While many would take it easy after retirement, Puan Rozita decided to embark on her entrepreneurial journey soon after retiring from the education sector at 50 years old. She had spent 16 years working as a teacher in Kuala Lumpur before making her foray into the Muslim fashion industry with the clothing boutique Alajmal.
Alajmal started off as an offline store with a curated selection of hijab products from renowned brands, such as Farida Hijab, Ariani, Hajra, Syazara, DHaja, and Aidijuma. The store was a hit, as customers loved being able to browse and choose from a wide selection of hijabs in one place.
Rozita’s entrepreneurial spirit was nurtured from an early age, having been raised by her grandmother in impoverished circumstances. These humble beginnings instilled in her essential business values. “From a very young age, I would help my grandparents with village work, like planting rice, tobacco and rubber tapping. When I was in primary school, I sold kuih and other treats around the village during school holidays. During school days, my grandmother would make cakes, and I would bring them to our school canteen to be sold. The proceeds from these sales were what my grandma would use for our school expenses,” Rozita said.
This entrepreneurial drive persisted throughout her life. Even during her teaching career, she dabbled in small-scale businesses, selling snacks to friends and colleagues for additional income.
Her husband also played a pivotal role in supporting her career transition. In 2013, her husband suggested exploring rental opportunities in the new Lakefield area. This marked the inception of her full-time entrepreneurial journey, with her husband providing financial support as she delved into her business. Setting her sights on creating a prominent brand in the Muslim fashion industry, Rozita adopted prayer wear brand Siti Khadijah’s telekung as a benchmark for her products.
“I want my brand to be one of the brands known by Muslims all over Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore. The name Alajmal was chosen by my husband, and it means ‘the most beautiful’. With our tagline, ‘Keanggunan Menepati Syariah’ (elegance in accordance with Syariah), I hope that the telekung designs I sell can make Muslim women appear graceful when facing God,” Rozita said.
During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Alajmal, like many other businesses, had to shutter its physical store when a lockdown was imposed in Malaysia. Fortunately, through Institut Keusahawanan Negara (INSKEN), a government organization that provides supporting services for startups and entrepreneurs, Rozita was introduced to eCommerce and Lazada. Guided by a Lazada-certified trainer, she joined onto Lazada in 2021.
Lazada connected Alajmal to a much broader consumer pool, and sales on the platform quickly exceeded Rozita’s expectations. Rozita was also diligent in learning and utilizing online tools that helped further boost her business. Rozita has likened succeeding with eCommerce to a fisherman casting a net, setting the stage during the day through strategic campaigns, free marketing tools and more, and then reaping the rewards when the time is right.
Aside from running her offline store, which doubles as a warehouse, and her online business, Rozita also has two factories in Bandung that exclusively produces telekung for Alajmal. She is also expanding her business by venturing into the frozen food industry.
Reminiscing on her journey, Rozita remarked that age should not be a barrier to embracing technology and eCommerce. “It is probably true that many of the older generation are IT illiterate when it comes to business. But not all entrepreneurs are or have to remain that way. At the age of half a century, I am still learning about eCommerce and have managed to maintain my business,” she said.
“My advice to fellow entrepreneurs out there, especially traders like me, is to start learning eCommerce now. If we can’t catch up with modern knowledge, hire young staffs and let them learn. I definitely believe that it is better to start late than not to start at all.”
A version of this story was originally posted on Sell with Lazada.
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