Mulah pivots to establish foothold in Malaysia: Page 2 of 2


Guidance is essential


Mulah pivots to establish foothold in Malaysia: Page 2 of 2


Meanwhile, there was an on-going challenge that had to be resolved. Consumer sign-up rates were low because partners’ staff were not getting their customers to sign up for the loyalty programme. The team discovered that this was due to the fact that the majority foreign-worker staff either did not know how to go about this or were unable to do so because of language barriers.

Liu points out that Big ZAP was encountering the same problem in Malaysia but did not seem able to solve it whereas Mulah drastically improved its training programme to include detailed instructions and even role-playing activities on how to on-board customers.

“The training programmes are extremely important,” says Liu, explaining that it is essential that staff understand why their employer is instating the loyalty programme, why they are collecting data and why the staff have to get people to sign up. This information converts into an intrinsic motivation for staff to help their employer do well.

There was an instant improvement in sign-up rates to the loyalty progamme after the training programme was initiated. Liu says that the training and the hands-on service Mulah provides is the main reason partners choose Mulah and stick with the startup. “We are quite a customer-oriented company in that sense.”

Perseverance leads to sustainability

Mulah’s training extends to its own staff – Liu says that its marketing team is taught what he calls hard skills, which is exactly how to sell the product. They are also empowered to change the way the startup does things if they believe methods can be improved.

The startup is looking to expand its marketing team in preparation for growth; its tech team is outsourced from its investor, tech venture builder LaunchPad. It currently has 38 partners in the Klang Valley and Malacca, 95% of which are restaurants and 5% retail. It plans to go into Indonesia and Taiwan and grow its team from the current 40 to 60 in the next six to nine months.

Liu admits that Mulah is a little behind in its targets. The initial plan was to have 40 partners on board by July and a bigger team. The pivots and changes, however, have taken up time, though they have not eaten through the startup’s funding.

Mulah obtained seed funding of RM600,000 (US$139,659) from LaunchPad early last year and has been subsisting leanly on that. Liu says Mulah will be ready for its next funding round in about three to six months.

Now, the target is to get 100 partners on board by the end of the year, which Liu says is definitely achievable. Partners pay an average subscription fee of about RM3,500 (US$814.60) per year but Liu declined to reveal exact revenue numbers, though he does believe that Mulah can reach profitability by early next year.

Liu says that the co-founders plan to take the business as far as it can go after profitability. “When I say we want to transform retail, I mean that we have long-term plans for more products, such as a digital queueing system, and to use beacon technology to push promotions to customers’ smartphones.”

The lessons the startup has learned in its short but eventful journey so far will hopefully keep it on the path to success. Liu says the biggest lesson is the importance of providing good training and guidance for staff, and trusting and listening to them.

His advice for small startups fighting to gain a foothold in their industry is to look for a niche and establish themselves there. “You should always listen to your customers, identify their pain points and have a long-term plan to deliver more value to them,” he says.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a small business; you can grow. It’s ok to start small, as long as you have plans in place to grow big.”


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