Creating business opportunities and growth online
THE GOOD OLD DAYS of early Internet-surfing would have you sitting in front of a box-sized monitor with a CPU that only allows you to use a diskette.
And let’s also not forget the excruciating dial tone you would have to listen to before you are actually connected to the Internet.
But those days are gone. Now, you just have to activate the mobile data on your smartphone or connect to any wireless network to be connected to the borderless world of the Internet.
Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) brought a few of Malaysia’s successful internet personas under one roof during its inaugural MDeC Online Community Gathering in Sarawak on July 11 for a discussion on ‘Adopting Digital Technologies to Fuel Business Growth and Create a Connected Community’.
Moderated by Vijayaratnam Tharumartnam, vice president of Corporate Communications and Marketing at MDeC, he was joined by speakers Carol Fung, e-Commerce trainer from Chiica Consultants, Kashminder Singh, co-founder of pitchIN.my and Cyril Dason, coordinator and founder of Sarawak Bloggers.
In an earlier press statement, Vijayaratnam had stated that there was a lot of potential for growth in terms of connectivity in Sarawak. He explained that through the Digital Malaysia initiative, MDeC foresees that digital adoption could be greatly beneficial for the people in the state, especially the four key communities identified under Digital Malaysia: youth, digital entrepreneurs, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and the bottom 40% of the population with the lowest income.
“It is our hope that by becoming more connected, we can provide more opportunities for business growth to these communities and move holistically as a nation towards the Digital Economy.
As the evening went, some 30 participants were intrigued by the three speakers who talked about how to effectively use the Internet to boost their careers.
The stories of these three different online personalities were inspiring and unique on their own, that it would have been a shame not to share them:
Selling Online with Carol Fung
She is known for selling safety pins for exports online. Yes, you read right the first time: safety pins.
According to Carol Fung, the business of selling pins started when she was doing cross-stitch as a hobby back in 2000 when she was based in the UK.
“I was searching for patterns, needles, threads and all and found them on eBay. That was back in the year 2000. I saw them selling needles, zippers…”
Getting the idea from there, Fung started to sell safety pins which her husband bought in Malaysia and shipped to her in UK for her to sell through eBay.
People often asked Fung, why people were buying safety pins from her? She answered, “One, people don’t like to travel in the UK. Two, safety pins are expensive in the UK.”
After moving back to Malaysia, Fung continued selling ribbons – not in small amounts, mind you – 500, 000 ribbons a year with France as her biggest importer.
She also sold rubber stamps but later stopped because it required a lot of work.
“The biggest challenge for me was being located in Malaysia. Nobody knew where Malaysia was back then,” said Fung.
On top of that, Fung said putting up your profile that you are shipping from Malaysia made some customers think that it would take ages for their orders to reach them.
Besides her geographical location, she said that Malaysia and Indonesia have become widely known to sell fake products online which becomes a challenge for Malaysian online entrepreneurs.
Due to her know-how on online selling, MPH Publishing approached Fung to write her own book.
‘Carol Fung’s Guide to the Business of Online Retailing’ was written out of her experience running her own online retailing business as well as a certified eBay trainer.
While the book is for newbies to online business, Fung said, “I’m aiming for prisoners that just came out from jail, single mothers who want to earn their own income. So what they do is they buy this book and then chat with me online via Facebook and I teach them.”
Blogging with Cyril Dason
When Cyril Dason started blogging in the mid-2000s, people doubted his chance of success, saying that things being done part-time never succeed.
Regardless, the graduate in Vocational and Technical Education still carried on with his passion in blogging, “I think the best part about blogging is everybody is doing this for the right reason; passion about writing, passion about meeting people.”
According to Cyril, Sarawak Bloggers started in 2009 began by gathering together any Sarawakians who blogged under one platform.
Over the years, Sarawak Bloggers opened their doors to any bloggers who blogged about anything Sarawak.
For Cyril, his most rewarding moment as a blogger came in 2011 when Tweet-Up Kuching (#TweetUpKch) became a social media phenomenon.
Tweet-up is a meet-up or gathering of people who are connected through Twitter. Malaysia had held the largest #twtup in 2011 in Kuala Lumpur, which also broke the Guinness Book of World Records for the most number of check-ins at such a gathering.
In December 10, 2011 the Sarawak Bloggers community had organised Kuching’s version of the record breaking event, Tweet-Up Kuching which was sponsored by DiGi Telecommunications and Faradale Media-M.
Led by Cyril as the organising chairman, the event turned out to be one of the top ten social media events in Malaysia in 2011.
During the talk, Cyril also emphasised the importance on educating children and young adults to know and learn their boundaries when using the internet.
“As Sarawak Bloggers we are trying to educate the younger generation through the events that we did. The younger generation doesn’t read. They read the headlines and that’s it. We are trying to put up certain information in short, sweet and at the same time they will be reminded of what they should or shouldn’t say online,” Cyril stated.
Pitching in with Kashminder Singh
Have you heard of crowdfunding? Neither had I until I attended this talk.
Crowdfunding means the practice of funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the internet.
Kashminder Singh is a serial entrepreneur and established media pioneer.
He is always working on IT, mobile and new media projects, so it was not a surprise for him to have co-founded pitchIN, Malaysia’s premier crowdfunding platform, together with Sam Shafie and Megat Ishak in 2012.
“pitchIN is a platform. You come, you start your project. Your backers come, they see you then they back you up. It is your duty, one, to complete the project and two, to make sure your backers get their rewards.”
The website is the local equivalent to other crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
The moment you click onto pitchIN’s website, the description of the whole platform is clear and simple; ‘Have an Idea? Get Funded! Like an Idea? Fund it.’
pitchIN is where those who have amazing ideas, be it entrepreneurial or charity projects, have no funding but go there to pitch their idea in the hopes that others who believe in it too will help them get started up.
It is also a place for funders to fund a project and get rewarded.
An example of a project which was successfully launched was the Maya Waters Project which was to turn a very popular household item during the 18th century, ‘Labu Sayong’ into a modern-day water pitcher with a disposable filter. Maya Waters managed to get a funding of RM7,515, a bit more than its original RM5,000 goal.
Kashminder follows internet and mobile developments very closely and is keenly interested in exploring how people and organisations can use these technologies.
He said, “The only important to know is in the future, this is my own personal view, large organisations will disappear. There will be a lot of small entrepreneurs. Anyone who wants to be an entrepreneur, now is the time.”