TheLorry founders Nadhir Ashafiq and Goh Chee Hau made headlines last year when both they and their company made it on the Forbes 30 under 30 Asia list
Their groundbreaking app offers on-demand cargo transportation services throughout Malaysia, connecting customers with over 1,000 drivers. Through the app, you can book vehicles and extra services such as packing and dismantling.
Despite being listed on the prestigious Forbes list, Nadhir says his life hasn't changed, and he continues to "hustle like always."
We spoke to Nadhir Ashafiq to find out what it takes to run a successful startup in Malaysia. Here's what he said:
A self-proclaimed 'city boy', Nadhir was born and raised in Kuala Lumpur and developed an interest in business at an early age
While his friends read car and entertainment magazines in high school, Nadhir found himself drawn to business newspapers. This led to picking up investment books, but it was Donald Trump's 'Art of a Deal' that sparked his interest in entrepreneurship.
Nadhir went on to further his studies at Curtin University in Australia. It was there that he started several business ventures, all of which eventually failed. From selling electronics and counterfeit apparels to trading Forex and stocks, Nadhir never shied away from a challenge. Despite his early failures, he would go on to get a degree in Accounting and a Master’s degree in Finance.
In 2009, Nadhir started his career at CIMB Investment and subsequently left to join ABDA Aviation, an airfreight company. But what led him to make the leap into entrepreneurship?
Nadhir says, "after being inspired by Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram for a $1 billion, I made a decision to dive into full-time entrepreneurship by launching a social networking app called Glokalise. The company however did not survive very long. In hindsight, if I could distill down all the mistakes made – it would come down to one main reason –we did not validate the product before building."
"Post-Glokalise, I wasn’t really happy with my life. None of the business ventures I’d done so far worked. I was in bad shape and avoided social events."
Nadhir started taking up odd-jobs with friends to make ends meet. It was when he met his ex-colleague from ABDA Aviation, Chee Hau, for lunch that the two began discussing the inefficiencies in logistics.
Nadhir adds, "one thing led to another – a concept to create a platform and ‘disrupt’ the lori sewa industry was born."
Just five months after their initial discussion over lunch, Nadhir and Chee Hau launched TheLorry in September 2014
"In order to not make the same mistakes I did in Glokalise, I was determined to ensure we started this venture on the right foot –by validating the product first."
"I created a simple blogspot page with some simple form tools and ran Google Ads to attract traffic to the page. After a few iterations, we got our first booking – by spending minimal cash."
"We continued to iterate the product since launch and experimented with a few ways on how to improve user experience and conversions."
"I was also determined not to build the product in silo – a mistake I made in Glokalise. I needed mentors and guidance from those who have ‘been there, done that’. I went on to apply to a few accelerator programmes and got accepted in Cyberview Living Lab Accelerator / WatchTower And Friend’s accelerator programme."
According to Nadhir, the Cyberview Living Lab Accelerator (CLLA) programme helped them in three key ways:
2. Connecting us to the right mentors to guide us in our journey
3. Connecting us to investors
"Entrepreneurship is a lonely journey. Being part of a programme together with 7 other companies that had the same hopes and dreams was quite uplifting and morale-boosting."
Nadhir adds, "we’d never get to where we are without guidance from our mentors from the programme."
Nadhir encourages other startups to consider joining the CLLA programme as it provides access to credible mentors, seed funding to grow your business, and networking opportunities for business development
"We received our first RM50,000 from the programme. We used it to immediately get a full-time CTO and spent the cash on marketing. We didn't take any salaries at this point."
In his opinion, Nadhir believes that Cyberjaya has all that’s needed for startups to succeed. This includes:
- Access to talent
- Access to MNCs
- Access to government agencies
- Good demographic mix – local and foreigners
But of course, Nadhir and his team faced difficulties as they moved forward with their business
According to Nadhir, these were the challenges they faced, ranked in order:
1. Hiring and managing people
2. Hiring and managing people
3. Hiring and managing people
4. Scaling the business
Note to self, hiring and managing people is tough!
The one thing Nadhir would have done differently was to have created proper processes and SOPs from the get-go
He adds, "unfortunately we weren’t well-versed in such processes early on. We really did it the ‘cowboy’ style. Try A. And If A doesn’t work – Try B. If it doesn’t work – Try C..."
From his own experience, Nadhir shares his best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs and startups:
2. Find investors that believe in you
3. Create solid SOPs once your team grows above 5 people
4. Never give up!
Despite his TheLorry app receiving over 10,000 downloads and making international headlines, Nadhir still doesn't consider himself a "success"
"Entrepreneurs are never satisfied. I still feel we have a long way to go," says Nadhir. With plans on expanding the business regionally, it looks like Nadhir and his team certainly are focused in going above and beyond.
TheLorry is currently available in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Indonesia, with plans to open in the Philippines and Vietnam soon. "We will also continue to improve our product to improve user experience and add value to both our customers and vendors/drivers," adds Nadhir.
Inspired to launch a startup of your own? The Cyberview Living Lab Accelerator programme offers support in many different forms
As a part of the CLLA programme, you receive the following:
- Value added services up to RM100,000
- Advice, mentorship, and strategy from industry experts - execution assistance from Finnext Capital
- Access to tech companies, venture builders, and venture capitals
- Free co-working space at CoInnov8
- Pre-arrangement and prototyping with Cyberjaya Innovation Council
Find out how you can be part of the Cyberview Living Lab Accelerator programme!