Aidil Azwal – Unconventional among the Extraordinary!

Sayf Ismail | Associate Director Corporate Development

Aidil Azwal - Unconventional among the Extraordinary!

Aidil Azwal Zainuddin is an ASB student in the inaugural MBA for Working Professionals (WP) cohort that will graduate in 2021.

Aidil’s path to the ASB MBA-WP is truly unconventional. As a graduate in Islamic Jurisprudence of the prestigious Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Aidil’s career path was initially clear: become a religious scholar, teacher, and community leader.

However, Aidil wanted to challenge himself and find different avenues to contribute to his community and society in general.

In his application video to join the ASB MBA, Aidil identified 3 paths to change his society towards a greater good. The first was to get involved in politics, second to dive deep into education, and thirdly was to do so via a business platform.

After weighing his options and influenced by his time in Cairo living on a healthy Mediterranean diet, he chose to go into business in the health and wellness industry. His mission was to teach his local society (Nasi lemak + Teh Tarik Malaysians) how to eat and live healthily.

Aidil, Prof Womack and Prof. Charles

Aidil after class with world-renowned operations guru Prof James Womack & ASB Dean Prof Charlie Fine

Armed with his initial investment of RM400 (~USD100), Aidil started his business by importing and repackaging bottles of Olive Oil and selling them door to door. Fast forward 8 years and what was a one-man operation, has now become a multi-million-dollar corporation employing 196 staff and providing livelihood and income for a network of 2000 entrepreneurs (distributors and agents) all across the country.

However, while Aidil’s story is remarkable, it is quite a common narrative among self-made businessmen. What makes his story truly extraordinary is the fact that he was already a successful entrepreneur, CEO, and community leader prior to him joining the ASB MBA for Working Professionals, but still chose to enroll into the program anyway.

The burning question which then begs to be asked is… why did he feel the need for an ASB MBA?

Aidil states that the first 8 years leading the company were a roller coaster ride filled with trial and error.

“Once success was achieved, things were starting to get stagnant and a quantum leap was required to take the company to the next level”.

A firm believer in leading by example, Aidil recognized that he himself had to get out of his own comfort zone and that a new challenge was required for him and his organization.

The new challenge was identified; the ASBs MBA for Working Professionals. He knew that the knowledge gained from ASB’s Sloan based curriculum would be beneficial for him in managing and growing his business. However, the bonus was the modular design of the program as well as MIT’s DNA of Action Learning meant that he could take his company with him on the journey as well.

His determination to join the program can be summed up by an experience shared by Juliana Roth the director of the MBA WP program. She says that Aidil found out about the program via the grapevine and turned up at one of the regular info sessions organized to explain the program. After the event, he mentioned to Juliana that he wanted to enroll for the program but was mindful that his command of English was not so good. After that conversation, he disappeared.

Juliana did not think too much of it but a few months later Aidil turned up for another ASB event, spoke to Juliana in significantly improved English, and true to his word, said that he is ready to submit his application.

It turns out that in the period between their first and second meetings, Aidil had taken time to engage a communication coach to brush up his English. Now that is commitment!

Learning by Doing!

Aidil in Discussion

Solving real business challenges in class; ASBs signature Action Learning

Aidil has taken his company through the MBA journey with him as much as he can. He regularly shares and I suspect teaches (almost immediately) what he has learned to his team and asks them to implement what they have collectively learned into their business.

Always contributing, Aidil brings Action Learning into the class as he shares real business challenges and even gets the Professors to chip in and formulate solutions and improvements for his organization. While some schools may see this as wrong, we at ASB see it as a win-win-win for all involved.

Aidil and his company win as they gain knowledge and practical advice to advance. His colleagues in his cohort win as they get to see how theory is adapted into the real world via his sharing. The Professors win as they add real-world cases to their credentials; and ASB wins as Aidil lives and breathes our mission of creating principled and transformative leaders who will better the emerging world to a tee.

I have no doubt that Aidil will go on to greater successes with the knowledge, network, exposure, and polish he acquires from his MBA at ASB. He openly shares that certain Professors and courses have changed his perspective and has even recently looked at pivoting his business model based on his new learnings and challenges faced in the COVID era.

If there was ever a case for an owner of a successful self-made business to do an MBA, Aidil’s story should be the first to read.

All students within an MBA cohort bring their respective experience to the table and contribute to the learning dynamics of the group as a whole. In the case of Aidil, ASB and his fellow course mates are probably luckier to have him as he is to have us.

Truly Extraordinary & Unconventional.