JA Malaysia Mall

The Best Gift from JA Malaysia

Aliya Kamarul Zaman is currently a student of Universiti Pertahanan Nasional Malaysia (UPNM). She is also a fervent activist of MYER Movement, Project MK and YPolitics- organisations dedicated to education reformations for youth empowerment.

            When I first signed up for JA’s YE Program back in 2018, I had no idea how drastically my life would change. I was just another teenager who thought it would be fun to form a company with some friends as an extracurricular activity in school. Little did I know, I would soon discover my passion and purpose in life.

            Awhile after signing up, we were notified by the teacher in charge about the details of the first meeting in which we had to vote on the board of directors. I stepped into the meeting with no expectations and walked out being the Managing Director of Luna Enterprise. At that moment, my JA journey officially began.

            The first few months were hectic, to say the least. Nobody actually knew what we were supposed to be doing. I, myself, did not have a clue on what a ‘Managing Director’ was supposed to do. All I knew was that I was supposed to be a leader however I didn’t exactly know how to lead. If it weren’t for all the workshops that were organised by JA and the advisors from our sponsor company, FedEx, we would probably still be arguing over the company name! The workshops were a huge part of the JA experience. There, we got to interact with members of other student companies whilst gaining knowledge from actual professionals in the ‘business world’. Companies such as FedEx, HP and many more sent in a few experts to talk to us and give us some insight on the makings of their companies and challenges they faced as well as the methods they used to overcome them. This not only gave us the information we needed to build Luna Enterprise but also the motivation to actually do it. Besides workshops, we took part in a few sales throughout the year in our school such as sports day, friendship week and many more. These sales were used as training for the main event of the program, The Annual Sales.

            The event was massive! If you told me, a few years ago, that we would be selling out a booth full of products at Paradigm Mall, at 16 years old, I would have called you crazy. The preparation for the sales took a few months, including coming up with the products, planning the appropriate marketing strategies and so much more. In a blink of an eye, the day had arrived and I couldn’t have wanted any other outcome.

            Fast forward to getting shortlisted as the top 5 companies of the program. We were so excited to even be listed. Our school had never won before that so we didn’t have that much advice from our seniors however they did give us some general advice on what the interviewers may ask. After getting shortlisted, my teacher asked me who I thought was most suitable to represent our company for the interview. To be honest, there were so many options, after all, there were 40 members! Together, my teacher, Pn Zaida and I decided that it would be me, the assistant Managing Director, the Finance Director and the Marketing Director because we had quite good chemistry and were all very vocal in our own ways.

            When the day of the interview finally arrived, I have to admit that it was very scary. SMK Seafield went in before us and they were quite intimidating, they had books filled with planned out questions and answers whereas we had nothing of that sort. We were hoping our knowledge of the company would be enough. We were informed that the interview would last about 20 minutes. As 20 minutes passed, the judges were still interested in our company! A JA staff member knocked on the door 3 times before we were actually let out. Soon we found out that we were in the room for about 40 minutes. I guess that was a good sign right?

            Our hopes were high on the way to The Annual Awards Showcase but we were trying to lower them. As they were announcing the awards for some of the categories, my hopes were slowly getting crushed. We kept on getting runner up for most categories. I was almost certain SMK USJ 8 was going to win because they won quite a number of awards. Finally, they called up Luna Enterprise as The Best Enterprise of 2018! I can still remember the screaming from the other members and the relief I felt in my heart. All our hard work actually paid off. I think the most gratifying thing was the look of joy on Pn Zaida’s face as she had been a part of the JA program since the early 2000s and had finally won!

            This next part was probably my favourite part of winning, the EY Gala Dinner that we were invited to. 10 of us, including Pn Zaida attended the annual EY Gala Dinner at Hotel Istana Kuala Lumpur. We got to witness a real business gala and enjoyed a 5 course meal absolutely free of charge! We also got to meet the Minister of Entrepreneur Development and he wished us congratulations on winning and gave us a few recommendations of programs to join.

            After that night, it was time to get our heads into the game again to prepare for the next part of the competition, that year, we got to go to Philippines to compete in the Company of The Year challenge against the winners from participating Southeast Asian Countries such as India, Australia, Japan, Singapore, Guam and a few more. Literally the next day, my Finance Director and I got up early in the morning for a meeting with our future product developer, a company called Expedio Design. We went for multiple meetings throughout the next few months to make sure the product came out perfect. Our product idea was an alarm device to be connected to the back of our handmade wax melted necklaces. The main problem was that the alarm turned out bigger than expected so we had to improvise and turn some of the necklaces into keychains.

            While all of this was going on, we also had to prepare ourselves for the Philippines trip in March and find a way to balance our school life with our JA life seeing as it was our final year in high school and we were about to sit for our SPM examination. Nevertheless, the experience definitely thought me a thing or two about time management and personally even helped me be more focused for SPM because I knew I had less time than other students to prepare.

            At last, the Philippines trip had arrived. We met at KLIA at 5.30 am to catch the early flight. Surprisingly it wasn’t that hard to wake up because I was so excited. The flight was 4 hours and when we landed, we were led to a van that took us to Holiday Inn, the hotel we would be staying in. At the hotel, we were welcomed by the staff of JA Philippines and completed the registration process. My roommate was Nisha, a participant from JA Brunei, it was a great experience getting to know her and a little bit more about Brunei. For the rest of day 1, we explored the malls and shops around the hotel, we had dinner at a local restaurant and dessert at family mart, they had the best salted caramel ice cream.

            The second day started off a little early with breakfast and also getting to know more participants at the breakfast buffet. Following breakfast, we had an ice breaking session led by Vivian, the former CEO of JA Asia Pacific. That session definitely made everyone much more comfortable with each other but as we promised Vivian, nobody can find out what went on in the room unless you were in the room and a promise is a promise! Next, we had the FedEx access Seminar where we were thought about expanding our business and the right ways to do it. After the seminar, we went back to our rooms to get changed and met back at the lobby for our excursion. We were brought to a cultural heritage restaurant where we had dinner and got to experience a little bit more of the Philippines, we learnt their traditional dance and had such amazing food. When we arrived back at the hotel, we decided to hang out with the Indonesian team at the family mart a few blocks away from the hotel. We really bonded with them and they even taught us some Javanese!

            The third day was more serious, it was time for the interview and business presentation. Unfortunately, two of our team members had bad food poisoning in the morning so we didn’t manage to get that much practice in, although we did go through our slides and make a few changes to them with the help of our JA advisor, Mr. Baskaran. He taught us how to make our presentation slides more appealing and interesting as well as the type of backgrounds to use. Overall, the presentation and interview went well. It was extremely nerve wrecking to present our product to a room full of reporters, JA staff, participants from other countries and also random people who are interested in the competition but we managed to pull through and it gave us good experience. The other countries also did an amazing job and I was so glad I was in a room filled with the minds who would change the future one day. That night, we went out with more participants for dinner, we ate at a diner nearby and went shopping in a mall nearby. Again, the bonding was so unusual, I wouldn’t have expected to be able to bond with so many people in such a short period of time but I’m so glad we did.

            The fourth day was very intense! It was the day of the trades fair where we had to debut our product to the public in a very popular and packed mall. We met people from all around the world there. The most heart-warming moment was when an elderly couple came up to our booth because they saw our Malaysian Flag. They were originally from England but they told us about how they built a boat and went sailing to many countries including Malaysia. They lived in Malaysia for about 2 years! We also got to see how the other participants marketed their products and attracted customers to their booth as well as buying each other products. I, myself, got a couple of products as souvenirs for my friends back at home. We almost sold out, at the end of the day, there were only 5 alarms left!

            Right after the trades fair, we cleaned our booth and went back to our rooms to freshen up before the awards dinner at Shangri La Hotel. Again, the food was amazing. I was asked to carry the Malaysian flag in alongside the other participating countries. Since it was JA’s 100th anniversary, there was also a cake and confetti canons to be blown up! Although we didn’t manage to win any awards for the country, I don’t regret even a second of the program. We ended the dinner with a small rave/dance session before heading back to the hotel. Everyone changed into more comfortable clothes and we met at the rooftop for a small goodbye celebration. Spent the night talking and laughing, getting to know even more about one another. Without realising, it was about 4 am and we slowly ended the night and went back to the rooms to get a couple hours of sleep before the flight the next day.

            The last day was a lazy day, everyone woke up relatively late and had a chill breakfast. We exchanged some souvenirs that we brought from Malaysia and said our final goodbyes. Also, a WhatsApp group was created for everyone so that we could always stay in touch. In fact, it’s still very active to this day, almost a year later. At the airport, we met up with the Indonesian team and ate a little bit before saying goodbye. The flight back was quiet, everyone was sad that we were leaving but nonetheless, glad we got to experience such a wonderful event and program.

            At the end of the day, even though we didn’t win an official award in Philippines, we won the best gift of all, experience and company. We met the most amazing people. I met so many people my age with a clear vision for the future and how could I regret anything that happened? Now I have friends in every Asia Pacific country and I’m only 17! The JA Program inspired me to find my passion in management and because of that I am going to study management in college. JA thought me to not underestimate my own strengths just because older people do. JA gave me hope for the future and that’s more than I could say for any other extracurricular activity I have ever joined before. For that, I owe so much to JA. I am proud to be a JA alumna and hope that there will be many others like me who get to experience JA programs like this.