BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Brunei Shell Petroleum (BSP) on Tuesday awarded eight local startups $140,000 in interest-free loans to help kickstart their business growth.

This is the second disbursement under the energy firm’s LiveWIRE Business Awards Startup Funding Scheme (BASfs), which aims to support entrepreneurship and employment by providing seed capital to fledgling companies.

The eight recipients were: GoodDeal Employment Agency, Sif Publication, Santai-Santai Shooting Kafe and Grill, Norbayu Enterprise, U Nos K2 Enterprise, Syarikat Al Rashid, Perusahaan Zulianamasnawi, and Hyren Agrotex Global Success Enterprise.

The interest-free loans given to each company range from a minimum of $5,000 and go up to $30,000, which is payable within a 36-month flexible term.

Group photo of the representatives from LiveWIRE, BIBD and recipients of the LiveWIRE Business Awards Start-up Funding Scheme (BASfs) at the signing ceremony held at BIBD, Bandar Seri Begawan on January 15, 2019. Photo: Hazimul Harun/The Scoop

Hjh Rosita Hj Hassan, the In-Country Value manager of BSP and chairperson of LiveWIRE board of directors, said the judges  — comprised of personnel from LiveWIRE, BSP, Brunei Shell Marketing and Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam — saw improvements in the business ideas pitched during the second cycle of BASfs.

“The business ideas are bold yet very thoughtful, with everyone offering unique value proposition for their customers,” she said at an event held at the BIBD headquarters in Bandar.

“All of them have their own stories to tell about their businesses and why most of these begin with trying to solve real problems, which I find inspiring.”

This year’s disbursement also saw funding awarded to a group of young rice farmers, supporting the government’s drive to develop the agriculture sector.

“We are grateful to be given this opportunity to support them. [It is] an opportunity to raise the status of the farming profession as a lucrative career choice with a rewarding income,” Hjh Rosita said.

Guests attending the LiveWIRE Business Awards Startup Funding Scheme signing ceremony at BIBD, Bandar Seri Begawan on Jan 15, 2019. Photo: Hazimul Harun/The Scoop

She added that the company, Hyren Agrotex Global Success Enterprise, will be given mentors in the agriculture sector as well as business management.

“Our aim is to see them become successful farmers and entrepreneurs, not just in rice production but also in services related to rice production.”

The BSP official said the company has adopted an “In Country Value” approach, which aims to boost local employment and increase spending in the country.

“We believe by creating more Bruneian businesses that employ locals, it will stimulate this growth. Success will depend on collaborative efforts from all parties especially from local SMEs to put Brunei and Bruneians as their first priority.”

Hairinshah Hj Tahirudin of Hyren Agrotex Global Success Enterprise, a recipient of the BASfs in an interview with The Scoop.
Photo: Hazimul Harun/The Scoop

Hairinshah Hj Tahirudin, manager of Hyren Agrotex Global Success Enterprise, started rice farming through the youth paddy project, where a group of young people were given a plot of land to farm in Kg Bebuloh.

“Alongside four other youths, we have been rice farming since 2015 through a youth paddy project,” he said. “It was a success and fueled our spirits to run our own paddy business. The funds will definitely help us a lot and we hope to contribute back to the country.”

Another recipient under the LiveWIRE scheme is Norbayu Enterprise, an online grocery store pitched by husband-and-wife duo Norbayu Abd Wahab and Zaini Hj Othman.

“We live at Tanah Jambu housing scheme, where it’s quite far from shops or convenience stores. If we forget something, we have to make such a long trip to get items,” said Zaini.

“That’s where we got the idea to start this business. We wanted to make it easier not just for us, but our neighbours and customers to have groceries delivered to their doorstep without any fuss.”

One of the recipients of the LiveWIRE BASfs, Zaini bin Hj Othman of Norbayu Enterprise, in an interview with The Scoop. Photo: Hazimul Harun/The Scoop

Zaini said they started doing trial runs last year to see if the business was feasible.

“We saw how workable it was, and along with the encouraging responses, we knew we had to apply for the funds and expand the business… If everything goes well, we’ll be able to start in February.”

LiveWIRE Brunei is an enterprise development programme created by BSP in 2001, running training and workshops to support entrepreneurship and sustainable economic development.

To vie for funding, startups need to have attended LiveWIRE’s business programmes to be eligible to enter the LiveWIRE Brunei Business Awards.

To date, BSP had invested $300,000 in the startup funding scheme, with plans to hold the BASFS competition twice a year.