Start-up founder IBS Alumna now offers internship positions for IBS students in Kuala Lumpur.
Vivien Oles completed her studies at IBS in 2015. Now, with her husband Anders T. Nordlund, she lives in Malaysia. We asked them about their life and business. Vivien and her husband are ready to accept students for internships.
Vivien, what were the major steps in your life and career following IBS?
I wanted to live/work abroad for a couple of months after graduation to experience different cultures, lifestyles and try my luck but I did not have anything specific in mind. A friend, whom I met at IBS, invited me to have a trip to Asia. One of the destinations was Kuala Lumpur. I immediately fell in love with the city and I moved here after graduation. First, I established ‘Yoga with Vivien O.’ as a mini business and started to offer yoga classes and organise retreats. Everything went smooth and I loved doing it. In one of my classes, I met a guy who became my friend and now he is my husband. When we got acquainted he had already been busy setting up Joolah. We started to help each other's companies and we realized how well we could work together. Joolah, the name of the company is a combination of ‘Jhoola' and ‘Lah’. Jhoola is a nicely crafted old-fashioned Indian chair and ‘lah’ is a word or sound people randomly use at the end of the sentences, meaning, it’s ‘funny lah’. We wanted to have a name people like and understand in this region. The double ‘o’ also symbolise the figure 8, which is a lucky number in the Chinese culture. So, the name has a Malay ‘lah' part plus an Indian and a Chinese twist as these are the biggest ethnic groups in Malaysia.
Why did you choose to go and work in Malaysia?
There are quite a lot of opportunities for tech startups in Malaysia. The state provides a special status for technology companies. An up to 10 years tax-free period is provided, and it is easy to hire employees who speak foreign languages and have international experience. Many industries in Malaysia and in SEAN (South East Asia Nations) are still lagging behind when it comes to technology and digital marketing. The SEAN together has a gross domestic product of about $2.6 trillion, making it the third-largest economy and housing and the third-largest population in the world.
What is your business dealing with?
My husband's business is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). The aim is to bridge the gap between clients, accounting and legal firms in Malaysia. The models very scalable and he has plans to expand to the rest of SEAN.
How difficult is it to set up a startup in Malaysia?
Setting up a company is rather straightforward, even if you are a foreigner, it is not easy however to obtain a work permit, and you need a work permit in order to open a bank account for your company, which is indispensable. Running a company in Malaysia is not the easiest though. You need to have RM 500.000 in paid-up capital or get a local director and hire only local people.
How successful is your business?
It is still a startup, so it can always get better, but after 2 years, the company broke even in April this year.
You are ready to accept students for internships. What kind of students would you prefer to take either for internship or volunteer work?
Anyone who is willing to learn. It is still a small business so it can be a great opportunity for someone to see all sides of a business first hand and work in different positions, such as marketing, business development, SEO, business strategy, etc.
What would be the tasks of these students?
They would assist in marketing, both online and offline. Also, working with sales employees, assisting with bookkeeping, meetings and maybe even do sales presentations on their own. We use content marketing, Google Ads and Facebook ads to reach out to our clients. The interns will get insight into how it works, get the basic knowledge about SEO and how to build marketing campaigns. We want interns to learn as much as possible, so they will rotate in different positions and not only stay within one single task throughout their internship.
There is a great change in your life, you have a new-born baby. How does this affect your business? Can you work from home?
Well, it is really a change! Now we understand why they say it takes a village to raise a child… We are still learning this ‘parenting business’ and we do it together as a team. I am on maternity leave as mothering is a 24/7 job (and Kiran is only 5 weeks old) but when I have a little time I try to work from home. My husband Anders works from home one day every week. As it is a tech company, he mostly needs only his laptop to do so, but as our son occupies a lot of time, he is working on the weekends too. We knew what we signed up for as entrepreneurs. We do not work from 9 to 5, we need to be more ‘flexibly non-stop.’
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You will be working with a managing director who has 10 years of experience in business development and SEM. If you are looking for first-hand experience, you are not afraid to take tasks you have not tried before and you are open to learning how a startup works in terms of digital marketing, business development and customer support, you have a great opportunity here!