By Iyad M. Y. Eid
“A successful business is not an easy journey. I faced numerous challenges, with ups and downs motivating or frustrating me at every destination throughout my life. Despite the challenges, I was determined not to give up in spite of the cost I had to pay,” mentioned Muhamad Hafizzul Zaini.
The excerpt aptly described Muhammad’s successful journey as an entrepreneur. The following inspiring story is based on an interview with him as the Executive Manager of Youbaby Million Sdn Bhd.
“I obtained a diploma in Electronics from the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) in 2009, and I then continued my bachelor’s degree in Electric Engineering. I still remember my humble beginning of doing business when I was trying to support myself financially. I made some extra money by providing laptop services to students, printing services from my room, and selling perfume to my colleagues. Interestingly, I developed a marketing strategy to sell the perfume. I raised the issue of how working long hours on the construction site in hot weather brings about an unpleasant body odor and the genius solution of selling perfume as a solution.
In 2013, I worked for Petrofac Malaysia and followed the company’s system of moving from one branch to another in Malaysia, the UAE, and Oman. I held various positions while working in electrical engineering and construction, and worked on different projects. I worked for three weeks and took a three-week break each time. I received a good salary of RM 21,000 a month.
In 2018, I was 30 years old. I worked in the UAE, away from my family and children, who meant the world to me. Once I received the news that my children got sick, I struggled with psychological and emotional issues. I desired to be with them because they needed me, and I needed them. I had to make a decision whether to resign or continue working. I decided to resign and return to Malaysia. I told myself it was enough to work abroad to collect money, and I had to reunite with my family.
At that time, I did not have a secure source of income to survive other than my savings which would finish soon. However, it was an ambitious and brave decision to start a business to fulfill my responsibility toward my family. I started running a company selling clothes for Muslim women, but the fast changes in the design of women’s clothes were a challenge to which I could not adapt. I was forced to close the company after one year. The unsuccessful business experience pushed me beyond limits. I neglected negativity and prioritised my family. I started a new small business on the street selling food, car products, polish wax, and other items on a stand.
In December 2018, I established a private limited company for selling baby products. I rented a house for RM400 per month to use as an office. I used to work and sleep in the office. In the first year, I could not sell any of the baby products the company produced. The products were unknown to the public and were more expensive compared to other more popular products. Disappointment and frustration started to slow my dreams and hopes to run the business and secure my family financially. I started to reconsider working abroad again. However, my wife had a different view. She convinced me to continue and not close the company. She said, “this product is very good, trust me, believe me.” She suggested a new marketing strategy to find a mentor to guide us in running the business and convince the public to buy the product. One of the successful marketing strategies that pushed the business forward was by distributing free samples to people to familiarize them with our baby products. Besides, to spread our brand name better, it was called ‘Abang-baby’ that made it easy to be recognized. The following year, with the help of Allah S.W.T and then good marketing, the business started to grow. We started with a small, rented house and eventually expanded to six buildings. The company owned two of them, employing 23 local staff members, and dealt with two international agents who distribute our products, one in Singapore and the other in Brunei. Our brand was featured on several Malaysian TV channels like RTM, TV3, and TV Al-Hijrah. I hope the company will become internationally known in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and other Asian countries.
The company has received several quality certificates, thanks to the specialized staff who work on finding the best ingredients to prepare the product based on our request. Last year the company generated nearly $7 million in revenue and sold 30,000 pieces of cream only in one month. Today, and after the success of Youbaby Million Sdn Bhd, many organizations and universities that organized seminars have invited me to give a speech regarding business, such as UTM, UTHM, and Hasbul Brothers, so as to guide new entrepreneurs. Also, the company became an active training place for undergraduates, whom we call the “Smart Team,” during their internships. However, one of the common aspects I have noticed among students doing their internship is that they do not apply the acquired knowledge. They go to university to obtain a degree even if they do not like their major, following the choice of friends and families, hoping to find a job after graduation.
My message to students is that they need to change their way of thinking about seeking jobs. They must release their genius ideas to start their own business and create jobs for coming generations regardless of their specialization. The purpose of education is to open the mind so as to make us discover the surroundings and not be trapped in the box called ‘specialization’. My educational background in electronic engineering helped me develop my ideas to be successful and support my nation by providing people with job opportunities. Based on experience, most fresh graduates do not have a clear vision for their future careers. They lack soft skills and exposure to the real working environment.” ***
(Assist. Prof. Dr. Iyad M. Y. Eid is an academic in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, AbdulHamid AbuSulayman Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences. The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of IIUMToday.)