University of Nottingham Malaysia alumni Daniel Teoh was recently listed in the Gen.T List 2022 by Tatler Asia for his work with Native Discovery, a social enterprise he founded in 2019.
The annual Gen.T List is curated by luxury media group Tatler to recognise the most promising millennial entrepreneurs who have been redefining the landscape of Asian culture and business.
For Teoh, being part of the Gen.T List came as a surprise. “The last two years have challenged me as an entrepreneur and receiving this recognition is a good reminder that perseverance pays off. I'm happy to share the honour with some of my favourite changemakers in Malaysia and I look forward to being part of the Gen T community!” he says.
Teoh founded Native Discovery with the goal of supporting the Orang Asli (indigenous) people to pursue their entrepreneurial aspirations.
“At Native, we co-create community-based ventures with the Orang Asli to support them in positively transforming their communities. We believe culture is a powerful asset and our goal is to use it to create channels for communities to earn a sustainable livelihood while sharing their stories with the world.”
He adds that they specialise in community-based tourism work, where we host immersive cultural experiences for guests to learn about Orang Asli culture and give them opportunities to become involved with the community in meaningful ways. Native Discovery also seasonally sells indigenous durians grown in the jungles with their venture - Biji Bumi Durian.
“We're currently working on proving our model for community-based businesses as a driving force for positive community transformation. This means working hard to get our business model, community governance structure and foundational principles right. We've put a lot of work into this for the last few years and we believe we're close to having something replicable.
Once the model is up and running, Native Discovery intends to replicate the model in communities across Peninsular Malaysia and grow a network of Orang Asli communities who own and operate resilient community-based businesses that will fuel their unique journeys towards their respective aspirations.
In the coming years, Teoh sees himself growing as an entrepreneur and deepening his commitment to creating an impact through business.
“In five to 10 years, I want Native to be the go-to platform for travellers who want to discover meaningful ways to meet and support Orang Asli communities throughout the country, and to also become a strong enabler for indigenous-owned businesses and indigenous allyship in Malaysia,” Teoh explains.
According to Teoh, never in his wildest dreams did he imagine becoming an entrepreneur. “On campus, I just joined a lot of business competitions and even started a couple of clubs that still exist today. I learnt that it's not so difficult to carve out your way and Nottingham provided the environment for me to explore, emerging with the confidence to just try things and fail with no loss of enthusiasm. I have so many stories that I look back at them fondly, especially those that have helped me grow as a person,” he says.
Teoh pursued his Master’s (MEng) in Civil Engineering at UNM and this is where his interest in housing issues came about.
“In university, I began exploring the topic and this led me to do my thesis on identifying gaps in assessing housing gaps in Orang Asli communities. When I think back, it was quite an academic gamble and I'm thankful to my tutor at the time, Dr Choong Wee Kang, who supported me to go all out on it. As a result of my thesis, I spent a lot of time with the community and it's led me to where I am today.”
Although what he does now is very different from what he studied for, Teoh does not have any regrets. He cannot see himself doing anything else.
Finally, to students and UNM alumni, Teoh has this piece of advice: “The academic element is just one facet of the experience, and I would encourage students to take the time to explore your curiosities. Join a sports team even if you've never played before. Start a business out of your dorm room even if you have never sold anything in your life. You'll only ever be this young once - and if you're on the older spectrum, don't worry, being young is a relative term! You're never too old to have experiences that help you grow up into whom you want to be. This moment will not repeat itself so make the most of it. Memory dividends always pay handsomely.”
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Posted on 31st October 2022