Listed as Forbes 30 under 30 Asia in 2016 and voted as Malaysia’s Most Innovative Young Leaders Award of 2016, Zikry Kholil‘s globe-trotting journey since birth makes him an extroverted, outspoken 3rd culture kid.
He was missioned as a diplomat with ASEAN in Jakarta & was responsible in pushing the democratisation plan for the Myanmar elections in 2010 and worked with multiple UN Agencies (UNHCR) and NGO’s in Jordan.
Zikry, you are founder of “Incitement”. What is “Incitement” and how did you get the idea for it?
I actually cofounded Incitement with my cofounder from the Netherlands Daniel de Gruijter. Incitement is a global movement turned social business where we incite positivity in the form of goals, visions, shared knowledge and compelling stories through our inspirational talks and transform your inspiration into taking action by helping yourself grow and underprivileged communities. Now, Incitement is the next-generation social business, powered through inspirational talks and currently active in 45 countries, connecting proactive youths, and social causes, and Companies/Brands to create positive and sustainable social impact. Find out more at www.theincitement.com
You are also internationally renowned speaker and involved in many other projects. Can you tell us a little bit about your background and your current projects?
Sure! So my parents are retired diplomats and because of their line of work, I was born and raised abroad for most part of my life. I was in Iraq (that’s where I was born), Austria, Croatia, USA, Indonesia and Jordan. People like me are labelled as “Third Culture Kids” which means children who are exposed to more than 2-3 different cultures. I actually have a Bachelors Degree in Virtual Reality design and simulation but when I did my International Masters, it was in Regional Integration specialising in Global Diplomacy, a completely different study than my degree. I just wanted to do something different to keep me more involved with my realm of world affairs.
I was missioned as a diplomat with ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta & was responsible in pushing the democratization plan for the Myanmar elections in 2010. I worked and volunteered with multiple UN Agencies (UNHCR) and NGO’s in Jordan and upon returning to Malaysia, I took the challenge in doing corporate sales with a British company. Later, I moved to Mindvalley, a personal growth online publishing firm in which during my time at Mindvalley, I cofounded the Incitement Movement.
I was a Radio DJ & a former National Ice Hockey Player at some point of my career and what I do more actively now other than Incitement is being highly active in giving motivational talks and seminars in different cities globally addressing to the social entrepreneurship, young professional and university communities worldwide. I’m committed to the Incitement Global agenda where we are growing our Incitement communities who are focused on transforming people’s inspiration into doing more volunteerism that matters with impact.
We are having our first Incitement European Summit, which is taking place on September 23 in Brussels where all the Incitement European chapters will be present there. Other than that, we have a project with the government of Malaysia called “The Volunteering” for International Professionals Program (VIP) where we recruit International professionals from around the world who are passionate about contributing their expertise with social projects/NGOs in South East Asia and co-creating long lasting sustainable impact to certain project areas. If you have 3 years of experience or more and would like to spend 4 months co-creating impact in South East Asia (all paid for return flights, accommodation, monthly stipend, etc.) and passionate about making a real difference, make sure you apply at http://vip.org.my/apply/ J. Lastly, we are still on the mission on growing the “Liter of Light” project through Incitement in South East Asia. Globally, we already have impacted 850,000 houses who can now enjoy lights for decades (they know how to maintain them too!).
You go into Forbes «30 Under 30 Asia» list. When you started your «business journey», did you believe that you will go so high?
I was never under the impression that I will ever get on to the Asia’s first Forbes 30 under 30 list last year and my life has changed completely since then especially for Incitement’s growth an the opportunity that it gives. I already believed that we can go really far and our dream has always been to co-create genuine holistic impact globally and hopefully win a Noble Peace Prize one day (Zikry laughs).
I remembered the day when the list came out, a huge wave of messages, phone calls, interviews, TV request, photoshoots and new clients came knocking on our doors. It was such a blissful feeling. The first person I shared the news with was my late Grandma (she passed away a month after the Forbes list came out last year) and I remembered I had to explain to her why is Forbes such a big deal. But she replied back to me, “Forbes can mean many things to many people and even though I don’t really know what it is, what’s more important is that my grandchildren deserve all the success in the world especially knowing what you’re going through”. Wish she was still here with us and see the aftermath of all these succession of opportunities.
What was the most valuable experience in your life for you?
Oh wow, this is quite a deep question! Hm… well I use to give a few but a friend once told me to not cheat and just pick one. So yeah, what was the most valuable experience in my life? It definitely had to be the time where I started doing the Incitement as a business full-time and learning the trade of living the life of an entrepreneur with my cofounder. We took many risks, some were great and some were very hellish. It was a choice that we made to help us grow by embracing to learn from our mistakes and learning to overcome what ever it may be. We learned how to live really cheap when things were very tough, and I mean rock bottom tough. We learned when to hire and fire fast as well and most importantly building a very unique working culture that fits all of our team. Even when we were on the edge of bankruptcy (twice!), we manage to pull it through and learned to live with what we really need just to get us and that experience was such a humbling experience to us and our team especially. When times were good again, we made sure the fire that we have during the tough times is still there burning our butts off to keep going and not let the fire wore out. It helped us to not be complacent but to be more hungry. And from this experience, my cofounder shared his wisdom where he said, “You can never fail in the business of helping people.” We know already it’s a very tough industry to be in but we are here for the long ride and we will do our best to re-invent and innovate the way we look at long-term sustainability in social impact.
What are your future plans?
Fall in love and settle down…Haha just kidding! Eventually that time will come but I don’t see that happening in the very near future. I do plan (which I’ve talked to my cofounder before) once our Incitement Global Empire starts to grow more bigger, we would like to have regional offices run by Incitement chapters in the respective region for greater outreach which will help us with our strategic growth. When that happens, I would love to see Incitement team across the globe working in other Incitement offices for a month or two and co-create this very unique company culture where everyone gets to learn from each other, grow together and curate more social impact through the greater coverage of network provided but the Incitement chapters worldwide. We are actually almost there as we already have an Incitement office in Europe (Rimini, Italy) and a few other places as well. Once this is more stable, I look forward in moving around and work around our global offices for 6 – 8 months every year. This would be an amazing perk to have for Incitement team worldwide too.
You will be one of the EYA jurors this year. So you contribute with your very valuable perspective from outside Europe. What do you expect from this year’s entries for the European Youth Award?
First of all, I would like to thank the EYA team for nominating me as one of your official Jurors for this year’s European Youth Awards. It is a real honour and I’m grateful of this opportunity. For this year’s entries, I hope to see more projects that are focussing a lot on social inclusion of the beneficiaries that the social project are targeting. We can always teach people how to fish but I think the key here to is provide an enabling sort of framework that get’s the beneficiaries to take ownership from their own will. It is very tricky when we introduce cutting edge technology that can solve real world problems because it wouldn’t work if the community itself isn’t proactive enough to make it work; this is all down to steering their attitude and their mind set which is going to be a challenge to many. But it is challenges like these that would push us beyond the envelop by coming up with innovative solutions that co-creates holistic impact to the beneficiaries and that itself will complement the technological solutions. It is not creativity that I would like to look at; it’s more about relevancy, efficiency, consistency and scale.
Do you have any tips or advice for all the other young social entrepreneurs and start-ups to bring their projects on the success track?
Well, keep yourself inspired at all times especially at times when you feel like you’re in a dip. Keep yourself surrounded by positive driven individuals who will help you grow every step of the way. For those who are going solo with their star-ups, I urge you not to go on this path alone but start looking for a partner who can compliment you as a business partner. Learn the ability to accept your mistakes, failures and taking risks (big and small ones). Even if your failures, risks, and mistakes caused you to go through a really tough time, at least you will learn to be humble and adapt to different situations in your life as an entrepreneur. Only then can you appreciate the life of being an entrepreneur. Plus, it’s only a temporary tough period you will go through which will toughen you up mentally and that will keep you going. Once you have a really great mental fitness, you can pound through wave after wave. So keep doing epic stuff, persevere and push through. Lastly, always celebrate the little things. They may eventually lead you to glory – you’ll never know.
What‘s your overall message to the EYA community?
My overall message to the EYA community is this: I just had a near death experience last year and it made me realise life can be REALLY SHORT. So live your life like there’s no tomorrow. Why I say this is because if you really think of it, death is not something we can know when it will happen. We only know the average life expectancy of a human being but to know when we will die, it can happen any time. So live your life with no regrets; if you have a kick ass idea but you can’t make it happen because you worry what people say about it, just find another group of people who will be excited for you and support all the way. If you have been wanting to travel all these years, just stop what you’re doing and travel! It’s really scary when you think of the things that you will regret in not doing. So get up, stop complaining and just DO.