Johnson Lam used to live a full-throttle life focused on the interests of three people, “I, Me, Myself”. It was about career, climbing the corporate ladder, as quick as possible, and it was about enjoying life to the max. “It was all rather selfish in nature,” he acknowledges.
But then a 2010 off-road biking accident in the hills of Tanjung Bungah in Penang, left him with a broken body and an out of body experience that forced him to re-evaluate his priorities and reset his life trajectory.
“I was floating above my body which lay on a large rock, watching my friends, scared and trying to shake me back to consciousness and with flashes of my life going by,” he recalls.
Confused and scared, Johnson asked for more time. The next thing he recalled was waking up in the hospital and being told he had stopped breathing for a full five minutes before he came back. “I was lucky to be alive, the doctors told me.”
Johnson doesn’t believe luck has anything to do with it with. The incident caused him to question the purpose of life and reflect on his own. He didn’t like what he saw.
“I started focusing on growing people around me, making an impact to the community and growing together with everyone. Selfishness went out the window,” he said, calling the new phase of his life “Bonus Time”.
With an unmatched drive and determination and sense of fun, not reckless fun, Johnson has parlayed his Bonus Time into becoming one of the leaders of Malaysia’s fix-it-yourself movement with a reputation for a creative and innovative approach to problem solving.
His efforts received a huge boost in January when Johnson was chosen as the first Innovator of The Year winner in the inaugural Top in Tech Innovation Award 2021, created by Digital News Asia and Malaysiakini.
[Ed Note: NK Tong, Group Managing Director of Bukit Kiara Properties is Lead Judge for the Innovator of The Year category.]
“The recognition helped to open doors and validated the idea of my KakiRepair. Subsequently, KakiRepair went on to be the first and only Malaysian Facebook Community to bag the Facebook Group Community Accelerator 2022,” Johnson said.
KakiRepair (loosely translated as a person with a flair for fixing things) is the community group he formed in July 2017 as a way to encourage a strong fix-things-yourself culture among Malaysians.
The roots of KakiRepair where formed during Johnson’s childhood experience which shaped his innovative flair and renforced the adage about “Necessity being the mother of invention”.
“Since young, I was surrounded with natural resources and able to gain access to broken items but lacking formal knowledge and opportunity,” he said. Rather than accept his circumstance, he was driven by curiosity and a sense of adventure to find creative ways to put two and two together to fix broken and damaged items or even create something new from different sets of parts. He realised he had a natural talent for fixing both mechanical and electrical items, a gift he has honed with hard work, continuous learning and a desire to share his talent with others, especially after his 2010 near death experience.
He formed KakiDIY first in that same year, the precursor to KakiRepair.
“Kakidiy was more focused towards stem education and lifeskills to create innovators and entrepreneurs,” said Johnson with activities such as DIY education, open Makerspace, hosting makerthon and hackathons and even incubating startups.
The motivation, seven years later, to launch KakiRepair, he explains was due to constant complaints he was hearing about how the lack of skills to repair items, lack of space/tools to do so resulted in users throwing away broken items that would end up in landfills.
“I didn’t like what was going on and also didn’t want to accept it,” he said. Hence the launch of KakiRepair.
The impact over the last five years has been “tremendous”, he said.
- KakiRepair is now a sustainable, organically scaling and self sufficient community
- Over 500,000 people are engaged in the KakiRepair FB group (52k+ members)
- Over RM1 million worth of products have been repaired
- KakiRepair volunteers have been deployed to help flood victims around Malaysia
- Tonnes of Carbon Footprint reduced
What’s next for KakiRepair and KakiDIY? “I am planning to grow KakiRepair by activating the communities in rural states of Malaysia and to neighbouring countries. For KakiDIY as a whole, I will focus more on education and social enterprise perspective to solve more issues in Malaysian society, especially around life skills, jobs and mobility,” said Johnson who recently left his corporate career to join a B40 focused social enterprise, SOLS247 as, what else, its Chief Innovation Officer.
On the personal level, Johnson said the Innovator Of The Year award strengthened his portfolio as a mentor and coach to startups and university programs. “I am frequently contacted by lectures for speaking engagements in Malaysia and neighbouring countries such as Singapore, Philippines and Thailand.”
Looks like Johnson’s Bonus Time has just gone into overdrive.
The Top In Tech Innovation Awards 2022 with eight categories is open for submissions now by 30th November 2022.