From a Bachelor of Science (Biotechnology) to building a successful online grocery business across Sarawak, Malaysia, alum Nayeem Ullah Yeasir shares with us his Swinburne story.
Tell us about what you chose to study at Swinburne and how it set you up for your future.
Back in Bangladesh, studying abroad was my dream. I was also interested in microorganisms and genetic engineering during my A-levels, so naturally, I chose to study biotechnology at Swinburne’s Sarawak Campus in Malaysia.
I also really wanted to be an entrepreneur. While studying, I completed further optional courses in international business and organisational management.
How did your online business venture come about?
In 2017, with no experience I opened a restaurant in Kuching city. Unfortunately, due to staffing challenges, I had to shut down the business six months later. I decided to take a break after that, to give myself time to read more on entrepreneurship and research other business ideas.
In 2019, I saw that many companies were selling food online, but not many were selling groceries. I knew the demand for purchasing groceries online was there. So, with two of my student friends as co-founders, we launched DeGrocery.com in November that year.
What were some challenges?
My team and I worked hard from day one. We did everything ourselves, from designing the website, researching market price, social media, letterbox marketing, and even delivering orders.
We did face funding challenges as we started the business. At one point, I had to sell my car and dig into my savings to foot expenses. But thanks to investors who saw potential in the company, we overcame those hurdles and were able to invest in growing the business.
How is the business going?
The response from people in Kuching, and Sarawak in general, has been amazing. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, we have completed thousands of orders. At one stage we even had to limit the number of purchases per day because we were just overwhelmed.
Thankfully, we were able to increase our staff and we’re now looking to grow the business even more. Soon we will be looking for programmers, software engineers and people with expertise in artificial intelligence and digital marketing. Where possible, we try to hire Swinburne students and graduates because they are industry-ready, talented and we find it is good to work with them.
We also run an internship program to provide work integrated learning opportunities to students and help them to become industry-ready graduates.
In what ways do you give back?
We regularly provide food aid to those in need. Recently, we collaborated with a non-governmental organisation in Kuching to deliver around 3,000 food aid packs.
As my background is in science, we also tend to be more environmentally friendly and try to reduce the use of plastic bags.
For the Swinburne community, we offer a 5% discount to Swinburne students, alumni, and staff by using code ‘Swinburne5’ at checkout.
What does the future hold?
In the very short time since we started, I would say we have established ourselves quite well in Kuching, Miri, and Kota Samarahan. Our next goal is to expand into other parts of Borneo, where we hope to cover ten major locations before expanding to other countries in Southeast Asia.
What did you enjoy about studying at Swinburne?
My experience at Swinburne Sarawak was amazing, and as an international university, I learnt about various cultures. I have a lot of good memories, and I made many good friends. It is also where I met my better half!
Swinburne also taught me how to balance work and study. Swinburne was competitive, and I was doing a lot of other things beside studying. So, I learned how to manage my time early and it helped me a lot. Swinburne also helped me to become a strong, independent person.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give to your student self? What advice do you have for current Swinburne Sarawak students?
If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to read more books. I would also advise myself to stop wasting time, be productive and start investing early. To the current Swinburne students, my advice to you would be that there are a lot of resources and opportunities available to you in the world right now, so try to use the internet and learn as many things as possible – it will come in handy.