IT is never too early to become successful in life. In this age of Internet and technology, young people are now more confident to try and sell their ideas and hit the road to success.
With just basic skills like knowing how to create a website and marketing products online today, young entrepreneurs can reach out to the world and showcase their talent.
Malaysians are also among the 300 entrepreneurs from 23 Asia-Pacific countries listed in the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia this year for their work in technological innovations and in disrupting age-old industries.
In an effort to inspire Malaysian students and youth to embrace the spirit of entrepreneurship, UNITAR International University recently held an immersion session with young, successful chief executive officers as part of an exclusive preview of its new Master of Business Administration programme. Themed Young Entrepreneur: A Journey to Success, the session was moderated by rap artist, entrepreneur, motivator and youth icon, Caprice, whose real name is Ariz Ramli.
Four panel speakers — Dish by Ili founder and TV celebrity Ili Sulaiman; ZeptoExpress founder and chief executive officer Izzairi Yamin; Youth Ventures chief executive officer and co-founder of Qtix Hanif Marzuki Mohd Saupi; and Sugarbomb Perfumes founder Azhari Rosli — shared their entrepreneurial journeys.
LOVE OF FOOD
Ili said her foray into television was not planned.
After graduating in business and economics at a university in the United Kingdom, she stayed on and worked in various different fields from a law firm and an event management company to a fine dining business before she decided to come home to Malaysia.
“What I noticed in relation to my career is that the only constant thing that I am very sure of is anything related to food. It is what makes me the happiest. It is also the one thing I know that I can make money out of it.
“I don’t know why I didn’t go to culinary school,” she added, sharing her journey of becoming an entrepreneur and a celebrity chef.
“I decided to start up my first business — a food delivery business using tiffin carriers.
“This was in 2014, before GrabFood or Foodpanda. There were only five companies in the same business at that time and we were the pioneers of food delivery.
“I guess somebody thought food delivered in tiffin carriers was a cute idea. And that’s also how I got my first show.”
She likes being on television and joined a competition ran by Asian Food Channel and Food Network Asia Food Hero.
“I didn’t think I was going to win but ended up doing so.”
During the competition she was doing the food delivery and shooting a lot of shows.
“I came to a point that I needed to focus on one thing.
“When you’re an entrepreneur, you’re your own boss, but you need to be focused on your goals.
“So I decided to let go of the food delivery, and focus on my career as a personality. Which brings me here today,” she added.
Ili said she gained her life experience by going through something close to her heart and that has led her to become a leader in her field.
“For others, life experience could be overcoming a really bad family situation, or something that happened at school or university.
“To succeed, it’s not so much about experience but how you handle the situation.”
DELIVERING THE FUTURE
Web technologist Izzairi has been developing web applications since his teenage days. He believes that mobile apps will be dominating the future of computing.
He wants to be as successful as Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft Corporation, or a billionaire like Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple.
That is the X-factor that has driven him to master mobile and web technologies. A graduate in Computer Science studies, he built an online e-clinic management system right after he graduated. Izzairi told himself that if he were able to sell the system to clinics, he would be a billionaire.
But he had to learn the hard way. It wasn’t easy going from one clinic to another selling his software.
“I realised that my software was not really ready for the market. There were a lot of things that I needed to learn. I decided to go to work and learn from other software developers. I got a job developing software for banks,” said Izzairi, who believes that working in a small startup with a group of professionals makes a huge difference.
“I took the opportunity to improve myself and later I decided to go into the drone industry in 2010. No one was talking about drones at that time.
“It was hard but one day I realised that there’s no delivery service to consumers.
“I shared these ideas with my co-founder, telling him that we should take up this challenge.
That was how our courier company started,” he said.
Izzairi’s advice to young people is to learn and acquire as much skills as one can.
“If you do not have any experience, try to compensate that with new skills that add value to yourself.”
OUT OF FRUSTRATION
Hanif’s story is slightly different as he is a university dropout.
An aspiring entrepreneur, Hanif believes that Malaysia is the Silicon Valley of Asean.
Currently working on Qtix, a new technology which will replace the queue management system in the government service centres and banks, Hanif said the only way to achieve efficiency is by automating certain repetitive tasks using technology.
As co-founder, Hanif describes Qtix as “mobile integrated queue management system that enables users to get their queuing tickets virtually and receive an estimated time for their service to start”.
“We don’t make the queue faster, we make it efficient,” he said.
The idea was born out of frustration when Hanif and his dad waited for five hours at a Malaysian immigration office.
“We couldn’t go out because we were afraid we would miss our turn,” Hanif said.
He turned his frustration into an opportunity as he and his co-founders Tan Ji Sheng and Muhammad Ellyas brainstormed for a solution. Qtix was born in early 2014.
The challenge was figuring out how to start a company.
“It wasn’t an easy task, especially for young people like us with no entrepreneurial backgrounds. Over time, we understood that setting up a company is not just about making sales, it’s also about creating a product that suits the market.
“Some startups only focus on product, others on sales. For us, it’s a balance,” he added.
For Azhari, after having struggled for four years in the United Kingdom to pursue a degree in aeronautical engineering, he thought that he would be able to secure a promising high profile job.
“Being an overseas graduate is not a ticket to getting jobs easily. Furthermore, aeronautical engineering has a relatively limited scope of work in Malaysia.
“So as soon as I graduated, I returned home and applied for work.”
However, fate did not favour him as he failed to get a suitable job. He applied for jobs at more than 50 companies but only10 offered him interviews. None offered him a job because they wanted experienced workers.
“I was unemployed for some time. To make some money, I carried boxes, drove lorries to deliver goods and sold kuih.”
Azhari used his savings to start Sugarbomb Perfumes with a capital of RM15,000.
“In starting up a business, you can’t do it on your own. Find a strategic partner who has different know-how but similar goals. I befriended a physician graduate doctor in Chemistry while studying at the University of Bristol, UK in 2015.
“He introduced me to perfume-making and I was inspired to start perfume production.”
At the beginning, there were many negative remarks about him starting up his own business.
“Most of them thought it was a loss to not work and get a monthly salary after spending four years studying abroad. But if I want something, I work hard to get it. And I have proven them wrong with my success.
“My advice for graduates who are looking for work — don’t be picky. Follow your heart and go for it. You will gain lots of experience which will hold you in good stead for a better job.”
Flexible MBA for future-ready leaders
UNITAR is offering a flexible MBA programme which requires only one hour a week, allowing full-time students to complete their course in one year and in two years if doing it part-time.
Students can apply with Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning qualification and use relevant work or learning experience to apply for credit transfer.
It accelerates completion to nine months when it is done full time. Those who study part-time will graduate in 19 months.
UNITAR vice-chancellor Professor Dr Noor Raihan Ab Hamid said it marks an exciting milestone for the university.
“It enables us to serve a new audience of advanced learners and career changers with our unique educational model and standards of excellence.
“We look forward to welcoming our first batch of students this month,” she added.
Those who enrol in this programme will also get to experience on-demand course guidance immersion sessions with industry experts.
In addition, students will gain access to global learning resources from McGraw Hill eBooks and Ivey Publishing’s business case studies, which are used by top business schools.
This exclusive programme, which is recognised by Malaysian Qualifications Agency and Ministry of Education, will be delivered in three modes - conventional (classroom), blended (classroom and online classes) or completely online — to cater to the diverse needs of various groups of students.
Noor Raihan said she is delighted by the positive response received during the sharing session by the young CEOs and entrepreneurs.
“We hope students will be encouraged and motivated to be innovative in developing their business sense and to think outside the box.
“All these are important aspects of effective business decision-making in today’s dynamic environment.
“The best-practice theory and immersion sessions with industry experts enrich students’ learning experiences.
“It nurtures them into the various industries as future-ready leaders and innovators who can better the world.”