Before fast-food chains such as Mcdonald’s or Burger King became household names and before artisan burger joints such as Burger Labs or KGB Burgers emerged – most Malaysians would patronise street burger stalls selling Ramly burgers.
The burgers made for a perfect and affordable bite, particularly for a late dinner bite or supper. At an average price of RM5, it was comfort food to many Malaysians.
But the story behind this Malaysian brand is a testament to one man’s perseverance and belief in his idea.
Ambition Is Second When Survival Comes First
Ramly Mokni was the 8th child of 16 siblings born in Tanjung Piandang, Perak. His family moved to Sekinchan, a small town in Selangor. As a boy, he harboured a dream of becoming a doctor. But, his family was unable to afford the fees that would allow him to pursue his ambition.
Ramly left Sekinchan and followed his brother to Kuala Lumpur. He started working as a labourer. Soon, he was working as a butcher in a supermarket. Who knew that it was then and there that he gained his a-ha moment.
The idea came from when I was working in a supermarket. It came from a customer who asked if one of the burger patties they sold at the supermarket was made by a bumiputera. – Datuk Haji Ramly Mokni, the founder of Ramly burger
In the 1970s, the news was abuzz concerning the halal status of imported burger patties. That only fortifies Ramly’s idea. In 1978, Ramly along with his wife, Shala Siah Binti Abdul Manap, started their business at home creating halal burger patties from scratch.
Having the foresight to expand their venture, Ramly applied for a loan of RM7,000 from Majlis Amanah Rakyat (MARA) but was rejected.
I think at the time Malays were not interested in burgers yet. Back then, the demand for food made by bumiputera was very low. – Datuk Haji Ramly Mokni, the founder of Ramly burger
But the rejection did not stop him and his wife from trudging forward.
Starting With A Small Capital
Ramly had faith in his business idea and decided to start his business with just a capital of RM2,000 and produced 200 burger patties a day from his home kitchen in Lorong Haji Hussein, Kuala Lumpur using his hands and knives.
Initially, the patties weren’t received too well in the beginning by Malaysians.
He decided to open his burger stall in Chow Kit selling both cooked and uncooked patties. At the same time, the first Mcdonald’s opened in Malaysia.
Ramly spent hours tweaking the flavour of his patties to appeal to the local taste buds.
Demands were steadily growing. They started producing 3,000 patties per day, an increase of 15 times more than the initial 200 homemade burger patties.
The Meteoric Rise
Within two years, Ramly set up a company with a factory in Bandar Tun Razak to produce burger patties. In 1984, the Ramly Food Processing Sdn Bhd. helmed by both Ramly and his wife/business partner.
But that wasn’t enough, in five years, the factory in Bandar Tun Razak reached maximum production capacity. To meet the growing demands, they expanded to a bigger factory in Batu Caves.
From making 100,000 patties a day, the Batu Caves factory was producing 1 million burger patties a day.
The enterprise introduced more products to its arsenals such as nuggets, sausages, meatballs and minced meats. In 2018, the Ramly burger factory moved to a larger area in Pulau Indah, Selangor.
Now an established and iconic brand in Malaysia, it was easier for Ramly to procure funding.
I borrow from Agro Bank because the agriculture and farming industries are profitable businesses. This is an industry that can make someone a millionaire. – Datuk Haji Ramly Mokni, the founder of Ramly burger
Never Forgetting His Roots
Ramly’s success story is rooted in his humility. To this date, the Ramly burger remains accessible and affordable to fellow Malaysians. Even more so, the enterprise had only unlocked income opportunities for lower-income households.
In 2020 alone, the Ramly burger empire created entrepreneurial outlets for almost 30,000 micro-entrepreneurs. On the roadside, it comes as a no surprise that Ramly burger stalls are mushrooming as micro-enterprises make up more than 70% of over one million SMEs in Malaysia.
By operating a burger stall, Ramly estimated that a Ramly burger seller could achieve RM 10,000 a month. With a catch that capital of RM5000 – RM6000 is in place, location and customer retention.
If a business can sell about 100-200 burgers a night, it means it can earn a net profit of RM200 a night. Imagine if they can sell 1,000 of them. And if they go up to 3,000 a night? If their net profit is RM1 per burger, it will be RM3,000 per night. They can actually achieve almost RM10,000 a month. – Datuk Haji Ramly Mokni, the founder of Ramly burger
With the small capital required to establish a burger stall, Ramly is aiming for more micro-entrepreneurs to be involved.
The same goes for our burger stall entrepreneurs, currently in the 25,000 to 30,000 range, but after this, we are targeting 50,000 to 100,000 burger stall entrepreneurs. We want the Ramly network to be nationwide and in the region. – Datuk Haji Ramly Mokni, the founder of Ramly burger 
With earnings that boast a profit of RM 10,000 a month, the growth of Ramly burger stalls would only help the lower-income households and some may permeate to a middle-income category.
Not Stopping Anytime Soon
There may be other burger stalls out there with different patties on offer, but there’s a beauty in being the pioneer. Ramly is constantly venturing into uncharted territories, halal Ramly burger patties and meat are also available in Thailand, Singapore, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Indonesia.
With the greater heights the empire is achieving, it’s not excluded from naysayers or those who try to put his business down. In the past, some pointed out there were traces of pork DNA in the meat products Ramly burger produces which the company refuted immediately.
But being in the business since the 1970s, Ramly is only moving towards bigger goals.
We want to further strengthen the brand by increasing the Ramly Halal Mart and Ramly Halal Kiosk network to more than 450 stores in 2020 compared to 16 Ramly Halal Mart stores and 12 Ramly Halal Kiosk stores currently. – Datuk Haji Ramly Mokni, the founder of Ramly burger
In 2017, the Ramly burger penetrated the streets of New York through The Malaysian Project, a group of Malaysians serving food that reminds them of home. No matter where we are in the globe, most Malaysians would agree that there is a certain nostalgia attached to the Ramly burger stall complete with its lightbulb, plastic tent and chairs.
Thanks to the man who did not give up when some said no to his idea.
Explore our sources:
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- C.S.Cheah. (2022).How humble Ramly Burger founder can put Sapura, Serba to shame. Focus Malaysia. Link
- J.Lee. (2021).More than a micro challenge. The Star. Link
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- Juice Malaysia. (2017).New Yorkers Are Paying RM51 for a Ramly Burger.Link