Building a vibrant ecosystem through passion

Through passion, Hisham Talib found the solutions to an array of challenges. Now through Ra’e Ventures, he seeks to help other business founders to do the same. He shares his tips and quips to BusinessToday.

“I come from a family of entrepreneurs. Each one of my siblings have their own business and this was a trait passed onto us by our parents, who were business owners themselves. I eventually got myself into several jobs early on and it was during one particular job with a German MNC that I managed to see markets outside Malaysia,” Talib tells BusinessToday.

The entrepreneur who has ventured into starting several startups shares his experience with the publication on what it takes to get into different fields and how challenges have evolved over the years.

It was through his travels in between Cambodia, Indonesia, Singapore and eventually a business venture in Myanmar that gave him the ability to see the Malaysian market from the outside looking in. “The network that I had built during my earlier engagements gave me the opportunity to really look for any gaps in the markets especially in Malaysia,” he says.

This foresight led to his first tech-based company, Pasar Tap and being one of the early adopters, Talib had the opportunity to talk to different people from inside and outside the ecosystem.

And because he had built his credentials in building a digital business, it was only natural for interested parties with ideas to sought him out for advice and support. With sufficient knowledge in dealing with investors to market and tech requirements, Talib also saw the opportunities to start businesses with others.

Currently the VP of Business & Investment of Ra’e Ventures, Talib says the challenges in his early days differed to what it looks like today. “Back then, an idea was enough for you to get investments. And there were little to benchmark your business idea with. So, you can get away with having a half-baked business model and yet get people to invest in the business. In a way this is good for entrepreneurs,” he tells BusinessToday.

He goes on to say that if projections were too conservative, it only meant founders were not considered hungry enough and investors shied away.

“In today’s day and age, for young founders, things are different. Investors might not need you to emphasise on your growth projections as much. And they are more interested to look at your ‘path to profitability’,” he says, implying that with ready and available data, benchmarking business ideas is easier.

“So, find the right data sets and match it to your business plans and hopefully they can come up with a more realistic growth projection.”

When it came to founding startups and business through identifying solutions to issues, Talib says businesses must scale to sprout solutions from the problem. And by scale, he means that it affects people or parties in different markets and that it is scalable.

“In my opinion, some entrepreneurs get too close to the problem that they are trying to solve. When you invest a lot of effort in building the business, but you find that the business is not scalable, then it gets harder to grow. And it will be even harder to attract investments,” he tells BusinessToday.

He further highlights that the issues he chooses to find a solution to are those he is passionate about. Coming from an architecture, F&B, supply chain background, Talib’s business ideas resonate with the said themes that usually get his attention more than others.

What is next?

“The differentiator for Ra’e is that our focus is for businesses that gives impact to the Muslim market globally. The Muslim market has been forecasted to be at US$3.2 trillion (by 2024) in Halal economy. We have built a strong network of Muslim businesses and faith leaders globally,” says Talib.

Ra’e is currently working with different companies at different stages of their operations. The latest addition to its roster is Alunan Wellness which requires a complete overhaul of their branding and marketing.

Talib and his team is also working with Qalby App ensuring content from the relevant partners will be conveyed on the mobile app and social media platform seamlessly. Another project Ra’e is involved in is with the Sentuh App, a booking platform for the beauty and wellness industry. Talib’s team was involved in developing the mobile booking platform from the website they were operating from previously.

The Sentuh team will soon be launching their new and improved mobile app by February this year.

 Support from all corners

We need to build a solid ecosystem that covers all phases of running a business, Talib says. This ranges from the awareness stage, ideation stage to the market and growth stage as well. He urges for both government agencies and the private sector to take an active involvement in building the ecosystem.

“Personally, I feel that we are great at coming up with programmes and structures. But we do not follow through enough. It would take extraordinary political will from all parties to make sure that we stay the course and execute.

For private entities such as ourselves, with limited reach and resources, we do what we can. But it is our hope that this sort of ‘pay-it-forward’ model will gather momentum and create this giant movement of successful entrepreneurs churning out more and younger entrepreneurs almost in auto mode. This creates a more vibrant ecosystem,” he concludes.

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