Adaptability and digitisation the way forward, SMEs told - MIDA | Malaysian Investment Development Authority
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Adaptability and digitisation the way forward, SMEs told

Adaptability and digitisation the way forward, SMEs told

09 Nov 2022

Ever since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the world has rapidly ventured into the digital space.

This has led to a change in trends as many businesses, especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs) now digitising to remain competitive and equip themselves for the future.

At the fifth Star Outstanding Business Awards (SOBA) LAB, held at Menara Star last Friday, panellists from different industries gathered to contemplate and discuss “the way forward” for SMEs in the next year.

The event featured two panel sessions on how businesses can be more resilient and what trends businesses should look into to transform their organisations in 2023.

The first panel session, which focused on boosting economic resilience, was moderated by BDO Malaysia’s executive director of tax, David Lai, who said that while SMEs have been greatly affected by the pandemic and the recent war in Ukraine, there is still hope for a positive change next year, especially for businesses and business owners that are adaptable to change.

“The waters are choppy at the moment. We all have to be nimble and prepared to change our business models and not be stuck in one direction. We must be able to adjust.

“In the past, we would usually do our business models once a year and then stick to them. But now, we probably have to change the model every two or three months to keep up with the times.

“We have to look into new ways to modify not just the workflow, but our people and employees as well.”

SOBA 2022 sponsor RHB Bank Bhd SME Banking head Yip How Nang echoed Lai’s remarks, as he shared that although forecasts of the Malaysian economy for 2023 are not encouraging, there are still plenty of opportunities for businesses to grow.

“Every bank and institution in the country actually thinks that the economy will slow down, with continued pressure on inflation and the ringgit continuing to weaken.

“It’s not going to be a very good situation. It will be another year where all SMEs will have to consolidate and continue to persevere. But, if you are creative enough, there are always new opportunities.”

Bernard Yap, a partner at Ernst and Young Tax (EY) Consultants Sdn Bhd, maintained that positive vibe as he said that opportunities are rife and SMEs should use this chance to focus on how they can rebound in the endemic phase.

“We have to find new ways to be resilient and adapt to disruptions like the Covid-19 pandemic. Disruptions are always going to appear, so we have to know how to be receptive to them and how to embrace that disruption and move forward.

“I think it’s going to be a full year of opportunities in 2023, with liquidity in the market. So, you have to be bold and vibrant in coming up with changes to your business models, and

“I think a lot of development financial institutions and commercial banks will be there to support you in your development.”

He also added that there are multiple incentives from the government for businesses to adopt digitised and automated systems, with multiple grants in place to support businesses as they adapt to the digital economy.

PKT Logistics Group Sdn Bhd’s chief marketing officer Kuan Eu Jin said that the only way SMEs and businesses can make use of these opportunities is through proper diversification.

“If you see any opportunities for you to diversify, this would be the best time to do it, so that you can ride through one storm after another without being too dependent on a narrow segment where you don’t have any wiggle room to try to compensate when your main segment goes down.

“We are not talking about growing, but more about getting you through those trying periods. There are many segments in the economy for you to play in.”

Kuan also said that SMEs will have to put more emphasis on encouraging long-term employment of their workers, with a flux of employees occurring at blue-collar jobs and a significant labour shortage in the country.

The second panel session revolved around the topic of trends transforming the retail industry and was moderated by Asean Retail-Chains and Franchise Federation president Datuk Mike Loh, who said that SMEs will have to look at the bigger picture this coming year.

“Times have changed. Moving businesses onto a digital platform is the way to go, but we are not ready yet.

“We can’t keep focusing on our local markets alone, even though there are 33 million people in Malaysia. We have to look outward beyond borders to reach out to a much bigger consumer base by converting our businesses into digital platforms.”

Vanilla Mille Crepe Sdn Bhd chief executive officer and co-founder Nelson Liew agreed with Loh’s views as he shared that businesses should “update” themselves to the times and embrace digitalisation.

“The game has changed. The old rules are becoming more irrelevant now. So I think now is the best time to move into digital fields, reskill our employees, and make ourselves really adaptive.

“Digital payments online are definitely growing, and with the new norm of people making and paying for purchases online, you have to be open to tapping into these markets.”

Senz Marketing (M) Sdn Bhd managing director Datin Katherina Leong Hong Yin added that SMEs should learn to prioritise their digital and social media marketing efforts in order to see the best results.

“The market has been segregated into very niche markets. There are so many social media platforms available to target different demographics of consumers.

“So, brand positioning is very important because eCommerce is amazing. You have a chance to trade and sell your products all over the world.

“But you have to know what your brand is, what products you are trying to sell, and which target audience is your main target market because you cannot target everyone.”

She added that SMEs should not put all their eggs in one basket and expect immediate returns from venturing into social media platforms, as building business social media profiles usually takes time.

Digi business innovation and operations head Liew Kok Weng also said when moving towards digitisation, SMEs should take it one step at a time and focus on engagements with consumers as well.

“The basic fundamentals of the online world and eCommerce are connectivity. We even have businesses now that are mobile natives, they don’t even have an outlet or store.

“So, having a very stable and fast connection to do your business is key.”

“But eCommerce is not just about transactions online, it’s also about engagement and using the online space to engage with consumers on their shopper journey.”

SOBA 2022 is organised by Star Media Group with Credit Guarantee Corp Malaysia Bhd, Digi, PKT Logistics Group and RHB Bank as main sponsors, TalentCorp Malaysia as a co-sponsor and Matrade as the official trade promotion partner.

Supported by Bursa Malaysia, it is audited by BDO, with 988 and Suria as official media partners.

For more information on SOBA 2022, call SMG Events at 017-231-1789 or visit

Source: The Star