“I had thoughts about ending my life,” Mohd Afiq Barni says, forthrightly.
The 30-year-old from Johor Bahru recalls the difficult days of being bedridden for six months after a hit-and-run left him paralysed from the waist down.
“I was rushing to work when it happened. It was about six in the morning. I was on my motorbike when a four-wheeled vehicle hit me and I was thrown about 50 meters across the road. When I regained consciousness, I was already in the hospital.”
“The doctors told me I had to undergo an operation that will allow me to sit again, and that I was paraplegic. This is when I realised I’ve become paralysed. I am disabled.”
The traumatic incident left him broken; Afiq, who worked in property as marketing executive prior to the incident, could not accept his predicament at first. He had contemplated suicide for months, until finally, he made the decision to pick himself up.
“I really could not accept it in the beginning,” he says. “But, Alhamdulillah I still had a strong faith and decided to do physiotherapy and rehabilitation to help me move on and adjust to this new lifestyle.”
It was an uphill struggle to overcome a life-changing experience but Afiq did not give up. He spent hours online, reading up about other ‘People With Disabilities’ (PWD), and how they go about their lives.
“I was very inspired. These PWDs from all over the world, their condition or disability did not hinder them to pursue a successful career and a happy life. Some of them had good businesses, active in sports and they are very independent. I asked myself, ‘If they can do it, why can’t I?” says Afiq.
I asked myself, ‘If they can do it, why can’t I?
“I started to join a lot of seminars where I meet other local PWDs. This is also where I met my business partner- Khairul Anwar who is also a PWD.
“He was inspiring and one of the biggest turning points was when I saw him driving. He explained to me the tools he used, which includes a stick. Both of us know the need for PWDs to be independent and not rely too much on others. The ability to drive is very important.”
“This is how we came up with the idea to produce a driving tool that allows people like us to drive.”
Armed with a background in graphic designing, Afiq came up with sketches after sketches to redefine the tool’s design until it was up to their satisfaction.
“We tested, and it worked great.” The mock tool was installed in Afiq’s car. “I found a blacksmith to help us make the product using metal. We sent it to the Department of Road Transport (JPJ) for approval.”
JPJ, however, did not give them the approval. The disappointment only fueled Afiq and Khairul to come up with a better product.
“So, we took it back home, we worked on it again. It was only on the fifth time when it finally got approved. By then, we had adjusted the product using stainless steel and it was more durable.”
The pair immediately registered a company, named Double A Project and went on to market the product. Business started slow but soon gained recognition from word-of-mouth recommendations.
It was around the same time, bitten by the entrepreneur bug, Afiq ventured into another business, selling mixed rice and Western food at a stall in Johor.
However, after two years, despite a steady stream of customers, the business was not growing. It was then, upon recommendation by a friend, Afiq joined the Reach Independence & Sustainable Entrepreneurship (RISE) program by Maybank Foundation.
“I learned about business and financial management, and how to overcome our weaknesses,” says Afiq. “So, I revised the business model, and it grew after that!”
The optimistic lad has since passed on the food stall business over to his parents to allow him to focus on growing the automotive venture, which he sees a lot of potential.
My advice is, whatever is that you want to do in your life, just do it. Don’t think about others. Remember, there are others more unfortunate than us.
“I think my passion is stronger in the automotive business, which is the car modification tool for PWD,” says Afiq.
Orders for the tool – designed for all types of PWDs, including dwarfism - come from all over Malaysia, including Indonesia. The company also provides specialised accelerator pads and portable hand drives which can be used on any cars and side-cars for motorbikes.
Afiq’s current monthly income averages about RM20,000. What he is most proud of, however, is the ability to provide job opportunities to others, including people similar predicaments. He hires people with disabilities to work in his workshop.
“My advice is, whatever is that you want to do in your life, just do it. Don’t think about others. Remember, there are others more unfortunate than us.
“Have the right intention, when our intention is to help people, with God’s permission, everything will go as you wish,” he says.
All of us face hardships at some point in our lives, but when someone overcomes a tragedy and turns it into success, it is something truly admirable and laudable. In this case, Afiq has proven that physical disability is no hindrance to fulfilling one’s potential.