernama in an interview.
Premjeet, who used to be in the same shoes as Mahaveer before, said, “My dad adapted to a lot of things which had not seen in the sporting industry before. We were among the first who put security tag on our products and garments.”
The shop, which prospered through decades, was abruptly halted during the May 13, 1969 racial disturbance. But when it resumed operations, business was as usual.
Mahaveer said everyone in the family shared the same wavelength in terms of maintaining the business and carrying his grandfather’s legacy as the family were well aware of the hardship that he had endured.
He said G.S. Gill products were now offered on online platforms, namely Lazada, 11 street and Facebook, while its inhouse brand, “Eider”, comprised jerseys, shorts and socks.
On challenges confronting the company, Mahaveer said the domestic scene was crowded with sporting equipment chain stores, but the company would continue to focus on academies, schools and companies besides expanding its product line under the in-house brand.
“We are not depending solely on the shop. We have corporate clients, international schools, including Fairview, a football academy (Negeri Sembilan), a police squad once in a while.
“And we occasionally get new customers but these are our loyal customers,” he said, adding that 50 per cent of G.S. Gill’s revenue comes from new customers while another 50 per cent from existing customers.
Of the amount, the corporate client segment stood at between 20 per cent and 30 per cent, while the rest is contributed by the retail segment.
On brand awareness among the new generation, Mahaveer said the challenge needed to be addressed, thus GS Gill was considering opening a second outlet.
“However, we have to see how things goes, hopefully by next year,” he added.
Celebrating the spirit of the SEA Games 2017, he said GS Gill was sponsoring apparel for junior and senior squash teams, who would adorn “our jerseys if they are not in conflict with the main sponsors.”
[ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs in Southeast Asia and surrounding countries. We have a Facebook page, do give it a LIKE. Follow us on Twitter. Visit our website: www.asiasamachar.com]
GS Gill: Farewell sir, sports will miss you (Asia Samachar, 28 Aug 2016)
GS Gill: Malaysia’s Maharaja of Sports Business (Asia Samachar, 27 Aug 2016)