Youths have often been told to become entrepreneurs instead of salarymen, often referred to as makan gaji.
The latest call was made by Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin during a franchise programme at Universiti Malaya on Sept 29.
He said the franchise industry contributed RM26.8 billion or 3.3 per cent to the country’s gross domestic product last year, and youths should consider venturing into franchise businesses as a means to generate income and jobs for themselves and others.
He touted the franchise model as an “easy and simple method” to generate income as they are relatively low-risk with potential high returns on investments, and small or micro scale franchises are less risky than starting up an own business.
But I beg to differ. There are no easy ways to earn a good and honest living in Malaysia, unlike in developed countries where an average person can easily afford to travel overseas during annual vacation.
Any job that can easily be performed by large number of people does not pay well, and anyone doing roaring business will soon be joined by others. If someone starts a nasi lemak stall by a roadside and enjoys brisk sales, it will not take long for many others to join in.
From my decades of observation, culture and education were the biggest factors on someone becoming an entrepreneur or businessman. For example, I was a product of the English school system in the 1950s and 1960s.
It was easy for me to get jobs compared to those from Chinese schools. I had no problems working in the motor industry, as English was used in sales, service and spares.
After a stint in insurance sales, I joined the travel industry as a limousine driver cum tourist guide, and could communicate well with tourists from all over the world. In 1975, I started working in the office as coordinator and subsequently assumed many management positions.
If not for my English, I could not have started many new businesses and companies for large corporations, and senior officials from the Tourism Ministry in the 1990s allowed me to submit working papers without the need to translate them into the national language.
On the other hand, many products of the Chinese school system became even more successful. While they lacked English to secure good jobs in corporations, many worked themselves up in the trade they joined.
The bulk of successful businessmen in our country started off as apprentices with minimal formal education. It did not take long for them to learn the ropes of the trade and partner with others to venture out.
Although the digital age requires new methods and tools to do business and the market will face continuous disruptions, certain fundamentals remain, such as knowing how to deal with suppliers and customers, payments and cash flow.
In 2009, while conducting training for a group of fresh graduates hired to greet transit passengers at the satellite building in KLIA, I asked each participant to guess our country’s tourism receipt in a year and write on the whiteboard.
I made two shocking discoveries. One of them wrote a figure close to my annual income in the late 1990s, and none could write RM50 billion in figures correctly, which I could in Standard One or any Indonesian worker today.
If graduates lacked critical thinking and communication skills to land a job, it would be suicidal for them to go into business, whether internet-based or franchised.
It would be better to start off as promoters and get a taste of rejections or as pasar malam traders and put their nose in the grindstone. Without going through the mill, they will not graduate from the University of Life.
The few years they spent in campus was a cocooned life, away from reality, mixing largely with only a small circle of friends when real education transcends race, religion and culture.
For example, those who study tourism should approach and talk to tourists, learning from and about them, instead of limited to notes and lectures.
Unemployment and underemployment will worsen unless there is drastic change to our academic education system, and our youths given sound advice and not more of the same.