IF you think building and assembling computers is strictly a man’s domain, think again. Nadira Mohd Yusoff, 40, has been doing it since 2002.
She is the co-founder and chief executive officer of Nadi-Ayu Technologies (NATSB), a computer/information technology outfit which supplies solutions to the education market.
She is also the lead architect for NATSB products, merging both the business and market demands in ensuring the company’s and products’ growth and sustainability.
A graduate of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia Skudai with BSc (Hons) in Electrical Engineering, Nadira nurtured her love for new technologies through her effort in establishing NATSYS, a brand that has successfully been recognised as a Local Original Equipment Manufacturer of Microsoft which has about 800,000 users, and has successfully penetrated the Asean market. NATSYS was awarded the Best Local Brand by the Hardware Magazine in 2011.
How it started
After graduating, and workingsome three to five years as a research engineer in Singapore 20 years ago, Nadira felt that she was not comfortable with her job and decided to move but had no idea where to go and what to do.
“During that time, the government was promoting a ‘one house, one computer’ campaign and I thought I should start my own business of producing computers.
“And at that time, the local computing brands were not doing so well and I decided to change the situation.
“So my dad gave me his advertising company, but with no funds and workers. I started to buy parts and assemble computers,” she said, adding that her parents and sister helped in managing the company.
Nadira said the first three months were a struggle as no one wanted to buy the computers.
“We even went to the rural areas, knocking on doors to sell our computers. But no one wanted them.
“Then we thought, maybe our approach was not right and so we started to do roadshows at housing areas, be more experiential.
“We start exposing people to computers and what they can do with them,” she said.
Within a year, NATSB grew from only four people to a group of 20. The company also started making 30,000 computers a month.
Establishing name and challenges
At that time, NATSB was the first local company in Malaysia to provide computer delivery to houses and offered home service setup, even to rural areas in Sabah and Sarawak and now it has established its service centres around the nation.
The Education Ministry called up NATSB and evaluated its products for school.
Nadira said it was a big break for the company, being the only local brand to secure the contract of supplying computers to schools.
“We get so close to the teachers and also have programmes withthem and students to teach them to use the computer and its benefits.
“As the years went by, we started seeing a gap between the teachers, as they requested to have certain software installed.
“And the creator in me decided to build one, thus the creation of MorrieLand.”
MorrieLand is an interactive online children edutainment network that uses engaging, creative and interactive activities to help them learn the English language.
“In 2006, we launched the online learning platform. It was a very expensive experience for us as we spent millions on it.
“But then, at that time parents and public were very sceptical. The Internet penetration was relatively low and we struggled to sell the content.
“The government also didn’t want to buy because it was not in line with the school curriculum focus.”
Nadira said the company almost went bankrupt after struggling to sell the online software for about three years.
It started looking into the assets of Morrieland and reviewed its contents, where it started to build tools for children.
NATSB conducted classes and programmes, and saw children were getting creative as their learning was enhanced and their language, improved.
With a different marketing strategy, NATSB picked up again with the support of some publishers using the software.
Now the company has marketed the software to 27 countries outside Malaysia to South Korea, Iran and Russia among others, with China being its biggest user.
NATSB also has evolved to producing more computing-based products including laptops, netbooks and tablets.
“We make sure to introduce at least two products every year to keep the company going, and this year we are launching tablets after Hari Raya,” added Nadira.
NATSB works with sponsors to train 50 school dropouts a year and place them in the industry.
“Now in its third year, this is an intensive one-year programme to develop artistic skills.
“We contacted schools and toured the country to find the dropouts with talents.
“After finishing the programme, most of them eventually become animators or storyboard artists at local and international companies.”
All the training is done and organised by NATSB, but most of the trainers come from big studios such as Disney, Oasis Animation Inc. and Cartoon Network, to name a few.
Girls in tech
Nadira is the president for Women Entrepreneur Network Association (WENA), as well as the managing director for Girls in Tech Malaysia (GITM).
During her involvement with WENA, she would see a trend of women starting their businesses, however they don’t really maximise the usage of technology to achieve the growth and scale that they should.
“As WENA focuses on entrepreneurship development,itwas difficult to concentrate on technology alone such as training.
“That was when I came across GITM; it made me managing director for the Malaysia division.
“GITM provides the best platform for women to learn, get educated, find a mentor and use technology to their advantage,”said Nadira.
Created in February 2007, Girls in Tech was founded by Adriana Gascoigne, and was borne out of a need to provide a place for women to cultivate ideas around their careers and business concepts involving technology and entrepreneurship. Girls in Tech is headquartered in San Francisco, California, US and has multiple chapters around the world.
“Women are not much exposed yet to technology that they can use to add value to their business and differentiate themselves from others. We can see this in the fashion business, where although there are many women involved, everyone seems to be selling the same product.
“Some do not know where or who to go to, and how to do it. That is where we (GITM) come in.
“We will scout for suitable partners who have the technology andcan do the research and development for them, and marry them,”
Nadira advised more women entrepreneurs to take a step into new roles as business leaders, by maximising the use of technology and grabbing opportunities.
She also hopes that Malaysians will continue to appreciate local products, and support local entrepreneurs especially if they want to see them succeed on the global front.