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Malaysia’s No.1 Uniform Maker Started From Making Trousers From Gunny Sacks – Now A Thriving Family Business

For most students in the greater Klang Valley, Outpost Uniform (which is owned by Camps & Apparels Corp Sdn Bhd) is the go-to place for all their uniform needs. Established in the 60s, Outpost Uniform is a pioneer and leading figure in the uniform manufacturing space, and is the only school co-curricular uniform retailer that is officially certified by the Ministry of Education and other popular uniform bodies such as the Red Crescent Society, St. Johns Ambulance, and even the Royal Malaysian Police. 

With more than 50 years of experience and more than 20 retail outlets nationwide, Outpost Uniform has been trusted by generations of parents and students alike. Their success today was hard-earned, and it all began with one man’s belief in the Boy Scouts movement and his passion to serve the community. 

Humble Beginnings in Klang

Founder Lai Kam Hong at his shop in the 1960s. (Source:

It all started in 1961, when Lai Kam Hong, a 47 year old postman and father of 3, decided to take a leap of faith and start a small business selling Boy Scout uniforms. As one of the earliest scouts in Malaysia and a passionate outdoorsman, Lai noticed that there was a dearth of quality, affordable Boy Scouts uniforms in Klang, and scouts often had to make the arduous journey to KL just to procure the uniforms and equipment that they needed.

Determined to make a difference, Lai wasted no time in making the first purchase of his business, a couple of scarves and badges, from the Baden-Powell House (Lord Robert Baden-Powell was the founder of the Boy Scout and Girl Guide movements)[1] in Kuala Lumpur. He subsequently brought them back to his wife in Klang, Wong Yoke Moi, who was also the head tailor for the business.

Armed with the sewing machine that was gifted to her by her in-laws, Wong expertly churned out uniforms from her home, often working through the night to complete orders. Despite running a small business, money was still hard to come by for the Lai family. To make ends meet, Wong also made and sold trousers from gunny sacks, something that her grandson speaks of very fondly.

Ten sen is probably nothing today, but it was of great value at the time. You worked really hard just to earn 10 sen, and this was what my grandparents did. – Colin Lye, grandson of Lai Kam Hong and General Manager of Camps and Apparels Corp Sdn. Bhd [1]

They did not do a market survey or anything like that before starting the business…Money was scarce and the uniforms were expensive. The money earned from the business was just enough to support the family. – Colin Lye[1]

Yet, despite facing hardships, Lai preserved and eventually started selling basic camping equipment. Fulfilling customer needs and guaranteeing satisfaction was always on top of Lai’s priority list. This played a role in fueling his success, and eventually became a core business value that is instilled in every Outpost Uniform staff member[2]. 

Passing on the Baton

When Lai’s son, Richard, turned 12, Lai decided that it was time for Richard to learn the value of hard work. He recruited his young son to work alongside him at the shop, exposing him to the ins and outs of the uniform business[2]. An avid scout himself, Richard eventually went on to join the military, even though it was not a popular career path at the time.

Richard Lai( one of the standing boys, 3rd row from the back), was one of the few Chinese who joined the army. (Source:

Yes, it is not very common for Chinese to join the military service. He joined out of his interest in outdoor activities. He liked roughing it. My father served in the army for 10 years. – Colin Lye [1]

While the business was doing well enough to feed Lai’s family, it wasn’t thriving. Upon Richard’s return from the army, he was not able to join the family business as resources were limited, and there simply wasn’t enough to pay his salary.

All this changed in 1997, when the Ministry of Education announced that the participation in co-curricular activities (including uniformed bodies) will contribute significantly to one’s chances of entering university. Business boomed, and all hands were required on deck: 10 other housewives were recruited to help with the sewing, and Richard officially entered the business as his father’s first partner.

Source: Dayak Daily

Richard’s military background contributed immensely in the organisation’s efforts to be a leader in the industry. As a military man, he had a keen eye for detail and understood the pride that came with putting on a sharp, tailored uniform made exactly to specification.

Everything has to be correct; every badge has to be right and worn properly. It has to be polished to a shine. And this is what makes the members proud. – Colin Lye [1]

Richard was determined to hold his uniforms to high standards, and while this was not easy, he preserved. 

My father remained steadfast in his determination to see it through. Standards and quality were the main things he brought to the company. And this was how we earned recognition from several uniformed bodies and organisations, such as St John Ambulance of Malaysia and The Scouts Association of Malaysia.  – Colin Lye [1]

Building an Empire


The business was eventually passed on to Colin, Richard’s son, shortly after his stint as an accountant at one of the Big Fours. Under Colin, the company expanded through franchising, opening an average of 2 outlets across the nation annually. But Colin has strict standards when it comes to franchisees. 

Along the way, we have learnt to see why a particular person is interested in our franchise business. Is it because of profit, or do they see something interesting and good in it? It is more than just attracting retail customers. – Colin Lye [1]

Our franchisees have to be outgoing, and they have to like outdoor activities and products. They should also like interacting with people and understand the notion of giving back to the community. – Colin Lye[1]

Colin eventually brought the company into an era of active engagement with local communities. What this meant was that the entire organisation, from employees all the way to upper management, had to be actively involved with their customers (local uniformed bodies and organisations), understand their needs and invest in promoting uniformed bodies activities together.

This builds trust capital, allowing them to further establish themselves as the go-to uniform provider, in spite of the fact that their prices are 15% higher than what an average uniform would cost.

Our price is about 15% higher, but it still makes a difference if they buy a set of products, from uniforms and badges to other things. However, the quality of our products is better and we adhere to the correct specifications. – Colin Lye[1]

Apart from that, Colin also ensures that they are giving back to the community through various CSR initiatives and also programmes with other organisations such as ShareAngel, where they collect pre-loved items and redistribute them to underprivileged communities[2].

Differentiating Themselves through Passion

Outpost Uniform’s story is a testament of how passion can indeed play a role in sustaining and propelling a business forward.

If Colin could choose what the company is to be remembered for, it would be for its passion to serve uniformed body communities, as well as the organisation’s unwavering commitment to standards.

I would say that so far, none of our competitors started their business out of their passion of being a part of a uniformed body community. What they see is demand [for uniforms], but we understand the community and are a part of them. We are not just selling products. – Colin Lye [1]

Explore Our Sources: 

  1. The Edge. (2015). Unlisted & Unlimited: Cover Story: A Passion For The Uniform. Link
  2. Outpost Uniform. (2021). Link

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