At 27 years of age, Sharol Hafizi Jamaludin of Agro Highlands Enterprise is very grateful to the RD NKRA and the Ministry of Rural and Regional Development for their efforts in growing the rural economy via the Rural Business Challenge (RBC).
Sharol’s Cameron Highlands business focuses on growing strawberries and providing chalet accommodation for agrotourism. Prior to winning the RBC, he could only provide eight room units; sufficient for 40 people. “My revenues then were about RM10,000-RM15,000 a month. I could only hire two to three employees – a small scale operation by any measure.”
Sharol believes that he won the Challenge in 2013 due to three major factors; providence, the project itself nicely fitting the requirements of the Challenge, and support from family and friends.
With a grant of RM2 million, Sharol has transformed his business to one that is still moving with an upward trajectory. “I now have 32 room units in the midst of a strawberry field, catering for up to 100 people, complete with seminar/meeting room and a dining hall. I now earn revenues of between RM30,000-RM60,000 a month.
Sharol currently hires 11 employees and provides steady business to three entrepreneurs. “For example, the dining hall has an external caterer running it. I also have online sales agents who get paid a commission, as well as external tour guides which I source for his guests. So basically, there is an economic multiplier effect due to the increase in size and capabilities of my business.”
Sharol believes RBC is a great platform to reduce or eliminate ruralurban migration by the youth. “Mostly, this migration is due to low income jobs/ opportunities. But through business, you can earn similar figures as urban jobs; thus, the youth will do this if there is support for rural businesses. They only need space and opportunity, which RBC and similar initiatives can provide.
“I am thankful to the Ministry of Rural and Regional Development for the RBC. It has changed my life – my vision, which was only a dream, has become a reality. Without RBC, all my achievements would still be unrealised dreams.”
Source: National Transformation Programme Annual Report 2015