9 Reasons Why Malaysian Startups/Businesses Fail

As Asians, the most taboo word is fail. Like failing Math in elementary school (I got a good whipping for this, truth was, I didn’t know how to read Malay). Failure in relationship? Failure in career by getting fired? What ever the failure is, it’s not the end of the world.

In the past few years, I’ve had my share of failures. Almost all were costly as time and money were part of the trade. But there’s always a good thing about a business failure, you come back with vengeance, battle scars and loads of experience. So here’s what I learned:

1. Not Solving Any Problem

To make money, you need to provide a solution to a problem. No one will spend unnecessarily, especially in this age. The problem has to be big, it has to mean something. It has to annoy so much that it affects lifestyle, mood, livelihood, kids etc.

In my new venture, we always ask ourselves, what is it that we’re solving? Again and again. It’s been a year now, and we’re still asking the question. Why? Because we want to make sure what we do matters to our target market.

2. Solving Problem That Doesn’t Matter

Some problems are just too tiny to consider. Have you ever fell for the “forever sharp knife” on TV shopping? Who cares, we already have knives in our kitchen. We don’t exactly need another knife if what we have now is sufficient. Similarly if the problem is too small, no one cares. (BTW, I got IKEA knives, they’re awesome!)

3. Not Understanding Your Target Market

This relates to the previous points, but on a different level. To win a customer, you need to understand what they are going through, what are their pain points, how can you make them sleep better at night, what tickles them and more. The best method to obtain this is by asking your target audience directly. Another method is by ‘stalking them’ on social media (the data is there, use it!). This also helps to cross sell your future products.

4. Obsessed with Your Idea

The most common failure is obsessing over an idea. Let me be frank to you, your idea was already thought of and so does the solution you had in mind. It means nothing if it doesn’t solve any problem except for yours. While standing firm to an idea is important, learn to let go. Trust me, new ideas will arise. If you can’t let go, then do a market validation.

Sometimes the idea is too sophisticated to tell. My experience tells me, if you can’t explain your business in one line, then dude, move on.

5. Positioning or Location

We had this problem when we ran a Kebab stall. The problem we had was not enough traffic was driven to the spanking new mall. As a result we had very little sales and enough to stay afloat. Few months after, we closed. Positioning and location is key in business, online or offline. For online, being on the first page of Google is important and for offline, being accessible by your target market is highly sought.

6. Doing it For the Money

The worst of any kind of business, is doing it for the money. In order to get the best bottom line (profit), you shave right left center top bottom. Doing that hurts the end product. Yes, business will boom, but it will suffer in the long run and hurt your self conscience. Don’t go into business to make money, because once you have it, you don’t care anymore about anything else besides money. Instead have a genuine goal, for one of my startup is “Creating Happy Moments”. So by hook and crook, we have to do this even if it means tightening our belts.

7. Priced Wrongly

I hate to give this example, but look at Tutti Frutti. The first year of business was so well for them, the franchise bloomed like spring-time. Now, every shop I came across had workers with a frown and bored faces. Why? There had no customer and they were overpriced. Once customer got smacked in the face with such a heavy price tag, they never came back. Quantify the problem, price correctly. If you can’t, then model after your competitors.

8. Being Mediocre

This is a Malay dilemma. Open shop whenever pleased. Make something half hearted. Do you think customer will comeback for more? Don’t settle for just enough. If you can push further, do it. Give value to your customer, make them smile for a change.

9. Didn’t Test The Market

One of the most important steps before investing your money into business is ample research, by ample I mean testing the market. If you have a business idea, always test it with your target market. The Managing Director I worked for taught me the easiest way to test the market is to ask/say the following thing.

  1. Reaffirm with your target customer about their problem.
  2. Describe how are you going to solve it.
  3. And if you build it, would they buy it?

So there you go, 10 years of my experience. I might comeback to add more, but this is it for now. So to businesses and startup out there good luck. Remember we’re here not here to compete, but to compliment. If you have a business, do share on the comments below. I’d love to know what you do.

“It’s better to try and fail, then fail to try”


The Poopy Story

It was her usual time of the hour. As her bowel lined up to the stars, she took a poop.

This normally happened around 830 pm, so we were ready. We wanted to potty train at such an early age so we can reduce the amount of diapers used daily. *cough cheapskate*

When she’s done with her business, she’d run to us and tell us, “mama, Sara yak ke?”. The tone was a question, just like we’d normally ask her, but I can assure you that’s a statement. She always messes up the tone, but it doesn’t matter, we’ll fix that later.

After dinner, we (Aisyah and me) took our time to share about each others day and talk about smoked duck (it cant be help, she’s craving for it). We heard Sara defecating at the corner of the room. It’s ok, we’ll clean her up once we’re done with the dishes. Sara yelled from the living room, “Mama, Sara yak ke?”.

Running across the hall with only her tshirt on. OMG. She took her pants and diaper off! Her stool was everywhere on her ‘cheeks’. Luckily there were no bricks nor skid marks on the floor. I quickly grabbed her and ran upstairs.

Giggling while I rushed her to the loo, in her tiny little voice, she said. “Abah, tima kaceh.”

I took my time to respond, knowing that the moment will end and she’ll outgrow time faster than my beard. One day, I’ll be an old man and she might be cleaning up after me. We do not need to be thanked, but it always nice to feel appreciated.

I whispered to her, “You’re welcome, always.”

Merdeka! Merdeka. Merdeka?

Yeah Merdeka!

We scream at the top of our lungs as if we had played some part. This independence that our ancestors fought for, what was it for? More importantly are we really independent?

My friends, no.

in·de·pend·ent. adjective from outside control; not depending on another’s authority. “the study is totally independent of central government” synonyms:freethinking, freeindividualistic;More

2. not depending on another for livelihood or subsistence. “I wanted to remain independent in old age” synonyms:self-sufficientself-supportingself-reliant, standing on one’s own two feet “her grown-up, independent children”

Look at our life. We work to pay for a house we live in. We work to pay the car to get to office. We work to pay our debts. But without these debts, can we truly live a happy life?

The world we know today is filled with materialism, which creates ample room for optimism and false happiness. Ask yourself, how long did a new cloth made you happy? New shoes? New car? In the end we want more. We want the better version, we constantly upgrade to fit our lifestyle.

Until we can find a mechanism to free ourselves from unnessary worldly worries, then I say, we are still mentally colonized.

Ps: you might want to look into zuhud.

Closing Sales, Bengkel

Bengkel kereta pandai jual “fear”.

“Abang, kalau bawak lama-lama tayar panas nanti meletup, abang kena tukar tayar”. Pandai dia guna ” fear” technique.

Kalau dia cakap sebegin ni pada wanita,  hatinya mesti dah 50-50 untuk tukar tayar.

Aku pernah dengar kisah tukar brake pad, padahal masih ada ½ inci lagi. Boleh la tahan lagi. Tak salahkan wanita, dorg mana tahu perkara teknikal sebegini.

Tokey ni cuba lagi untuk cross sell, “kalau tak tukar tayar, bahaya untuk anak. Kalau meletup masak drive, kereta confirm terpusing”. Perghh, dah macam filem Michael Bay.

Aku hanya senyum kambing. Aku bertanya kepada sendiri, apakah ayat yg sedap membuat aku rasa untuk tukar tayar?

1. Sekarang musim hujan. Jalan licin.

2. Sekarang musim panas, nanti tayar panas. Michael Bay arguement balik.

3. Kalau tukar tayar, sedap layan drift. – tapi ini kereta lama, power pon tak de.

4. Kalau abang tukar harini, saya bagi 50% off.

5. Kalau abang tukar tayar harini, saya service kereta free je.

Aku lebih tempted ke option 4. Ada banyak lagi teknik untuk close sales tapi ini sahaja yg dapat difikirkan. Untuk kereta lama/usang yg hanya diguna untuk ke LRT, memang agak susah nak cari titik kelemahannya.

The Purpose of Life

Have you asked yourself, what’s your purpose here in the world?

I have asked this question many times before. And I have gotten a satisfactory answer yet.

Is our purpose to help another man? Is our answer to help the world? Is our pupose to feed upon our greedy soul?

But for now, I’ll stick to making the world a better place, better than I found it. So help me God.