When you meet business partners Mohammad Gaddafy Haji Shadoon and Hafizal Hassan, you would think that they were childhood friends.
There is a sense of solidarity that surrounds the conversations between both men, like a camaraderie that was built through years of friendship and trust, and it is almost visible as they banter and quip at each other with ease.
The business duo, however, has only known each other for two years, after crossing paths during the first Brunei Young Leaders Convention (BYLC) in 2018.
Mohammad Gaddafy – radio DJ, host and personality known locally and internationally as DJ Daffy – was a speaker, while Hafizal was a sponsor of the event, representing on behalf of his flagship business, Brunei Beanbag.
Daffy chuckled as he reminisced about the first time meeting and interacting with his future business partner, Hafizal, asking the latter if he would sponsor the local personality a bean bag.
“My first reaction was to ask who he was because I thought; regardless of who a person is, they must add value, especially to ask for a sponsorship,” said Hafizal.
Fast forward a couple of years, the entrepreneurial duo are now owners of three different businesses which produce; the cockroach-killing Roach Out, the anti-bacterial and anti-fungal spray Bact Off as well as the flavoured reverse osmosis water, Duff VitC.
The dynamic duo; how they met
“A few days later, however, Hafizal actually came to my house with a bean bag in tow, and then we just talked; about business,” Daffy explained.
When Daffy and Hafizal met for the second time, there were gears already turning in Hafizal’s head, about starting a business and wanting to find a partner to start it with; an international partner to be exact.
The discussion between the two however led to the idea that an international partner may not be the best way to move forward, after taking into consideration how the risks may overweigh the reward.
“So I suggested the idea, that may be both of us can become business partners,” said Daffy, thinking Hafizal’s background as a lecturer at the IBTE Business Campus combined with his experiences as a popular personality, could actually amount to something.
The birth of a product
The first product the two developed was actually Roach Out, an anti-insect spray, mostly marketed for car owners to rid their vehicles of any pesky cockroaches.
Out of the two, Hafizal takes on the mantle of a product developer, always churning out ideas for new products to be introduced, and Roach Out seemed like the perfect solution to put an end to a common woe faced by the average Bruneian driver.
“There was a similar product that went viral in one of our neighbouring countries, we wanted to bring that in, but the ingredients proved to be harmful to humans, and that was not made transparent,” said Hafizal.
This unexpectedly put a wrench in their plans, but Daffy was confident that the pair could come up with a better and safer product, which then began the journey of formulating the now popular cockroach killing spray, Roach Out.
Formulation of the product was in the sultanate, however, the manufacturing is done by a manufacturing company in China, revealed Hafizal, with the manufacturer sending samples back for the business partners to test out.
“It took a year for the product to be ready for distribution. It was a long process and there were quite a few failures. We actually bought a batch of cockroaches just to test out the different samples,” he added.
Fortunately, the product found its market quickly upon release in 2019, with a buyer from Malaysia ordering 500 cartons (12,000 cans) of Roach Out when it initially came out, with another 250 cartons (6,000) reserved for the Bruneian market.
“It (Roach Out) has now become a household product used by a great number of Bruneians, and for a good while at the start, the product actually became a viral hit, because the concept was so new back then,” added Hafizal.
Taking the plunge into Duff VitC
Buoyed by the success of Roach Out, both Daffy and Hafizal were galvanised into exploring other possible products to bring to the market, ones that not only would do well in the local market but also outside of Brunei.
One of the products that came to fruition out of this desire was Duff VitC, flavoured reverse osmosis water infused with Vitamin C; the idea of course came from Hafizal, but Daffy was a bit skeptic about it.
While Hafizal takes on the role of a product developer, Daffy on the other hand is the one handling the sales, distribution and marketing strategies of their products, leveraging on his years of experience in media marketing as a beloved local personality.
Manufactured in Brunei, Duff VitC seemed like an easier hill to climb, however, the hurdle did not come during the process of the product, but it came with the selling as the entrepreneurial duo had set an initial target of selling 2,000 cartons (48,000 bottles) within two years.
The two were understandably nervous however, where Hafizal is the pragmatic one, often worrying about whether things will go well or not, Daffy is notably the opposite; being the more boisterous and daring of the two.
When Duff VitC launched three months ago, a stock that was meant for two years flew off the shelves in a matter of days, thanks to the strategies employed by Daffy, particularly the affordable price point as well as his own namesake on the product itself.
Roughly about 420 bottles of Duff VitC are made in a day however, according to Daffy, that only accounts for about 35 per cent of the demand. The duo is actually struggling to meet the local demand.
“It’s a good problem to have honestly, but that poses a new issue, how do we meet the demand, while maintaining our quality,” he added.
“I guess it is still worth it, because we have seen how the in-store product placement of Duff VitC has evolved since its launch, now it’s on par with Volvic, which is an international brand at local supermarkets, that is awesome,” he continued.
The business duo seemed to be moving from one hit to another, with each new product, which has given both Daffy and Hafizal the confidence to do more, to create more business ventures, whether individually or as partners.
Both Roach Out and Duff VitC currently have new iterations with more coming in the pipeline, but the two seem to be content in exploring their own business ventures for the time being.
Their partnership, however, has become a highlight for both Daffy and Hafizal’s entrepreneurial journeys, as the successes they have achieved were not just between two business partners, but between two unlikely friends.
“When we’re together, we challenge ourselves as much as we challenge each other, which often pumps us up to look into the next venture,” said Hafizal.
“I always try to challenge myself every day but when I met Hafizal, it has become a different story, he challenges me more in terms of what I’m capable of doing, and the things that we’ve achieved just this year has been crazy,” said Daffy.
The Bruneian | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN