Oct 14, 2016

Getting to know: Dato James Iskandar Ja'afar Greaves

Dato’ James Iskandar Ja’afar Greaves walked into the conference room tall, imposing and dressed in a well cut suit jacket and a pair of jeans. He was certainly a handsome and dashing man, very much like a prince - (which he actually kind of is...), but yet also very approachable, friendly and humble. He started the session by saying how nervous he was and made the few of us in the room laugh before beginning his introduction...

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pic taken from and credited to AsiaTatler.com

For those who do not know him, Dato’ James happens to be the founder and chairman of JAG Group Holdings and a member of the Negeri Sembilan royal family. His wife is the lovely Tunku Myra Madihah, a Princess from Negeri Sembilan and they have two adorable children…

JAG Group Holdings’ owns about 30 companies across a number of countries and industries in Asia including sales and marketing, logistics, operations, property and the latest, aviation…

Some of us members of the media and bloggers had the opportunity to meet up with this very influential and inspirational man, who did kinda have a“Cinderella” background (no offence meant) but who worked very hard to to be where he is today... Dato’ James told us that he came from humble beginnings with divorced parents where his mother would wake up early to go to work.

He was lucky enough to have be able to attend a prestigious school and mix with the richer kids around and eventually earning a place at the Edinburgh University.

However because of his love for travel and skiing (yes, James says he loves skiing), James decided to have a gap year from university and backpacked around the world a bit, and worked as a dishwasher in France and also in a bar, and eventually, getting a job pitching sales on the street, he was a quick learner and before long, he quickly progressed to running his own business and decided to pursue his new found career. Within his first two years in Australia, he successfully opened several marketing companies.

From Australia, seeing the potential for growth and opportunity, he then moved to Kuala Lumpur in 1995 to open Appco Group Asia. Over the last 20 years, James has built the largest face-to- face sales and marketing agency of its kind in Asia representing major blue chip clients such as Uber, HSBC, ANZ, Singtel and global charities such as MAKNA, UNICEF and WWF to name a few.

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Appco Group Asia has over 2,500 independent sales contractors and 300 support staff across 7 countries, turning over RM$250 million a year.

Dato’ James says that all his sales contractors are given ample training and each of them can have the opportunity to grow and lead their own teams and eventually be like how he, Dato’ James is today…

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In 2001, Dato James got the idea of starting another business at his girlfriend/ now wife’s place where he noted an old menu file she kept on her coffee table still intact after she had refurbished her condominium… with that, James began Room Service, Malaysia's first independent food delivery company. They successfully expanded the business into Singapore and Jakarta before selling the company in 2014 to Food Panda for USD10 M.

In 2007, he bought a business called SG Global Support Services (SG GSS), a company specialising in operations and customer relationship management. SG GSS has MSC status and has now grown to over 130 personnel and operates in 8 countries.

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James also set up simplygiving.com; an online portal in 2010 to help charities reach a larger online audience. This business has expanded to reach 16 countries and recently received SD$2 million of funding from MAVCAP and Gobi partners in Malaysia…

One day, when he was out somewhere in a park with his son, James and his son watched a helicopter land, and from that moment, James, whose initial goal was to fly a plane, decided to scrap his idea of flying a plane and learn to fly a helicopter instead…He started learning in 2011, at the Subang Airport where he trained/learned 2 – 3 times a week and after obtaining his license, he bought his first helicopter. 

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He finally bought more helicopters and also a majority position in a Malaysian air operator company, Cempaka Helicopters.

And with that, Cempaka Helicopters in collaboration with the City Hall and the Kuala Lumpur Tourism Bureau began the KL Sky Tour which is based at the Titiwangsa Lake Gardens.

Cempaka Helicopters is also operating aerial tours around Langkawi and there are plans to expand the network to cover more destinations in Peninsular Malaysia.

Dato’ James is also quick to point out that his success was not all that smooth sailing or easy and he has in fact had a few failed businesses but he just refused to give up.  He said that we should all learn from our failures/bad days because those are the moments that teaches us the most and that we should regain our composure and keep our goals in mind.

And because his business is all about face-to-face marketing, “No” is what that made the company thrive and he teaches his team how to appreciate the “nos” they come across as he put it, the “nos” made him stronger, and made his who he was today… his company, homes, clothes were all built from the “nos” he got…

Yes.. "Never Give Up" is his motto which he held on to and he also advised people to make realistic goals instead of just materialistic goals. For Dato’ James, who says he looks up to Steve Jobs, Nelson Mandela and Tony Fernandes, among his first goals was to be able bring his elderly grandmother down from UK to Malaysia for a holiday and how he went all the way to achieve it, jokingly calling it his “grandma goals”

He advised those who want to be successful to have people they can depend on and fall back on when they are feeling down and hang out with those who are more successful then they are…

It was a very interesting and motivating session and an honour getting to meet the man that is Dato’ James Iskandar Ja’afar Greaves….


  1. I love reading personality features such as this. I have not heard of Dato James before but after reading this article, I am curious enough to want to Google his background. Thanks for sharing!


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