From INTEC to Penn State University to Imperial College London, Muhammad Faiz Zakariah manifested success as early as 16 years old when he started investing in the stock market.
In an exclusive interview, he looks back on life and addresses the stories that shaped the entrepreneur he is today.
His experience in INTEC
Faiz accepted a MARA offer to study at INTEC under their American Degree Foundation Programme to prepare for his tertiary education in the States.
“I believe INTEC is one of the best pre-university institutions.”
According to him, INTEC’s education system resembles the one in America to help students adjust to life overseas more easily.
He explained that the institution’s curriculum emphasises TOEFL and SATs for US college applications. INTEC also carefully guides its students in the university application process.
After completing his foundation studies, Faiz flew to the US to pursue a degree in economics at Pennsylvania State University where he graduated with high distinction.
Managing his family and surviving at Imperial
Faiz returned to Malaysia to intern under Bank Negara Malaysia’s economics department during the summer break. Following his internship experience, he discovered economics was not his calling and decided to explore the world of finance instead.
After graduating and marrying his high school sweetheart, Faiz and his wife moved to the UK as he was offered to do a Master’s in Finance and Investing at Imperial College London.
“I’m grateful for my wife who supported me while I studied in London.”
Imperial was definitely not a walk in the park for Faiz as he wasn’t used to an extremely compact schedule. From living a flexible lifestyle back at Penn State to attending classes daily at Imperial, he had to swiftly adapt to maximise his opportunities in London.
He said that the lecturers expect their students to continuously learn and not solely depend on lectures. Additionally, they would recommend materials and notes which provide a comprehensive understanding of the subjects.
Apart from the stressful times, Faiz is thankful that Imperial helped expose him to the finance industry. Proving his point further, he shared that multinational corporations and banks would come to the university weekly to conduct interviews and hire students directly into their organisation.
“Even after graduating, Imperial checks up on their alumni regarding their career progress for their database collection.”
The start of his investing career with EPF
During his graduate years, Faiz took up a job offer from Malaysia’s Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPF) as the Assistant Fund Manager.
His role was to manage investment portfolios worth RM10 billion from several European countries in the consumer staples, energy, and healthcare industries.
As part of his job, he had to travel twice a year to meet with multinational company CEOs and CFOs. Having worked at the EPF, he claimed that he had gained a great deal of experience in the investing field.
However, deep down in his heart, Faiz dreamed of starting his own business as he was inspired by his father’s entrepreneurship journey.
“When I joined EPF, I knew I wasn’t going to stay for long because I wanted to learn the investment strategies used in big asset management companies.”
Transitioning from the investment industry to entrepreneurship
While working at EPF, Faiz did his own research and detected gaps in the food industry. He then realised that Tokyo Olympics 2020 would need to source a large number of Halal foods to accommodate athletes from Islamic regions and those with certain dietary restrictions.
It wasn’t long until he founded Kembara Meals, a modern outdoor food manufacturer, intending to produce healthy, shelf-stable, self-heating, and ready-to-eat meals.
Without wasting his time, he learned how to increase the shelf life of foods by heating them in airtight containers using Retort Technology.
During its launch, he ran into a problem with his first batch of products not lasting long which then plummeted his profit to RM20 per day.
Nevertheless, Faiz did not stop there. He began to analyse the manufacturing process and took steps in revamping his marketing techniques.
“My wife, who is also the Marketing Director of Kembara Meals, played a major role in boosting the sales and even brought it up to RM5 million per year.”
Advice for the youth
Faiz encourages budding entrepreneurs to constantly be brave and not be afraid to make mistakes. He said that these traits will push individuals to take their first step in pursuing their passion and getting back up from failures.
Although Faiz’s road to becoming an entrepreneur was not a straight path, he never let obstacles affect him. His ambitions, perseverance and determination are the reason for his success.