UTAR secures top five places in business plan challenge

All the top five winners of the challenge

Three teams represented UTAR at DIYC Business Plan Challenge 2023 and emerged as the top five winners. The challenge was organised by DIYC Movement, a Diversity & Inclusion Youth Movement, with the grand finale of the business plan pitch and award ceremony held on 13 and 14 March 2023 at Sunway Hotel Iskandar Puteri, Johor.

Second from left: Chua and Teoh representing Team “What the Health” to receive their prizes

Team “What the Health” from Lee Kong Chian Faculty of Engineering and Science (LKC FES) won third place, along with RM5,000 cash prize and a trophy. The team consisted of Bachelor of Mechatronics Engineering with Honours students Tan Xuan Qing, Teoh Jia Jing and Chua Kai Wei, and Bachelor of Electrical and Electronic Engineering with Honours student Lew Yanzhe. They were guided by mentors LKC FES academic Dr Hau Lee Cheun and Faculty of Creative Industries (FCI) academic Dr Aloysius Yapp.

The team enthused, “We were thrilled when we were announced the third place winner, and with the cash prize, we will be able to enhance our prototype. We certainly did our best, and we are happy to have the opportunity to showcase our business plan, which is to provide a low-cost vein finder, making it affordable to be used in common healthcare routines. We are also grateful for the feedback provided by the professional judges, which we believe will help improve our business plan as well.”

They added, “The guidance and support provided by UTAR mentors and the Unipreneur programme were instrumental in the development of our winning project, VeinWatch. Without this support, it would have been much more difficult for us to develop and refine our ideas and ultimately win the award. Furthermore, the experience of working with mentors and participating in the Unipreneur programme has provided us with valuable insights and skills that will be helpful in our future endeavours. Overall, we are grateful for UTAR’s support and resources, which have contributed significantly to our achievement of winning this award.”

The team’s winning project is the “VeinWatch”, which is a small-sized vein finder that helps medical professionals locate veins for patients. The team was motivated to create VeinWatch to address the issue of needle insertion failure and improve the experience of patients during medical procedures. VeinWatch has practical applications in medical settings where medical professionals need to locate veins for procedures such as blood tests, IV insertions, and other medical procedures that require access to veins. In line also with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3: Good Health and Well-being, it aims to improve the experience of patients during medical procedures by reducing pain and discomfort. The project also aligns with SDG 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure, as it is an innovative device that has practical applications in medical settings.

Fourth place winner, Team Pop!tato

Team “Pop!tato” from the Faculty of Science (FSc) won fourth place, along with RM1,000 cash prize. The team consisted of Bachelor of Science (Honours) Food Science students Cheah Cyn Ru, Lim Chea, Lim Xin Wei, Sng Yee Chung, and Tan Zi Jing. Their mentors were FSc academics Dr Ong Mei Kying and Looi Sing Yan.

The team expressed, “We participated to obtain experience and gain evaluation of our product’s potential in the commercial setting. Therefore, winning the fourth place was unexpected but truly rewarding because we believe that being prepared is an important factor for success. Although we are not from a business background, we have experience in food product innovation, and we saw the challenge as an opportunity for us to turn science into business. We thoroughly involved ourselves in the context of research and development of the product to satisfy the current trendy needs of consumers. We are glad to have the opportunity to apply what we have learned at UTAR in real society. We are grateful for the continuous support from Mr Looi Sing Yan and Dr Ong Mei Kying, who gave us useful suggestions and accompanied us throughout this project. Besides that, UTAR also provided us with laboratory spaces to operate our project, and the UTAR Unovate Centre provided us with professional business advice and invited us to have a trial run by selling the products of this project at UTAR to test consumer acceptance. We can’t make it without them. UTAR provided us with strong support in facing challenges throughout this journey.”

Dr Ong praised the team, and said, “The team is very passionate to share their innovative idea on their food product known as Pop!tato – Purple sweet potato fermented drink. The team is very united and shows dedication and perseverance to develop a healthy and tasty beverage derived from the utilisation of local farm produce thus helping the local farmers’ economic status and preventing food wastage. In Malaysia, sweet potato-fermented beverages are not widely available or known by the public. However, this team has also demonstrated various skills and marketing strategies in promoting this product via social media and booth selling at the UTAR flea market. I am very pleased and proud of my team for winning the fourth place. All the experiences gained from the initial process of the product idea generation to the current state of award winning will definitely set the positive mindset and drive for the team to further achieve continuous improvement and excel in this entrepreneurship venture and other future endeavours.”

Meanwhile, Looi said, “I am proud of our team’s success in the competition. What impresses me is the fact that our students were able to integrate the knowledge gained from the classroom and turn them into a socially aware and sustainable business plan. Our students’ capability to apply classroom learning in the real world and create a positive impact on society is clearly demonstrated by this accomplishment.”

Team Pop!tato explained, “This project tends to apply science invention and discovery based on food science to solve current problems faced in Kampar, Perak. In Kampar, there is a daily harvest of a maximum of up to 20 tons of sweet potatoes, however, the sweet potato supply had exceeded the demand for it. The potato left unsold are used as animal feed and are usually discarded, which eventually causes food waste and loss. Therefore, our team addressed the food surplus issues by transforming the purple sweet potatoes into a food product to enhance its shelf life and create a new market to encounter the crisis of overproduction. We generate the idea of using the oldest preservative method which is fermentation. Pop!tato is a purple sweet potato fermented beverage.”

They continued, “The value proposition of Pop!tato is a healthy beverage rich in probiotics with a unique fermented taste. Rising health trends lead to changes in consumer behaviours; consumers continue taking a more hands-on approach to their health. Beverages with functionality, natural ingredients and other health-related benefits are dominating the market. Our product brought out the concept of a ‘clean label’ with only four natural ingredients, namely purple sweet potatoes, sugar, lemon juice and water. This will give customers more confidence about what our brand had mentioned, a healthy beverage. In the market, common beverages are usually sweetened and added with synthetic preservatives, flavourings and colourings. For our product, the fermentation process naturally enhances the shelf life and offers a unique fermented taste. Our company goal is to produce a sustainable and healthy beverage that allows our customers to enjoy the beverage anytime in a stress-free way. Healthy beverages no longer need to be green in colour and taste bad anymore. Pop!tato with the presence of natural probiotics have the potential to satisfy the current trendy needs of the consumer, boost their immune system and help with their digestive system. We also plan to produce a more sustainable product. We will continue to use glass bottles as our packaging and work on using recycled materials as our labelling. To achieve the sustainable development goals stated by the United Nations, we have also planned to set up a recycling station to recycle the glass bottles to produce a more sustainable and environment-friendly business.”

Fifth place winner, Team CropTech

Securing the fifth place was team “CropTech” from the Faculty of Accountancy and Management (FAM). They received RM1,000 cash prize. The team consisted of Bachelor of Finance (Financial Technology) with Honours students Lee Khang Ming, Chin Yin Ting, Yuki Chia Ga Kei, Soo Zhan Li, and Chaw Wai Ming. The mentor of the team was FAM academic Dr Seah Choon Sen.

The team said, “Winning this business plan competition was an exciting and rewarding experience. It provided validation for our ideas and helped to attract potential investors or customers. Additionally, it boosted our confidence and motivation to continue pursuing our entrepreneurial goals. We are proud and excited about the accomplishment. Additionally, our mentor, Dr Seah, has been instrumental in guiding us along the way, and UTAR provided us with essential information and gave us the confidence to pursue this opportunity.”

They also explained, “This is a business plan for precision agriculture. We plan to develop "CropTech" into a machine equipped with a scanner that can be mounted on a drone to detect crops in farmland. CropTech’s scanner has the capability to detect the crops’ growing environment, such as soil fertility and water content, as well as evaluate crops’ growth status, determine appropriate harvest timing, and distinguish post-harvest quality. We hope to achieve SDG 2: Zero Hunger, which aims to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture. We believe it is crucial to invest in the improvement of agriculture today. By putting in a little effort, we can make a significant impact on this industry, and this innovation can benefit the whole society. So, let's not underestimate the potential of agriculture.”

Dr Seah also commented, “Different competitions have different requirements. But it doesn’t mean students need to develop an entirely new idea for different competitions. The students choose their members and the fundamental direction and my role comes in to polish the direction into an established idea that fulfils the needs of the competition. The idea will then be developed with a complete stunning pitch deck and working prototype. It will not only stop there, but the group will duplicate the idea into their assignments, and possibly extend it into their FYP as well. Currently, the group is formed by first-year students, and there are a lot of elements we can add to the project.”

In the challenge, participants were required to draft a convincing, sustainable, and actionable business plan. The scope of their business plan had to be socially conscious; their product or service must promote the notions of Diversity and Inclusion, and last but not least, the plan must relate to at least one United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG). The plan included components such as Problem Statement, Propose Solution, Execution Strategy, Team Profile & Individual Members’ Curriculum Vitae (CV), Proposed Key Performance Indicators & Project Milestones, and Financials. The teams were judged based on their effective delivery, wide outreach, sustainability and scalability, and diversity and inclusivity.

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