In a world of rapid digitalisation, we depend heavily on technological tools such as computers and smartphones. Even shopping can be done online, without needing to leave the comforts of home. With 19 million online users, Malaysians are definitely no strangers to the internet. According to Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), Malaysian consumers are shopaholics, with 7% of online shoppers making a purchase almost daily, 26% once a week, 54% once a month and the remaining 13% making a purchase once a year.
What online shoppers may not know is that their purchases were probably from young and eager sellers. In a landmark survey conducted by INTI in 2015, it was discovered that 31% of those identified as Generation Z want to start their own businesses. It comes as no surprise that these budding entrepreneurs are taking their businesses online where there are no geographic boundaries and requires less investment than a brick-and-mortar business.
With this in mind, INTI International University has integrated the Alibaba Global E-Commerce Talent (GET) programme into its business programmes. Developed by the global e-commerce giant, the Alibaba GET programme enables students to deep dive into e-commerce, to learn what it takes to establish and sustain an online business and gain access into the Alibaba’s thriving ecosystem.
A student who is already embarking on his e-commerce journey is Muhammad Hisyam Ariff bin Mohammad Nijam. He is preparing to launch Malaysia’s latest e-commerce shopping platform, Onlineshopiku while still in his final semester as a Diploma in Business student at INTI.
Dabbling in the world of business is not new to Muhammad Hisyam. Originally from the town of Sepang, he started selling sandwiches to his classmates and teachers while in primary school in an experiment to gauge if he could make a profit by selling sandwiches with thick fillings. In another experiment, he tried selling pencils to his tuition mates. In both experiments, he was able to make a profit and realised the importance of obtaining materials at an affordable cost, while fulfilling the needs of customers.
While studying at INTI, he helped several friends who operated brick-and-mortar businesses in Nilai by providing advice and connecting them with other people to expand their business contacts. His flair for business became apparent, and word started to spread that Muhammad Hisyam was able to provide advice on any business, including online ones.
It was during a visit to Indonesia to close a business deal with another friend that Muhammad Hisyam had an epiphany – what if he created an e-commerce platform where online sellers could feel like they were a part of a community? Existing local e-commerce platforms only enable sellers to sell their items but there was presently no avenue for the sellers to connect with one another for assistance or to build a network of like-minded entrepreneurs.
“Leading e-commerce platforms such as Alibaba and Amazon actually look after their communities by providing assistance to sellers,” shares Muhammad Hisyam. “I wanted to create an online community where if “Seller A” is unable to sell his or her item, other sellers can help or provide relevant support such as recommendations or advice.”
Muhammad Hisyam then approached his cousin who works in IT to determine if his idea was a feasible one, but was told that online e-commerce platforms were already a saturated market and was unable to offer much help. Muhammad Hisyam was not swayed and so, to establish his own platform, he learned coding from Youtube and established a website within 2 months. Meanwhile, he successfully managed to enlist 500 sellers into his platform.
The website is currently 70% complete, but Muhammad Hisyam wants the community he has established to be like a family and to build trust among themselves.
“I’m thankful for my time here in INTI, as this is the place where I have established a strong network of similar-minded friends who want to start their own businesses,” said Muhammad Hisyam. “If I had not met them, I might not have discovered that with persistence, focus, and bravery, I can do anything I put my mind to.”
The launch date for Onlineshopiku is expected to be in December 2018.