Beirut blast officials knew of the risks

While authorities continue searching for the cause of the Beirut explosion, all fingers are being pointed out to the chemical – Ammonia nitrate.

The question however, is to ask how did it got there in the first place, and how much in fact as it caused the lives of nearly 400 people and homes of at least 300,000.

An unscheduled stop, a massive shipment of agricultural fertilizer, a bankrupt Russian business man and the ignoring of safety precautions for years are just part of the many factors that played to the catastrophic incident.

According to CNN, a shipment of 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate arrived in Beirut in 2013 on a Russian owned vessel by the name of MV Rhosus. Due to financial difficulties, the vessel that was en-route to Mozambique, made an unprecedented stop at Beirut and never left. 

MV Rhosus

The substance was ultimately left untouched and unregulated for up to SIX years.

Owned by Russian businessman Igor Grechuskin, his crew was mostly Russians and Moldovans and it is still not immediately clear to why Grechuskin, who owned Teto Shipping was carrying such an alarming amount of ammonium nitrate.

Highlighting a bust up with the law, Grechuskin had allegedly not paid his crew, including the captain and had abandoned them for months, leaving them stuck on the vessel, according to the lawyers who fought for their release.

They said that the ship was a “floating bomb” and the crew became hostages on the “bomb”.

Neither Grechusin nor any members of his family have given any public comment about their alleged connection with the Beirut blast.

Warnings were sent out over the years of the dangers that the port of Beirut could face with such a cargo in its area, which include inspectors warning that the now seized material could “blow up all of Beirut”.

According to the current Director of Customs, Badri Daher, warnings of the cargo being equivalent to a floating bomb didn’t manage to change the situation.

“We requested that it be re-exported but that did not happen. We leave it to the experts and those concerned to determine why,” Daher said.

 “Due to the extreme danger posed by this stored items in unsuitable climate conditions, we reiterate our request to the Port Authorities to re-export the goods immediately to maintain the safety of the port and those working in it,” Chafic Merhi, former director general of the Lebanese Customs Administration wrote in a 2016 letter to a judge involved in the case.

Lebanon general security chief, Abbas Ibrahim

On top of that, Lebanon’s general security chief also said that a “highly explosive material” was confiscated years earlier and kept in a warehouse not too far from Beirut’s shopping malls and nightlife spots. 

As there were disasters linked to the chemical in the past, strict and improved regulations have been put in place for its safe storage. Associate Professor Stewart Walker from Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia said in an interview with CCN that “such rules mean it tend to be kept away from population centers.

“Both of these things will be questioned in the investigation into the Beirut explosion, because they had such a large amount of ammonium nitrate, which may not have been stored appropriately, and in an area where there is a large number of people,” he added.

“Poorly stored ammonium nitrate is notorious for explosions — for example in Oppau, Germany; in Galveston Bay, Texas; and more recently at West in Waco, Texas; and Tianjin in China,” Andrea Sella a professor at University College London, told the Science Media Centre.

The Eerie World of North Korean Advertising

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If I’m shot by a poison umbrella dart in an airport, this article will be the reason.

As a sister article to my piece on World War I propaganda in the US, it seems fitting to examine the crowned king of government advertising, North Korea.

Outside of government propaganda, there’s almost no commercial advertising in North Korea. It’s considered capitalist and therefore shunned. However, with loosening restrictions, some ads are popping up in Pyongyang, although they are very controlled, and still ooze propaganda.

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Note the Juche Tower monument in between the fireworks. It represents the self-reliance ideology, invented by North Korea’s founder Kim Il-Sung. (source: pic via Paul-Nikolas Hanz)

Outside of these one-offs, you can travel the entirety of North Korea without seeing a single ad, which produces a very grey tone, particularly against the brutalist architecture:

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Source: Pic via BI

It’s first important to understand the underlying conditions that facilitate this alternate reality. North Korea sits at the very bottom of the press freedom index:

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Soiurce: pic via Reporters without borders

The list is ranked by basic indicators such as transparency, pluralism (The proportion of opinions that are given by journalism versus the state media), and abuse scores (level of abuses towards independent journalists).

One of the primary goals of journalism is to critique and question those in power. It is fundamental to freedom.

Where you see independent journalism declining, you often see a rise of propaganda and other unchallenged media distributed by the government. This is part of the reason that countries at the bottom of the press-freedom index report such low Covid-19 cases — North Korea denying any cases and China claiming only 4000 total deaths, despite being the epicenter of the outbreak.

Propaganda, in its purest form, was practiced by many countries, including the US, during WW1. This “fake news” was viewed as a necessary evil and was demonstrably over-the-top.

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Source: pic via history.com

In the decades that followed, most countries moved their messaging back to a place of (mostly) factual news. North Korea, from 1948 to the present, hasn’t slowed down on the opposite trajectory. You’ll see two key themes:

1. Promote the sacred status of leadership. Portray the public as blessed with their benevolence.

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Source: ABC News

This is propaganda, by definition (non-factual, idealized messaging), because of North Korea’s well-documented poverty. It’s also hard to ignore the fact that the leader is one of the only overweight people in the country.

There is a decent amount of artistic effort in the ads. All models are depicted as attractive and smiling:

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‘Let the whole party, nation and people turn up to yield a good harvest in the first year of the new century.’ Source: CDNI

Godlike status is regularly attributed:

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Source: pic via IMG2

All messaging is designed to keep power with the state, which is solely run by their leader.

2. Depict forces that oppose the government in the worst possible light

At the core of all propaganda, is a need to create an “us versus them” fight. Assign motivations (envy, imperialism) as mechanisms and then depict the foe as monsters.

This will never be more evident than at the Sinchon Museum of American War Atrocities.

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Pic via i.nsider.com

Within it, you’ll find paintings depicting US Soldiers committing acts that never actually happened.

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Source: author via Twitter

It’s a museum that most schools are required to bring students to. It’s rarely shown to outsiders and is intended for internal propaganda, although journalist Travis Treppen was given a private tour:

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pic via The Daily Beast

Literature

Most fictional literature from North Korean libraries will promote the state.

Even romance novels often depict a male and female lead who, despite being beautiful or otherwise attractive, win each other over by making some sort of sacrifice for the state, volunteering for the military or working in the farms.

Every form of media, no exceptions, is required to point fealty back to the leader. Even if it’s dinosaurs — you’d better have a “Thank you to the great leader for giving us dinosaurs!” somewhere in there.


A Sunny, Beautiful Trip to the Hermit Kingdom

North Korea also practices experiential marketing, in effect.

If you were a journalist, you could actually take a trip to Pyongyang. However, you would be accompanied by a minder, who escorts you everywhere you go, carefully guiding you to prop areas of the city, such as eery staged church services:

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Source: pic via Express UK

All of this is designed to promote an image of a North Korea that is less harsh on human rights than they actually are. On occasion, journalists have seen people reading bibles with blank pages.

Minders will stop you from taking lots of photos of certain places. For example, these images are banned captures:

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Source: Pic via Autojosh

Most North Korean streets remain empty (few cars) and local children can be seen playing on them during off-hours. It’s illegal to take pics as it depicts the city as underdeveloped.

Or this image of a family who is shown having access to technology, yet it’s obvious their monitors have no power:

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Source: Pic via Static.bp

This next pic was banned for obvious reasons —the people appearing impoverished:

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Source: pic via News UK

During a visit, you’ll typically be presented with the most polished, healthy people. They’ll be notified that outsiders are in town and be ready for presentation. The people you see in the capital are the top 1% of society and rural areas are mostly off-limits.

The above pic is a grey market, part of an informal economy that North Korea has loosened restrictions on.

Here’s a more nuanced example of a banned photo:

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Source: Pic via News UK

This image was banned because of the sideways hat and the depiction of soldiers in a casual setting. Soldiers can only be shown if they are in proper formation or at attention, primed for the camera.

Everywhere you go in Pyongyang, you’ll see billboards, with the leader pointing the happy, perfect complexioned people, towards a promised land.

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Source: pic via The Guardian

In the ad, note that everyone seems to have a work outfit on and is gainfully and happily employed.

North Korea is flexing its own twisted form of product marketing — show the best features of the product, but not what the product does 99% of the time.


North Korea remains a sobering reminder that, despite our own media industry becoming a circus-like embarrassment, they’re still able to speak truth to power.

The moment we start locking up journalists and treating leaders as sacred from criticism is the moment you should take notice. That door leads to a much darker place.

By Sean Kernan

Microsoft in plans to purchase TikTok operations

So what exactly is happening at the TikTok headquarters?

TikTok a short video streaming platform has gained a worldwide following since its introduction and is known for its comedic short videos; it has also long been thought to be the successor of another widely used, but now extinct short video streaming platform, Vine.

It features users that range from celebrities, digital creators or teenagers dancing, lip syncing and acting out to audio clips. To summarize, the TikTok experience is fun or downright silly at times but informative to those who utilise it that way.

President Trump

In recent days, U.S. president Donald Trump vowed to ban the video-sharing app. 

On Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the president would take action in the coming days against Chinese-owned software that he believes pose a national security risk.

Officials in Washington have become increasingly concerned over time that Americans who use TikTok could risk having their data accessed by the Chinese government due to the app’s Chinese ownership by ByteDance.

TikTok has reportedly denied that any of its operations are being influenced by Beijing.

Microsoft’s involvement 

In a bid to Microsoft said it was looking to purchase the TikTok service in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and would operate the app in these markets.

“Following a conversation between Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and President Donald J. Trump, Microsoft is prepared to continue discussions to explore a purchase of TikTok in the United States,” the tech firm said.

The tech giant also added that it “may” invite other American investors to participate in the purchase “on a minority bases” but added that the discussions were still in its “preliminary” stage. 

It also added among other measures, that all private data of TikTok’s American users is “transferred and remains in the United States”.

According to a story by the Wall Street Journal, TikTok’s U.S operations to Microsoft has been on hold ever since. The sale was close to an agreement until the warning posted out by the U.S president on Friday.

As on Monday, Microsoft said it will move forward with said plans subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States after Nadella’s conversation with Trump.

TikTok users respond

“I think that a lot of people didn’t like Trump before, and this has driven people to not like him even more,”

Fearing what could be the end of their TikTok days, viral and mainstream users across the U.S. began livestreaming and posting videos in tribute to their beloved video platform.

Content ranging from heartfelt goodbyes to persuading their current followings to Instagram and YouTube, it was a rollercoaster of a weekend for many who called the platform their entertainment outlet or even workplace.

The information and entertainment hub is also widely used by Gen Zs and politically-minded young people, it also serves as an educational outlet about issues such as climate change, racism and the Black Lives Matter movement.

As reported by the New York Times, Ellie Zeiler, 16, who has 6.3 million followers on TikTok, said that Mr. Trump’s threat to ban the app may even sway more young people to vote against him.

“I think that a lot of people didn’t like Trump before, and this has driven people to not like him even more,” she said.

TikTok responds

Upon release of the news, TikTok released the following statement in regards to the platform coming under fire.

“Our $1 billion creator fund supports US creators who are building livelihoods from our platform. TikTok US user data is stored in the US, with strict controls on employee access. TikTok’s biggest investors come from the US. We are committed to protecting our users’ privacy and safety as we continue working to bring joy to families and meaningful careers to those who create on our platform.”

On TikTok’s official TikTok account, its US General Manager Vanessa Pappas appeared in a video thanking American users for their support.

“We’re not planning on going anywhere,” Papas said. “When it comes to safety and security, we’re building the safest app because we know it’s the right thing to do … We’re here for the long run. Continue to share your voice here and let’s stand for TikTok.”

How a 28-Year-Old Ended Up Making RM212,775 a Day

Recreate Flappy Bird's flight mechanic | Wireframe #29 - Raspberry Pi

In 2013, Vietnamese game developer Dong Nguyen quietly released a mobile game called Flappy Bird.

It was a simple but extremely addictive app that involved navigating a cartoon bird through a series of neverending obstacles. The objective was to keep the bird afloat as long as possible.

According to Rolling Stone, Nguyen built it over the course of a holiday weekend. It wasn’t his first game, but rather another project in a long line of flops. He didn’t expect this one to be any different, and for a long time, it wasn’t.

Then, one day, fortune struck. For months, Flappy Bird’s small collection of players had been rage-posting their high scores on social media. The game was designed so that all the progress you’ve made can be wiped out with just one wrong move, which made making mistakes especially painful. And when players lost, they turned to Facebook and Twitter to vent, or on rare occasions, celebrate.

Eight months into Flappy Bird’s launch, these passionate social media posts reached critical mass, catapulting the game to viral status. Not “viral” in the casual sense, but viral, as in 50 million-plus downloads and worldwide, chart-topping prestige.

Its success earned Nguyen a jaw-dropping payday. Monetized via in-app ads, Flappy Birds brought in a staggering $50,000 in revenue per day. The most amazing part? Aside from a single social media post announcing its launch, he had spent zero effort on marketing.

This is a true underdog story, especially for someone who came from a poor family, like Nguyen. But if you’re tempted to chalk his success up to luck, you’d only be half right.

The truth is, whether it was conscious or not, Nguyen built Flappy Bird on a foundation that stacked the odds of virality in his favor. Let’s take a look at how.


What Made Flappy Bird Special?

Here are four key takeaways.

1. Simplicity is addictive

In his interview with Rolling Stone, Nguyen traced Flappy Bird’s inspiration to the Nintendo games he played growing up — specifically, their simplicity.

Struck by how complicated modern games were, he set out to build a game that could be played with one hand. The result? To play Flappy Bird, you only needed to do one thing: tap the screen.

This is a lesson that appears over and over again in business. Whether it’s a video game, online store, or consulting service, the key to attracting customers is to make their experience frictionless.

The easier your product is to use, the more customers will want to return to use it again.

2. Free is contagious

Free breeds virality.

The easier it is for users to access your product, the more likely they are to share it with their friends and get them on board. This, in turn, raises your chances of going viral.

In simple terms, Flappy Bird’s free-plus-ads model made it easy to acquire users. Who’s going to say no to downloading that app all your friends are talking about when it costs nothing to check it out?

This is the same model email newsletters use to build massive subscriber bases. Most newsletters gladly send out their editions for free. Once they’ve built an audience, they can monetize through multiple streams, including ads, sponsorships, and premium tiers.

3. Nostalgia sells

Nguyen isn’t shy about the fact that Flappy Bird’s visual design was influenced by the early Nintendo era. But take a step back and you’ll realize it’s much more than just the Super Mario pipes and pixelated graphics.

Really, everything about the game is reminiscent of Nintendo, from its ridiculously simple playing style to its catchy sound effects. These were critical components to its success: in an era where games are built on futuristic graphics and complex gameplay, Flappy Bird succeeded because it fulfilled a desire for the good ol’ days.

According to marketing genius Gary Vaynerchuk, this is the same reason throwbacks like sports cards and Pokemon are making a comeback. Nostalgia is a powerful motivator for consumers and must be taken seriously as a brand strategy.

4. Good products market themselves

Finally, the common thread that ties all of these elements together is that quality is the best form of marketing.

Without a good product, all the marketing tricks in the world won’t help you sell. But make your product the best in the industry and your customers will do your marketing for you.

The fact that Nguyen spent $0 on marketing is exhibit A on why this works. He simply created a superior game, then gave it away. Because it was so sensationally addictive, the product marketed itself.


Epilogue

You may have noticed everything in the first section is worded in the past tense. That’s because Nguyen deleted Flappy Bird several months after it went viral, citing concerns about his family’s privacy, as well as ethical concerns that the game had become too addictive.

(Don’t worry, he’s still making money thanks to those who downloaded it before its demise.)

While some view this as tragic, I think it’s a net win for Nguyen, who no doubt made enough money during the game’s apex to be financially set for life.

Regardless, the real value here is the nuggets of marketing wisdom. One man showed everyone the power of simplicity. In a world filled with increasingly complex technology, that might be exactly the marketing angle your business needs to stand out

Ellen Degeneres’ show investigated for Racism, Mistreatment & Intimidation

Ellen DeGeneres, right, with Dakota Johnson, on an episode of her daytime talk show.
Image via NBC

Ellen Degeneres has recently been caught under the spotlight due to an ongoing internal investigation by Warner Media to review work culture at “The Ellen Degeneres Show”.

The long-time host of her own talk show has built a reputation of being kind, friendly and all in all wholesome. Acts of discrimination and mistreatment isn’t normally what one would associate with the talk show host. However, recent allegations of a reportedly toxic workplace culture has been contradicting what we know about one of America’s richest self-made women. 

According to two people with knowledge of the matter, Warner Bros. Television executives sent a memo to employees last week that shows an outline of the internal investigation in the workplace at “The Ellen Degeneres Show”.

The people also said that WarnerMedia’s employee relations department will conduct interviews with current and former staff members to determine whether the experiences in the program’s workplace were in fact toxic.

Earlier, BuzzFeed news released an article this month which described what it referred to as a “toxic work culture”. Racism, fear and intimidation were one of the few words used by former staff members. 

Black employees also experienced racism in the form of comments such as “I’m sorry, I only know the names of the white people who work here”, specifically from one of the show’s writers.

According to the article, former employees were also fired for taking time off for medical leave and marked most of the blame on three of the show’s executive producers, Ed Gavin, Mary Connelly and Andy Lassner.

In a joint statement to BuzzFeed News, Mr. Glavin, Ms. Connelly and Mr. Lassner said: “For the record, the day to day responsibility of the Ellen show is completely on us. We take all of this very seriously and we realize, as many in the world are learning, that we need to do better, are committed to do better, and we will do better.”

“The Ellen Degeneres Show” is a winner of dozens of Emmys and is currently still in its summer hiatus.

Degeneres renewed her contract last year to continue hosting through 2022. She is also due to be creating three shows for WarnerMedia’s streaming platform, HBO Max.

Comparing e-wallets in Malaysia

E-wallets are starting to become one of the fastest trending payment methods in Malaysia amid the release of e-wallets such as Boost, GrabPay, Maybank E-wallet (MAE) and Touch ‘n Go eWallet just to name a few. With all these e-wallet platforms to choose from, which one should you use and which is the best? We’ve taken all the e-wallets in Malaysia into comparison so that you don’t have to, here is a verdict of the best e-wallets in Malaysia.

1) Maybank E-wallet (MAE)

– The Maybank payment platform serves both Maybank and non-Maybank customers; once registered on either the MAE or Maybank 2U app, users will have their own virtual Visa debit card along with a Maybank account number. 

– The e-wallet is pretty much usable anywhere that supports QR pay and can be topped up using any bank account. 

– MAE has a maximum wallet size of RM4,999.99 and a transaction limit of RM2,999.99.

– One of the more notable features is being able to split bills; just split it in the app and notify your friends via the app of how much they owe. It’s as simple as that!


2) GrabPay

– GrabPay integrates with GrabRewards to ensure points for every Ringgit spent. 

– Users go through the usual registration and can pay for cashless rides, food or shopping and also transfer GrabPay credits as part of its ecosystem. 

– The Grab app also helps wih topping up mobile phone credits for Celcom, Maxis and U Mobile. 

– GrabPay’s partnership with Maybank also allows cross-plaform use between users. 


3) Touch ‘n Go eWallet

– The first of it’s kind in Malaysia, the Touch n’ Go eWallet can be used to pay tolls at participating highways, thus reduced traffic congestion in the central region by 48.2% in 2019. 

– Other than tolls, users can pay for Apple Store and iTunes purchases, street parking, taxi rides and food delivery services.

– KLIA Express and KLIA Transit Tickets can also be purchased through the platform.

– Users can send up to RM5,000 per month to other Touch ‘n Go wallet holders.


4) Wechat Pay

– Malaysia holds the title of being the first foreign country outside of China to have WeChat enabled in a local currency.

– WeChat Pay allows payment through Quick Pay, QR Code, In-App Web-Based, or Native In-App Payments.

– It deals with the issue of cross-border foreign currencies. Users can pay in Chinese yuan but with the transaction being settled in a foreign currency.

– A fun party trick would be also to be able to send virtual money packets to family and friends during holidays such as Chinese New Year and Hari Raya.


5) Boost

– Launched in 2017, it boasts up to 7 million Boosties and is still growing as we speak. – Accepted at over 140,000 physical and online stores, it is recognize as one of the more widely notable competitors as it has partnerships with 17 banks across the country such as CIMB, Hong Leong Bank, RHB Bank and so on. 

– Users can pay for petrol at 800 Shell station countrywide and also pay for parking at Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (DBKL) parking spots. 

– On top of that users can also pay bills for Astro, Syabas and Telekom.


6) Razer Pay

– Debuted in 2018, Razer Pay can be used at over 1,000 online stores.

– Participating banks include AmBank, Bank Islam, CIMB, Maybank and Public Bank,

– It benefits gamers and app streaming services through services such as being able to purchase zGold, MOLPoints, Steam Wallet, Garena, Sony PlayStation, Spotify, iFlix and more.

– Verified accounts are entitled to a transaction limit of RM3,000, and RM48,000 for annual transactions.


What is the difference between an e-wallet, credits cards and debit cards?

With the future seemingly more and more cashless, we have a vast number of options to pay for our dinner, ride to work and also online purchases. So, with all these payment methods in hand, we decided to break it down in this section.


Credit cards

With credit cards, you pay for a service via a borrow now and pay later method. Once you reach the end of every month, you’ll be required to pay the bank at least a partial of the money spent. It’s also important to know to not over use a credit card as it’ll show up on your credit score, which in turn affects you in the long run when renting a room or requesting a loan of any kind.


Debit cards

The way debit cards work is with the direct opposite of credit cards. Instead of paying with borrowed money, purchases are made with money that is in already present in your bank account.


E-wallets

If you have a mobile device, you’re already halfway through the steps of owning an e-wallet. In other words, a digital wallet requires you to add money in it first whether with an actual debit or credit card. It may seem that they functions intertwine at times, but the way they operate is completely different.

All in all, the e-wallet industry is a growing industry and one wouldn’t want to get left behind do they? With the world emphasizing social distancing at times like this, why not try your hand at e-wallets today!

Job hunting during a pandemic

Job searching in the midst of a pandemic

Universities going fully online, countless Zoom meetings, graduation ceremonies where a robot replaces the actual graduate, and a whole new norm of social distancing guidelines. 

5 months ago, we wouldn’t have ever imagined that we would be where we are today and with what is being in place as our reality today, job hunting has become that much more complicating as we’re forced to being in front of a screen 24/7.

The pandemic has slowed down the economy heavily and more people are eventually going into unemployment as of today. 2020 graduates are walking into a job market that may be grimmer than any we’ve seen since the 2008 financial crisis.

So what does this mean for our university graduates who are beaming with hope of landing that first job? Thankfully, we live in an ever so connected world and information on multiple social platforms that are available right at our fingertips.

Here are a few ways that fresh graduates could master the hunt for a job during this mayhem of a year.

1) Have a plan

Firstly, you should know your goals. This doesn’t at all mean to have a plan in place immediately though; use the time at home to your advantage, set a specific time on your calendar to fully focus on certain aspects of job hunting such as networking or updating your resume.


2) Bulk up on connections and professional networking

Building a career network doesn’t necessarily mean to ask for a job, it can be about seeking information from peers or seniors that could offer advice for you and your current situation. Being able to build rapport and a professional connection is an opportunity that comes with asking for help. By doing so, you’ll realise that there are always people out there that are willing to aid you.


3) Build and maintain a digital image

What would employers see when they look you up online? Do you maintain a professional image on Twitter and Instagram? If it’s up online, there are possibilities that somebody would come across it someday. Maintain what is being published in your name, and be mindful of your content and message.


4) Reflect and recreate

With almost all the time in the world, what else can you do? Now is a time better than any for a moment of reflection. Understand what you’re good at and what you might need to improve on. Take a moment to reflect on your past achievements or even small successes that you feel should be noticeable by an employer. Now that you’ve done all that, create content for your resume or recreate content to fit the current circumstances.


5) Pivot

Pivot means to turn or to swing; in terms of finding a job, it means to go with the punches and venturing into career paths that you never thought you will. The pandemic and economy is beyond our control, we can however control what we choose to do. By pivoting, more career paths can be discovered and you’d never know how something you never thought you’ll be capable of doing be the one thing that keeps you going in the next year or so. The job market is limited and you may have to settle for a position that is not what they’ve trained ideally for. On top of that, income isn’t what you expected; don’t be too picky as things aren’t always going to be stay bad forever.


6) Consider a side-gig

When times are hard, it’s always safe to pick up a means of income on the side just to be safe. The opportunities are endless, do your research of the ones that are available in your area. Have a car? Consider providing a ridesharing service. Speak more than one language? Try your hand at teaching or translating. Have too much time to spare? Consider being a waiter or waitress at that nearby café. Take initiative to get yourself out there as you’ll never know if one thing can lead to another.


7) Patience, patience, patience

Rome wasn’t built in a day, be patient and go at your own pace. What’s important is that you have plan in place and to tick off one checkpoint one at a time.

What other ways do you use to navigate the current job market? Share them in the comment section below!

7 Effective Ways to Strengthen Your Small Business During Quarantine

Meeting, Business, Architect, Office, Team, Plan

If you began running your startup pre-pandemic, things might have been looking pretty good for you. However, with the pandemic (and the quarantines that came with it), you most likely felt a wave of panic rush over you.

If you’ve managed to survive thus far, you’re probably well aware that things may never be the same for your business. And you understand the need to think outside the box to strengthen your position in the marketplace and continue your success during these troubling times.

Rest assured there are options to boost your business in any situation. These best practices are more important than ever to poise your business for success and form a loyal customer base in the wake of COVID-19.

1. Get creative with lead generation.

In current times, e-commerce has become the go-to channel for customers. This gives marketers an opportunity to reach a massive customer base through online channels. Brands that don’t get their digital strategies right risk losing out on the lion’s share of customers.

Any smart marketer will tell you it’s not wise to depend on only one source of advertising for lead generation. You may have been able to get away with taking a risk pre-pandemic and may have even been doing very well. But it is certain to be a different story post-pandemic.

For businesses, it’s at least five times more expensive to acquire new customers than retain existing ones. The COVID-19 crisis has created a highly competitive marketplace where every brand is vying for customer attention more than ever, and retaining customers is a clear growth strategy brands should adopt. After all, the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60% to 70%, while the probability of selling to a new customer is 5% to 20%.

As a business owner, you are probably aware of the necessity of a continuous supply of fresh new leads. Diversifying your marketing to different media outlets is a way to protect yourself as we approach this new normal.

2. Rethink your business infrastructure.

Your business model must be streamlined for smooth operation and customer satisfaction. How is your current business model going to function moving forward?

For example, many businesses were strictly opposed to remote working conditions prior to the outbreak of the virus. As the world went into quarantine, businesses were practically forced to give in and experiment with some sort of remote working environment. This environment is likely to remain as quarantines begin to lift.

Ask yourself what has changed in your business due to the pandemic. More importantly, will these changes need to be permanent?

3. Take time to build an audience.

Plenty of businesses and startups are aware of the need to collect leads and follow up on a regular basis. But this is far from what is meant by “build an audience.”

Building an audience is all about engagement, not just following up to make the sale. This strategy was rising in popularity before COVID-19 and has become downright necessary since.

In times of uncertainty, people are more hesitant to spend their money. Building an audience allows you to engage with prospects in a low-pressure environment. You can take time to increase awareness of particular problems in your niche, get vital feedback from prospective clients in real time, and ultimately position yourself and your business as a leader and trusted source.

4. Become a beacon of joyful distraction.

This goes hand in hand with building an audience and generating leads. The nature of quarantine leads to people searching for new ways to be entertained. You can be that source of entertainment.

Obviously, how this looks for your business will depend on your niche. Just remember, the more familiar you are with your customers’ problems and thought processes, the easier it will be to provide them a joyful distraction while increasing your lead generation.

5. Take advantage of low advertising costs.

In the wake of the pandemic, we’ve seen price drops on many things. It’s a normal response for goods and services to come down in price when the average consumer is tightening up their budget.

The good news for startups, especially those looking to up their marketing game, is that paid advertising is one of the services that has seen a decrease in price.  

As far as cost goes, right now really is the best time to advertise. However, you can’t just throw money at an advertising campaign and expect it to work. Increased ad spending does not mean increased results. You still need to be smart about your advertising and carefully plan your message-to-market strategy. Smart marketers are adjusting their messages to better suit the market during this time of quarantine. 

6. Reposition your brand.

Branding is a never-ending process for any business. From the moment you open the doors to decades down the road, your every advertisement, customer interaction and visual image will reflect on your brand.

Branding is essentially a form of marketing in which you seek a uniform message to instill in the minds of the public when they think of your business. It’s up to you to portray that message effectively and consistently.

Take this time of reformation to consider your brand. Most likely, you will require some repositioning, but that could be as simple as redesigning your logo or revisiting your PR and publicity efforts. Just keep in mind as you adjust your marketing and prospect engagement strategies that your branding may also change.

As more small businesses adapt to the digital movement to improve their marketing efforts, giving each customer a personalized experience becomes even more critical. The more people relate to and trust your brand’s digital presence, the better the conversion. Smart startup teams have innovated and even benefited from the situation by offering unique digital experiences to potential buyers. 

Embracing the new social media culture and increasing the variety of digital channels for customer support has enabled companies to maintain their relationships with customers and keep them loyal. Although the current economic crisis may improve eventually, you should still be aware of the changes it has sparked in customer psychology, purchasing preferences and general behavior. With digital adoption on the rise, small businesses must harness the potential of digital channels and increase it with the latest customer engagement strategies.

7. Reorganize business capital.

With all these potential changes to consider for your startup during these times, your finances will play a foundational role in implementation. Whether you are looking to raise capital through crowdsourcing (such as Kickstarter or GoFundMe) or seeking more traditional means, such as venture capital or a small business loan, it will require some serious thought.

You need to make responsible financial decisions in any business climate, of course. But during this time of COVID-19, it’s critical to allocate your funding to the proper resources to ensure the longevity of your company.

World’s first Coca-Cola café now calls Malaysia home

Image via ChekSern Young

An American diner? A café? A movie theatre? Malaysia’s very own Coca-Cola café now offers all that in their brand-new location in Johor Bahru.

Located inside TGV Cinemas at Toppen Shopping Centre, the Coke-themed café which is also the first of its kind, is all dressed up in the signature red donned by every Coke bottle and is definitely an eye-catching element.

Image via Inside Retail Asia

Upon entering the café, you are welcomed into a diner that features reminiscence of the 1950s. One can’t help but be reminded of the diners seen in movies such as “Back to the Future” and “Pulp Fiction”. Other than that, precious Coca-Cola mementos and a Coke-themed jukebox makes the interior that much more aesthetic and vibrant.

Image via Inside Retail Asia

Coke beverages, popcorn, chocolate and confectionaries for the movie-goers and also Cold Stone Creamery ice cream for RM6.90 a scoop, it’s all one would need for a movie night out or just a night out in general.

Image via Inside Retail Asia

A “powerzone” is also available to use for patrons who need a charging port or power plugs for their mobile devices. Did we mention that the location also offers high-speed Wi-Fi?

The café is open from 10am to 10pm daily and visitors can get there by simply entering the Toppen Shopping Centre and then heading to TGV Cinemas. 

At the sight of a bar with a hanging Coca-Cola sign is where you’ll realize that you’re there.

Address:
L.301, TGV Cinemas, Toppen Shopping Centre, 
No. 33, Jalan Harmonium, 
Taman Desa Tebrau, 
81100 Johor Bahru, 

Why Sugu Pavithra’s YouTube videos are all deleted

Sugu Pavithra’s updated YouTube channel as of July 27th.

The famed husband and wife cooking duo, Sugu Pavithra, who have been viral since the movement control order (MCO) period has had all their YouTube videos deleted.

Referencing personal factors in an interview with Bernama, M.Sugu, 29, the husband of S. Pavithra, 28, said that he was the one who deleted all the videos after the series of events that unfolded in the past few days.

A spokesperson for the couple has since took to social media to release the following statement regarding the deletion of the videos:

Hi, the couple (Sugu and Pavithra) would like to take some time off and focus on their personal life and hence, they would not be proceeding with any brand engagement for few weeks now.”

The silver play button is gifted by YouTube to channels with more than 100,000 subscribers.

The channel boasts a following of 800,000 subscribers and were well on their way to clinching the Gold Play button by, a YouTube creator award given to every channel with 1,000,000 subscribers, but that may not happen anytime soon as the channel has now been emptied out.

Before this, it had featured up to 100 videos of cooking instructions and demonstrations; other than that, it also gave viewers a glimpse into the wholesome lifestyle of the Ipoh couple.

Ever since news of Pavithra having bruises on her lips, left cheek and right arm was widely shared around on social media, netizens had called foul play.

It was later revealed that life behind the camera hasn’t been as wholesome as the front of the camera. The YouTube sensation’s bruises and scars came from being allegedly slap in the face several times until she bled and also hit by a sickle by her husband.

Apparently Sugu resented against Pavithra for not crediting him during her Ipoh City Icon award event.

“The argument continued the next day where the man wanted to go to the hospital to find the wife’s sister. The man who was under the influence of alcohol had called up the wife’s sister to meet her but to no avail. This led the man hitting his wife,” an insider told Hype.my.

Pavithra has been called an inspiration by many Malaysians, she uses a cup as a phone holder to record her videos and also have been widely recognized as having a humble approach. News of her being on the receiving end of physical abuse did not sit well with many of her viewers as many had then urge Pavithra to leave Sugu.

Sugu being taken to court.

Sugu was arrested on the 22nd of July following the allegations.

He was also charged at the Sessions Court with unlawful possession of a sickle at the Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun’s parking compound on July 21 and also with hitting his wife.

Pavithra said that among all the complications, she’d had chosen to forgive her husband and to put this whole episode behind them.

The couple had to undergo a rollercoaster of events under the eyes of national media earlier due to their fame; from receiving praises by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and celebrity chef Redzuawan Ismail, known as Chef Wan, to the unearthing of the presence of Pavithra on the receiving end of abuse.

Although, their famed YouTube success has drastically increased their household income, with earnings up to 8,700 ringgit (US$2,000) a month, life seemed good when compared with Sugu’s previous monthly income of about 1,000 ringgit as a plantation worker.

The couple had plans to open a restaurant next year, those plans are now unsure as their means of income from YouTube has been forfeited. 

“But that is okay, because I have hands, feet, to look for a job. Even before this, I earned money by working,” Sugu said.

On the bright side, the channel would not be staying without content for long as Sugu said that he expects their latest video to be uploaded on YouTube once discussions with various parties are finalised.

After posting bail for him, Pavithra said they wanted to live normally and just want to focus on their YouTube channel.