Make Way For These FUTURE Entrepreneurs!

By Mel Sim

Meet the six Malaysian students who bagged the 2022 FedEx Express/JA International Trade Challenge Malaysian Finals and learn how they made the cut.

Since 2008, FedEx Express Malaysia together with Junior Achievement (JA) has been hosting the FedEx Express/JA International Trade Challenge (FedEx/JA ITC) as a platform for students to gain first-hand experience in international trade and entrepreneurship while cultivating a business mindset. In the challenge, students in teams of a minimum of two must develop a specific product or service and create an original international marketing plan for a designated country. To date, more than 7,000 students in Malaysia has taken part in it with two Malaysian students having emerged as the Top 3 teams in the Asia Pacific Regional Finals 2019.

One of the main reasons for the challenge was to empower and support the growth of future entrepreneurs, says SC Chong, Managing Director of FedEx Express Malaysia. “Through the challenge over the years, we were able to inspire young students to become future entrepreneurs. It has been a rewarding journey and over the years, the programme has inspired more than 36,500 students in the APAC region to build their future careers in business.” With this commitment to educate young talent, it is no wonder why FedEx was recognised with the Sustainability & CSR Malaysia Award in 2021.

The challenge has also proved to be fitting as the work environment evolves rapidly with more than 60% of today’s youth more keen to start their own business rather than working a traditional job. “FedEx/JA ITC serves as a good platform for the young generation to dabble in the entrepreneurship world, paving the way for them to learn skills and strategies which they can apply in the real working world. Through interaction with successful entrepreneurs who sit on the judging panel, participants learn and gain extensive knowledge in terms of marketing, financial strategy, and how to start a business. Constructive comments from industry practitioners and experts will also serve as a foundation for participants to improve their strategies or action plan, and learn ways on how to respond to these feedback,” says Chong.

For 2022, FedEx/JA ITC was held virtually due to the pandemic. Nonetheless, it still received a participation of more than 650 secondary school students from 21 schools across Malaysia! What’s unique about the challenge is that it isn’t just a one-day affair where students come to talk about their submission. Instead, participants were guided by the JA team and FedEx volunteers through a series of workshops on their submissions as well as how to present their ideas and plans.

This year, the challenge was a health product for Cambodia. Teams were evaluated based on their market entry strategy where they’ve applied insights and knowledge gained from the workshops.

Three teams were selected as the 2022 winners for the Malaysia leg. At the Regional Finals, they were randomly with students from other countries – Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.

The winning teams are Team Nimol which consists of Goh Zi Yu and Low Yi Su from SMK Bandar Utama Damansara 3, Team Nutriiene consisting of Ahil Asif and Ong Wei Xiang from Tanarata International Schools, and Team Healife & Co with teammates Meenal Mech and Nakkesha Sathya Mathiazhagan from Global Indian International School.

Team Nimol created a go-to filtration water bottle they called CHANGE to address the poor water sanisation and rampant waterborne diseases in Cambodia. CHANGE comprises a hollow fiber membrane filter, making it easier to clean so middle and lower-class Cambodians can have access to clean water. Going through the process of coming up with CHANGE has provided a wealth of knowledge for Team Nimol. “We learnt that there are so many things that we can discover as a team in the business field from marketing, distribution, and even financial planning. The challenge helped us think outside the box, especially when we conceptualized our product. Through this process, we shared creative ideas and recommendations. We learnt ways to sharpen our presentation skills as well, just like in a business pitch where we presented our team’s strategies with the aim to win over the panel of judges,” says the team members.

As for Team Nutriiene, their product submission was Bathem sachets that contained all the necessary nutrients to boost the immune system in children, preventing the familiar premature deaths in Cambodia where one in every 8 children below the age of five dies every day due to pneumonia, fever and measles. These sachets can also be stored at room temperature, which solves the problem of Cambodia’s lack of cold storage facilities. One of Team Nutriiene’s success factors was being able to not only apply business knowledge but also logic. “Oftentimes we found ourselves standing in the shoes of our customers and understanding the essence of our products to ensure that it appeals to the targeted consumers. This real-life scenario of market entry strategies and presentation helped us understand how the real business world operates,” says its team members.

Team Healife & Co meanwhile developed Campex, a modified sanitary pad that aims to solve the core menstrual problems of Cambodian women. In Cambodia, many women face a lack of resources, hygiene and overall awareness about feminine sanitary care. Campex is designed to be safe and comfortable while remaining affordable and accessible. Reflecting on their challenge experience, Team Healife & Co members shared that the knowledge gained was valuable indeed. “We learnt a lot of new things about the business world. It was very enlightening to know what went on behind the scenes for some of our favourite products to exist and the sheer amount of creativity involved in ideating our product too. It’s great to be able to deeply understand the processes involved in manufacturing a product. It’s useful to have the knowledge and experience in this area."

All three teams agree that the best part of the challenge is the sense of fulfilment and satisfaction from coming up with a product that can help the local people in Cambodia, along with the unforgettable memories made during the challenge.

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