Start business ventures from now, urges ex-Malaysia international, entrepreneur Hairuddin to players

Goal.com

In the advertisement for his AdeqSue range of food pastes, Hairuddin Omar was a picture of goofiness. Instead of the chrome dome he had been sporting for most of his career, the former Malaysia international is seen with long, flowing hair. Sporting a stylish, form-fitting t-shirt and jeans while posing with a black guitar, he looked like a typical now middle-aged, late 80's, early 90's Malay rock star. 

Next to him, the phrase kaki goreng (frying enthusiast) appeared, a Malay wordplay on the act of frying food, as well as that of playing a guitar solo. 

He loses the guitar, stares meaningfully at satchels of the pastes and flavourings, before posing with one packet. His moniker 'Hai-O' splashed on the screen next to him along with the description, 'former national player', Hairuddin spoons himself a mouthful of fish. A gust of wind blows, his hair comically flies off screen, proving to be a wig, but he remains calm and collected. Now back to his usual clean-shaven look, he ends the television spot with a cocky nod towards the audience.

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The ad, promoting AdeqSue's range of ready-to-eat meal flavourings, pastes and gravies has been shown on a Malaysian television channel since 2018, but during the ongoing government-imposed movement control order (MCO) due to the coronavirus pandemic, it has found second life online, thanks to the company's renewed marketing push. Hairuddin is the Kuala Terengganu-based company's marketing and sales director, a role he assumed due to his celebrity status, as well as its part-owner, along with two other owners, his relatives, who handle the operations and finances.

"I told the director of the ad that I wanted something out of the box, not a typical foodstuff ad that simply depicts chefs, cooking and kitchens.

"The ad was first shown in 2018, but we got the idea to promote it again during the MCO. The idea being that we've all been asked to stay at home, and one of the result of it is that our hairs have now grown long [from not being able to go to the barber's]. It's become relevant again and it seems to be working," recalled the four-time Malaysia Cup winner in a telephone conversation with Goal.

During the MCO and uncertainties surrounding the remaining 2020 Malaysian competitions fixtures, several top players have had to start their own business ventures, partly to keep themselves occupied, but mostly to supplement their disrupted incomes. However, unlike them, the 40-year old has been involved in business since he was still a very-much active and sought-after player.

Before getting involved with AdeqSue, he was involved in several small-scale businesses such as a car workshop, a carwash, a sea bass farm and a budget hotel. His current food manufacturing venture began in 2014, when he was a star at armed forces side ATM FA.

"At first the AdeqSue brand was a restaurant that I ran just for fun," revealed the former Malaysia U-19 assistant head coach. "But when the customers began praising the foods I served, particularly the tomyam and the grilled fish, that's when I got the idea to produce and sell the pastes.

"I then went to get business guidance from government agencies such as Mardi (Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute) on packaging, preserving and marketing, and that's how it led to the current iteration of AdeqSue."

Admitting that running a business while still actively playing professionally is tough and requires strict time management, the conversation took a more serious tone when Hairuddin was asked the reason behind his insistence on running a business while still playing; post-retirement financial security.

The former Professional Footballers Association of Malaysia (PFAM) president lamented that many players do not plan properly for the day when they no longer can a draw a pay cheque by playing football.

"I've seen a lot of players wasting away after they hang up their boots. They go about their days aimlessly due to the loss of income. They have savings, but it's not much. For a lot of them, their savings will only last them a few months, not even years, especially those with a family.

"Not many have savings that reach RM500,000 or a million except for a few ex-national players, and even then, with their children's school needs, and a wife who's a stay-at-home mother, that saving will run out soon. My advice to the players, plan for their business from now.

"They shouldn't start planning only after their playing days are over. By that time, their savings are the only remaining money their have, and if they business fail, they have no other income stream. But if they start while still playing, they still have their playing wage to fall back on," he noted.

Asked whether he had any business tips to share with the current crop of Malaysian footballers, Hairuddin launched into a speech not unlike those heard in business seminars. 

Terengganu's Hairuddin Omar (right) 2016
Terengganu's Hairuddin Omar (right) 2016

Photo from Terengganu FA

"My first advice for them is to save, save and save," he said somberly. "Next is to pick their venture carefully. Sometimes they'll be approached by friends and relatives who will talk them into investing money with the promise of lucrative returns, when they're not too knowledgeable themselves. As a result, these players will lose money. I've been through this more than once. 

"It's also better for them to pick something they have an interest in. It's honestly risky for them to dive into something they're not familiar with, because when their heart is not in it, they may end up not committing to it fully, which may in turn lead to the business failing.

"What's also important is for them to learn about handling a business first. I know a lot of them are interested, but lack the necessary knowledge to start a business venture. There are numerous ministries and governmental agencies out there that are tasked with guiding and providing assistance to first-time entreprenuers. It's all down to them, so they mustn't be bodoh sombong (pridefully ignorant) to ask for help.

"At the very least, they should seek out investment opportunities, which is the easiest venture to head into. And this can done by finding a reliable consultant or advisor who can help them identify secure and low-risk stocks."

The former Terengganu star suggested that players attempt ventures in the fields of hotel service, vehicle repairs or food supply over the internet, due to their higher likelihood of becoming profitable. But surprisingly, he discouraged them from opening eateries, due to several reasons.

"Sure, the conventional knowledge is that everyone wants to eat, and that you can't go wrong by selling food items. But as a restaurateur you're going to have to spend money to replenish fresh items everyday, when you're not sure how many customers will turn up that day.

"And as an owner you will have to be really hands-on due to the operational setbacks that will often crop up, something that isn't ideal if you're a footballer. Imagine needing to close up shop at 1 am when you need to be at training at 8 am the following morning. Furthermore, as an owner you still need to know how to prepare the food yourself, for the instances when your cook suddenly doesn't show up one day," he explained. 

However, Hairuddin singled out JDT and Malaysia star Safawi Rasid for praise, as according to him Safawi has displayed interest in securing his finances from at an early point of his career.

"He texted me a few months ago, asking to bounce a few business ideas off of me. He said he wanted to start selling food and drinks, and I respect the mentality he has displayed.

"He is already aware of what needs to be done financially when he's still at the peak of his playing career. I think I saw him promoting his brand of keropok (fish crackers), as well as hand sanitiser sometime ago," noted the one-time FA Cup winner.

Safawi coronavirus confinement
Safawi coronavirus confinement

Safawi promoting his hand-sanitiser

But at the end of the day, entrepreneurially-inclined players need to remain focused on their playing commitments, he cautioned.

"They have signed a playing contract, so it is imperative for them to stay committed to performing well. They mustn't let their business ventures disrupt their form.

"If they let that happen, then they're just daft for neglecting their main income stream. By all means, leave football if your business is successful and you think playing is getting in the way, but don't do that when your business is still on shaky grounds," warns the 2017 East Coast Economy Region Entrepreneur Award winner. 

Adeqsue's range of products are available at major supermaket chains throughout the country, as well as online on Shopee. It has won the 2015 Terengganu state Best Halal Product Factory award, and is looking to enter Middle Eastern and European markets. The company is also looking for small-scale distributors.

Posted by AdeqSue RSB on  Thursday, 18 April 2019

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