Digerati50: Building online communities, the ‘content way’

Digital News Asia (DNA) continues a weekly series that profiles the top 50 influencers, movers and shakers who are helping shape Malaysia’s Digital Economy. These articles are from Digerati50, a special print publication released in January 2014. For information on customised reprints of Digerati50, email [email protected].

  • Lowyat built 'with minimal backing and almost no funding'
  • ‘Next big thing’ is the ongoing explosion of online video
Digerati50: Building online communities, the ‘content way’
THE name Vijandren Ramadass wouldn’t get much of a reaction with most people, but mention his moniker ‘se7en’ and Malaysia’s online community would stand up in instant recognition.
 
Vijandren is the low-profile founder and chief executive officer of Lowyat MSC Sdn Bhd, behind what is arguably Malaysia’s oldest, largest and perhaps even most influential online community, Lowyat.NET.
 
Lowyat.NET began life as a simple single-page website to publish the latest price lists of computers and gadgets from digital mall Plaza Low Yat in Kuala Lumpur.
 
Today, the domain boasts a lively forum community that numbers over half-a-million, and a combined monthly reach of over six million unique visitors to its family of content sites.
 
In 2011, Lowyat Networks gained MSC Malaysia (Multimedia Super Corridor) status and expanded its portfolio by launching a women’s lifestyle portal, Lipstiq.com. Two more properties, Wanista.com & Hype.my, were then added to its stable.
 
In 2012, it added e-commerce solution and online store storekini.com to the fray, giving consumers an online outlet to get their shopping fixes.
 
The Lowyat family also grew even bigger with the addition of video arm Lowyat.TV, as well as Autofreaks, an automotive portal, giving an even wider selection of content.
 
It is an endeavour that remains Vijandren’s proudest achievement to date, especially due to the fact that he and his team have had to do it “with minimal backing and almost no funding.”
 
The 34-year-old, who holds a degree in computer science, spends most of his professional time spearheading and leading Lowyat MSC’s growth, with the creation of new content sites and contributing variety to the current online offerings Malaysia has.
 
The ‘next big thing’ for Vijandren is the ongoing explosion of online video, with Lowyat MSC already in prime position to push out more original video content for Malaysian netizens in the coming months.
 
When asked what was the best advice he’s gotten to date, he notes that he can’t recall getting much advice from anyone but shares that he holds true to a saying by Mahatma Gandhi: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
 
Asked what his biggest weakness is, Vijandren confesses that it would be his obsessive need for perfection in everything.
 
“In the ever-changing and ever-expanding online media industry, it can be a massive stumbling block at times,” he says.
 
Looking back on his experience with Lowyat, Vijandren notes that getting online and building an online media company in Malaysia isn’t that difficult, but one mistake most entrepreneurs make is they try to follow the examples set by successful entrepreneurs in developed countries.
 
“That model unfortunately doesn’t really work very well in Malaysia due to the limited amount of funding made available to startup companies. Unlike in the United States, where there are plenty of angel investors and corporations willing to throw cash at good ideas, there isn’t much of that here.
 
“In Malaysia you’ve got to adapt, start small and build from there. Make sure the financial model doesn’t require a profit within the first two years and it might work,” he said.
 
But then again, Vijandren also thinks that we are approaching a tipping point and 2014 might just be the year that the online explosion of ad spend and consumption hits Malaysia.
 
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