Business WYN

Failure, the best teacher

by Su Aziz

The positive side to failure is that it forces you to have courage, to get up from a fall, brush off the dust on your shoulders and persevere. That is, if you want to gain a lesson from it. Especially, according to TheLorry co-founder, if you’re a startup business.

Failure, most will say, is the best teacher. Although, some may use some choice words to describe it because it’s undeniable how it can either make or break you. In this article, we choose the former. We choose to see the positive opportunities failure offers. We, along with 29-year old entrepreneur Nadhir Ashafiq, hope you’ll see how if success is easy to achieve, you simply won’t value it.

In business, the co-founder of TheLorry and speaker at WIEF IdeaLab 2017 Ashafiq believes, failure’s a good thing. ‘You’ll never really learn [a lesson] until you see the 100 per cent effort and time you put in, fail.’ Then, it becomes an eye-opener, a reality check tool, a shove back down to earth.

In certain cultures, failure’s a prerequisite to future success. You fail, learn, pick yourself up and live to fight another day.

Ashafiq’s most memorable encounter with failure was during his first startup. ‘My partner and I were inspired by Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram for USD1 billion. We figured, we could probably do the same – create an app and sell it for millions,’ he recalls. ‘So, we built a social networking app but didn’t validate the idea before putting time and money into it. We crashed and burned in the end but with valuable experience gained [and lesson learned].’

Merely three years old, the Malaysian lori sewa (lorry rental) company was started in 2014 and has already become quite the household name. It was founded by Ashafiq and Goh Chee Hau. Its convenience lays in the on-demand platform for logistics that connects those who need to move things with owners of lorries, vans and four-wheel drives.

Its online booking platform also gives prompt quotes, vehicle type information and availability. Aptly called TheLorry, the service is available in both Malaysia and The Lorry in Singapore. ‘It was formed with the overarching principle to disrupt the traditional and inefficient logistics industry through technology,’ he explains.

‘I honestly feel we still have a long way to go before we can be called a success,’ he humbly admits. ‘However, I believe in being persistent. Persistence is the key determinant on whether an entrepreneur can go through rough patches and achieve eventual success.’

Going back to failure, Ashafiq considers a few things that can break a business and render it unsuccessful. ‘Failure is when a product or service fails to generate enough traction or accumulate enough customers to make it sustainable or attract investor interest. Some of the reasons for failure could be wrong strategies, wrong market segment targeted, creating a product which has no real market need or poor management.’

Now is the golden age of startups and many sprout as quickly as mushrooms after the rain but just as many crumble. They’re simply not doing something right. ‘Statistically, 95 per cent of startups will fail after three years of operations. This is a global statistic and not exclusive to Malaysia,’ Ashafiq explains. ‘However, I personally feel it’s not entirely a disadvantage to have failures under your belt. In certain cultures, failure’s a prerequisite to future success. You fail, learn, pick yourself up and [live to] fight another day.’

Ashafiq, having been there, dispenses a few fundamental tips on how to recover from a business failure. ‘I think the answer to this revolves around your mental and emotional state. A winner’s mentality would be to shrug off any failure and continue to find new and exciting opportunities. To maintain a healthy, stable mental and emotional state, I recommend solat [for Muslims] or some form of quiet meditation,’ he concludes.


WIEF IdeaLab 2017 facilitates a platform where major and minor startup ecosystem players can meet, network, share ideas and discuss how to move the startup industry forward together. This year it’s held on 2 – 3 August in Kuala Lumpur. Register before 22 July here.

17 Jul 2017
Last modified: 9 Oct 2017
share this article