Thursday, May 22, 2014

Entrepreneurship: Opportunities and Challenges

 Panellists at the discussion
 Participants at the discussion
 Group photo of the panellists with the participants
Appreciation gifts to the panellists
  The discussion on the topic 'Entrepreneurship: Opportunities and Challenges' was organised as a pre- AGM activity of the Persatuan Alumni Universiti Pertanian Malaysia (PAUPM) at the Briefing Hall, Administrative Building UPM on Saturday April 19, 2014.  It was participated primarily by around 40 members of the Association. The panel was chaired by Dr. Mohd Hashim Ahmad Tajudin and was made up of four members. The salient points highlighted by the panellists were as follows:
   1. Panellist 1 - Dato' Wan Hashim Wan Jusoh who was the former Director of a Division in MIDA indicated that the Organisation promotes and coordinates investments in the manufacturing and services sectors. MIDA also provides incentives such as tax exemption and suggested it is useful that members of the Aumni can network together to benefit from Government incentives. He quoted the example of Romotar Sdn Bhd owned and managed by an Alumni, Encik Baharum Hamzah, who has benefitted from these incentives.
   2. Panellist 2 - Dato' Ahmad Said, who was an ex-CEO of Agrobank and a UPM graduate of 1974 reiterated that credit is important in entrepreneurship and that the country has many financial institutions with credit facilities.  However the key thing to the success of getting credit is a good project, that the financial institutions are confident, is viable and will generate profit and that the loan will be paid.  He advised that an entrepreneur must be persistent and does not give up easily.  He considered networking is also important in the success of an enterprise.
   3. Panellist 3.  Encik Baharum Hamzah, a UPM graduate of 1979 started Romotar Sdn Bhd with the financial incentives provided by MIDA.  He started his business in oil & gas and subsequently embarked into the manufacturing of oil pipelines.  It was a competitive business and he narrated the story of how the local government bureaucracy appeared to favour foreign over local companies in this niche market.  He confessed that financing is one of the challenges he faces though his initial funds was provided by MIDA.
   4. Panellist 4. The last speaker, Encik Sharul Nizam Hussein, a more recent graduate of UPM (2006) has a very interesting story to tell of how he started a company, Ritz Ranch Sdn Bhd, raising up cattle.  He underwent a training course in livestock after his graduation and with a piece of land provided by the State Government of Perak, started this enterprise with another trainee, raising as many as 2000 heads which are marketed to the consumers in the northern part of the country. His biggest challenge initially was to convince himself on getting involved in the agricultural business and that members of the public has low perception of those engaged in agriculture.  He felt that he is in the right business as the livestock industry has a big potential as the country is only 10 per cent self-sufficient in beef.
Concluding Remarks. I have always been interested in attending and participating in lectures, symposia, seminars and conferences as there is so much information generated from them and fora that I can share my views.  From this get-together it is heartening to follow the success of young entrepreneurs like Baharum Hamzah and Sharul Nizam Hussein, who have taken the challenge to be entrepreneurs.  Their success can be attributed to self-confidence, have viable projects, financial and assistance from the government and their perseverance.  In my comment I have indicated the many opportunities in agriculture in New Zealand and Asean countries such as Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam where reverse investments in cereals such as rice and corn and livestock may help alleviate the food security concern of the country and that the costs of producing these food items are lower.  As always I have encouraged the young entrepreneurs to share their experiences by writing so that their experiences and wisdom in getting involved in the very challenging enterprises could be shared with the young generation.
Complete this posting on May 22, 2014