Category Archives: writing

I’m Malay – can I succeed outside of Malaysia?


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I’m Malay – can I succeed outside of Malaysia?
By Zan Azlee

I’m a fiercely independent person. I like to be my own man and if I do anything, I like to believe that I did it on my own, because of my own capabilities and skills.

And that is the reason why I don’t play golf as a recreational sport. It’s because golf has a handicap system where people who are bad will be able to compete with even the best of them.

I believe that you have to work hard from wherever you are to be among the best and if you don’t, then you are not deserving to be among the best.

For example, when I first started working after graduating from university, my parents wanted to buy me a car. At first, I said okay and I got a car from them.

But then, I started feeling embarrassed driving it because, here I am, a grown up adult with a job, driving around in a car that my mummy and daddy gave me.

So I decided that I had to pay for it myself. I immediately took over the car loan that was under my mother’s name and serviced the instalments myself. I am my own man.

That’s why Dina Zaman’s latest article titled ‘Unappreciated in my own country’ where she talks about Malay professionals who moved away from Malaysia to ply their trade resonates with me.

They wanted to do well outside and be recognised for their capabilities and skills rather than because they were born of a certain race or the connections that they had.

Thinking back, the issue that Dina discusses in her column was one of the influencing factors why I decided to pursue my postgraduate degree overseas.

I wanted to see if I could hack it outside after graduating from a local public university in Malaysia. And I did it with flying colours.

I know my complaint might seem a tad ‘first-world’. But hear me out. I want to prove that I can do things on my own and not because I am of a particular race living in Malaysia.

When I wanted to pay for my own car, it was because it hurt my pride to think that people might be saying, “Oh, his parents bought it for him. No wonder!”.

And when I graduated from local university with my first degree, it also hurt my pride to think that people might be saying that, “Oh, he graduated from a public university. No wonder!”.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a big believer and advocate of inclusivity from the socio-economic point of view. We need to have social and economic fairness.

Those who are financially and economically less privileged need to be assisted so they can be on equal footing with the rest and so that social mobility is possible.

But it should be based on on the right criterias, and definitely not on race. Affirmative action should be in place for the less privileged all around and not just for the Malays.

Sometimes, I too do feel like moving overseas and seeing if I could actually thrive in my profession outside of Malaysia and not have this affirmative action issue over my head.

But thoughts like this make me nervous. What if it is true that I am in whatever position I am in now because of affirmative action?

What if my thoughts of people saying, “Of course Zan can do all this in Malaysia. No wonder!”, are true? What if these people are right and if I ply my profession outside, I might not make it?

Well, this is the exact mentality that we need to kill – I need to kill – so that my children will not be affected by it like how I am being affected by it.

Enough time has passed that Malays don’t need the crutches that have been helping them stand up all this while. It’s time to let them stand on their own.

Just like the game of golf, once you move out of the amateur zone and become a professional, all handicaps are done away with and it solely depends on how good you are.

And if I do play golf, I would much rather be playing it professionally.

[This article appeared originally at The Malaysian Insider]""

Taxi drivers, stop complaining and improve your service


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Taxi drivers, stop complaining and improve your service
By Zan Azlee

The spat between taxi drivers and services like Uber and GrabCar sounds very similar like siblings who fight because they are jealous of each other.

Let me explain a little bit by what I mean. Although I drive a car, almost half of the time, I like to take public transportation. And this includes taxis.

I used to call those phone numbers where you can book a taxi to come pick you up wherever you are. They will usually call you back once they find a driver that can pick you up.

It works – maybe 30 percent of the time. The majority of the time, they either don’t call you back or when they do, it’s just to tell you that there are no drivers in your vicinity.

Then MyTeksi came about. I tried downloading the app on my smartphone and it immediately became my go to service whenever I needed a taxi.

The response time is immediate and the app even shows you all the drivers in your vicinity. You can also directly contact the driver and you get to track how far he is from you.

I totally ditched those phone numbers that I used to call for taxis. You see, as a consumer, I chose the most convenient and reliable service to use.

And then after about a year of using MyTeksi for all my taxi needs, Uber started making an appearance in Malaysia. I resisted at first because I was comfortable with MyTeksi.

But after a trip to the United States, where I had the opportunity to try out Uber, I decided to make the switch now that I’m back in Malaysia.

There are reasons why I choose  Uber over MyTeksi. Among them are that the drivers are more polite, the cars are cleaner and more comfortable, the rates are cheaper, and you don’t need cash.

Let me remind you again that for me, as a consumer, I choose the most convenient and reliable service to use. That is of the main concern, not just for me, but for many others.

So for taxi drivers to protest over newer services like Uber and GrabCar (I haven’t tried it yet), it just reminds me of a spoilt only child crying because he now has a new baby brother.

Instead of crying to the authorities to ban Uber and GrabCar, maybe it would be a much better idea for taxi drivers to take a step back and look at themselves.

Think about it. Even the authorities aren’t sure what they can do about it.

SPAD chairman Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar was reported to have ‘acknowledged that Uber and GrabCar are legal as service-matching businesses, but the manner they operate is not’.

My suggestion for taxi drivers is to quit complaining and start improving their services. Beat the competition. That is how you win in business.

It only takes a bit of healthy competition to improve things across the board. And always keep in mind the needs of the consumers.

 

Ahmad Shah Massoud was assassinated two days before 9/11 and is considered an Afghan national hero


Afghans pay their respects to Massoud.
Afghans pay their respects to national hero Ahmad Shah Massoud. (Photo by Zan Azlee, 2011)

Ahmad Shah Massoud, a Tajik, was assassinated two days before the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre in New York City. So many Afghans see him as a national hero that managed to pull all the different tribes in Afghanistan together.

Massoud had made a speech in Europe a few months before his death, predicting a major terrorist attack which many say was the 9/11 attack.

Of course, he has a deep history surrounding him as well because he was once of the most influential military commanders who fought against the Soviets, and then the Taliban.

Although many Afghans consider him a hero, there are people who also see his status being so elevated as just a political tool by the different parties and politicians.

The picture above is of Afghans who were flocking to pay respects to the man at his memorial in Kabul on Massoud Day, a national holiday.

I also shot a video of that day.

Guide to Afghanistan: The Adventures of a KL-ite (Part 3 of 10 – Ahmad Shah Massoud the Martyr)

Own a limited print of the photo at the top of this post (Afghans pay their respects to national hero Ahmad Shah Massoud), framed (21cm x 30cm) and signed by yours truly for RM90. You can play a role in supporting independent journalism by clicking below.

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When it stops being cute: How to handle a smart alec toddler


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Pakchic Says
When it stops being cute: How to handle a smart alec toddler
By Zan Azlee

“Can we go to the playground at McDonald’s?” asks Athena as soon as we’re done with buka puasa.

“Not now Athena. We have to go buy some groceries first,” I reply.

“Do you have a lot to buy? Don’t buy so many things. I want to go and play!”

“You can go and play once we’re done and only when we’re done. Anyway, to play at the playground, you need to be eating there.”

“Pops, I’m hungry! I want to eat.”

“We just ate!”

“But I’m hungry now! Let’s go to the playground!”

Okay so, my daughter Athena isn’t really a habitual smart alec whenever she talks to us, or anybody else, for that matter. But there are occasions when she is.

She pretty clever at stringing sentences together that can be quite amusing. Amusing is one thing, but once it starts becoming sarcastic and rude, we have to nip it in the bud.

But I also want her to develop a sense of humour and to learn to be witty in her conversations. So it can be quite tricky to want to discipline her but also nurture her.

These are five things you can do to handle a child or toddler who seems to have potential becoming a smart alec. It might not all work, but give it a try anyway.

1. Be patient and explain

The first thing to do is to never lose your temper. If you counter stubbornness with anger, it could boil up into a screaming match. Be calm and explain to your child why what she is doing is wrong and rude. Tell her it’s not nice if someone spoke to her the way she did to you.

2. Be firm

If your child starts giving you smart remarks, set the tone to let her know there are boundaries and you won’t accept it it she crosses it. Tell her off firmly and don’t back off so she knows that you can’t be pushed around.

3. Show consequences

Once you show that you are firm, you also need to show that for every wrongdoing, there are consequences, especially if she’s stubborn and doesn’t want to listen. For Athena, it’s a time-out in her room. If I say I’m sending her there, I really do.

4. Pick your battles

You don’t want to turn into a nag. That just defeats the purpose of disciplining. So determine a degree of rude behaviour and only address it when it crosses the line. Remember, although I don’t want Athena to be a smart-mouth, I do want her to learn to be witty!

5. Always be a good example

The best way to teach a child how to behave and act is by showing her the right way of doing it. And the person that she comes in contact with the most is you. So make sure you set a good example for how you behave.

[This article originally appeared at Makchic.Com]

Tahukah anda apa itu ‘urun’ ? Crowdfunding sebenarnya!


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Tahukah anda apa itu ‘urun’ ? Crowdfunding sebenarnya!
By Zan Azlee

Soalan nombor satu, cabaran utama, yang menjadi penghalang terbesar untuk mereka yang mempunyai ide atau projek untuk dijalankan adalah – modal!

Ide pula senang aje. Janji ada cita-cita dan angan-angan, kita boleh berfikir apa sahaja. Tetapi untuk merealisasikannya menjadi cabaran besar.Biar saya memperkenalkan satu perkataan yang mungkin anda tidak pernah dengar. Sebenarnya, saya pun tidak pernah tahu tentang perkataan ini sehingga lah menulis artikel ini.

Urun dana! Ha? Urun itu apa? Sebenarnya ia lebih dikenali perkataan Inggeris yang lebih universal… iaitu ‘crowdfunding’! Pernah dengar kan perkataan itu?

Crowdfunding adalah cara dimana dana diperolehi dari ramai orang dan setiap orang itu menyumbang wang yang mungkin sedikit sahaja (tetapi ada yang sanggup menyumbang banyak).

Walaupun sumbangan setiap orang sedikit, apabila anda berjaya untuk meyakinkan ramai, besarlah jumlahnya. Kan orang kata, sikit-sikit lama-lama jadi bukit!

Pelbagai ide dan projek seperti filem, cetakan buku, penghasilan produk untuk dijual, ciptaan teknologi, perniagaan makanan dan macam-macam lagi pernah berjaya kerana crowdfunding.

Di Internet terdapat banyak laman web yang membantu orang ramai untuk memulakan projek crowdfunding. Contohnya Kickstarter, Indiegogo, dan di Malaysia, Pitchin.my.

Anda perlu kenal pasti laman web mana yang paling sesuai dengan projek anda. Pitch ide anda dengan cara yang boleh menarik perhatian dan tunjukkan bahawa anda betul-betul semangat dan komited.

Selalunya, orang akan pitch menggunakan pembentangan video. Kalau anda mempunyai cerita atau latarbelakang yang menarik, lagi bagus!

Tapi crowdfunding tidaklah semudah yang disangkakan. Selepas anda tentukan jumlah modal yang diperlukan, anda juga perlu letakkan satu tarikh akhir untuk mencapai jumlah itu.

Kalau tiba tarikh itu dan jumlah yang dikutip tidak sampai jumlah yang diperlukan, anda tidak dapat satu sen pun. Anda juga perlu komited dan tidak boleh berhenti sekerat jalan selepas mendapat dana anda.

Ide anda perlu dibentangkan dengan elok dan menunjukkan bahawa anda jelas mempunyai visi untuk merealisasikannya. Kalau anda sendiri tidak boleh jelaskan ide anda, bagaimana hendak yakinkan orang.

Anda juga perlu pastikan perlaksanaan anda dijalankan dengan penuh profesionalisme. Dokumentasi perlu tepat, rekod kewangan mesti ada dan pengendalian pekerja perlu profesional.

Tetapi janganlah lihat semua ini sebagai satu halangan. Sebenarnya ia adalah peluang untuk anda menjadi seorang yang lebih professional.

Pastikan juga anda mempunyai strategi untuk menjadi mampan diri, atau self-sustaining. Takkan nak mengharapkan sumbangan dan dana sahaja kan? Kenalah bergerak kehadapan!

Sebenarnya, peluang untuk berjaya dalam crowdfunding agak rendah. Menurut kajian, hanya kurang dari 50 peratus mereka yang memulakan projek crowdfunding akan berjaya.

Tetapi jangan putus asa. Siapa kata anda tidak boleh usaha sendiri? Kalau kerja kuat, usaha gigih dan tidak berputus asa, jimat duit dan kumpul sedikit demi sedikit, boleh juga tercapai impian anda.

[Artikel ini pertama kali dicetak di KopitiamEkonomi.Com]

Di bawah adalah satu video yang memberi tip untuk mencari dana selain dari Crowdfunding (dengar cerita penulis skripnya agak kacak… ahem!).