It’s common practice for Malaysians to chat about ways to start their own business. Not everybody’s cut out to be an inventor and not everybody is a whiz at IT or programming. Sometimes entrepreneurship doesn’t have to involve creating something new but just finding unique items from abroad and making them available here.
Nadia Hasbi graduated from business school but she never fancied herself as an entrepreneur. She saw herself as more of a corporate consultant type. And indeed that was the line she pursued after graduation in early 2009.
While doing her MBA at Manchester Business School, she got a chance to do some practical training doing market research in Rio de Janeiro, and she loved the place. Because of that, she decided that, when she lands a real job after graduation, it should be one that would send her back to Brazil.
This is no doubt a rather unorthodox approach to career planning but working in Brazil was a priority for her. “I believe if you really want something, and you work towards it, you will get it,” Nadia says.
Well, she worked hard for it and sure enough, she got what she wanted. She landed a job with Scomi Engineering which operated in various places around the world. One of the places was South America.
She got her wish and got posted to Sao Paulo. It wasn’t Rio de Janeiro but at least it was in Brazil and she was delighted. She especially loved the beaches in Brazil. She noticed that one particular brand of beachwear stood out: Liquido. “It’s a huge brand in Brazil and all over Latin America,” she says. “It’s very good quality and cheap yet fashionable.”
Because she didn’t consider herself as an entrepreneur but more of a corporate type, Nadia didn’t take the entrepreneurial plunge straight away. “I thought of doing it part time while still holding on to my consulting job,” she recalls.
She made a good impression with Liquido’s bosses, who until then, didn’t think of exporting their beachwear and active-wear products. “They liked the fact that I was alone on my own doing consulting work in Brazil,” she says. “I guess they saw me as being kind of brave. So they decided to let me sell their products in Malaysia.”
She started off small, cautiously buying just enough stocks to test out the market and sold it through online marketplace Zalora. Nadia’s dad was fully supportive of her budding entrepreneurship and actually helped her incorporate a company so she could conduct business properly.
Unfortunately, he passed away a few weeks later in an accident. “Setting up the company was the last thing he did for me,” Nadia recalls. This bolstered her desire to make the business work. “I wanted to do this for me and also for him,” she adds.
At the time, she was still employed at Scomi and running a business on the side was frowned upon so she took the leap and made the decision to leave behind a stable corporate life for the rough and tumble of entrepreneurship.
She didn’t have that much capital so opening a physical retail shop was out of the question. So, she went completely online, selling her Liquido products through various online platforms and through her own, very simple website, which was not even e-commerce enabled.
Business has been good though – enough for Nadia to get by comfortably but she is not content with what she’s achieved thus far. She has plans to expand her range of offerings to include brands like Eagle Rock Werkshop and Glyder. In total, she hopes to offer up to five different brands and park them all under her own e-commerce website. “The main brand will still be Liquido though,” Nadia says. She’s obviously a very loyal fan.
Ever since she quit her consulting job, there’s been no looking back. “What drives me is the curiosity of how far I can go with this, how big I can grow it,” she says. “I know I can do it. I’m smart enough and I know the products well. I have this burning desire within me to make this happen.”
Oon Yeoh is a new media consultant.