It is hard to believe that Pg Md Syahreen Pg Hj Metassan, better known as Alin, never intended to run the Kurapak blog — he is in fact, an accidental blogger.
What isn’t accidental, however, is his knack for understanding demographics and his keen marketing and branding sense. Beneath his happy-go-lucky facade is a man driven and disciplined by ambition.
“My dad, who is an established local writer, wanted to start his own blog in 2006. He asked me to help him start one. So, I chose the name ‘Kurapak’ which means to talk, in Brunei Malay. The word kurapak really suits him, he loves to talk and tell stories,” Alin recalls.
He was so proud of his dad taking to cyberspace to express his creativity, Alin told all his friends to follow the blog. It lasted a week.
“I told everyone I knew about my dad’s blog, then he stopped blogging. ‘Why did you stop?’ I asked him. He can’t stop now that I’ve already told everyone about it.”
As it happened, his dad grew tired of blogging and told Alin to take over. He was reluctant.
The 37-year-old’s main concern was language. Unlike his father, he isn’t proficient in Malay. His English, he laughs, isn’t any better. How could he blog?
“My dad was persistent. He said to just use the language I converse with everyday – casual and relatable to the rest of the country. So I presented myself on the blog.”
DOING THINGS HIS WAY
Over the years, the Kurapak blog has gone through a few transformations — each time successfully rebranded and re-marketed.
When he first took over from his dad, he already knew how he was going to entice readers. His plan was to touch base with the everyday Bruneian. The Bruneians who attend wedding functions on Sundays. The Bruneians who catch up with their friends over a glass of 80-cent kopi-O.
He knew what he wanted. He was realistic about his limitations, and most importantly, he understood his readers.
“When I started in 2006, I was the underdog of Brunei’s small blogging community. But we all have to start somewhere,” Alin says in jest.
While others blogged about current affairs and the latest trends in Brunei, he set himself apart by picking up jokes he heard at functions, cafes and kopitiam.
Alin’s vision back then was to be a blog site people go to for a dose of happiness — something lighthearted.
“I was the only one who blogged using conversational language. Sometimes in English, mostly in Brunei Malay. Grammar isn’t my strongest suit,” the web developer cum graphic designer says.
THE HARD WORK TO GET RECOGNITION
The very same year he started embodying Kurapak, he heard about a blogging competition hosted by one of the telcos in Brunei. “I was a fresh graduate who could use with the prize money. So I joined.”
Despite being a newcomer, he won best local content that year.
Driven by this recognition and the ambition to take his blog to new heights, Alin tried his best to give his readers more of what they want. He put in extra effort to connect and interact with them — something he still does until this day.
“Criticism doesn’t get to me. I thrive on it, I use it to make myself better. I always thank my readers for their input and I try my best to answer all the direct messages, emails, phone messages I get.”
This can be upwards of 50 messages every single day — definitely a time consuming task.
In 2008, the same telecommunications company held a similar competition. He joined again and his discipline and hard work paid off when he won Blog of The Year.
“My resources was limited, so to promote my blog for the competition, I designed flyers to be distributed. I identified a few locations where I knew most of my audience frequented and paid students to help hand out the flyers. It was old-fashioned marketing,” he says.
With his blog’s new-found title, came new territory: corporate clients.
“Companies started calling me to cover events, to buy advertising space. It was time to change how I presented my blog to accommodate these requests.”
BUMPS AND HICCUPS ALONG THE WAY
Not everyone was happy with him: he was told off for not using proper Malay or proper English. There were also people who assumed he was blogging during office hours — this got to him the most.
“I’m not like that. I work diligently and honestly, it’s my principle. When people came up to me to ask if I was busy maintaining my blog during office hours, I had to explain and show them how I schedule for my posts to be updated automatically at certain times.”
Alin would choose certain times of the day — 10am and 3pm — which he believes are peak hours for people to surf online. He prepared the material after office hours for automatic release the next day.
Eventually, he became demotivated as he did not want people to think he was using time at work to benefit his blog. This led to the shutdown of Kurapak.com in 2010 after which he took to Instagram instead to showcase his photography and graphic designing work.
“Instagram was still fairly new and not many people followed me. But I kept building my presence as I wanted to rebrand myself as a lifestyle blogger through my photography and the things I enjoy doing, like backpacking and traveling in general.”
RISING FROM THE ASHES
“If in the beginning people found me annoying, I think they have now accepted my style,” the father-of-two laughs
After much contemplation, Alin quit his job in September 2016 to focus on his Kurapak brand and to market himself as a lifestyle and travel blogger.
It was time for another transformation.
He recently revived his blogger status by starting the Kurapak.co website. Alin also took in a few younger bloggers to train under him, including his “sidekick”, Khaliq Roziman. This, he says, is all part of his expansion plans.
With the help of his partner, Alin is now trying his hand at photography and videography for corporate clients and has reintroduced his advertising rates on his social media. To succeed in this career change, Alin knows he has to better himself in order to improve the outcome of his products and services.
“I am a more versatile blogger now. I now understand that if I change how I live my life, everything will change too. It depends on what you want to prioritise.”
Alin is a dedicated entrepreneur who insists on giving his best. And he is just as committed to his clients. Although not required of him, the blogger provides his clients with a post-mortem report for each advertising material posted on his social media.
“It’s a value-added thing. I don’t want to just be taking my clients’ money, I want my service to be worth their investment. So, I make it a point to follow up by providing stats, to show them how many new followers they get (on their social media) during the advertising period, how many enquiries I get for that promotion and things like that,” he explains.
For each advertising client he takes on, Alin sets himself a goal. He cited At-Taqwa Travel Tours who hired his services to create awareness for their Umrah packages.
“When I agreed to the project, I told myself that I must get them at least 1,000 new followers on Instagram. Alhamdulillah, I exceeded that target when they received 2,000 new followers.”
Behind the mask he puts on as the jovial blogger Brunei has come to love, Alin is a meticulous planner and a master marketer. Although some people may not be able to take him seriously, he definitely seems to know what he is doing and where he is going.