This interview was also published in Karyawan, A Magazine by AMP Singapore, January 2019, Volume 14, Issue 1.
Creative destruction is constantly redefining the limits of our material world. In the blink of an eye, industries have been torn asunder – they have fallen prey to the forces of production. Yet, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, swathes of new factories and plants emerge in their wake, ready to serve society once again. In time, however, they too will play their part in this grand dialectical process – a process commonly known as technological change.
Welcome to the 21st century, an era in which this metamorphosis is perhaps most rapid and manifest. Technology has advanced on many fronts, and it is undoubtedly true that these innovations have benefitted a large number of us, especially in the industrialised world. A huge driver and product of this change has been the Internet. It serves as a gateway to the world, connecting people from distant localities in mere moments – from states in the Occident to those in the Orient. In short, and without getting bogged down in specifics, the Information Era we live in – heralded by improvements in Information Technology – is revolutionizing the way we live.
It is then hardly surprising that people want to know more about it. What are the implications of this digital dominance for me? How can I leverage on this new platform and tap into its productive possibilities?
A person who can provide nuggets of wisdom about some aspects of this burgeoning sphere of activity is Singaporean Jamal Hassim, Chief Executive Officer of mobile entertainment company BOLT.Global, based in the United Kingdom. Started in 2016, this ambitious enterprise has a noble goal: to improve access to information, entertainment and education for the lot of the human population, especially for emerging markets. Its modus operandi is the use of blockchain technologies fused into its online media network, which provides an alternative secured and cost effective arrangement for one’s access to digital content.
The Karyawan team was fortunate enough to be able to conduct an interview with Mr Jamal Hassim. Here, he shares his opinions about the industry and proffers his advice to individuals looking to enter it.
Q: Could you tell us more about yourself and your family?
Jamal: I have one younger brother who works with the Singapore government. My father served with the army before working with Lembaga Biasiswa Kenangan Maulud (LBKM). My mother is a homemaker. I am married and have 2 sons (24 and 21 years old). I studied at Raffles Institution and Raffles Junior College. I did my Bachelor’s Degree at the University of Wales and read for my Bar in London.
Q: Could you tell us more about BOLT.Global? How unique are the challenges in this area compared to the traditional entertainment industry?
Jamal: BOLT.Global is a transaction-based mobile video content service that addresses consumers in the emerging markets who are underserved with content choices. More recently, we have been developing the next phase of BOLT.Global’s growth on the blockchain.
Our content offering comprises of short 5 to 7 mins trending content and “live” channels that our viewers can “snack on”. We intend for our viewers to use our very affordable micro transaction-priced service daily as opposed to movie-like content that they watch occasionally on other platforms, given their limited data, disposable income and time.
Our premium content is multifarious: they include news, entertainment, information, sports, education, healthcare, games and more. We have also begun a community-based trending content section where our community contributes content that they develop. The added value that BOLT.Global brings – beyond the aggregation and curation of content – is getting the community to validate whatever piece of published content – to ascertain its trustworthiness. The intention is to reduce the effect of “fake news.”
The Token ecosystem is the economic model around the BOLT.Global business. It provides a framework to reward content creators and community members for content contributions and community activity. It also facilitates with the acquisition of tokens for our institutional partners, as part of their rewards programme.
Q: Why did you join the digital industry and why start BOLT.Global? Is this the first company you’ve set up?
Jamal: I ventured into the digital/mobile content space to address the underserved communities in the emerging markets with content of quality and variety. In addition, the intent was to disrupt the existing commercial model of the content industry.
This is my fourth venture. For my first venture, I restructured a financially distressed television network in Malaysia which, with its shareholders, I jointly sold. For my second, I launched a new Kuala Lumpur-and Penang-based FM Urban Radio Station, which was jointly sold to a major print publication group. For my third, I started and operated my own national free-to-air television network in Malaysia, which I sold to a large television and radio network group.
Q: What are some of the initial and current challenges you face(d) with BOLT.Global? What are some of the challenges you envision moving forward? Does working, in large part, in emerging markets present a unique type of challenge?
Jamal: The initial challenge, as with all projects, is proving that a theoretical model is commercially viable, and then to ensure that the project can be verbalized to users and investors.
The challenge moving forward will be to scale the model at speed, and then solidify market leadership via increasing user adoption.
The unique challenge is reaching and communicating our messages to consumers who don’t use the same communication channels as consumers in the mature markets. So we have to adapt accordingly and use channels that our consumers in the emerging markets are comfortable with.
Q: What kind of social outreach programmes do you do through BOLT.Global?
Jamal: Our entire BOLT.Global Project is a social outreach programme: we intend to provide content creators in emerging markets with a way to monetize and grow their content.
We also want to give our community members in emerging markets a means of earning BOLT.Global Tokens by performing tasks on the BOLT.Global platform. The tokens can then be sold on Crypto Exchanges, where they will be listed. In addition, BOLT.Global performs token buy backs from community members at various points of time during the year.
We also run apprenticeship and internship programmes in our Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and London offices for undergraduates and new graduates.
Q: What’s your biggest achievement with BOLT.Global? Any other memorable moments?
Jamal: It’s not for me but rather for our BOLT.Global Community to decide if we have been successful in making a difference to their lives.
A recent memorable event would be the BOLT.Global service going “live” in Kenya.
Q: What are some of the challenges you face as a Malay Singaporean venturing and living overseas?
Jamal: A simple answer: there are none. Have an open mind; everybody has a rightful place and role on this Earth. Learn from everything that you see and experience and live a fulfilling and meaningful life.
Q: How do you maintain your roots in Singapore? How does living in the UK differ from in Singapore? What are the different challenges? Would you recommend it to others?
Jamal: Part of my family are in Singapore. Not just in the UK but everywhere I have been, I have had to learn, adapt and be independent. To truly discover yourself and what you are capable of, go out into the world and have an adventure. Needing to be independent and adaptive isn’t a challenge, rather, it’s reality. It makes me more appreciative of the conveniences that are available in Singapore, which many Singaporeans take for granted.
Q: What is your advice for Malay/ Muslim youth wanting to pursue a career in this industry?
Jamal: I worked for large organisations for half my career and as an entrepreneur for the other half. An entrepreneur has to be “on his toes” all the time; to truly excel in your chosen path, you have to let go of your safety net.
My advice would be the same for an entrepreneur in our field or any other: to remain committed, retain focus and maintain an open and flexible mind to quickly fine tune your strategy, even when nobody else believes that you can make it. Also, have a good, proven mentor beside you to consult at all times.
Abdul Hakeem Akbar Ali is a Research Assistant at the Centre for Research on Islamic and Malay Affairs. His research interests include the political economy of mercantilism and the role of industrial policy in developing countries.
Photo Credit: Mr Jamal Hassim