Malaysia's Unsung Hero of SMEs, Azizan Osman, Founder of RichWorks International
The hardship of Covid-19 has engulfed every element of life as we know it. Over a year after the pandemic began, economies all over the world, both developed and developing nations were unable to escape its impact. While some may have handled it better than others, nothing and no one has escaped unscathed.
In Malaysia, small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) make up 98.5 percent of all companies spurring the Southeast Asian nation's economic growth. The sector has contributed about RM550 bn ($130 bn) in 2019 as it utilizes about 50 percent of the 15.9 million labor force.
Yet, in the ceaseless rage of the pandemic, its promising future is dashed with 150,000 SMEs putting their shutters up causing a massive 1.2 million job losses.
Things can get much worse if the national lockdown is stretched out beyond Quarter 3 of 2021 - further straining the supply chain of Malaysian multinational corporations (MNCs). But what if there's a way to avert this?
Setting the pace in a fast-moving global business environment
Founded by Azizan Osman, an award-winning brand, leadership and marketing strategist, coach, mentor, and entrepreneur, RichWorks International is the largest training and coaching provider in the entrepreneurial development and marketing sector and the first International Coach Guild (ICG) accredited educational institution in Asia.
Established in 2008 as a coaching and training company, in as short as just two years, the company has tremendously risen as an industry leader. From its humble beginnings, it's now feted as one of the Top 100 Marketing and Advertising Companies at the MADcon Global Marketing Conference in Le Meridien, Dubai.
Since 2008, the company has trained over 700,000 participants through its live events and has helped approximately 900,000 people from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei cope with the start of the pandemic's disruption in 2020 and throughout 2021 via its virtual online programmes.
RichWorks International isn't resting on its laurels, having recently launched the Titan Summit 2021 Programme - One Mission To Make Malaysia Great Again, a platform aimed at providing entrepreneurs with the knowledge, training, and consultation they need to not only effectively manage the impact of Covid-19, but also to build successful businesses in this uncertain environment.
Malaysia continues to be an important destination for e-commerce
Malaysia's e-commerce business has more than tripled in size since 2015, surpassing US$3 billion in 2019 and expected to reach US$11 billion by 2025. The global pandemic and the accompanying lockdowns in various guises, which had disrupted and stopped traditional commerce and transactions, actually aided the growth trajectory.
Azizan believes that in a varied country like Malaysia, there is a lot of scope for increased brand awareness and reach.
However, many small businesses, including street food sellers, home restaurants, and other local players, were forced to close due to the COVID-19 mandated shutdown, and they were unable to properly shift to the digital platform due to anxiety among them to move away from traditional means.
Solving the problem
"The virus wreaked havoc on every business, and the only thing that mattered was to survive and thrive."
During the statewide lockdown, Azizan established a number of public programmes to help business owners sustain and transform their operations throughout the pandemic. Businesses were able to set up an online store and use zero-cost marketing strategies as a result of these programmes.
In the last 18 months, nearly 900,000 people and businesses have signed up to attend the public programmes.
A year of success empowering entrepreneurs in any circumstances
"We believe in supporting local small businesses, and we want to make sure that no vegetable vendor or baker is intimidated by the idea of starting an online business," Azizan says.
When the Movement Control Order (MCO) was implemented in March 2020, Muizzuddin, the founder of Muiz Hot Chicken, a street stall outlet, began focusing on internet marketing. Since then, over 2,000 coffee shops around the country have closed permanently. With the correct techniques, his company developed from zero to 85 outlets in just 18 months.
Ella Furniture's owner, Nor Laila Alway, bought a furniture factory. Her sales increased to RM1.8 million ($431k+) as a result of her determination to discover solutions and implement strategies to keep her company relevant even in difficult times.
"Every one of our clients cancelled their events. We've been battling to stay afloat, with many couples cancelling or postponing their weddings," says Nazarul, who used to own a prominent wedding planning company.
Nazarul, who had launched Bajanas at the time, needed to adapt his business model. He changed his wedding planning business to selling organic agricultural fertilizers in order to keep the company sustainable. In 2020, the company's overall shift set a new high of RM2.1 million ($503k+).
With its hard-hitting result-matters scheme and modern coaching techniques, Azizan and RichWorks International mentoring programme members have recorded a combined total sales value of over RM2.2 bn ($526m+) in 2020 - a 10% sales increase from 2019 throughout the pandemic.
As of August 2021, the sales value of these businesses and entrepreneurs has reached RM1.8 bn ($430m+) and is projected to achieve a collective sales growth of RM3 bn ($717m+) by year-end.
The Journey Ahead
Azizan, the 2020 winner of The Brand Laureate Brand Leadership Award, has been dubbed 'Asia's No.1 Success Coach and Marketing Maestro.' He believes that SMEs, as an important economic driver, must and will prosper if given the correct marketing tactics, knowledge, and coaching.
"My recent involvement with Manage Pay Systems Berhad (MPay), a Bursa Malaysia listed company, will open up opportunities for entrepreneurs to continue strengthening their businesses using technology towards digitization in business systems," Azizan adds stressing this importance in defying the limits of distance and time to catapult business growth.
Through its "Inspire, Educate and Add Value" vision, its goal to become the Netflix of entrepreneurial education by 2025 is within reach as it looks to help 10,000 entrepreneurs in the next three years to deliver the goods of RM1 million ($240k+) annual sales for their businesses.
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