By S. Gopinath
COME May 2018, we, the Malaysian Indian Network of Entrepreneurs Association will be celebrating our 7th anniversary. A non-governmental organization which is run purely by volunteers.
We have met around 10000 existing and aspiring Indian entrepreneurs throughout our 71 networking sessions which are held monthly since establishment. In the last one year, we have also ventured into other states of Malaysia ( Penang, Melaka, Perak ) to hold similar events; to provide a networking platform for entrepreneurs to build their network and exchange business opportunities while learning a great deal of business skills and tips from our very established Guest Speakers. Towards the end of our sessions, we assess the outcome via survey forms and I must say that 98% of the participants look forward to briefings/workshops that are related to financial matters/assistance while the rest are a mixture of those looking for knowledge/tips in certain specific industry and motivational speeches.
Some of them ( mostly start ups , those from B40 category ) request for personal coaching/counseling / consultation and following are the common problem that I find in most of them;
DOCUMENTATIONS – 78%
Company is either not registered or registration certificate ( s ) are not filed accordingly. Most of them overlook the importance of starting a bank account under the company to capture business transactions; this disqualifies them in loan/grant applications from banking instituitions.
Entrepreneurs offering services like wiring/plumbing do not issue quotation, invoice and receipt. They feel it is unnecessary as long as they get paid COD but forget that these documents will allow them to keep track of their clients/customers and help them to keep track of their income. It also reflects professionalism.
BOOK KEEPING / ADMINISTRATION – 58%
They don’t keep track of their income or expenses or even come up with a budget. They live on day-to-day earnings. They do not plan for the future. Common complaint that I receive is “ I earn but at the end of the month, I have no savings and no money left to be brought forward to cover the following month’s expenses “. This situation arises when you don’t keep track of your transactions.
No proper filing or records of list of vendors/suppliers/clients and no standard marketing formula for agents who can help in referrals. This is an example of what may seem like a minor setback but can actually result in big losses.
And because the data is not stored accordingly, these business owners fail to deliver the best customer service. They take too long to issue quotations, send emails, make an inventory check and sometimes even to deliver orders. Matters are not as simple as they may seem to be; failing to satisfy your customers will give your rivals a competitive edge.
FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT – 80%
We need to invest and grow our profit to create wealth. There is a formula to it and one must be aware of the investment nature and risk calculations that are involved in it. Entrepreneurs need to read more on business happenings around them and consult professional financial advisors before making such moves.
Most of the entrepreneurs I meet have happily spent their earnings on new vehicles, marriages and holiday packages. They have no savings and there is no discipline in their lifestyle. When their business is making profit, they forget to reserve fund for bad days.
INFORMATION IS WEALTH – 48%
These entrepreneurs do not read much, neither do they have the habit of listening to business news. This results them in not knowing and not participating in tenders for both government and private sectors.
They overlook opportunity that are available around them even financial assistance. Much can be gathered via reading, even if the topic is not directly related to our choice of industry. Opportunities don’t come knocking your door, you have to seek for them.
NETWORKING – 57%
I hardly see them at business gatherings!
Another way to gather business information or advice is via healthy circle of business contacts. Entrepreneurs need to move out from their comfort zone and start looking for contacts that can benefit their progress in business. They must be engaged in an active business group and aggressively meet people to preach about their offerings and learn about other businesses as well.
One way to do it is through participation in meet ups organizes by business groups or NGOs. Mingle with seniors who have made a mark in the industry. Maintain a good relationship with everyone regardless of their ranking; from office boys to Ministers.
Remember, in business, there are no permanent friends or enemies.
PRESENTATION – 51%
Most of the business owners, even the established ones can never do a business pitch within 2 minutes explaining what their company does and why we should buy their product or subscribe to their service. These entrepreneurs underestimate the importance of good communication skills. In order to sell, you must be able to convey clear message about your product to your potential customers/investors.
Same goes to basic grooming. Business people must always appear neat, convincing and reliable. You are your brand ambassador, dress and speak as majestic as you want your brand to be remembered.
FUNDING FACILITIES – 98%
As mentioned earlier; almost 98% of our start ups are looking for financial assistance. They look forward to a more lenient requirements for loan applications. They have all that it takes to make projects workable, products sellable and services applicable but they lack in capital. If only there is a body or a consortium that can lend money to these project winners and provide sort of project-based financing, it will help these entrepreneurs to progress tremendously in their field.
The above are highlighted to share some of the insights that we have gathered through our sessions and my personal counseling slots with Indian startups. I strongly believe that although these are minor issues, they can cause major damages to the business if not taken seriously. If we wish to witness a transformed community on the whole then we must upgrade ourselves in every aspect. Successful Indian entrepreneurs who have made it big in their field must return to help those who are striving to make a start, guide them to success. After all, nobody grows poor by sharing knowledge.
In 1MINE, our focus is on Indian entrepreneurs who lack in business knowledge, those who come from minimum education and are keen to step into the business world. They have the right aspiration but in need of more guidance to go further. In reality, entrepreneurship has taken a leap beyond race and geographic boundaries, business owners are going global within a click but majority of our people are still struggling to conquer the local market.
We have in the past, proposed to form the Malaysian Indian Investment Holdings where one of the investment arm is to benefit Indian start ups – sadly there is no positive feedback for this proposal from the government till this date. Read more about MIIH at http://www.themalaysiantimes.com.my/need-for-an-indian-agenda/
We aim for a holistic transformation. We will keep approaching government and all other bodies around us for support to help us keep reaching out to these SMEs.
*Dato’ S. Gopinath is President of Malaysian Indian Network of Entrepreneurs Association.
*The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Times (TMT).