By Kuah Guan Oo
Pic by Noor Azreen Awang
SERDANG, 9 Sept (UPM) – She is a Petroleum Chemistry student but Nor Aslinda bt Abdul Rahman proves that she is equally adept in the business world as she triumphed in a competition by Procter & Gamble, a giant American multi-national manufacturer of a wide range of consumer products.
So, how did a science student get involved in a business competition organised by one of the world’s largest maker of products ranging from cosmetics, cleaning detergents, pharmaceuticals and diapers?
First, she said, she came to know of the contest through Assoc. Prof Dr Zulhamri Abdullah, the Director of the UPM Centre for Entrepreneurial Development and Graduate Marketability (CEM) who also teaches a compulsory basic entrepreneurship course to all UPM undergraduates.
She then signed up for the contest, the ASEAN Business Challenge (ABC) 2013 organised last March by Procter and Gamble (commonly known as P & G) with CEM, the 5th collaboration in as many years of the two parties.
With more than 100 other UPM students, she attended a career talk by P&G on the morning of 18 March 2013 at the UPM campus before sitting for a written as well as an online test by the company to select the candidates for the ABC challenge.
The shortlisted students were interviewed at the P&G headquarters here and of the few; Aslinda emerged as the best UPM candidate for the final show-down at a leading hotel in Petaling Jaya.
With the other successful candidates from other universities, Aslinda found herself in one of the three groups of five students for the ABC contest from 10-13 April 2013.
Her team-mates were from Monash University, Nottingham University, Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) and the Brickfields Asia College, while the others were from universities like Universiti Malaya.
Apart from the four days and three nights of intensive briefings and tests by P&G personnel, the contestants were given RM1,000 to buy Downy, a softener produced by P&G, to sell like a trader. They would use up to RM100 of the seed money to buy props and the like.
This challenge had Aslinda and her team-mates packing Downys in different combos and minis packages and standing in line at a supermarket in Selayang to sell the household products directly to consumers.
“We finished selling all our products in 4 hours at Mydin in Selayang!” said Aslinda as she recounted her experience at the interview.
She was now sweating even more, having come directly for the interview after the morning of training in softball, where she would represent UPM at the Malaysian universities games (Massum) starting 25 August 2013.
The attending lass who had studied at the Federal Islamic Secondary School in Kajang before high school at the Melaka Matriculation College, said the cream of the competition was to come when her team was trooped to Singapore for the Singapore Amazing Race.
With other top teams from Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia, their tasks, among other things, were to provide ideas to P & G on how to recruit new talent from Generation Y.
Aslinda and her team came out top in the Singapore Amazing Race where they had to perform six tasks and explore Singapore with a budget of only S$75. What made the victory particularly sweet for the Batu Pahat lass is that it is the first time that the Malaysian team had emerged champs, the first time in five years.
Asked how she could cope with the business challenge when she is a science student, she said with a laugh, “It is all about attracting customers!”
The eldest of five siblings, Aslinda said business is probably in her blood as her father is a furniture-maker, while her mother is in the food catering business.
As she sat astride her motorbike to get back to the softball pitch, she made me wonder whether there was something special about the P & G tests and questionnaires that can discern the hidden talent and business persona of Aslinda.
She is different and she can fit into any corporate world, somewhat akin to a raw gem waiting to be polished by time and experience.
Dr Zulhamri said one of their students was also a finalist in the contest last year and she is now employed by P & G.
The collaboration with P & G, he said, is part of their industry-tagging programme of UPM where they proactively engaged the industry to find out their staff or human resource requirement so that they can design and tailor their courses to meet the employers’ requirement.
“The target of CEM is to have 10% of our students occupying the top management and decision-making positions of big corporations,” he said. – UPM
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