Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Twitter Gateway

As far as I remembered, when twitter first came to the scene, one of the main attraction to this micro-blogging or the one-liner blogging site, was the ability to blog (or tweet) from your mobile phone via SMS.  It was initially envisaged as an SMS based social networking tool.


Picture taken from wikipedia.org.

These days, most people use either the web based interface or some other tools that integrate with twitter via the twitter API.  SMSing to twitter is costly and hence there are less people using it.  However, it is also because the lack of gateways that are available.  From personal premium SMS experience, it is possible to provide such a service and potentially profit from it.

In Malaysia/Singapore, you will need to work with the Telco companies to get a short-code for the premium SMS.  You probably need to negotiate hard to get it at the right price as in this region, the Telcos take a large percentage unlike in Korea and other regions.  All you need then is simple web services programming that can accept web services calls from the Telco’s SMS gateway and then you need to be able to integrate to the user’s twitter.  Of course, for easy registration and usage, you can provide a sleek webpage for the users.

Why it may work?  If the charges are low enough, a few tweets a day would only cost the user maybe SGD1 or RM1 per day.  That isn’t really much compared to the total phone bills.  It provides the users with a simple way to tweet.

The main drawback is receiving tweets, you probably need to provide filters for the users at the webpage to filter their followers’ tweets.  They may only be interested in actively following a few or none at all.  All SMS’ to the users can also be charged, possibly less than for them to tweet.


Over to you to explore … but meanwhile, I find this page quite funny.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Online site for professionally bound reports

There seem to be a sudden increase in online photobook printing for the many new found photography hobbyist.  Prices ranges depending on the quality of the print, from very affordable (and crappy quality) to very professionally done albums.  This convenience have attracted many people to use these services (including yours truly) as they are convenient and different.  I have even ordered a calendar of the kids portraits as gifts for family members.


Some examples of these sites are canonfoto, photobook and pixart.

Why only limit market (and limit) this service for photos?  Although we are in the so called “paperless” era, there seem to be an increase in printing on paper.  This is evident in that the increase in the number of laser printers (and inkjet printers) being sold for households and businesses.  Furthermore, just walk into any hypermarkets and witness the number of printing paper being stacked up for sale!  So, why not provide this service for the masses?  Target market would be;

Businesses:  Many businesses participate in tenders and these usually require large printed documents that have to be submitted.  Businesses tend to get a comb binder themselves and submit their tenders in that format.  Wouldn’t they want to differentiate themselves from others with better binding and better quality printing?


Funding Applications:  Very much similar to the one above, but these are normally submitted to various parties for review.  If these are professionally bound, it would probably increase the chances for success.  However, it can be in-directly marketed via the funding agencies (as a requirement).

Academic Reports:  Assuming that there are probably some bright students reading this and are probably thinking of being an entreprenuer, just think about how shabby most student reports are.  Whether for assignments or for their thesis.  We don’t need to spend a tremendous amount of money for binding them, but maybe something cheaper but still looks professional.


You can actually buy printers that does these saddle stitch for you.  Would be a service that you can provide using the photobook models (where you provide templates) and with the convenience of doing it online.  Good luck!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Advertisements on T-Shirt and Memorabilia

In the online world where the expectations of free products and/or services are common, most business models are centered around advertisement.  Google’s main revenue comes from advertisement and there are many other online advertisement companies around.  The FREE world is here and probably here to stay for sometime, even with all the naysayers that this is not a long term solution.

We have the “free” OS in Linux, the “free” greeting cards by Hallmarks, the “free” Office Productivity in OpenOffice.org, the “free” this and that.  Seldom do we see “free” physical products but that seems to be sprouting up occasionally.

In Japan, they have free photocopying services where they will sponsor the paper and the copying.  The catch is that the opposite side of the paper will be full of advertisements, much like the advertisements on the back of your supermarket receipts.

Currently, we will encounter pirated merchandises such as T-Shirts or even Hard Rock Cafe badges from various parts of the world.  These seems to be very popular among tourist.


The business idea is simple.  Why not start an advertisement business that prints the advertisement onto items such as T-Shirts.  This can be setup quite cheaply initially to gauge the market acceptance and also to minimize investment initially.  All you need is an online presence where they can submit their logo and requirement.  You can then start by printing them on those iron-on labels for T-Shirts and start producing them.

The issue here is that they probably won’t see the marketing returns by sponsoring the whole T-Shirt, but you just need to gauge fees that you can charge, don’t worry about the margins.  After that, work with the T-Shirt retailers and sell them at cost.  Your profit will be from the advertisers and not from the T-Shirt customers, who will basically just cover your T-Shirt cost.


In short, instead of selling pirated T-Shirts, these T-Shirt retailers can sell genuine product without paying royalties whilst the brands can advertise cheaply.  Of course, the known brands would be particular with the type of materials and would probably look at their merchandise as a revenue channel.  However, for others, it maybe a good brand visibility channel, think of consumer brands like Persil.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Who Moved My Cheese?

In this trying economic times, it is tough for organizatons to justify headcounts and what more to ensure that they hire juniors to ensure future continuation of their human resources. This puts young graduates this year into a very tough situation.  First and foremost, there will be very little job openings for them and more IMPORTANTLY, how do they ensure that when the job market is better, they are preferred over the future fresh graduates.  In other words, how to they make their unemployment time count towards the consideration.


In my personal experience in 2000, during the dot-com boom, where there are quite a number of graduates of 1997/1998 whose resume were no different from those who graduated in 1999/2000.  In this particular situation, they (those who graduated in 1997/1998) will actually be less likely to be hired as somehow employers will not like the fact that they were idle in the last 2 years!  So, back to the title of this posting; basically for fresh graduates, your cheese have been moved, you need to find new cheese while looking of your original cheese.  (Note: Please do read the book “Who Moved My Cheese” to get a better understanding about life! … a very important life book).

There are generally 3 options for fresh graduates who are unable to get a related job; (1) stay unemployed, (2) be an entrepreneur, and (3) take up any jobs that they can get.  This posting is not for (1).  If your intention is to do that, my very best wishes to you.

So, what can you do?  Some of us either do not have the will to be an entrepreneur, too inexperience to be an entrepreneur or sometimes lack of funds.  If we take up any job at all, say as a bank officer, after 2 years, we will be no better, if not worse, than the future graduates.  Furthermore, if we perform well, we may be stuck in the job.  That’s not a bad thing, I had an acquaintance, who started as a McDonalds crew member, and loved it and stayed to be the restaurant manager and now he is the regional manager.

However, if your intention is truly to take up a job in your preferred line of work, you can take up any temporary job (basically food other than the intended cheese) but make sure that you are prepared for your cheese.

In the ICT world, there are tons of opportunities to remain in the right field and prepare yourself, .  Some of the examples are:

(1) iPhone application development.  Not only can you keep your skills up to date and in demand, you can develop several simple and basic applications and use the iPhone store to market your program.  Imagine you go to an interview 2 years later and the interviewer has an iPhone with your application loaded … I am sure you will get the job.

(2) Blogging. Effective blogging requires an in-depth understanding of the Web 2.0 technology and usage.  If you can show your future prospective employer your success in understanding the Web 2.0 world and attract traffic to your blog, you will also show that you are still in the ICT business.

(3) Online product trading.  There are many opportunities for online trading, but you need some initial capital.  Much like trading on eBay, there are other avenues in Malaysia, such as lelong.com.my and lowyat.net.  These two being the most popular.  You will always find good deals and you can benefit from it.  Furthermore, you can impress your potential employers with knowledge of online scams, online payment, and maybe even set up an online store front.

(4) Gaming.  This may sound ridiculous but understanding gaming technologies, especially MMORPG types, and being able to explain how things work on the network, will definitely be a plus point to prospective employers looking for system and network administrators.

(5) Android application development. Android is a new google operating system for mobile phones and much like iPhone, there’s an online store called the Android marketplace.  Time to check it out.

(6) Open Source Development.  You can always contribute to open source development projects.  This is by far the most impressive way to ensure that employers take note of your technical skills.  You don’t really have to contribute to the programming parts, even by doing the documentation, it will be impressive enough.

There are many more ways to ensure you are ahead of future graduates, you just need to make sure that you can do it in the evenings and weekend while holding on to your day job.  Some are with monetary returns, some without.  Good luck!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Ministry of Youth and Sports Funding

Thanks to Mr Ho, who informed me of this funding.


The ministry of youth and sports is providing funding for youths to be entrepreneurs but the amount is miniscule!  They are providing RM3,000 with the following conditions.

  1. Malaysian citizen
  2. Between the age of 18 and 40 years old
  3. Youth association members will be given preference
  4. Full time venture, part time basis does not qualify
  5. Must have prior experience in the chosen field to venture

Initially, I couldn’t really think of how someone who has experience or track record in the specific field would need RM3,000.  After giving it some thought, someone who may want to start a local delivery service may need the extra RM3,000 as working capital for his motorcycle, or someone who wants to start a small burger stall may need additional RM3,000 for the stall and inventory or a part-time photographer, who may need some working capital to rent studios and go full-time or even a software developer who just needs the RM3,000 to jump start his/her own iPhone applications!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

How about a multi-fulfillment business?

Well, we all know that 2009 is a year that will see quite a few hardships and those graduating this year will have to be more innovative in getting jobs.

However, there are many other opportunities than merely seeking employment.  For a start, many are encouraged to be entrepreneurs, there is a sudden interest in retaining students to pursue postgraduate studies to boost University rankings and of course, they can also opt for direct selling.

There is this other in-between option of being an employee and an entrepreneur, some may call it franchising programs or even consider direct selling agents to be in this category.  A company by the name of DropZone is offering Malaysians to be “your own boss”.

Basically you apply to be a dropzone partner to operate their services and since they are new, they would require you to help them out.  You will not be employed by them, but you will be provided with financing facilities (if you qualify), training and a few other things that are normally associated with being an employee.

If you are interested to know more, it would be best to email them at mentee@dropzone.com.my for exact details of the program.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Photography studio

In the past, each local community had at least 1 photo studio where films get processed into photos or even just to get their identity sized photographs (e.g. passport).  These studios have either closed (or in the process of closing) as digital photography and the Internet makes photo printing at a local photo studio unnecessary and the many small kiosk where you can print your photos cheaply.  Some of them re-invent themselves to provide photography equipment such as cameras but many can’t utilize the space that they used to have for the large film processing and the large studio.

However, with the number of novices taking up photography as a hobby, it would make sense to provide the following service:

  • Studio for rent, equipped with changing room, dressing table and generic studio equipment such as reflectors and flash stands.
  • Short studio and indoor photography courses for beginners.
  • Short post-processing courses for beginners.
  • Small cafe with Internet access.
  • Photo printing and sale of photography accessories, e.g. filters, memory cards and so on.

All these can be probably housed in less than 1,800 sq ft, a typically size for a single floor of a shop office which will be cheaper than the ground floor shop rental.  You will need

  1. 500 sq ft studio
  2. 500 sq ft classroom
  3. 300 sq ft office
  4. 500 sq ft cafe

Partner with a company that can provide models and locate it near colleges (for part-time models and also to target the growing number of students with DSLRs) and IT companies (as many IT geeks are into photography).

Saturday, February 14, 2009

3rd Party DSLR Products

Lately, I have been spending sometime with my Sony Alpha 200 Digital SLR (DLSR) camera.  This is my first DSLR and hence the minimal investment into something that I am unsure. I have also been spending time looking for 3rd party accessories, such as filters and flash.  The main purpose is to learn about the different types of techniques that can be done with a DSLR (see my other blog at http://www.iantan.net/) without incurring too much damage to my pocket.

I have bought stuff online and with further exploration, I think there is a business that one can do part-time.  The thought is as such, from my observation, most Malaysians would prefer to transact COD or through a face to face meetup, quite evident from lowyat.net (LYN) trades.  As such, many would shy away from purchasing from places such as alibaba.com and ebay.com.  This maybe because some of them do not have credit cards or a paypal.

So here a simple and old idea.  Buy from ebay for yourself, go to Teh Tarik sessions and show what it can do, then return to the forum and advertise.  For each product, you may be able to turn over a 20% margin.

Stores such as sainidigital do provide reasonably priced items and shipping and I am sure with small volume (3-10 qty) you can firstly save on shipping and secondly maybe negotiate the price.

I may try this for side pocket money too …

Friday, February 6, 2009

Small Low Cost Cafe ...

Recently, a colleague of mine said that we should have a nice quiet place to hang out near work. Being in a new "city" with very limited places to "hang out", it got me thinking about how much does it really take to have a small low cost cafe. The main ingredient is probably the coffee machine and the coffee.

A few months back, I was visiting a friend's office and they offered me a cup of "freshly" brewed coffee. I went to the pantry and what I saw was that they took out this round flat vacuum packed sachet and placed it into an espresso machine, squeezed it and out came a very aromatic smelling coffee. It taste good too! And surprise, surprise, it's not a Krups machine but a Nescafe branded machine. Of course I went on to ask about the setup cost as most espresso machines cost a bomb. Anyway, it doesn't cost much but you will be bound to purchase all your coffee needs from Nestle.

So, back to business ... what is needed. A small unassuming shop of around 500 sq ft or less, seats about 10 people or less, serves "nescafe" fresh brew, maybe freshly made finger sandwiches and of course "designer" furniture. Only need 1 staff to man it and if you are a programmer or works online, it can be a good additional income (especially if you are a coffee drinker yourself). So, what's the cost ...

Firstly, what's the name of the contraption I was talking about ... it's called nespresso (kinda predictable name isn't it?). The website basically tells you all you need to know. So back to cost ...

Renovation for 500 sq ft: USD10,000 (USD20 per sq ft estimate)
Nespresso and food stock: USD5,000 (machine, coffee sachets and cash flow for finger food)
Rental and operations Cash Flow: USD5,000
Miscellaneous: USD2,000

USD22k to start a business instead of paying more than that just for a franchise fee for one of those coffee chains. Errr ... how to make money, that I will leave it to you ...