5 Gen.T Honourees On What It Takes To Be A Successful Entrepreneur In 2021
Five Malaysian entrepreneurs on the Gen.T List 2021 on what it takes to run a successful startup
It's said that entrepreneurs form the backbone of any economy. The figures from SME Corp Malaysia prove that Malaysia is no different—97.2 percent of all businesses in the country in 2020 were small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
But the country faced a challenging year in 2020, with 30,000 businesses folding over the course of the year due to prolonged lockdowns, according to Malaysia’s Ministry of Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives. In addition, the Department of Statistics Malaysia found that the GDP of SMEs in the country contracted by 7.3 percent during the same period.
Given the challenging landscape entrepreneurs face today, we asked five Malaysian honourees from the Gen.T List 2021 to share their secret to running a successful business.
Co-founder and CEO, Senang
For Sharian Raj, a successful entrepreneur needs to be passionate, resourceful, determined and sometimes stubborn. But above all else, they need to stay humble and true to themselves. When facing virtual insurer Senang's most challenging hurdles, Raj says he takes a step back from the situation to think. “I normally create a list of things I can or cannot change, before brainstorming ideas with my team and creating a plan of action,” he says.
Though it faced project postponements in 2020, Senang fought back stronger than ever—launching products in new verticals and surpassing its sales targets.
Be aware of your own weaknesses
Ai Ching Goh
Co-founder and CEO, Piktochart
Ai Ching Goh says she faced many challenges when online design platform Piktochart switched to become fully remote last year. With support from both her team and family, she says she was able to weather through the worst of it.
For Goh, a successful entrepreneur has to be fully aware of their strengths and weaknesses, as well as be fully aware of the wants and needs of their customers. “Every path is filled with obstacles, and you need pure grit to overcome these challenges,” she says. “Entrepreneurs are usually in the mode to 'go-go-go', and sometimes miss out on other perspectives when they fail to slow down.”
Use the collective wisdom of your team
Co-founder and Group CEO, Carsome
Eric Cheng believes successful entrepreneurs must be able to identify gaps or pain points within a market or industry before building and developing the right product or service that is disruptive. Since founding online second-hand car sales platform Carsome in 2015, Cheng says he has faced many difficult situations, and relies on the collective wisdom of his team to put things in perspective and see things in ways he never envisioned. The approach is paying off: the company became Malaysia's first technology unicorn after it bought a stake in car listing site iCar Asia in July 2021.
“It is important to know that one is not alone when facing difficult situations, and stress can always be navigated with the right help,” he says. Cheng adds that clear communication with everyone in the company is essential to keep everyone aligned. "It comes down to believing in the cause we champion, even when people don’t believe in it initially."
Yong Lin Teh
Co-founder and CEO, Kravve
Charisma is a quality that every entrepreneur should have, says Yong Lin Teh. Since starting food marketplace Kravve back in 2017, Teh is all too familiar with the feeling of starting out small and needing to prove yourself
When you have nothing but an idea and a deck with your plans for the future, Teh says you’ve got to have a lot of charisma to convince investors to part with their money and fund your vision. He adds that keeping an optimistic mindset and looking forward to the future, even if it has a slim chance of success, is also crucial in the journey of an entrepreneur.
Acknowledging your mistakes and owning up to them is another quality every entrepreneur needs. "There was one time when I made the wrong hire, and that cost the company lots of money. But making mistakes is part of the learning experience, so don’t give up," he says.
Be flexible to adapt to change
Founder and CEO, Ento
A successful entrepreneur does their best to plan and execute strategies, and is responsible for their actions, says Kevin Wu. At the same time, a little luck is important too, he says, because some factors are out of the entrepreneur’s control. Case in point: the unprecedented changes brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic meant that Ento, Wu's alternative protein startup that specialises in edible insects, had to adapt its marketing and sales strategy.
“Planning is crucial, but it is equally important to be flexible to adapt to change,” says Wu. He adds that the road to building a successful business is a long and lonely one, so it helps to share your doubts, weaknesses and struggles with someone you can trust.