The encouragement and opportunities provided by lecturers at the Faculty of Science and Technology (FST), encouraged Alumni of Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (USIM), Muhammad Zahaby Zainuddin, 28, to create more success in his areas of interest, which are research and product development. The winner of the Reality Program Rural Business Challenge (RBC) Mencari CEO Desa that aired on channel TV3 recently did not expect how his participation, which was originally driven by a feeling of ‘trying out’ managed to impress the jury for the Business Idea Category. By putting forth a Liquid Water Enhancer product aptly named H2GO, he succeeded in bringing home RM 100,000 in cash and a trophy.

Zahaby, who graduated in 2013, began studying as a Tamhidi student of the 2008 admission session, before he pursued a Bachelor’s degree of Food Biotechnology in 2009 and is now serving as a “Process Technologist”. He, who recently completed the Impact Driven Enterprise Accelerator Programme 2018 at the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC), has been accredited as an Impact Driven Enterprise. Follow the conversation summary provided.

Q1 What sparked your interest in research until it achieved the success it is now?

During my studies back in FST, the lecturers actively sent students to various research and innovation competitions, as well as encouraged the creation of research journals. I took that opportunity to cultivate a more profound interest. It started with the first product I created with my team, which is a multi-purpose flour based on jackfruit (MultiFlex Jackfruit Flour). From there, I also had the opportunity to explore other branches of knowledge, including the halal industry, food analysis and product development.

Under the Food Biotechnology Programme, I started my career in various industries, including the industry of palm oil products, beverage products and consumer products in the processing department. From that experience, I had the opportunity to explore the field of product development, especially liquid-based products, which in turn helped in the production of H2GO. At the same time, I am trying to enter entrepreneurship through Beverage Product Innovation by setting up Water House.

This industry is quite interesting because the development of this product is closely related to food technology since this field mainly deals with the use of ingredients, and the ways of processing, which include packaging technology that is important and needs to be investigated, even though it receives less attention.

Q2 Describe your experience being involved in the Reality Programme RBC Mencari CEO Desa.

Originally, I just wanted to take my chance with it because of the opportunity to increase the research and development funds for the product that I was working on while working in the industry. At that time, research funds was borne by myself as it was my personal project for the long term. Initially, the programme was designed to run in-house but later became a reality programme to be aired on television.

Alhamdulillah, through the first pitching session I was shortlisted among the finalists for the Business Idea Category. During the five months period of the contest, participants were given business-related classes including online business development, marketing, website, finance and weekly theme testing. We also were required to undergo individual testing in terms of business development, product or service development as well as to engage in pitching sessions at government agencies and ministries in certain weeks.

Q3 How did the H2GO product came to be?

From my experience working in the industry as well as interest in product research and development, I was exposed to the creation of new products. One of the ideas is the new category of beverages that has yet to gain traction in Malaysia, which is Liquid Water Enhancer that I have actually started since December 2015, and the development of this idea took place periodically. Currently, H2GO is still undergoing improvement from time to time.

I admit that this H2GO is one of the most difficult product developments that I have ever made throughout being involved in the industry. This is because this product is not widely produced in Asia as compared to developed countries such as in America and Europe. H2GO also introduces a cleaner and safer new packing technology, which is rarely used in Malaysia but has been widely used in other developed countries.

This is the challenge. However, I believe that without the latest food technology, new product development is not possible and products such as Liquid Water Enhancer could not be marketed. Finally, innovation of better products will not be conveyed to the users.

Q4 Please share the functions and ways of using H2GO.

H2GO is a functional beverage used to provide taste and flavour to water including mineral water. Its purpose is to encourage consumers to drink more mineral water than sugary drinks and to replace 3 in 1 sachets and cordial syrups.

It is worth noting that this pocket-sized H2GO makes it easy to carry anywhere. Its method of use is also easy. The user only has to squeeze a few drops of it into mineral water and shake lightly to get just the right taste.

Q5 Share some words of motivation for the young ones who are still studying.

I would like to remind you to fully benefit from the space and opportunities available at the university. Always prepare yourself with the skill sets that can be acquired through the learning process in the classroom, learning programmes, activities of clubs and associations, competitions, research activities and by inculcating interest in trying something new before entering the industry as a career.

For me, the first five years in the industry was a period of learning and exploring new knowledge. During this period of study, you need to build up focus on your own interests or tendencies. Pick up as much experience as possible and benefit from the learned knowledge, so that once you are in the industry you can develop the ability and creativity to produce quality products that have their own competitive advantages.