Enterprise
From engineering to food media, events
Najihah S 
Adly (left) and Honey are preparing for their first food movie which is scheduled to be released in two years
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Algorithms to programming are what recipes are to cooking, and an innovative entrepreneur has applied his skills in both areas to create a venture that makes local food lovers crave for more.

He is software engineer and programmer Mohd Adly Rizal (Adly), who set up a food media company called Friedchillies Media Sdn Bhd in the early 2000s, and is still eager to push forward his ideas.

Sharing his entrepreneurial journey with FocusM, Adly says after getting a master’s in information technology (IT), he became a consultant to Tenaga Nasional for a short stint. He later established an IT solution company for the oil and gas sector.

“Because most of us were programmers, we worked till late at night and had to find places to eat. That was when I started a food blog in 1997 with two friends.”

A year later, he elevated the blog into a food review website. It became popular due to its niche representing local cuisine and street food to the online audience.

Friedchillies has since become one of Malaysia’s top food websites and attracted good partnerships. “We worked with catcha.com (now Rev Asia) for some of its food-related news and stories.”

Adly then roped in writer and content editor Honey Ahmad in 2004 as both his partners left the business.

“They needed an editor of all sorts. I was also in public relations,” Honey chips in.

 

Reading materials on local street food

Her first project with Friedchillies was to produce reading materials on local street food.

“We noticed there was a trend for books in 2004, which was why we published The Foodsters Guide,” says Adly. As there was huge demand for the book, they had to reprint it four times.

All the while, Adly was balancing his role in his software company and as a “backbencher” for Friedchillies, until he was confident enough about the brand.

“I sold my software company only in 2010. To date, Friedchillies has three business pillars, which are digital content, corporate client servicing and events.

“We’ve attracted over a million people in the Klang Valley [to the website] and we want to push it to five million in the next two years,” he says confidently.

Some food guides published by Friedchillies

Being a diversified media company, Friedchillies also produced a television series called I Eat KL centred around three female friends who are food lovers. The show was aired on HyppTV.

On his business approach, Adly says: “When we diversify, we do it (based on) our skill sets. We do things that we’re passionate about, and want to be better than others. We monetise our interest so that it never becomes work.”

“We invest a lot in our talent. We look for people with the right skill sets and attitudes. They need to be able to cultivate culture and passion, and be innovative.”

Recently, the company notched another feather in its cap when it was selected the food guide curator for the KL International Airport (KLIA) and klia2.

 

Recipes and ad campaigns

One of Friedchillies’ main business components is client servicing. “A large part of our revenue comes from client servicing, (followed by) events,” Adly says.

“We work with advertising agencies to come out with effective campaigns for their corporate clients because we are in a way a media owner.

“We create digital content, do TV shows and organise ground events. We are able to even reach out to the community (food sellers and food buyers).”

Friedchillies also develops product recipes for fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies, such as Maggi, which is under Nestlé.

Companies such as Yeo’s would find Friedchillies a suitable platform to match its reviews with their beverages.

 

From digital to ground events

After obtaining a grant from Malaysia Digital Economy Corp, the company has moved into creating niche food events that bring together well-known street vendors nationwide.

 “We create our events to benefit not only vendors and customers, but also sponsors. We create engagement activities a month before an event.”

Adly says the expenditure for an event ranges from RM250,000 to RM400,000 depending on its capacity.

For each event, Friedchillies takes up to eight months to prepare showcases with a specific theme. One such event is I Eat Nasi Lemak, which aimed at giving equal exposure to prominent and new vendors. Attendees will get to taste different types of nasi lemak available in the country.

The first I Eat Nasi Lemak event was organised in 2013. On the selection of vendors, Adly says: “We require businesses to be sustainable. We do background checks, and it takes more than a year of due diligence to have them on board our events.”

Another successful event by Friedchillies is I Eat Burger. Its upcoming event is called Ayam Lejen Fried Chicken Festival.

Adly says the company’s profit started rising only in the last few years, generating a seven-figure annual revenue.

On its upcoming plans, he says: “We are planning to do our own food movie which is scheduled to complete in two years.”

It is also working on a community project with Khazanah Nasional’s Yayasan Hasanah to archive traditional Malay kuih recipes. 



This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 255.