“Boss, Roti kosong satu. Teh Tarik Satu.” The Anneh at my usual Mamak joint notes down my order in a jiffy and hurries away to prepare it. On the large screen in front of us, a nail-biting match between Liverpool and Chelsea is playing with a sea of fans from both teams clad in their respective team jerseys- red for Liverpool and blue for Chelsea. The fans are on the edge of their seats as Liverpool attempts to make their first goal. Trent Alexander-Arnold, Liverpool’s right-back scores the first goal and sets the tone for the game. The Liverpool fans perform their celebratory chants and cheers.
As I sit, observing -not the game, but the fans- I begin questioning: “Why are Malaysians not as supportive or enthusiastic of our local football clubs? Why are they not being as highlighted as the premier league players are being highlighted here? I mean, after all, it is just a bunch of good-looking men chasing a ball around right? So why the double-standard?”
“There has to be a reason why”, I murmured to myself. And so, I started digging.
Creating Buzz Around Malaysian Football
“Malaysian football isn’t as glamorous as it may seem, simply because of the lack of exposure they are receiving. When we talk about the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Roberto Firmino, we know their net worth, the places they dine, their wives or girlfriends’ names and even their favourite food or drinks. Yet we know nothing about our local players. They are not publicised enough locally, what more globally!?”, Mohd Shuhazwan, Managing Director of Koppa shared.
Shuhazwan continued: “We at Koppa want to change this. When big matches are happening, we Malaysians flock to the stadium but there is no follow-through from that. We are willing to spend some RM250 to RM350 for an international football club’s jersey but to buy a ‘Harimau Malaya’ jersey, our local fans wait for merchandise discounts or opt for cheap knock-offs and imitations. Our local fans aren’t the typical fanatics that we see in international football matches. The thing is, this can be changed. All we need to do is alter our Malaysian football fans mindsets, inspire them and further build their love for local football.”
Koppa is doing this through the production of content to create buzz not only around local football matches but also around the players off-the-field. Koppa currently produces content predominantly in Bahasa Melayu as their main target market’s demographics are males between the ages of 25 to 35 years old residing in Kuala Lumpur. With their Bahasa Melayu heavy content, Koppa is quickly gaining traction in Indonesia too!
Mohd Shuhazwan who has a background in aeronautical engineering and Azlan Shah who is currently Koppa’s marketing director founded Koppa, a startup that has only been around for the past year and a half but are already garnering over 40,000 views on some of their videos. They have over 10,000 subscribers on Youtube, over 8,000 followers on Facebook and are looking to expand their social media reach even further in the next few months.
When Koppa first started, they were a one-stop production house but later evolved. “We decided to dive into sports but started focusing on football because that was our shared passion and that was where we wanted to begin. As a production house and as football fans ourselves, we saw a gap. We knew we had the aptitude to produce quality content and we also saw the need of our local football to be highlighted… And so we decided to bridge this gap by building a platform for us to publish content weekly to somewhat test the market first. There was a ton of testing required. In the beginning, we were producing content that we thought people wanted to see but it was actually really what the pair of us wanted. We knew we had to fix this before we lose our current viewers. And true enough, the moment we started producing content that people wanted, our viewership began increasing,” explained Azlan Shah.
Setting Themselves Uniquely Apart
Koppa operates on a 4 pronged revenue stream which are: 1) brand-sponsored content; 2) production of original content; 3) offline activation activities such as events; and lastly 4) merchandise sales which are currently being sold at Exchange, a fashion outlet in The Curve Mutiara Damansara, Kuala Lumpur.
Having experience in the production line has given them a competitive edge. They know exactly what to say and how to convey what they want to say relatively well I believe and that has helped them tremendously. When they first started, brands were not exactly submissive or inclined to provide them with sponsorship but slowly, they gained trust from brands. To-date, Koppa has about 13 brand sponsors which include PUMA, Red Bull, Rhino Southeast Asia, Al-Ikhsan, Malaysian Football League and more!
“To us, having support from these international brands speaks volumes. It provides us with the credibility, validation and also a sense of pride. There are a few competitors out there who are in the same space as us but they are not our direct competitors. They are mostly controlled by big media houses such as ‘Astro’ and tend to have a similar coverage focus: the football matches, the highlights as well as interviews. This is where Koppa is uniquely different. Instead of duplicating what our competitors are already doing, we wanted to venture into producing content segments where they are not, which are: fan-based content, analytics and the behind the scenes footage. We wanted to create similar content as the English football league with thorough localisation embedded in,” explained Shuhazwan.
It Wasn’t Always Smooth Sailing
Anyone who has had a stab at being an entrepreneur knows that an entrepreneur’s journey is no walk in the park. Being in MaGIC, I know this first-hand. It has even been described as riding a roller-coaster with a thousand loops. To be an entrepreneur, you need to be willing to give up a lot of things and start building on the things that matter as an entrepreneur- grit, tenacity and most importantly, moxie.
Azlan Shah shared, “In May this year, we won the World Football Summit competition. That gave us an added validation boost and the push we needed to work even harder to see this through. We knew right then that Koppa has the potential to grow by leaps and bounds. We also won Best Electronic Media by the Malaysian Football League and are working on projects with professional football clubs like PJ City FC and Selangor FC.”
“To some, those awards may seem minute but to us, these are huge successes. You see, we have endured a pretty hard journey. Not too long ago, we had to work out of a “Mamak” restaurant as we were forced to shut our office down because we couldn’t afford to pay the bills. We even had to sell “Air Jagung” by the streets just to make ends meet! I am from Sabah and that is where my family is. I had to sacrifice a lot and only meet my family once a year now. So these small successes are huge victories to us and makes all of our sacrifices worthwhile,” Azlan Shah continued.
He added,” We are both 29 years old and most of our friends are already settling down and starting families while earning thousands working in corporations. Sometimes, we see our friends driving big continental cars or hear them boasting about how they are looking at buying their second piece of property. To be honest, it does suck. But, we know Koppa has vast potential and we know that with some sacrifice, a ton of determination and prayers to god, we will hopefully get there soon too.
Koppa operates with an extremely lean team with only 8 members juggling between designing, production, videography, copywriting, marketing, operations and business development. This requires them to wear multiple hats at a time but are foreseeing things to get better once the team starts expanding. They are gaining quite some interest from brands for potential collaboration but are having issues managing this due to lack of manpower.
Big Boys. Big Dreams. Big Hustle.
Shuhazwan shared, “In the next 5 years, we want to be bigger than ‘Astro’. We want to be the best engaging platform both online and offline. We are working on several projects at the moment and hustling between preparing proposals. We don’t want to just focus on the media side of things but want to also focus on bringing our online community together offline through physical events as well. We are looking at organising football clinics for grassroots development targeting children 10 years old and below.”
“Knowing that we are gaining traction in Indonesia is a boom for us and that is a country we are looking to tap into within the next couple of years. We know this is not going to be easy and that is why we have sought help. We knew that one of the best ways to increase our chances is through an accelerator,” he continued.
Koppa is part of MaGIC’s Global Accelerator Programme (GAP) Cohort 3 to gain assistance and support in expanding regionally with a primary focus on Indonesia. Other than building networks and seeking guidance from mentors, Koppa is also participating in GAP to ensure their startup is investment-ready before seeking investment opportunities locally and abroad.
Written by Reshmi Haran