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Afiq Iskandar, founder of Tarik Jeans



Afiq Iskandar is the founder of Tarik Jeans. Born in Kedah and growing up in Penang, Malaysia, music has always been an essential component of Afiq’s life. His passion for music led him to attempt to pursue a career in music, at the same time, it also naturally led Afiq to explore and develop many of his creative talents in other fields. Whilst in the 2nd year of college, Afiq began to toy with the possibility of creating his own designer brand when he created a t-shirt brand. The seed for Tarik Jeans was properly sown after a personal trip to a tailor in Bandung, in which Afiq was attempting to make a pair of jeans for himself. The tailor informed Afiq that he would get a discount if he ordered more pairs which Afiq ended up doing after borrowing money from his father. Since then, his brand has really grown exponentially becoming the eminent Malaysian denim brand that it is today.

Today, Afiq talks to the Asian Entrepreneur about Tarik Jeans; sharing with us some of his experiences as a self-starter.

What is Tarik Jeans all about and why does it matter?

Tarik jeans is a Malaysian denim brand that celebrates the rich cultural diversity we have here in the country. We are a brand with a philosophy to hopefully groom the youths today for a better tomorrow. The brand is constantly looking out for talented local designers, artist and musicians to collaborate with. We hope to share the amazing work of these local talents through fashion for every Malaysian to embrace. Moreover, denims has always been the face of freedom. In my opinion, we at Tarik are well aligned with that. This denim is made to be worn by everyone regardless of race, creed, politicalaffiliation, sexual proclivity, music preference, and anything else designed to divide us. More than just a denim label, Tarik is an advocate of Malaysian pop culture and art. We are the vanguard of the progressive youth.

Why did you create Tarik Jeans?

Before Tarik, it was very hard for us to be able to obtain a decent piece of clothing from a local brand. The only selling point that local brands had at that was the fact that they were local and nothing beyond that. There were a lot of brands but none really paid attention to the quality in terms of the design to the choice of garment which was very frustrating to me because I really want to wear something local. At that stage, it was a very obvious void that needed to be filled.


How was it like starting up Tarik Jeans?

I’ll be lying if I told you that it was all smooth sailing since day 1. We faced challenges from
almost every single aspect of a business. It raises a lot of questions, things like, whether people would buy a pair of jeans from us. How Tarik will be positioning ourselves in the market? What kind of message do we want to convey? Ultimately, I guess I would say, Malaysians are generally still very much looking at prominent international brands despite the steep price, and we hope to change that perception.

How did you tackle some of these issues?

It has been tough because I was handling most of the initial setup on my own with very little knowledge of the fashion and retail industry. I reached out to my close friends and got some help from them at what they do best. Together, with all our professional skill sets combined, we are now better established and will continue to define the denim culture in Malaysia. Aside from myself, I had particular help from Nicholas Yoon, who is our General Manager, Alif Ridzuan, who is our Creative Director and Teo Choong Ching, who is our Chief Designer.

Tell us about the local fashion industry in Malaysia.

I think it’s very healthy. We see a lot of brands nowadays and I think it’s a healthy sign. It’s a challenge for us as the market is getting pretty saturated but I think we can manage. The growth has been very positive and the audience are growing. It has the potential to grow bigger, so for those whom aspire to venture into this industry can seriously consider this as a career choice and parents should be cool with it.

Do you think local brands face more challenges compared to those in the West?

Honestly, I don’t think so. In my opinion, the competition is fierce everywhere in the world. When we talk about big brands such as Levi’s, or GStar Raw, these brands has been in the industry for a very long time. The only edge they have is that they are well established, and probably have a much bigger budget to create awareness compared to thriving independent labels. Other than that, I can’t think of why they would have an edge.


So have you faced competition locally?

Yes, we do have some upcoming denim labels in Malaysia. We are looking at it as an opportunity to be better, in terms of customer experience and quality of our products. This also serves as an indicator that people are starting to notice Malaysian denims, and this is good news for us.

How do you guys stay relevant admist all the competition?

First of all, the brand is in for a long run. We strongly believe that Tarik carries a more significant meaning to the public than jeans and tshirts. We stay true to Tarik’s philosophy. It takes a lot of research to stay up to date with the fashion world, and a bit of luck to create the next big thing. Our varsity jacket collection is a good example.

What are some common problems entrepreneurs will face starting their own fashion brand in your opinion?

Finance will always be the first few major ones. Theres also the part where it is essential to convince my audience on why they deserve something nice for themselves once in awhile. In my case, one of the major one is to educate my audience about the products because the money that they are paying for is going to the craftsmanship and construction of the particular clothing which is not something which is visually loud in most cases. It is something that the audience has to be interested in, in order to really be convinced.

What are some important insights you have learnt working on Tarik Jeans?

Tarik Jeans has always been a brand that creates clothing that Malaysians in general can claim to be theirs. In pursuit of achieving that, we have learnt to love our target audience and that is one of the most important things that I learnt pretty late. You have to at the very least love something about what you wish to do to make a living.

Could you name two things that separate successful entepreneurs from others?

Discipline and selfmotivation. I won’t speak much of this, since I’m far from knowing what it is all about.


What are you currently working on at Tarik Jeans?

We have just started operations on our flagship store, Nusantara Denims, an initiative to establish a platform to further boost the denim culture around the Southeast Asian archipelago. The store offers premium denim brands, leather shoes, and leather accessories for denim heads from Indonesia, and Thailand.

What drives you as a person?

I wouldn’t say its just me. I guess I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by the right people and them being around has really put me in place to where I am today. So I guess, the appreciation and motivation to not let other people down drives me as a person.


Connect with Afiq and Tarik Jeans today


Is There A Coworking Space Bubble?



An annual growth rate of nearly 100%, almost five years in a row? More than 60 coworking spaces in a city like Berlin? Are these the characteristics of a bubble? Nope, these are characteristics of a lasting change in our world of work, which has been further catalyzed by the recent economic crises in many countries. But what makes this change different to a bubble? We’ve summarized some arguments of why the coworking movement is based on a sustainable change. However, that doesn’t mean it’s an easy job to open a good working coworking space.

Five reasons why the growth of coworking spaces is based on organic and sustainable growth: 

1. Coworking spaces invest their own money and create real wealth

Already, there is a convincing argument supporting why coworking spaces are not developing in a bubble: the fact that they create real wealth.

Whether referring to the dotcom bubble a decade ago or the real estate crisis in Spain or the United States, the crisis originated in a glut of cheap money, in an environment in which the sender and the recipient were unacquainted. From funds and banks, money flowed in steady streams to investments which offered little resistance and the most promising returns – which only a little while later turned into delusions and ruined investments.

Redistributed risks create illusions. Those people who distributed the money rarely wore the risk of investment decisions. The risk was mainly taken by small shareholders or people who bought parts of those investments. This was because either both parties’ (better) judgement was drowned out by the noise of the market, or because shareholders were unaware of the risk, and were at the mercy of banks and funds for reliable information.

Another fundamental condition for the creation of bubbles are the sheer amounts of money that flow from various locations globally and are concentrated, by comparison, in much fewer places.

Most coworking spaces, however, receive their funding from local or nearby sources and do not operate within this financial system. In fact, the founders mainly inject the bulk of the required investment, and turn to friends or relatives for additional support. They wear the full brunt of the risks that are involved in small-time investment.

They have access to much more information, because it is their own project, rather than a foreign one thousands of miles away. This also includes failures and mistakes that are encountered along the way, but the risk is less redistributed, thereby decreasing the probability of failures.

2. Labor market changes demand on certain office types lastingly

Most users of coworking spaces are self-employed. The proportion of employees is also on the rise, in many cases simply because they work for small companies that increasingly opt to conduct their business in coworking spaces rather than in traditional offices. The industry of almost all coworkers fall within the Internet-based creative industries.

With flexibilisation of work markets, new mobile technologies that are changing work patterns, and the increase of external services purchasing from large and medium-sized enterprises (outsourcing), the labor market has changed radically in many parts of the world.

The long-term financial and emotional security of becoming an employee no longer exists, especially for younger generations of workers. Bigger companies are quicker to fire than hire, and precarious short-term contracts are on the rise. Promising options on the labor market are more often recuded to freelancer careers and starting your own company.

And that’s possible with less money to invest. All you need is a laptop, a brain and a good network. For years, the number of independent workers and small businesses has been growing worldwide – particularly in internet-based creative industries. Anyone who has sufficient specialized skills and the willingness to take risks may adapt more quickly to market conditions if they own a small business or are self employed; more so than if they were to work in a dependent position in an equally volatile market.

Coworking spaces provide an environment in which to do this. Once they have joined a (suitable) coworking space, these factors become apparent to coworkers, who will remain in their space for years to come.

Furthermore, independent workers rarely fire themselves in crises, and even small companies are less likely to give their employees the boot – compared to their large counterparts. This combination enables more sustainable business models – and less business models à la Groupon.

3. Coworking spaces don’t live on crises

Global economic growth is waning while the number of coworking spaces is continually growing. Do coworking spaces thus benefit from this crisis?

The current crises accelerate the formation and growth of coworking spaces, because they offer solutions and space for the resulting problems. Coworking spaces are therefore not a result of a crisis, but the product of change that pre-dates their existence. A crisis is simply the most visible expression of change.

The first coworking spaces emerged in the late 1990s; the movement’s strong growth started six years ago – before the onset of economic downturns in many countries.

4. Coworking spaces depend on the needs of their members

Most coworking spaces are rarely full. Does this mean they are unsuccessful? On average, only half of all desks are occupied. But the average occupancy rate of 50% refers only to a specific date.

In fact, coworking spaces generally serve more members than they can seat at any given time, since members do not use the spaces simultaneously. Coworking spaces are places for independents who want to work on flexible terms. Smaller spaces rely more on permanent members. Larger spaces can respond more flexibilty to the working hours of its members, and, can rent desks several times over.

If a coworking space is always overcrowded or totally empty, the purpose of said space would be defeated. Firstly, it is rather impossible to work in an overcrowded room. Second, it’s impossible to cowork in an empty room. Given the nature of flexible memberships, a coworking space only can survive if they fit the needs of their members. Members would otherwise be quick to leave, and membership would be much more transient.

5. The coworking market is far from saturation

Less than 2% of all self-employed – and even fewer employees – currently work in coworking spaces. Reporting on coworking may increase, but inflated reporting on the coworking movement in the mainstream media is still far away.

Coverage of coworking space are most likely to be found in the career or local sections in larger publications – front cover coverage remains the dream of many space operators. This is because the whole coworking movement can’t be photographed in one picture. What appears to be a disadvantage, however, is actually a beneficial truth: niche coverage allows the industry to grow organically, and avoid over inflation.


Coworking spaces don’t operate in parallel universes – like the financial market. Demand and supply are almost exclusively organic and operate in the real world economy.

For the same reason, there is no guarantee that opening a coworking spaces will be automaticly successful. Anyone who fails to learn how to deal with potential customers in their market, or is unfamiliar with how coworking communities function, will have a difficult time of making one work. In the same way that business people in other industries will fail if they do not understand their market.

Those who simply tack on the word ‘coworking’ to their space’s facade will need to work harder. The structure of most coworking spaces is based on real work, calculated risk, and real-world supply and demand.


About the Author

This article was produced by Deskmag. Deskmag is the magazine about the new type of work and their places, how they look, how they function, how they could be improved and how we work in them. They especially focus on coworking spaces which are home to the new breed of independent workers and small companies. see more.

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Callum Connects

Dextre Teh, Founder of Rebirth Academy



Dextre Teh is a consultant and marketing guru, helping F&B businesses to tighten their operations and grow their businesses.

What’s your story?
I help frustrated F&B business owners stuck in day to day operation transform from a glorified operator into a real business owner. I’m a 27 year old Singaporean second generation restaurant owner and a F&B business consultant. Entering the industry at 13 years old, I have always been obsessed with operations and systemisation. At the age of 25, I joined the insurance industry and earned a six figure yearly income. However, I left the high pay behind because it was not my passion and returned to the F&B industry. Now I help other F&B companies to tighten operations and grow their businesses with my consulting and marketing services.

What excites you most about your industry?
The food. I’m a big lover of food and even have a YouTube show on food in development. But that aside, it is really about impacting people through food. Creating moments and memories for people, be it a dating couple or families or friends. Providing that refuge from the daily grind of life. So in educating my consulting clients and training their staff to provide a better experience for their customers, I aim to shift the industry in the direction of creating memories instead of just selling food.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and bred in Singapore. I love the culture, the food and travelling in Asia.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore hands down. The environment here is built for businesses to thrive. The government is pro business and the infrastructure is built around supporting business growth. Not to mention the numerous amount of grants available in helping people start and even grow business. If I’m not mistaken, the Singaporean government is the only government in the world that offers grants to home grown businesses for overseas expansion.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Learning to do things you do not intend to master is a BIG mistake in business. Focus on what you are good at and pay others to do the rest.

Many business owners including myself are so overwhelmed by the 10,000 things that they feel they need to do everyday. We try to do everything ourselves because we think it saves us money. The only thing that, that does for us is overload our schedules and give us mediocre results. Instead we should focus on what we do best and bring in support for the rest.

Who inspires you?
Christopher M Duncan.

At 29, Chris has built multiple 7 figure businesses. He opened me to the possibility of building a business on the thing that I loved and gave me a blueprint of how to do it. He also showed me that being young doesn’t mean you cannot do great things.

Imran Mohammad and Fazil Musa
They are my mentors and inspire me every single day to pursue my dreams, to focus on celebrating life and enjoying the process of getting to where I want to be.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Time is always more expensive than money. Money, you can earn over and over again but time, once you spend it, will never come back.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I am a firm believer that your experiences shape who you are. I am grateful for every single moment of my life be it the highs or the lows, the successes and the failures because all these experiences have led me to become the person I am and brought me to the place that I’m at so I will probably do things the same way as everything was perfect in its time.

How do you unwind?
Chilling out in a live music bar with a drink in hand, listening to my favourite live band, 53A. Other than that I’m big on retail therapy, buying cool and geeky stuff.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bangkok. It feels like a home away from home where the cost of living is relatively low, the food is good and the people are friendly.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Everything you know about business is wrong by Alastair Dryburgh. It is a book that challenges commonly accepted business “truths” and inspires you to go against the grain, think different, take risks and stand your ground in the face of the challenges that will come your way as a business owner.

Shameless plug for your business:
I’m the creator of the world’s first Chilli Crab Challenge. It gained viral celebrity earlier this year with 3 major newspaper features and more than a dozen blog and online publications featuring it in the span of two weeks. In the span of the two weeks, the campaign reached well over a million people in exposure without a single cent spent in ads.

Now I help F&B companies to tighten operations, increase profits and grow their businesses with my consulting and marketing services. Chilli Crab Challenge (

How can people connect with you?
You can connect with me on Facebook ( or visit for more information or book a 10 minute call with me @

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
Download free copies of his books here:

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