I opened ALAJMAL, a Muslim clothing boutique, about a month after my retirement as a teacher. Prior to opening the boutique, I was an educator for 16 years in one of the elite schools in Kuala Lumpur after graduating from the International Islamic University, but I decided to retire because I wanted to concentrate on the business.
In the beginning, my business was 100% offline. I did not really have any business knowledge. I used the ‘One-Stop-Centre’ method in my approach, and sold hijab products from famous brands such as Farida Hijab, Ariani, Hajra, Syazara, DHaja, and Aidijuma. The ‘One-Stop-Centre’ concept was welcomed by customers because they didn’t need to go far just to buy a piece of hijab. To promote my store, I printed as many as 30 buntings and hung them around a 5km radius of the store. Thankfully, the response from the first month was very encouraging. With the proceeds of the sale, I managed to re-stock and pay the shop’s operating costs every month.
My parents are divorced and I was raised by grandmother in poverty. She was probably the first person who taught me anything about business. From a very young age, I would help my grandparents in doing village work like planting rice, tobacco, and rubber tapping. When I was in primary school, I sold kuih and other treats around the village during school holidays. During school days, my grandmother would make cakes and I would bring them to our school canteen to be sold. The proceeds from these sales were what my grandma would use for our school expenses every day.
This went on until I managed to continue my studies at a boarding school and enter university. My grandma even sold her gold and other precious items to ensure I could get the education I needed. As a teacher, I continued to do small business like selling chips to friends and colleague as a side income, and whenever I went back to Kelantan, I would bring back wholesale tudung bawal to sell.
My husband is my biggest support, especially after I stopped working as a teacher. In 2013, the new Lakefield area was being established and there were plenty of empty lots. One day my husband invited me to survey some lots for rent. That’s probably when my career as a full-time business woman began. At the time, my husband was still working at his job, as a backup in case my business didn’t work out.
I used Siti Khadijah’s telekung as a benchmark for my business products. Even if I never became as successful as Siti Khadijah, I wanted my brand to be one of the brands known by Muslims all over Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore. The name AJLAJMAL was chosen by my husband, which means ‘the most beautiful’. With our tagline, ‘Keanggunan Menepati Syariah’, I hope that the telekung designs I sell can make Muslim women appear graceful when facing God.
In 2020, the country was hit by Covid-19. Like so many others, we were badly affected and had to close our shop. I was thankfully a TEKUN borrower, whose collaboration with INSKEN provided opportunities for entrepreneurs to learn various eCommerce platforms at this time. However, I had my reservations and asked my coach Mohsin, who was a Lazada certified trainer, for advice at the time. He introduced me to Lazada in 2021 and taught me how to install the Lazada and Lazada centre app into my phone. We underwent two days of theoretical and practical classes. It took me two weeks after that to decorate the shop. I tried to follow everything that I was taught, and utilised new tools like Lazada’s Lorikeet to set up my business.
In the end, my sales from Lazada were amazing. I still recall my very first sale – it was a telekung, priced at RM225. At the time, I didn’t know how to create discounts yet. The price should have only been RM169 after discount. Nevertheless, someone bought it at the higher price! This changed my perception of Lazada as I used to think only buy branded items like SK, SimplySiti etc. would sell on the platform.
It is probably true that many of the older generation are IT illiterate when it comes to business. When I first opened my physical store, there were several boutiques and herbal medicine shops that was doing business with me. But it started to close one by one, because they were just waiting for customers to enter the store. After MCO, everything closed. But not all veteran entrepreneurs are or have to remain IT illiterate. At the age of half a century, I am still learning about eCommerce and have managed to maintain the business until now because I have made sales on Lazada.
With eCommerce, I can have a good night’s sleep and even go on vacation with my family. To me, eCommerce is like a fisherman casting a net. After the tide, the fishermen will go ashore and rest. When it’s time, he will go and see his catch. Likewise in eCommerce, during the day we set what is necessary. On Lazada, for example, this means joining all the campaigns and utilising the free marketing tools such as flash sales, voucher, free shipping, and flexi-combo. Once you’ve done all that, you just have to wait and see the results.
Today, our boutique is still open and serves as a warehouse as well as a walk-in store. We are also venturing into the frozen food business. I have two factories in Bandung, which produces my telekung ALAJMAL exclusively. I continue to work hard for my five children and also to provide for my staff members.
My advice to fellow entrepreneurs out there, especially veteran traders like me, is to start learning eCommerce now. If we can’t catch up with modern knowledge, hire young staffs and let them learn. I definitely believe that it is better to start late than not to start at all.
Watch ALAJMAL’s full video here.
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