A year ago, an Instagram account by the name of MalaysianPAYGAP (MPG) appeared, gaining tens of thousands of followers seemingly overnight.
In just days, its advocacy for wage transparency had mobilised many Malaysians to anonymously send in their pay slips to the then-nameless admin. Thousands flocked to react to others’ wages. Comments—some envious, some congratulatory—flooded in.
All of this was moderated by one Prestine Davekhaw, the creator of MPG.
A freelance photographer, branding consultant, and copywriter, Prestine never quite intended to run an account like MPG.
Everything happened so quickly, though, and Prestine made the call to roll with it. But as a creative, the founder found herself lacking in many areas.
“For the full year, I just had to learn so many things to keep that moment going,” she said.
As an example, Prestine actually had to reschedule her call with us because she had been accepted into a data visualisation course that she couldn’t pass up.
“Previously, I’ve never even thought of data, never even touched data before,” she mused. “But then I had to learn, just so I can make better decisions and I can do better storytelling for the audience.”
Speaking of storytelling, MPG not only posts submissions of various employees’ salaries nowadays, but also creates video content on Instagram and YouTube.
There’s now a team of volunteers working with her to run all of these projects.
This growth is a natural progression, but leading a team wasn’t something Prestine had to consider in the past, having mostly worked alone as a freelancer.
She had to learn how to be a leader as well as delegate work. “This was the hardest part because you need to learn how to trust people. Then you need to be able to transfer almost like a second brain to them,” she said.
This is why the founder also took quite a long time to look for co-founders. She could tell a lot of people’s intentions were not purely out of passion or belief in MPG, but rather to profit from it. Still, she knew it was necessary to grow the team.
“If you want to grow something so much bigger you cannot work on it alone,” she pointed out. “You must know how to find the right people so they push it too.”
As such, Prestine came up with one main criterion—the co-founder must have a stable income from their day jobs, so they aren’t desperate to use MPG as a means to make money.
“It’s not a good idea to see MPG as a full-time thing. It’s going to be scary if none of us can balance profit and people,” she said. “You would do so many things out of desperation.”
Editor’s note: The information in the following sections has been edited to reflect greater accuracy.
With that said, the team members do treat MPG as a full-time commitment, spending many hours every night and weekend on it.
So far, no one has taken a paycheck from MPG yet, including Prestine herself. So, how are they funding these projects?
Monetising a passion project
During the middle of last year, MPG began having some clients who wanted to sponsor some of the posts.
Being new to the scene, the founder hadn’t known that she would have to be firm and get a written agreement from them. But this ended up being a costly mistake as the MPG team is currently still chasing payments from a client.
“I just did the work first and thought everything would be good, in good faith,” she said. “But the business world is not like that.”
This is especially challenging as the reason for the funding was to grow MPG’s YouTube platform.
Down the road though, the team is looking to YouTube as one way to monetise the content, but it’s a tough process.
Creating real-life impact
When asked about whether MPG has been able to affect any change, Prestine shared that the impact comes in three layers—individuals, corporations, and the government.
The impact on individuals is perhaps most easily felt, as many would DM the account to express their gratitude or share the steps they’ve taken to improve themselves.
Beyond just the information gap when it comes to wages in Malaysia, what MPG highlights is also the skill gap.
That’s why it’s important for Malaysians to also face the music and see where they’re lacking.
“Some would actually quit their jobs and go look for better jobs,” Prestine explained. “Some will enroll into upskilling courses and they will try to improve their negotiation skills. They will try to look within themselves, ‘OK, what’s wrong with me? Why am I getting this [figure]? Am I not up to par?’ And they will make that change.”
There’s a highlight on MPG’s Instagram page called “Impact” that showcases some of these stories.
Other than impacting the individual employee, Prestine also seeks to impact corporations. She says that MPG is trying to build that relationship right now and give companies with good perks and cultures more recognition.
As for changing policies, Prestine said the team plans to work on that starting next year.
MPG already has a law degree intern researching the procedures of submitting documents to policymakers to get the ball rolling.
For the love of Malaysia
Undoubtedly, MPG has come a long way since it started. The same goes for the person running it.
“It’s quite funny,” Prestine’s voice crackled over the Google Meet call. “You wouldn’t know how I used to live my years before MPG… but I can give you a summary.”
Back when she was studying in the US, Prestine had to support herself financially, which meant she was always just trying to survive.
This kind of mindset has stuck with her. Which is why it was shocking when she became obsessed with pushing MPG forward last year, to the point of being unemployed for several months.
“I’m surprised I could live that many months without making an income and not knowing how the future is going to hold, even until now,” she admitted.
Looking back, she realised it’s because MPG aligns with the value and purpose that she has in life.
“For the longest time, I always said that if I ever go back to Malaysia one day, my dream is to give back to the society, is to love my country one way or another,” she mused.
Now with over 200,000 followers, and countless projects in the works, it’s obvious that Prestine has stayed true to her dream and continues to spread her love to others as well.
- Learn more about MalaysianPAYGAP here.
- Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.
Featured Image Credit: Prestine Davekhaw / MalaysianPAYGAP