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A Startup State of Mind

Lujine Rasheed
10 October 2019, MVT 09:22
Co-founders of MyBump Media Nadia Jalil and Dhanish Athif with Chief Technology Officer Karam Ali. PHOTO: DHANISH/THE EDITION
Lujine Rasheed
10 October 2019, MVT 09:22

A Startup State of Mind. Interviewing Dhanish Athif, co-founder of MyBump Media.

Starting up a new business in the fast paced world we live in is not a feat for the faint-hearted. One cannot dive into such a venture without immense determination. Hence, to conjure an establishment that is capable of pooling revenue from a large population, is all the more impressive.

Weathering all hurdles, the young team at MyBump Media, managed not only to establish a start-up company, but has also attained a flourishing customer base in Malaysia’s industrious city of Kuala Lumpur.

Founded by Nadia Jalil and Co-founded by Dhanish Athif, MyBump Media has been fast growing since its establishment in late 2016. Assuming the role of the middleman, MyBump Media professes to expressly bridge the gap between brands and consumers by using the outside of consumers’ vehicles as advertising space.

Dhanish with co-founder Nadia. PHOTO: DHANISH

I met up with the co-founder, Dhanish Athif, to discuss his journey to the successful business plinth: his enterprising expedition from the Maldives to Malaysia, as well as hopeful plans to one day branch out to his home country.

Sitting down with Dhanish, I started at the very beginning.

Describing himself as the co-founder of MyBump Media, he narrated his three-year contribution of full time work to the company from its initial establishment.

"I originally came to Malaysia to pursue my higher studies at Asia Pacific University (APU), where I studied Information Technology specializing in Business Information Systems. Eight years later, I am now working for a company I co-own and am doing my best to put the knowledge I received over the years to good use."

With the Maldivian Students Association at APU 2014. PHOTO: DHANISH

Reflecting on his time at APU, he explained the process of getting to learn different ways in which businesses worked, with an emphasis on how IT systems in businesses are set in place to assist operations and processes.

Stepping into Startups

Elaborating on his days as an undergrad he continued, "Equipped with this knowledge I found myself in the startup scene long before I even graduated. I became really interested in the aspect of having a startup because it was so different from big corporations."

"Startups start off with nothing, without any knowledge of what is going to work and what is not. The idea of learning and executing everything from scratch was something I found to be very different."

Maintaining a dream of one day founding and working for a startup company, Dhanish absorbed any and every ounce of knowledge imperative to do exactly that.

One of these instances was when he volunteered for startup events, in which he crossed paths with business founders amass. The experience enriched him with an extensive knowledge of existing business ideas and how young entrepreneurs planned to revolutionize it.

Dhanish's first Lean Startup experience. PHOTO: DHANISH

"It gave me a number of interesting ideas on how differently they were tackling problems and how fast they were coming up with solutions."

Extending his conversation about the first steps into the world of running a company, he highlighted a chapter of his prior work experience citing a company by the name of CodeArmy.

Dubbing it a 'Startup Accelerator', he detailed a series of three-day workshops that he worked at, which were organized by the company.. These workshops focused on introducing and orienting participants to what is known as the 'Lean Startup Approach'.

"The 'Lean Startup Machine' was run in over 250 cities, all over the world. CodeArmy was in charge of conducting workshops across the Asian region and aimed at bringing participants to life. These workshops taught them the Lean Startup Approach to running a business."

Taken at the ''Lean Startup Machine" in Kuala Lumpur 2015. PHOTO: DHANISH

Would you say that this approach was a brand new approach to Malaysia as well?

"Yes it was. It's basically a faster way to become a successful startup, with a focus on customer development, with the help of technology."

"Start-up companies have since flourished not only in Malaysia, but all around the globe. There was a huge start-up drive in Malaysia around the same time, larged owed to the various issues faced by consumers in seeking services from larger companies."

Part of the King's College London KL Conference Organizing Team. PHOTO: DHANISH

Was there any one thing that lead you to believe that a personal business would be more effective?

"One thing I admired and absorbed whilst working for CodeArmy was their ability to deliver excellent results in sales despite having a small team. So, as a fresh grad that got hired by a startup company, I managed to gain a lot of experience over a very short period of time. The learning curve was very steep. Far steeper than anyone can experience in a corporate environment. This period was, most likely, what compelled me to 'practice what I preach' and actually launch a business."

From Global Startup Youth ASEAN 2015 where Dhanish was a Mentor PHOTO: DHANISH

Materializing MyBump Media

Intrigued by the young man's willingness to dive into the world of startups at such a young age, I questioned him about the effort and process it took to establish MyBump Media.

"Although I possessed theoretical knowledge on how to run a Lean Startup company, I wanted to get first hand experience by running my own business, one that implemented the Lean Startup Approach."

"It was around this time that I first met Nadia Jalil, my business partner and co-founder of the company. She had an idea to launch a business that would utilize unused media space - looking at cars and its potential for that."

"Our objective is to transform the amount of time people spend in traffic into time that the same people can use to make more money."

"How it works is, MyBump Media gets drivers on the road to lease the outside of their vehicles for media. We put an ad on their vehicle and whenever they get stuck in traffic jams they earn a little bit of income - depending on how long they spend on the road."

Dhanish detailed the process through which they are able to track their clients driving patterns; the speed at which they are traveling, as well as their movement whilst stuck in traffic jams. Essentially, the customers' time on the road depending on the traffic conditions, is what the company will be compensating them for.

"For example, if you are driving in the middle of the night and you are on the road all by yourself, meaning there are no other vehicles around and you travelling with an ad your car given to you by MyBump, you'll end up earning only a little bit of income. However if you are stuck in a huge standstill traffic jam during peak hours, you will earn more because of the increased likelihood that more people are seeing the ads."

As you mentioned earlier, advertising is the main service provided by MyBump Media. Are there any further services that you might be venturing into?

"Well, what we do is more than just advertising, we feel that it is more appropriate to call it 'crowd-vertising'. We're bringing a brand new concept to the market. With us, the brands that we have on board aren't signing up just for a billboard or a television ad anymore, they are signing up to a process that leads their products directly to consumers."

Continuing on Dhanish emphasized the importance of having a supportive team to back a company like his. The small team of eight working for MyBump Media, consists of a mix of both Maldivian and Malaysian employees.

"We have employees from different parts of Malaysia as well as from the Maldives. We have a total of three Maldivians working with us. Excluding myself, we have Karam Ali working as our Chief Technology Officer, as well as our Android Genius, who works remotely from Malé. Maldivians are very efficient workers, so I'm always glad to have them on board."

Team at MyBump Media. PHOTO: DHANISH/THE EDITION

Does MyBump Media operate only in KL?

"We have a presence in Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Johor Bahru and even at some east coast areas. So basically, we cover the whole of peninsular Malaysia. And we're doing it 100 percent via this outlet here in KL."

How would you rate the company’s performance over the past three years?

"We are doing quite well. For a company that's only been around for three years, we have achieved an evaluation of roughly RM 2-3 million for the company; which is a great milestone for us."

"We enjoy market presence alongside our competitors, from those as big as ‘Grab’ as well as three others. However, we still have a long way to go in becoming a successful and sustainable business"

"When we started out we were the only ones on the market, but that is no longer the case. In a way, to see that other people out there believe in our idea, gives it even more validity."

Paying It Forward

Do you have any advice for people looking to venture into start-ups with unique ideas similar to MyBump Media?

"It's all about the product-market fit. You must run enough experiments without spending a lot of time or money, in order to find out whether people are actually interested in paying for your product or service."

"One common mistake I notice among entrepreneurs is being too ‘in love’ with their own ideas when, sadly, nobody else in the market cares. My advice would be, if you have a business venture, always make sure that it's not only you or your family and friends that are affected by the problem."

Although no plans have been made official, Dhanish expressed his interest to introduce the company's signature 'crowdvertising' to the Maldives. He emphasized a market for MyBump Media being probable with the launching of new local e-hailing companies such as 'Avasride' and 'E' aee'.

"Moving forward, I would really like the opportunity to work with these kinds of local startups to possibly arm them with a second revenue stream by placing ads on their vehicles. Such a collaboration would reward these startups and their users with an additional form of revenue. I think it will be an idea well received."

"At the time we established MyBump Media, I couldn't have imagined our business being feasible in the Maldives. But amazingly enough, more private vehicles have begun to offer taxi services, and traffic jams in the greater Malé area are getting progressively worse. So, we're slowly seeing a probable market."

Do you have any plans to do something different in the Maldives?

"I believe in doing something that gives back to up and coming local entrepreneurs. I imagine the concept of a start-up company still not being the most familiar, when it comes to a vast majority of Maldivians. I would like to introduce them to the advantages of operating a disruptive startup company."

Curious about his statement, I questioned why he believed locals to be carbon-dated when it comes to the idea of startups.

"Back home, we have very few pillars propelling us to embrace entrepreneurship in the modern world, the way that we should. One of many possible reasons could be the educational aspect: a lack of encouragement for entrepreneurial traits within the school system and a significant absence of it in their syllabi."

"Another reason may be a lack of investments and business loans that cater specifically to the needs of startup companies. An increase in funding for small businesses can result in a startup ecosystem coming into play. I am very happy to witness the seedlings that are coming in, in the startup sphere back home with apps like 'Lavafoshi' and 'E'aee'."

With that I thanked Dhanish for the time he took to expound his journey and the company's future plans, after which I got expressly acquainted with his team.

The beaming younglings of the MyBump Media team remarked the importance of expanding the company and conveyed a keen interest in a market in the Maldives.

A company like MyBump Media operating in the country would certainly be an excellent addition to the growing ‘ecosystem of startups’.

Startup companies have been growing locally in recent years and the Maldives, as it would seem, is also preparing herself to embrace technology in routine with the rest of the world.

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