- Published on Tuesday, 05 September 2017 15:14
SME Corp Malaysia may sound like another unexciting government entity to you, but not until you meet its chief executive officer Datuk Hafsah Hashim.
Uttering her made up catchphrase to Malaysian Digest, “Behind every successful man there’s always a woman, but behind every successful woman is herself” – it may send the room bursting into laughter, but the jovial woman’s words should not be taken lightly as a joke, as it rings true to the successful being that she really is.
Call her unconventional, but the power woman with high spirits exudes every bit of the metaphor “thinking outside the box” – so much so, it led her to produce her very own online drama miniseries titled ‘Chor & Chah’ – creating awareness of entrepreneurship amongst youths.
In summary, Azlan (or Chor, played by Saharul Ridzwan) is a kampung boy who ventures into entrepreneurship after being pushed into a corner to marry the girl he loves, Siti (played by Ruhainies). Jobless and penniless, and with immense pressure to win her father’s heart aside competition from a young entrepreneur wooing her at the same time, he turns to the SME Corp financial grant to sell his mother’s rendang tok. In the process, he meets Aishah (or Chah, played by Ummi Nazeera), an SME Corp business counsellor who helps realise his business dreams through the Tunas Usahawan Belia Bumiputera (TUBE) programme.
Directed by Datuk Rosyam Nor under his production house Suhan Movies And Trading Sdn Bhd, the miniseries which recently concluded last month after 12 educational episodes, ended with many giving positive feedback and leaving them wanting more.
“It is really walking an entrepreneur from end-to-end about business. We chose rendang tok because we wanted to showcase that it does not take a rocket science idea to start a business. It could just be something that you’re staring at every day but you take for granted.
“In the first few episodes, it was actually Rosyam’s real-life story of the struggles he had faced, being in business and going through financial difficulties,” she reveals of the storyline that is infused with a love story to pique the interest of the young ones.
How Realisitc Is The Miniseries?
“It is 70 per cent drama, 30 per cent information,” adding that it would have been just a boring documentary film if not for Rosyam’s input.
“I wanted the message to be subtle so people don’t recognise that it is an SME Corp effort, so we tried reaching out through creative means. Here is where I wanted to go into the minds of the young. It was an interesting journey for me because I get to do what I had envisioned all this while,” she recounts.
On the character Chah, she notes, what viewers see is what really happens in reality when her team is tasked to engage participants in one-to-one sessions, putting their personal touch, simply because they do not want participants to stray away.
“We have about 58 business counsellors and they have got to verify the genuine existence of the companies. They don’t get personal, but they have to be involved in the business to understand it better, to know what the participants need because we want them to grow, and we need to track their growth.
“One business counsellor will be in charge of up to 10 participants, and the dedication shown in the miniseries is to the tee and the services they provide will appear on a report, which will go into the scores.
“In addition to the business counsellors, we also have 68 SME expert advisory panel (SEAP) who are industry players, who have clocked in 20 years in a particular field, some retirees, who assist SME Corp,” she enlightened.
Admitting that a lot of start-ups fail, in the miniseries, Hafsah highlights, SME Corp puts forth challenges that arise and competition amidst jealousy that comes with success, which are among the things that new entrepreneurs can expect.
“We want to derail entrepreneurs from going down the Death Valley. In business, it’s not a rosy journey all the way. More than 80 per cent of businesses fail in the first few years, worldwide. And if this happens to our participants, we will have an action plan to avoid the failure.
“The difference between TUBE and other programmes is that it provides a buddy system between the business counsellor and participant – hand-holding for 12 months, which allows new entrepreneurs to come to us anytime for free advises and services.”
“Failure is less than 1 per cent from the total funds we have disbursed. So far, out of the 1,500 who graduated to get the RM15,000, those who failed, I can count with my fingers. Some failed because they just got married, got pregnant, their parents objected,” were among the reasons Hafsah communicated, however reminded aspiring entrepreneurs, “It is not a loan, the deal is you have to try as much as possible.”
Seeing that there are about 162 programmes for entrepreneurs, providing RM5.8 billion funds in total, yet many are clueless, it pushed the enthusiastic CEO to channel the message in a creative way.
“For me, the outcome would be to see how many new companies would be registered, how many viewers of the miniseries are able to relate the information we are trying to impart onto them, and sought help after watching it.
“This impact, I can measure it real-time. So far, we have gotten more than 700,000 viewers,” and many have revisited the miniseries to obtain information provided in the episodes, which met her intent, she stated.
However, mooting an idea of a miniseries was not easy, and Hafsah recalled how she was challenged by a minister who told her that it should be aired on RTM instead to generate viewership.
“But I don’t have an RM1.2 billion budget, so I had to try to do things differently and try reaching out to the masses in the most fun, cheap way. And if you put it on TV, who would watch it but the elderly ones like myself, and that’s not the age group I want to reach out to,” she relayed with a chuckle while sharing they only worked with a budget of RM500,000 for the entire series.
TUBE Helping Youths, As Well As Mat Rempits
“On a minimum, I’d like to see 6 per cent of new companies being rolled out. To date, we are seeing 10 per cent. To be successful is to double the KPI, 12 per cent, by 2018. If it doubles by then, I say ‘BINGO, We hit it home!’,” she animatedly shared of hopes the miniseries would meet SME Corp’s objectives.
“I hope to see new entrepreneurs in the ecosystem and that they register their businesses so that they can grow to meet the demands of urban society that thrives on e-commerce. For as long as businesses do not register, they do not get any other funding in the ecosystem,” she highlighted, sharing her concerns that many out there are only obtaining a business license.
“The young ones need to understand the game play happening today.”
Hafsah further points out the success of SME Corp’s TUBE programme, which exposes one to knowledge on entrepreneurship, finance, marketing, and effective business strategies, by sharing a story of a mat rempit participant who went from street pest to prosperous entrepreneur – selling burgers to make ends meet for his family.
“He was initially rejected by my officers but rose to the challenge after our camp. When he started, he was only able to get about RM200 on a good day, but after our three-week camp, he opened up two more branches within three months, and on top of that is able to employ his friends to help deliver the burgers.
“Now, he is making up to RM20,000 a day, not only from selling burgers but from the car wash he newly opened. He is definitely inspiring other mat rempits,” she noted, reminding society not to look down or underestimate anyone’s capabilities in starting a business, not even mat rempits.
As we move into 2020 then 2030, Datuk Hafsah reminded youths how jobs are getting scarcer and they will soon be automated – therefore they need to ready a plan to venture into entrepreneurship.
“The only way for youths to survive is through entrepreneurship, test your ideas, get money out of their ideas, create jobs and not look for jobs.
“Entrepreneurship is not a last resort, entrepreneurship should be the preferred choice in their career,” she urged.
“An entrepreneur must be resilient, willing to learn, and be able to take in a lot of fast competition that comes through,” she said referencing to Chor in the miniseries as somewhat of an exemplary entrepreneur, “But whether he will make it or not, we will see in the second season.”
What Viewers Can Expect In The Second Season
Now, Hafsah’s team is currently shooting the second season of the miniseries – with many more agencies, even NGOs willingly offering to collaborate with SME Corp following the success of the first season – and simply because they want the series to be continued.
Giving us a teaser to the second season that has just been promoted online, she said it will emphasise on the need for businesses to prioritise packaging, go online, as well as encouraging entrepreneurs to export their products.
One can also expect to see MAMPU, TERAJU, Northport, among ten other agencies, featured as part of the exciting new episodes. But most interestingly, there will be a cameo appearance by our Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, she relayed, without giving too much away.
“We hope our viewers will increase, if they find it useful then we hope they will spread the word,” she concluded.
Sure, it is not as thrilling like the HBO Game of Thrones series, but for aspiring entrepreneurs, these 12-episodes could be life-changing, and the beacon of hope to perhaps lead the life you once thought you could only dream of.
For those who would like to jump on the bandwagon, it is still not too late to catch up to the miniseries before the second season arrives. Visit the Chor & Chah YouTube, or official Facebook page for the latest updates.