In­cul­cate Rukun Ne­gara val­ues to the young

The Star Malaysia - StarBiz - - Viewpoint - Starbiz@thes­

IT has been a while since I have eaten sup­per at 11pm. To the western for­eign­ers, sup­per in Malaysia means another full meal after din­ner. The habit of hav­ing sup­per was preva­lent in the old days when fam­ily din­ners was usu­ally done by 6pm hence be­ing hungry again to have the last meal for the day, sup­per at late night hours.

Like old times, my child­hood friends, Jon, Leo and I had a late sup­per of hokkien mee and oys­ter omelette in Paramount Gar­den. After ex­plain­ing to them about the po­ten­tial of the halal mar­ket, our dis­cus­sion veered to­wards our Malay school friends. Ashraf with the un­tidy afro hair, the neatly at­tired Razak with the Ara­bic fa­cial fea­tures and Ab­dul Hadi, one of our top bad­minton play­ers in school. All three of our “cool” Malay bud­dies speak and write per­fect English.

When I was in Form 6 Arts, half my class­mates were Malay. As I was poor in mem­o­ris­ing facts, I avoided His­tory and Geog­ra­phy and took up English Lit­er­a­ture and Malay Lit­er­a­ture (which had only two Chi­nese stu­dents).

Iskan­dar Zulka­r­nian was the only Malay stu­dent to take up English Lit­er­a­ture at STPM level and he was given a schol­ar­ship by ITM to study English in the US when he had a prin­ci­pal pass. Such was a rare Malay tal­ent in the English lan­guage some 40 years ago.

My other class­mate Mus Chairil was like me, a La Salle PJ thor­ough­bred (of 13 stu­dents) who stud­ied from Stan­dard One to Up­per Six. The last I heard of Mus, he was work­ing as an Edi­tor with ei­ther Utu­san Me­layu or Berita Har­ian. I have lost all con­tacts with most of my Malay class­mates since we left school.

It is kind of funny now to call them Malay friends as I re­mem­ber back in school, I only know of them as Ash, Razak, Iskan­dar and Mus. We were all race blind and it did not mat­ter what race you were.

You will be sub­ject to ridicule be­cause you were fat, skinny, short, tall, slow or dim-wit­ted and not be­cause you are a Malay, In­dian or Chi­nese.

The only racial slur that I suf­fered was when my English Lit teacher, Mrs T.T. Chung ad­mon­ished me for speak­ing like a Chi­na­man in her English class. This rep­ri­mand did spur me to study hard and thanks to her, my dis­tinc­tion in her pa­per helped me se­cure a place in Univer­siti Malaya.

De­spite La Salle PJ be­ing a Catholic school man­aged by Chris­tian brothers, I was never pres­sured in school to join Chris­tian­ity. Ev­ery week, we would have a class where Chris­tians at­tend bi­ble stud­ies, Mus­lims at­tend Is­lamic stud­ies and athe­ists like me will at­tend moral class.

The only com­pul­sory tenet that all stu­dents had to learn was Rukun Ne­gara (Na­tional Prin­ci­ples). We were drilled non­stop to mem­o­rise the five prin­ci­ples of Rukun Ne­gara and I never re­alised the sig­nif­i­cance of the phi­los­o­phy be­hind this tenet un­til now. How the Rukun Ne­gara helped this multi-racial coun­try achieved unity and har­mony.

Be­ing a mar­ket­ing stu­dent all my life, I have been taught to seg­ment mar­kets by age, in­come and race. Racial pro­fil­ing in mar­ket­ing is im­por­tant as there are dis­tinct con- sumer be­hav­iours due to cul­tural dif­fer­ences and com­mu­ni­ca­tion strate­gies in­volve multi-lan­guage cam­paigns.

Back then con­sumer pro­fil­ing based on re­li­gion was nor­mally restricted to halal food and bev­er­ages.

There has been a tremen­dous shift in con­sumer pro­fil­ing in re­cent years. Since 65% of our pop­u­la­tion are Mus­lims, re­li­gion and race have been given more weigh­tage in mar­ket­ing strate­gies due to the in­creas­ing Is­lami­sa­tion in con­sumer be­hav­iour. De­mand for halal prod­ucts have ex­tended beyond food and bev­er­age to ap­parel, head­wear, cos­met­ics etc.

Travel ser­vices for Mus­lims have ex­pe­ri­enced ex­po­nen­tial growth sim­i­lar to taka­ful in­surance, syariah bank­ing and syariah-com­pli­ant in­vest­ment prod­ucts. Mass mar­ket en­trepreneurs should heed this ma­jor mar­ket shift if you want to stay rel­e­vant. Sus­tain­abil­ity de­pends on cov­er­age of to­tal mar­ket where halal and syariah-com­pli­ant prod­ucts will have a dom­i­nant share.

The other ma­jor shift is lan­guage of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Over the last 20 years, our school education sys­tem has evolved into three dis­tinct ver­nac­u­lar model. The na­tional type school grad­u­ates speak only Malay, Chi­nese school grad­u­ates speak only Man­darin and the pri­vate schools in ur­ban cen­tres pro­duce English-speak­ing grad­u­ates.

As these three types of schools are mu­tu­ally exclusive in terms of lan­guage, you will have to com­mu­ni­cate sep­a­rately with each mar­ket in their ver­nac­u­lar lan­guage. E-com­merce sites will have to be du­pli­cated in the three lan­guages if you do not want to miss out on any mar­ket seg­ment.

Astro and Me­dia Prima have been in­vest­ing in unique and orig­i­nal en­ter­tain­ment pro­grammes in both Malay and Chi­nese. As their English pro­grammes will be dis­rupted by Net­flix and other dig­i­tal me­dia, their fu­ture suc­cess will de­pend on their abil­ity to com­mu­ni­cate and en­ter­tain the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion in their ver­nac­u­lar lan­guages.

Re­cent events of busi­nesses like the laun­derette re­strict­ing ser­vices to Mus­lims only makes no com­mer­cial sense to me.

Just as I urge non-Mus­lim en­trepreneurs to not miss out on the vast po­ten­tial of halal and syariah com­pli­ant seg­ments, I would ad­vise the Mus­lim en­trepreneurs to not ne­glect the non-Mus­lim seg­ments. Busi­ness is busi­ness. It should be race blind and re­li­gion in­clu­sive.

It gets more dif­fi­cult for en­trepreneurs when race and re­li­gion are politi­cised as the con­sumers be­come con­fused and ir­ra­tional in pur­chas­ing be­hav­iour. These are testing times for mar­ke­teers. Will the good old times re­turn to this beau­ti­ful coun­try we called Home?

Sud­denly I am feel­ing nos­tal­gic. Look­ing back to 1970 when Tun Ab­dul Razak as head of the Na­tional Con­sul­ta­tive Coun­cil for­mu­lated the five Prin­ci­ples of Rukun Ne­gara: > Be­lief in God

> Loy­alty to King and Coun­try

> Uphold­ing the Law and Con­sti­tu­tion > Rule of Law

> Good Be­hav­iour and Mo­ral­ity Per­haps we should go back to school and in­cul­cate these val­ues to our young, fo­cus­ing on unity, pre­serv­ing demo­cratic way of life, shar­ing pros­per­ity in a just and eq­ui­table man­ner, guar­an­tee­ing a lib­eral ap­proach to­wards our rich and var­ied cul­tural tra­di­tions and build­ing a so­ci­ety that will make use of science and mod­ern tech­nol­ogy.

Wise words from a wise man and still rel­e­vant after 47 years. Let us all hope for the best.


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