In tale of ‘Rainbow Loom’ maker, racial quota rears its head again

The Malay Mail Online
SEPTEMBER 27, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 27 — “Rainbow Loom” creator Ng Cheong Choon’s story of how he came to invent the toy fad begins much like that of former Malaysians who head for greener pastures after being allegedly deprived by racial quotas here.

Writing of his experience in British daily The Guardian, the creator of the colourful rubber bracelets said he and his brother were forced to head to the US for their education in 1991, despite barely being able to speak any English.

“After school, I dreamed of becoming an engineer, but I could not get into my local university, because Malaysia’s race-based quota system limits the number of ethnically Chinese students.

“Like many of my friends, I had to leave Malaysia to go to university,” Ng wrote in his article for The Guardian.

Malaysia practises a system of racial quotas for university placements, with preference given to the Bumiputera community that is largely Malay.

Ng also said his graduation with a master’s in mechanical engineering coincided with the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis that hit Malaysia and other countries in the region hard, prompting him to stay on to start a career in crash safety in the US motor industry.

The genesis of the Rainbow Loom was happenstance, after Ng saw his daughters playing with bracelets made of rubber bands that kept falling apart.

Applying both his childhood memories of skipping ropes made from linked rubber bands and his engineering know-how, Ng then spent six months developing what would eventually become the “Rainbow Loom”.

“We invested our entire family savings of US$10,000 (RM33,500) ) to order tooling and 2,000lb (910kg) of rubber bands from China, and assembled the kits ourselves in our garage,” Ng wrote.

He then attempted to convince toy stores in Michigan to stock the bands, but found no success for months as people simply did not “understand how they worked”.

Ng then had his daughters and niece demonstrate the loom bands in a YouTube video that later spread across the Internet, planting the seeds of what would later become a toy phenomenon.

He received his first order for a dozen loom kits in July 2012, before the same toy store in Georgia came back with a US$10,000 order.

“We thought it was a mistake. The storeowners told us they had never seen anything like it. After that, our sales climbed every month until, in December 2012, we reached US$200,000 wholesale sales a month.”

He then took a three-month sabbatical from his job at Nissan, but never returned.

Ng’s “Rainbow Loom” went on to register over US$40 million in sales last year, a figure he expects to double this year.

Racial quotas are a common refrain in success stories involving Malaysians who leave the country in search of opportunities elsewhere.

In July, US webzines wrote of Penang-born “Mamak” Azalina Eusope’s rags-to-riches tale in which she also said she left the country after failing to enter university here.

Former street vendor Azalina is opening a 15,000 sq ft restaurant in Twitter’s headquarters in the San Francisco Bay Area.

A World Bank report from 2011 concluded that 20 per cent of Malaysian graduates opt to quit the country, with Singapore cited as the preferred destination.

More than two million Malaysians have emigrated since Merdeka.

Last year, a total 308,834 high-skilled Malaysians moved overseas, with 47.2 per cent going to Singapore, 18.2 per cent to Australia, 12.2 per cent to US and the rest to other countries like UK and Canada.

  1. #1 by Bigjoe on Tuesday, 30 September 2014 - 8:54 am

    The trend is irreversible. Even if they remove the NEP legally now, most will still not trust its for real and will still leave. Trust, once lost, takes even longer and costlier to regain. Given that they will only change once the competition gets too tough, why should anyone accept argument even if its genuine ? For street foods that can be had anywhere now?

    Malaysia is denationised, this thing called Malaysia, its dead. Tunku lost but so will Mahathir eventually and we all biggest loser ultimately..

  2. #2 by Justice Ipsofacto on Tuesday, 30 September 2014 - 12:36 pm

    Malaysia needs more street sweepers, security guards, manual workers, garbage collectors and umno-voters.

    Those not on the list are not needed and welcomed to leave.

  3. #3 by waterfrontcoolie on Tuesday, 30 September 2014 - 6:49 pm

    In this state of world economy, if any one can leave Malaysia to search for a better life it only tells us how they feel about being treated like strangers in their country. Life especially for those just graduated, notwithstanding the prestigious degree, is still a challenge in a foreign country. Of Singapore will be nearer home with near similar living condition but without fear of being mugged each time you leave your house. Competition is intense no doubt, but with a fair chance of being recognized for your efforts most of them thought it is a better deal. If you can’t make it, then you will have to admit the other bloke is better not because the rules are set against you right from the start! Yes, it is hear breaking if you know where you would be even before you start!!!!

  4. #4 by Noble House on Wednesday, 1 October 2014 - 3:23 am

    Over USD40 million in sales in one year. Just do a simple calculation on how much revenue Malaysia stands to lose from this single “brain drain” alone.

  5. #5 by boh-liao on Wednesday, 1 October 2014 - 6:17 pm

    Did he n his brother say “THANK YOU” 2 MMK n UmnoB/BN 4 driving them OUT of dis 1DERful M’sia Truly Seditious land?
    So, rakyat, don’t fret abt no or lost opportunities here bcos of racist policy
    Just b brave n move on – North, South, East, West, Forward Ho!
    Forget abt d crap here

  6. #6 by Cinapek on Wednesday, 1 October 2014 - 11:18 pm

    A common story. Just ask any nons in Johor or especially Johor Bahru and you will hear that either their children or at least some of their close relatives are working in Singapore. At least 60% of the Malaysians living in my taman are working in Singapore. It is not just the more attractive salaries because these Malaysians have to go through a tough to and fro trip daily to work and would rather work in Malaysia if they have half a chance. For many there are no opportunities for their skills here and they also feel more rewarded for their hard work and capabilities.

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