SAYS Malaysia recently uploaded a video of Muhd Alatas who was living off of 3 Malaysian ringgit (67¢) a day before eventually starting his own business.
The social news site sat the 34-year-old Alatas down for an interview to talk about his hardships, which started at a young age.
Born into a poor, working class family in a rural village in Sagan, Alatas had to quit school at the age of 14.
“My parents got divorced when I was really young and my dad moved back to Johor. So, it was my mother who single-handedly took care of me and my two other siblings,” he said.
The second of three children, Alatas described how difficult it was to live on very little money with an older and younger sister under the same roof.
Their mother worked odd jobs, including working in a wood factory, every day to put her children through school, but stopped after a few years.
“My mother came back home from work one day, tired and beaten. She sat us down and told us that one of us will have to quit school,” he said, in tears.
Heart broken, Alatas gave his family’s situation much thought and told his mother about quitting school, where he had just finished Form 2 (eighth grade) with great success.
“They are girls, we lived in a village and there was no job that was appropriate for them,” he said of his sisters. “I realized that it came down to me to take care of my family.”
Alatas, 15 years old at the time, had no prior experience and he ended up enduring odd jobs that paid peanuts.
One job required him to get to work by swimming in a crocodile-infested river.
Alatas managed to keep his sisters in school for a few years before moving to Kuala Lumpur for more job opportunities, but it wasn’t easy.
He worked part-time as a promoter and sent a majority of his earnings to his family, leaving him with RM 10 ($2.24) per day.
Alatas used RM 7 ($1.57) of that for his daily commute to work from Gombak District to the Mid Valley KTM station, leaving him with with RM 3 (67¢).
He was determined to save at least RM 1 (22¢) a day and only consume a packet of Maggi noodles and a bottle of water, saving him a total of RM 30 ($6.72) a month.
Alatas moved out of his friends’ apartment where he was staying for a while after he couldn’t afford the rent and ended up living under an overpass near Simpang Tiga, Batu Caves, for six to eight months.
But he wasn’t alone.
“I wanted to do more, to progress in life and the odd jobs I was doing wasn’t going to cut it. So, I spoke to my friend and asked him if we could open up a small food stall. He agreed and we combined our savings and bought some basic kitchen appliances to set up the stall,” Alatas explained.
He eventually applied for a business license at the Kuala Lumpur City Hall with some of the money he made from the food stall.
Using skills that he picked over the years working in different industries including fashion and interior designing, woodwork, furniture designing, construction, event planning and mechanics, Alatas started his own business.
Remarkably, he learned some of these skills from Google and by watching YouTube videos.
“Knowledge is everywhere, you just need to seek it and be open to it. I watch YouTube videos to learn more about creating things. They are so useful and helpful. You can pretty much learn anything from YouTube — there are videos for everything,” he said.
Alatas put blood, sweat and tears into his first major business deal, earning him RM 30,000 ($6,722) and a chance to organize a Hari Raya party for a prominent businessman.
Alatas owes all of his success to the most important person in his life — his mother.
“If we want to lead a comfortable life, it is totally possible. We may not be able to match up to other people’s wealth and riches, but having a good life is not impossible if we work hard enough and with honesty,” he said.