“Building Local Tech Champions” means Growing Fast and Going Global

Uber has exited the region, selling out to Grab. Was it a lack of appetite, being late to the game, or simply not understanding how to negotiate outside their home market in the US?

Before I come to that, here are a couple of intriguing stories that came to my mind when thinking about the intricacies of the local business landscape: First, the Malaysian used-car platform company, Carsome raised US$19 million in March 2018. The funding was led by Burda Principal Investments, through their Singapore office. StoreHub, a Malaysian company that built a Cloud-based Point of Sale (POS) application that is used by 3,000 retail stores across 15 countries, raised US$5.1 million from Vertex Ventures. Vertex, an investor in Grab, is owned by Singapore’s Temasek Capital.

Then you may remember that last year, Soft Space, the Malaysian Fintech company raised US$5 million from Japan’s Transcosmos. Carsome, StoreHub and Soft Space, join almost 3,000 other companies that have been accorded MSC (Multimedia Supercorridor) status by Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC). Since its inception in 1996, MDEC has been actively pursuing Malaysia’s digital agenda. This was done by initially encouraging technology companies to set up in Cyberjaya, and then bringing in shared services companies, and now by working to build globally competitive Malaysian headquarters companies.

In my last article, I provided examples of the first generation of Malaysian companies, many of whom achieved billion-Ringgit valuations with very little capital. Starting with founder’s money, these companies at best raised two to three million US dollars, which had to take them straight to an IPO. With few exceptions, except Grab and iflix, which raised US$ $170 million, Malaysian companies have not appeared on the radar of major VC firms.

Money chasing Malaysian deals

Well, as they say, times have changed: Money is now chasing local deals because of the ability of Malaysian companies to navigate the fragmented and tightly regulated markets of Southeast Asia. This is very important to note, as this is changing the landscape in Malaysia.

N2N Connect, a company that provides securities trading platforms used its Malaysia-base to grow into the region. We are fortunate to have a forward-thinking central bank. In addition to allowing for crowd funding platforms, and a sandbox for testing of new products, Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) recently finalised electronic Know-Your-Customer (e-KYC) guidelines.

This is a huge step, allowing for much faster and more seamless customer acquisition. These guidelines made it possible for Internet payment provider iPay88 to launch a virtual account for the “unbanked” market.

I am pleased that MDEC has continued to play an active role in building the ecosystem that has allowed these companies to flourish. We maintain a constant and consistent dialogue with several stakeholders, including BNM and the Ministry of Higher Education – where we led the push to introduce coding classes in schools. While we continue to work on the digitalization agenda, we recognise an urgent need to bring larger VCs into Malaysia.

Companies like Carsome, StoreHub and Soft Space are building businesses, which are like utilities. There are differences though if one was to compare them with Tenaga or Celcom, Maxis and Digi. What are the differences? Utility businesses have large capex needs but their business is protected by licenses. They didn’t start off with a small bunch of customers and build the infrastructure from customer revenues; that business model just doesn’t work that way. Build a small power plant in Petaling Jaya, supply a few hundred customers and from the revenue build a megawatt plant. Big money is raised up front.

Scale up at speed

Well, the startup guys don’t have the protection of a license, so they start with a small bunch of customers and what is typically called a “Minimum Viable Product.” They then get feedback, gain traction and often go through a few product iterations. Once that has been achieved they need money – lots of it – to build the infrastructure, delivery capability and capture market opportunity ahead of potential competition. As we say in MDEC, it’s a matter of “Grow Fast and Go Global”.

Just last week, Zilingo, a Singapore based start-up raised US54 million for an expansion into the region from their base in Bengalaru, capital of the Indian state of Karnataka. That’s big money! The company provides a platform for customers to browse and buy fashion products from retailers in Southeast Asia. Since inception in October 2015, Zilingo has raised US82 million, to launch in Thailand and expand into Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam. Like other platforms, the technology relies on artificial intelligence – AI – to learn buyer behaviour and then propose the “right” product.

The need to achieve scale and leverage on engineering capability probably led GHL Systems Berhad to acquire rival company Paysys (M) Sdn Bhd for RM80 million, with half paid in cash and the balance in shares. GHL is no stranger to corporate exercises. In 2013, GHL acquired e-Pay Asia Limited, a company founded by Simon Loh, now vice-Chairman of GHL. Local PE firm, Creador, sold its stake to Actis in 2017, and they are now are pushing for growth in the payments, or fintech space, which is seeing a lot of new entrants.

Malaysia on the VC Map

Digitization coupled with the porosity of borders has meant that competition lands at your doorstep almost from the word go! Scale and speed of growth are important and the fuel for that is cash – and plenty of it! This is one of the reasons why MDEC is pleased to have attracted Vickers Venture Partners, to open their Kuala Lumpur office.

The presence of Vickers on our shores is yet another indication of investor interest in Malaysian-originated deals. Have we done enough to put Malaysia on the map? Only time will tell, but the good news is that investors are now getting off the plane at KLIA. At MDEC, we are busy making sure they continue to keep Malaysia firmly on their radar.

One major initiative we recently worked on this year was the “Sea Dragon Venture Platform” event (10-11 May2018), which was organised by PIKOM. MDEC was pleased to support this major initiative, which saw 30 global VCs and corporate investors visiting Kuala Lumpur. About 35 technology companies from Malaysia and the region were shortlisted to pitch at this event. SEAD are targeting companies that have the potential to be leading players in the Asian and North Asian markets that are looking for growth capital of US$5-25 million. This event was yet another opportunity to showcase to the region why having a startup to scale is best done from Malaysia.

It’s time to “Grow Fast and Go Global,” which is in line with MDEC’s globalization strategy; “Building Local Tech Champions!”

Gopi Ganesalingam is MDEC’s Vice President of Enterprise Development.

This article first appeared on 5 May at 2018 at Business Today, titled “Building Local Tech Champions” means Growing Fast and Going Global

POV from Silicon Valley: Location Matters – Particularly with Cross Border eCommerce

As consumers continue to expand the use of electronic commerce channels as their preferred method of shopping, the traditional retail industry “location matters” adage seems fated to obsolescence. Clearly, the location of a physical retail location is becoming less important than it was as recently as five years ago – the retail location is often in the cloud, accessible from wherever the consumer and his or her smartphone happens to be.

“Location matters” still rings true despite the evolution of commerce from physical to electronic, but its meaning has also evolved.  We all understand the concept of instant gratification and the feeling of frustration that can arise from waiting for a purchased item to be delivered. Jack Ma, founder and Executive Chairman of Alibaba, the world’s largest retailer has set the success requirement for their Electronic World Trade Platform to delivery within 72 hours of purchase to anywhere in the world, 24 hours within a country. Being able to consistently meet this requirement requires a highly sophisticated set of inventory management and logistics systems to be sure, but those things alone will not guarantee success. As it turns out, the shipping point’s location matters to a great extent in timely and efficient delivery – particularly when cross-border shipments are involved.

In an e-commerce world where this location matters, Malaysia enjoys many advantages, just as it has since the beginnings of international commerce centuries ago.  Strategically located on the Strait of Melaka, Malaysia is the natural gateway to southeast Asia, within easy reach of many of the world’s most dynamic economies. The ASEAN region is home to 630 million consumers and collectively the world’s sixth largest economy at over US$2.4 trillion annually. However, it’s not only the physical location that matters. What Malaysia and its partner Alibaba have put in place in that location are what make it one of the world’s most advanced e-commerce hubs.

Reliable and efficient shipping operates on a hub and spoke system, with few hubs connecting out to many spokes in a region.  The hubs are the most vital parts of the system, where synchronization of warehousing, packaging, transportation, and other logistical aspects of fulfilling an e-commerce transaction such as customs clearances or dealing with returned merchandise.  Malaysia’s recently launched Digital Free Trade Zone, which has within it the first international hub of Alibaba’s Electronic World Trade Platform, is among the e-commerce industry’s most advanced hubs worldwide.

Why did Jack Ma and Alibaba choose Malaysia for its first deployment of its Electronic World Trade Platform? Location was clearly one of the reasons. Our geopolitical stability and deeply ingrained trading culture were reasons.  The others relate to a powerful shared vision and the leadership commitment to execute an aggressive development plan. Making the Digital Free Trade Zone a reality involved the Prime Minister and other senior members of the government setting directives that cut across 26 different agencies and ministries. This top-down leadership, plus the sector-specific knowledge of MDEC and others driving the growth of the nation’s digital economy were what made it possible to transform vision into reality in under one year. Datuk Yasmin summed it up this way: “It was many things, but most importantly, he and the Alibaba team saw that we had the vision for it and the ambition to see it through.”

Jack Ma said, “the first-e-hub under the Electronic World Trade Platform outside of China will go a long way towards making global trade more inclusive and provide much-needed support to a hugely important constituent:  SME’s and the younger generation.” Clearly, the significance of the partnership with Alibaba, and the capabilities it has brought to market have industry, socio-economic, and other far-reaching implications. Datuk Yasmin expressed the following in conclusion:  “My dream is that we will rediscover and reposition the glory days of the Straits of Melaka during the silk and spice trade.  Melaka was right in the center of the universe then, and I feel it can be that in the e-commerce universe.”

Datuk Dan E Khoo is the President of MDEC Americas Inc; a Silicon Valley organization established to drive the global expansion of Malaysia’s digital economy.

Malaysian Leaders Must Build World-Class High Impact teams

When I joined Malaysia Economic Development Corporation (MDEC) in February 2015, I took on the role of Vice President of Enterprise Development. It was a new division created to identify and catalyse Malaysia-based companies into the global arena as eventual world icons. This was and still is one of MDEC’s four strategic pillars – to build world class tech champions.

It’s usual for MDEC to move people around internally to lead teams to drive various corporate objectives, so my MDEC story moved through different chapters. Currently, I am leading a laser-focused team using MDEC’s GAIN (Global Accelerator and Innovation Acceleration) initiative to elevate Malaysian companies onto the international stage, starting with the ASEAN region.

World-class ambitions demand a high-performance culture, which is a fast-emerging trend in many key organisations. Personally, I point to football teams (mysteriously called soccer by Americans) as examples of some “secrets” of what it takes to successfully develop and drive high performing teams.
Malaysia has already seen several inspiring success stories, moving in the right direction and gathering momentum. Just to run through a few:

  • Vitrox Berhad is a global player in automated vision inspection solutions. Founded by Chu Jenn Weng and Steven Siaw Kok Tong, both graduates from University Sains Malaya. Vitrox was first admitted to the ACE market in 2005 and moved to the Main Market in 2009. On 19th March 2018, their market capitalization stood at RM2,755 million.
  • Aemulus Holdings Berhad is another listed MSC status company. Founded by Ng Sang Beng and Yeoh Chee Keong, it listed on the ACE Market of Bursa Malaysia in 2015. Co-founders, Ng Sang Beng and Yeoh Chee Keong were colleagues at Altera Corporation in Penang. Their market capitalization stands at RM107 million.
  • Other MSC-status champions include Inmagine Group, now 16 years in operations, best known for their stock image business (123rf.com) and Piktochart, which produces visual stories from charts.
  • Green Packet Berhad is a Malaysian company that started out in Silicon Valley in 2000 and achieved listing in 2005. In true Silicon Valley style, the company evolved, selling its wireless broadband business to Telekom Malaysia to focus on the Internet of Things (IoT) and fintech.
  • iflix, a video on-demand service, was founded by Patrick Grove, who also built the hugely successful Catcha Group, a leading internet player in the region. In 2016, iflix secured a US$45 million investment from pay-tv giant Sky Plc.
  • MDT Innovations is the leading innovator in the region for IoT. Driven by Liew Choon Lian, CEO and Sim Hon Wai, COO, its revenue is 95% export driven. It was listed in Gartner’s Cool Vendor and featured as top 25 IoT companies by APAC CIO Outlook Magazine in 2018.

Passion, Diversity and Innovation

There are several other Malaysia-born companies that are now serving customers around the globe. All of them started with a core team of founders, who recruited their team and infused it with a mission, and – as they say – a dose of passion to achieve performance. As well as performance, they developed and continue to maintain high performing teams: It’s easier when you start from scratch, but if you don’t – you do need to continually add to your talent pool.

That means having to be in a location, which is attractive for talent, like Malaysia. MDEC has played a major role in making this possible, as one of the benefits of MSC (Multimedia Supercorridor) status is the ability to bring in talented staff from around the world.

In the corporate world, managers don’t have the luxury of building their teams from scratch. They join an organization, work their way up the ranks and if all goes well they get to run a department, division, etc. It’s fully staffed but nonetheless it is incumbent upon the leadership team to ensure diversity and inclusiveness. That’s how you get innovation – new ideas are needed from the outside: New blood to enable a fresh perspective, so to speak!

Incentives and a common goal are key to building a high-performance team

What does it take to build a high-performance team? A common goal is clearly important. Incentives also work, as you can see with football players and sales people, in general.

However, one should be wary of incentives driving the wrong behaviour. When too ‘significant’, incentives can sometimes cause problems. Most recently the big four Australian banks were hauled up by regulators and told to stop their product-based incentive payments, as customers were sold products they did not understand or need. The independent commissioner, Stephen Sedgwick said, “some current practices carried an unacceptable risk – of promoting behaviour, which is inconsistent with the interests of customers”.

In my earlier article, I talked about the need to have a strong story. If the story is clear and meaningful, and shows purpose, then you can actually recruit and motivate a team without relying on large monetary incentives! A high purpose generates powerful energies that will drive high performance: That is indeed the practice at MDEC, because working in MDEC is more than a job or a career, it’s about ‘serving the nation with your hand over your heart’.

Coming back to the issues faced by most managers, who after climbing up the corporate ladder have a team to lead: It is often assumed that they have the skills to manage a team, but in practice that might not be the case. A great salesman might not be a great sales team lead, where his job is to motivate, assist and plan for his salespeople to perform. This is where mentoring and coaching is required.

The other point to understand is that in a team, there will some who perform and others who don’t. If you have team members who are not contributors and in fact turn out to be disruptors, they need to be removed quickly and in an open and visible manner. Unfortunately, a lot of line managers prefer to keep these staff on the payroll and avoid uncomfortable conversations. When there is confusion about responsibilities, and no one is really held accountable for performance, managers will struggle to have an open and fair conversation about an individual’s performance. Without accountability, you cannot build a high-performing team.

“Well Done!”

Managers who want to build high-performance teams need to really understand this. If I could borrow again from football: All top Premier League teams are packed with talented, committed athletes, but the reality is that at this level, you can’t build a winning team without a superstar. Liverpool might have discovered one such star in, Mohamed Salah, who just turned 25 years of age and joined the club in June 2017 from A.S. Roma.

In his book, “Leading” Alex Ferguson (with Michael Moritz) said, “the two most powerful words in the English language are ‘Well Done!’ Much of leadership is about extracting that extra 5 percent of performance that individuals did not know they possessed.”

In building a high-performance team, you need a powerful story, committed team members, a couple of superstars and an evaluation system that is fair and open. What’s good for the goose is not always good for the gander, so rewards and expectations must be specific to each member. Add to this a courageous leader and you will have a winner!

Gopi Ganesalingam, Vice President, Enterprise Development, MDEC.

This article first appeared on 27 April 2018 at Leaderonomics, titled “Malaysian Leaders Must Build World-Class High Impact Teams

Making “Cloud First” a Reality for Malaysia

With Malaysia embarking on its “Cloud First” strategy to accelerate the Digital Economy, the public and private sectors together with the rakyat can expect more digital transformation initiatives that would make Malaysia a more productive, operationally efficient and conducive country to live in.

The “Cloud First” strategy was first introduced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak after chairing the 29th MSC Malaysia Implementation Council Meeting in October last year.

“Cloud adoption will enable the government to rapidly deliver innovative public sector services to the rakyat without incurring high levels of capital expenditure to invest in IT infrastructure such as data centres, servers and storage,” said Datuk Seri Najib.

Greater adoption of cloud services is also expected to benefit the government from state-of-the-art security infrastructure as well as collaborative platforms that would ease services deployment amongst government agencies and also with the rakyat.

“This enables the government to allocate resources for more impactful programmes for the rakyat. With this strategy in place, there is no doubt the government is taking the lead in embracing digital transformation,” he added.

The “Cloud First” strategy is defined as a method of faster delivery of information technology services like data sharing and online transactions in which resources are retrieved from the Internet through web-based tools and applications, as opposed to a direct connection to a server. In addition, there is usually less capital expenditure as opposed to more than a decade ago when there was a need to invest in traditional IT infrastructures such as servers and storage.

The Malaysian Government can also facilitate the adoption of Cloud by the private sector.

Earlier this month, the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) together with Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA) announced the Digital Transformation Acceleration Programme (DTAP) aimed at providing Malaysian companies with a structured approach to digital transformation.

Established for large corporations and mid-tier companies, DTAP is an outcome-driven programme aimed at encourage them to embrace emerging digital technologies for greater productivity and operational efficiencies, while reducing foreign labour dependency and to explore new sources of growth.

“Digital disruption is inevitable; it is the way of the world now. It is imperative for businesses to embrace the cloud to successfully integrate digital technologies to their business processes,” said MDEC chief executive officer Datuk Yasmin Mahmood at the event.

MIDA chief executive officer Dato’ Azman Mahmud concurred. “MIDA has been working with MDEC to structure the DTAP towards lifting Malaysian industry players in the priority sectors to assist them in their digital adoption journey,” he added.

Although the growth of the digital economy and the journey to the cloud bring about various benefits, there is also a need to relook at how services and operations are managed.

This stems from the reality that, with technology moving so fast and constantly evolving, the necessary public policies need to be implemented to address new opportunities and challenges. This situation is confounding governments throughout the world.

The United States was one of the world’s first countries to be proactive and, recently, its CLOUD (Clarifying Lawful overseas Use of Data) Act was signed into law.

The CLOUD Act is said to be a framework to address the “tricky balance” of the protection of fundamental individual privacy rights and cross-border data access by law enforcement agencies from various governments.

Similarly for Malaysia, for government and businesses to continuously digitally transform and for the country to emerge as a regional leader in cloud services, we would also need to look at enacting the relevant public policies through the issuance of progressive guidelines

What are the Critical Steps to Successful Digital Adoption?

This time last year, I pointed out that Malaysia and the rest of the world is rapidly making its way to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (now known as IR4.0).

Rapidly evolving technologies – such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, nanotechnology, and quantum computing – together with emerging new models and approaches are starting to help us unlock even more value and benefits from the digital revolution.

Leading industry players in Malaysia have started their digital adoption and transformation journey, but are yet to fully leverage digital technologies across the full breadth of their business, according to recent analysis by Accenture using its Digital Performance Index (DPI).

As an example, an Accenture analysis in Malaysia, published in ‘Faster Than Ever: Can Malaysia’s Top Companies Win in the Digital Age?’, examines 28 leading companies across more than eight industries. It found that although companies are aware of the importance of incorporating digital into business strategies, there seems to be a gap between planning and taking action. Up to 44 per cent of companies have digital strategies in place, but only 7 per cent have announced dedicated budgets to implement these strategies.

The research also revealed that most digital transformation initiatives are focused on customer-facing activities rather than internal operations and management structures. More than half (52 per cent) have launched new digital products and up to 44 per cent have digitalised current products. However, only 11 per cent use digital in their manufacturing processes or to manage the supply network.

With ASEAN’s digital economy projected to add US$1 trillion to the region’s gross domestic product during the next 10 years, Malaysian companies need to leverage digital innovation across all business activities, and they need to do this faster than ever.

In other words, it is about building upon a vibrant domestic ICT industry, transformative use of digital solutions by government, businesses and citizens, as well as the constant nurturing of robust enabling ecosystem. The vision of Digital Malaysia is aimed at enabling the country’s digital economy so that Malaysians and our country’s businesses can thrive within this new business environment.

Engine of Growth

Following the 29th Malaysia Implementation Council meeting (ICM) in October last year, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced a new stream of initiatives to boost nationwide digital transformation.

“I really believe that digital economy can become the engine of growth for Malaysia,” the Prime Minister said after the meeting. “Although what we are experiencing today is amazing, I want to further challenge MDEC and all involved in driving the digital economy of the country and get it to supercharge our country’s economy. In fact, I want it to be one of the sectors that will power our growth.”

Vowing to take the government’s commitment to drive Malaysia’s Digital Economy to a higher level, Prime Minister’s wide-ranging announcements included a national artificial intelligence framework, digital accelerators, new company builder tech startup funds from Mountain Partners Europe and Bridge IP Japan, as well as new digital transformation acceleration programmes for mid-tier companies.

This stepping up of gear brings to mind the 2020 vision – which remains a major milestone of development for Malaysia – a year by which the nation is determined to achieve a digital, developed economy status.

Malaysian companies are stamping their mark globally; for example, Elsoft was recognised by Forbes Asia as ‘Best Under A Billion’ in 2015 and 2017. Among MNCs, we are already moving up the services value chain.

The Prime Minister noted that there has been a strategic shift in investments, where Malaysia used to be a base for shared services. Multinationals are now using Malaysia as a hub for catalytic digital technology and services. One such example is French company Dassault Systemes, a world leader in 3D design, who has chosen Malaysia to host their Global Development Centre for 3D Business Experience Platform.

The challenges Malaysia is addressing includes improving a structured approach, overcoming budget limitations, developing more digital workers as well as helping to clarify paths towards more efficient digital transformation.

To speed up the transformation, we are forming Digital Transformation Labs to provide consultancy and assist in prototyping new digital products and services. The labs will then match participant companies to digital companies. This programme intends to achieve three main outcomes – increased productivity, reduction in foreign labour dependency as well as a new business model or source of growth for the participant companies. This model has been tested on Top Glove and Gamuda with encouraging results.

By digitising the chemical testing line, Top Glove managed to completely remove the need to allocate labour for this task, as well as reduce unplanned downtime by 100 percent. Similarly, Gamuda’s mall management were able to reduce man-hours by 50 percent, while fully digitising their processes. The next step for Top Glove and Gamuda is to scale this approach to their other production lines and properties respectively.

Another major factor to grow the nation’s Digital Economy is building the right talent pool: our forecast reveals that Malaysia needs one million digital workers, such as coders, application developers and software engineers by 2025. We are pleased for the support for Digital Maker Movement, i.e. the initiative to identify and nurture young talents to be future digital innovators. It includes the move by Ministry of Education to incorporate computational thinking and computer science in schools, and for more collaboration with the private sector as well as support from academia to further nurture these bright young talents.

Catalysing AI

Malaysia introduced the ‘Cloud First’ Strategy to the national agenda, starting with the public sector. Cloud adoption can enable the government to rapidly deliver innovative public sector services to the Rakyat without incurring high levels of capital expenditure to invest in the IT infrastructure, such as data centres, servers and storage.

In a hyper connected world, it is becoming abundantly clear that artificial intelligence (AI) is the defining force of the fourth industrial revolution. AI is the natural progression from data analytics, and as such, Malaysia will develop a National AI Framework. This will be an expansion of the National BDA [big data analytics] Framework, and its development will be led by MDEC. AI could well be a ‘game changer’ in improving the lives of Malaysians.

In January this year, Malaysia introduced a high-impact initiative to catalyse the AI ecosystem and open up the path for collaborative innovation: The Malaysia City Brain. This is an open data-driven, artificial intelligence platform adapted from Hangzhou City Brain, which has been designed to meet local needs. It uses artificial intelligence as a platform to start to address urban challenges and offers intelligent solutions to the community in Kuala Lumpur. The platform uses Alibaba Cloud’s AI programme as well as big data analytics capabilities to produce real-time traffic predictions using its video and image recognition technologies.

The Malaysia City Brain operates as an open platform whereby it can plug in new and existing solutions from other platform by leveraging off pre-built intelligent tools, incorporating artificial intelligence and Machine Learning, and utilising existing data sets as well as additional data sets from external sources.

Global icons

On the startup side, the Malaysian tech scene is growing and vibrant. There are several Made-in-Malaysia regional champions that we see today: iflix, a three-year-old startup that managed to roll out services to 30 countries and five million customers, while having access to data analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning. And it is intriguing that iflix does not own servers or data centres. Cloud and digital adoption allows them to be agile and scale fast to meet growing demands while keeping capital expenditure low. Presently, iflix has 179 million in the latest round of funding. We need to see more rapid growing start-ups like iflix in Malaysia.

It is increasingly important for local companies to become global icons. We do have wonderful potential here – with the likes of Silverlake, a renowned solutions provider for the global financial industry, Fusionex, a multi-award winning Analytics and Big Data company that is based in Malaysia.

In this light, the MDEC Global Acceleration Innovation Network (GAIN) initiative aims to identify companies that have the potential to be accelerated into major global icons, such as Sedania Innovator and iPay88. Through MDEC’s Silicon Valley office, we have successfully connected more than 20 of such companies to the SV ecosystem of mentors, accelerators and venture capitalists (VCs). Hence, there is a critical need to “fast track” local MSC companies to enter and compete in the global marketplace.

That said, it is also important that we help smaller local companies with technologies to scale up. Smaller-range companies can leverage the biggest by adopting eCommerce in their operations. Companies like Speedminer, a pioneering machine learning company, are amongst those that MDEC has successfully nurtured. Other numerous successful startups we have in Malaysia with the world at their feet include iMoney and ServisHero, together with companies such as KFit and iflix amongst many others.

Another initiative called the Malaysia Tech Entrepreneur Programme (M-TEP) is attracting interest from entrepreneurs from all across the world and shows that our initiatives have global appeal. It is encouraging to know we have received applications from entrepreneurs from more than 10 countries, including Germany, India, Australia, Singapore, the UK and the US.

On a wider industry-level, we hope to accelerate digital adoption by establishing the Digital Transformation Acceleration Programme (D-TAP) for large and mid-tier companies, who contribute 63.4 percent of the GDP, according to the Prime Minister at ICM.

Major eCommerce Boost

As I mentioned earlier, with a view to becoming a high-income knowledge-based society, MDEC has spearheaded high-impact government initiatives as well. One such move is the establishment of the country’s Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ). DFTZ is an initiative by the Malaysian Government, implemented through MDEC that aims to capitalise on the confluence and exponential growth of cross-border eCommerce activities that are happening within digital economy. First announced in March 2017, DFTZ facilitated seamless cross-border trading and eCommerce, which enabled Malaysian SMEs to export their goods internationally.

On Friday, 3 November last year, Malaysia’s Prime Minister and Jack Ma opened the first ever eWTP (electronic world trade platform) hub outside of China at a Kuala Lumpur ceremony, which also flagged off 1900 export-ready small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Malaysia marked a new milestone with the celebration of DFTZ’s one-year anniversary recently with 3,000 local SMEs now onboard onto the DFTZ programme.

On the public-sector perspective, the Malaysian Government has introduced a new category of certified locations called the Malaysia Digital Hubs for the start-up community in the digital economy. This is achieved through multiple public-private collaborations to offer unique value propositions such as ubiquitous hyper-speed broadband, hot-desking, mentoring and coaching services.

The BDA “Dance floor”

Another thing we must do from the fundamentals – human capital, investments – concerns the ecosystem. One of the most critical ecosystems that we are putting our focus on is – as I put it last year – the “dance floor”. The BDA “dance floor” is one of the most important and it’s really anchored around talent development; data scientists, data modellers, and analysts. At the end of the day, though, whatever transformation needs to happen needs to be driven by the private sector. As a government agency, we can only create the “dancing floor” – the actual dancing still remains within the grasp of the private sector.

In an ever-changing innovative world, Malaysia needs to remain steadfast on the Digital Malaysia road and to ensure we become the lead in key areas of enabling fundamentals. We are extremely inspired that we are moving in that direction with the Malaysian Government focused on accelerating growth and enhancing the wellbeing of the rakyat.

Looking ahead, Malaysia’s Digital Economy is envisioning 20 percent of GDP by 2020. With a sustained push by all stakeholders, the Digital Economy contribution has good potential to reach the targeted value of RM324.9 billion by 2020, as set out in the 11th Malaysia Plan.

An important part of MDEC’s championing of the digital economy embraces digital inclusivity across all communities. We are passionate about inspiring everyone to use of digital within our Digital Malaysia journey so that the digital economy’s success can be shared by all.

The eRezeki and eUsahawan initiatives were launched in 2016 year to target key communities such as youth, SMEs, digital entrepreneurs and the B40. These initiatives include eRezeki, which is a programme for Malaysians to earn supplementary income online, while eUsahawan is a digital entrepreneurship programme helping the general public with basic business fundamentals to enhance their online sales.

So to amplify the nationwide impact of the eRezeki and eUsahawan initiatives, we developed our #YouCanDuit multichannel campaign using carnivals, roadshows, with other musical and entertainment components. Close to 200,000 people attended the on-ground events, while our multiple channel campaign included a successful partnership with not just Astro, but with other stations as well such as TV3 and RTM, and succeeded in creating a phenomenon in building the awareness of #YouCanDuit programmes. We have consistently reached out to a 10 million viewership in the past two years.

2018 will continue to see the growth of digital economy, as indicated in the budget announced in 2017. The vision is to turn Malaysia as a regional hub for digital economy. The Government, together with MDEC, are gearing up towards turning that vision into reality as we steadfastly activate our plan.

I am delighted to reaffirm the message that these times are among the best of times for us Malaysians, to ensure we are part of the Digital Malaysia journey and so share in the success of the dawning Digital Economy!

Dato’ Ng Wan Peng is Chief Operating Officer of Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC).

POV from Silicon Valley: Malaysian SME Cross-Border Trade – The Next Chapter

For centuries, Malaysia has been a center of international commerce, owing to its strategic location in the Strait of Melaka, and the resulting trading orientation that developed among its people. And while it remains an important player in the traditional forms of international commerce conducted principally among large corporations, the power of e-commerce has been harnessed in Malaysia specifically for the benefit of its expanding the cross-border trade of its small and medium-sized enterprises (SME’s).

Capitalizing on its culture and heritage rich in trading and commerce, Malaysia’s drive to grow its digital economy has always focused on inclusiveness. This approach aligned well with the vision of Jack Ma, the founder and executive chairman of Alibaba, the world’s largest and most profitable retailer, for an Electronic World Trade Platform (EWTP). In Ma’s view, the globalization of trade, though geographically widespread is flawed in its implementation because it has benefitted only big, multinational companies.  This flaw is largely due to cost of cross-border trade that is driven by its complexity, rendering it inaccessible to SME’s. Putting an e-commerce platform in place that removes the complexity and therefore the cost that excludes most SME’s from cross-border trade will enable SME’s to profitably reach markets beyond their own borders.

This aligned view of inclusion forged a natural partnership between Alibaba and Malaysia to develop and launch Malaysia’s Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ).  Effectively eliminating the complexity associated with customs, foreign exchange, warehousing, shipping and reaching a marketplace of potential customers, the Alibaba Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP) hub within the DFTZ gives SME’s from Malaysia, and ultimately throughout the ASEAN region and beyond unprecedented capabilities to reach large consumer markets. In his remarks on the launch of the DFTZ, Jack Ma said: “Today we are witnessing a historic moment in Asia, where one country has begun to use technology to enable its SME’s and young people to become more competitive on the world stage.”

About 2000 Malaysian SME’s were part of the initial launch of the DFTZ.  There is a Malaysian Pavilion on the Alibaba platform and various powerful tools that connect potential buyers outside of Malaysia with Malaysian products for the first time. So far the results have been interesting.  The top Malaysian product sold into China through the Malaysian Pavilion is white coffee. Durian is number two. Bird nests for bird nest soup is also a popular SME export – leveraging our not quite as well-known location advantage of being on the flight path of swallows traversing southeast Asia. The mix of products and volume sold through the DFTZ to the world’s consumers will continue to evolve and grow in interesting ways, but whatever the products, it’s the growth of SME’s ability to benefit from streamlined cross-border trade that really matters.

Reflecting on the launch of the DFTZ and the partnership with Alibaba, Datuk Yasmin said: “I’m really happy with how this came together. Of course it was a lot of work on our part, but it didn’t seem so due to the sheer excitement of doing something so new.  To be working with the global leaders at Alibaba and such an innovative leader as Jack Ma, has been truly a pleasure for us, and also has brought us to a whole different mindset now. The platform that we built was developed by locals. I must say that it was at a high standard.  Through this initiative we raised the standard of our local suppliers to that of a global caliber, an Alibaba caliber, and that’s something that will have lasting effects.”

Dato’ Dan E Khoo is the President of MDEC Americas Inc; a Silicon Valley organization established to drive the global expansion of Malaysia’s digital economy.

POV from Silicon Valley: Malayan Trading History’s Influence on the Rise of the Malaysian Digital Economy

Today, as it has been for centuries past, the Straits of Melaka is one of the world’s most important trade routes. Malaysia’s prime location on the commercial artery that connects the Pacific and Indian Oceans and the major economic centers of Asia has been a major factor not only in the growth of the Malaysian economy but also in the development of trading and commerce as a key dimension of Malaysian rich history and culture.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) estimates that roughly 80 percent of global trade by volume is enabled by shipping. A relatively narrow channel, the Straits of Melaka is relied upon by a third of total global shipping. In dollar terms, an estimated US$5.3 trillion worth of goods transits through the South China Sea annually.

As early as the first few centuries A.D., trade on the Straits of Melaka helped to create economic and cultural links among China, India, and the Middle East.  Europeans also plied the Straits during this time.  By the middle ages, it had become the hub for trade and commerce that it is today, with ships using points along the coast of the Malayan Peninsula to dock and conduct commerce.  It is said that the Chinese, Indians, Omanis, Yemenis, Persians, and Africans exchanged goods and established trade agreements with traders from Sumatra, Java, Bali, and Canton. Silk, brocades, porcelain, and perfumes from the Middle Kingdom were traded with hardwoods, carvings, precious stones, cotton, sugar, livestock and even weapons from India. From the interior of Malaya came tin, camphor, ebony, and gold. Surrounding traders brought spices, perfume, rice, gold, black pepper and sandalwood.

The regional prosperity that came from being the hub of activity for traders of all ilk (and silk) led to a self-reinforcing loop that perpetuated an affinity for the virtues of commerce. The strategic location of the Straits at the heart of the Eastern trade routes, coupled with favourable seasonal winds, were critical natural factors that encapsulated the trade-hub potential of Penang and Melaka. But it still took the inspired decision of the then administrators to build the infrastructure, establish the network and train the local population to turn Penang and Melaka into major entrepots of their time.

While the world and its modes of commerce and trade have evolved greatly over the past several hundred years, the Straits of Melaka has sustained its position as a preeminent trade route.  Today, Malaysia is the gateway to the 630 million consumers of the ASEAN region – collectively the world’s sixth largest economy at over US$2.4 trillion annually.

Malaysians’ commercial sensibility is a key underlying factor in the growth of Malaysia’s digital economy. Entrepreneurship and understanding, producing and trading the goods markets want are deeply ingrained among Malaysians. As Datuk Yasmin observed, “we are traders – locally, nationally, and internationally, giving the various programs undertaken by MDEC and others access to a deep talent pool that is readily adapting to the possibilities and opportunities of digital.”

This dimension of our culture also affords Malaysia the ability to have a highly inclusive agenda for building its digital economy, one that touches a large proportion of our people, extending their outlook and what they already know into exciting new digital endeavors. Datuk Yasmin outlined the scale at which this was being undertaken: “on a national level, we are doing things to expose our entrepreneurially-inclined population to digital entrepreneurship.  Digital marketing and digital e-commerce instruction is now a formal curriculum in our vocational schools.  We will have over 400,000 vocational school graduates each year who have had in-depth exposure to digital marketing and e-commerce.” This program is now being expanded to the university level.

After only two years, the transformative impact has been phenomenal.  We already see cases of successful young e-commerce entrepreneurs going from renting a small house to being to buy a house for their family, and then having sufficient demand for their product to warrant moving production from their backyard into a brand-new factory. International expansion of the markets where these small and medium-sized enterprises (SME’s) do business is the next step, and one, given our trading culture and heritage, that is coming naturally, and now more easily, leveraging the partnership between Alibaba and the Malaysian government and the capabilities of Malaysia’s recently launched Digital Free Trade Zone.

Datuk Dan E Khoo is the President of MDEC Americas Inc; a Silicon Valley organization established to drive the global expansion of Malaysia’s digital economy.

Why Malaysian Companies Need To Be Better Storytellers

When national agency Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC, previously known as Multimedia Development Corporation) was formed in 1996, the aim was to support the development of Malaysian-based technology companies — MSC (Multimedia Super Corridor) Malaysia status companies.

Over the years, the number of these MSC-status companies has grown to more than 2,500.

Many of these companies are already market leaders here, and some are ready to take the next step, which is to succeed in the ASEAN market.

To help crystallise their expansion efforts, MDEC recently launched the GAIN (Global Accelerator and Innovation Acceleration) programme.

We saw their potential to global players, and even to become global icons: ASEAN was envisioned as the next major stride forward.

Why Malaysia?

Why is Malaysia a fertile ground for emerging global icons? Firstly, Malaysia is centrally located, and for companies based here, many markets are easy to reach. We have gained a deep understanding of buyer behaviour and market dynamics.

Also, Malaysia – with a population of some 30 million limits the growth potential of any business, especially a technology one.

This fosters a creative tension, a drive to answer the strategic challenge: How does a company stand out from the rest of the field? During the infancy stage, most companies start by selling to customers that they can connect by a sharp focus on competencies, pricing, and delivery.

However, the next chapter of the story demands answering the overpowering need to stand out from the crowd. This will always remain a challenge, of course, for most companies throughout the entire life-cycle of the company: it’s the pressure to adapt.

But just to stop the story here: Consider that most companies will only look into this issue when they achieve a certain scale, a certain milestone along their growth journey.

Can you be differentiated by your product, service or is there something else? Looking at a sampling of the successful local technology companies such as iPay88, Fusionex International, N2N Connect, iflix, Sedania Innovators, Les Copaque, Mindvalley, I would say that only a couple have engaged the power of story.

Having worked at several MNC’s – such as Lucent, American Express, Telstra, and others – I have had first hand opportunity to delve into the sales process from the inside.

The truth, they say, always lies within. It has become crystal clear to me that the truly successful companies have been able to craft powerful strategic stories to explain their relevance.

Yes, we needed to have the right product-value mix, but the deal is definitely lost if our story lacks meat, lacks structure, and misses telling the unique selling point.

Photo taken from http://www.stevejobsmovie.co.uk/

Why stories work?

Stories are powerful differentiators, and for this reason have always appealed to the human psyche. The first clear stories that remain visible for human-kind are probably the Palaeolithic cave paintings in Lascaux, France, which are estimated to be 20,000 years old.

For centuries our ancestors were captivated by stories, and long before the written word, history was passed down verbally through the generations in the form of stories.

Photo taken from http://www.stevejobsmovie.co.uk/

It was paintings, visual work and the spoken word that captivated our imaginations.

Interestingly, fast forward to the modern era and noted linguist, Noam Chomsky, who in the 1960’s said that we are all born with an innate language.

He went on to say that the primary purpose of language was for thought – not communication!

Yet leaders and sales people continue to throw facts and figures at us. I am not saying that these are not important, but they need to be placed within the engaging, compelling structure – that we call an overarching story.

This is something that NGOs do very well. Talk to any successful NGO and they are able to explain the reason for their existence without using facts and figures.

Companies, possibly influenced by the finance and product specialists, seem to just jump straight into why the product is better or cheaper, and the better ones are able to sell the value proposition.

It seems we have deliberately ignored the wisdom of generations in order to get into a “you can never win” race to prove our product is better than competitive offerings.

Companies that are not able to climb out of this abyss will find it difficult to survive in an increasingly competitive and connected world.

It is tough to win the features and benefits war when you are sitting in front of a prospect, and impossible when you are not.

And in a competitive world, this is the challenge faced by ASEAN companies. There are of course notable exceptions; AirAsia always had a great story, represented by its famous tag-line, “Now Anyone Can Fly”.

Nadiem Makarim, Founder & CEO of GoJEK ,is a powerful storyteller and is propelling the company into an Indonesian logistics and payment superstar.

Strategic storytelling

Grab is following suit. The ASEAN market will be an open one, which means local SMEs need to start thinking about how they are going to compete, not just within the region but against global players.

For SMEs and technology companies the writing is not the wall. Learn to compete, or face extension. This is why the storytelling skill is critical, and, for me, an area where local companies have not mastered the battle of the mind that needs to be fought.

Let’s take a look at a couple of extraordinary storytellers from the technology world.

Steve Jobs attention to detail in presenting Apple product is legendary.

In the movie Jobs, you can see the time and effort that goes into his presentation – it’s not a matter of running through the few slides with a narrative. What he says, how he says it, where he stands, sits, how he unveils the product functionality is all carefully crafted within an overarching story so that he captivates, entertains and most importantly speaks to each and everyone in a personal way that touches our emotional core.

Why does he do this? Is it his passion, obsession with detail? Perhaps. But I think he truly understands how important stories are to the human psyche. And by casting the story correctly, he is opening the door for his sales and marketing people to follow up with the features and benefits pitch. That’s the art of strategic story-telling.

Simon Sinek, in his most watched video on the “The Golden Circle” says that by answering the why question you can reach into the limbic system, or the “emotional brain,” which we know from biology is buried within the cerebrum and is possibly the oldest part of our brain.

This part of the brain doesn’t control language, reasoning, coordination, etc., which are controlled by the cerebrum, but because it is the repository of emotions and memories it can drive actions more effectively than rational thought. Jobs and others have perhaps intuitively understood this and used stories to set their companies apart from the pack.

Elon Musk, a man I truly admire and respect, entrepreneur and leader extraordinaire is another example of a great strategic story-teller. He announced the Tesla Roadster in 2004, using the chassis and engineering strength of Lotus Engineering and delivered the first unit four years later.

The cars that were on the market were sold on their features and performance. Potential buyers were told about; zero-emissions, luggage space, range per charge, etc.

When presenting his electric car, Musk talked about it being “cool, great design and acceleration. It was a simple but powerful message targeted at the limbic system. Tesla’s Model-S became the bestselling electric vehicle in the US in 2016 and 2017.

To end on an important point: Why is storytelling so important to local technology companies? I’ve already talked about the competitive environment these companies face. Instead of pushing more and more information out, we need to learn the art of storytelling. The emotional engagement that I mentioned earlier is vital to business performance.

Technology today has democratised and has deepened our connectivity and our reach to our customers, competitors, and just about every single person on planet earth: So let us share the stories of our business propositions, and tell the stories of our entrepreneurship journey globally.

Malaysian companies can stand tall with other global players: we need to tell our compelling stories!

by Gopi Ganesalingam, MDEC’s Vice President of Enterprise Development.

This article also appeared on New Straits Times on 14 March at “Why Malaysian companies need to be better storytellers?

Digitisation and Digitalisation: What’s the difference?

In tandem with these changing times of rapid digital disruption and transformation, even language is becoming more disrupted.

One of the debates gaining momentum during networking sessions at events in ASEAN, especially in leadership circles, is a certain confusion surrounding the meaning of the terms —“digitisation” and “digitalisation.”

The two terms are often mixed together in informal conversations especially in leadership circles, and vaguely connect to the rising tide of digital transformation across all areas of life. To the digital natives – especially the “born-digital” startup community, the distinctions may not appear to be relevant. However, business leaders in the “brick and mortar” world need clearer definitions for their planning procedures.

So, let’s try to clarify what the emerging distinctions in the business community are.

Gartner has presented the definition that “digitisation” is about converting analog to digital content. In short: “Digitisation is the process of changing from analog to digital form.” A simple example is converting an analog music piece – vinyl record to a digital file. Or to convert “brick and mortar” to “click and mortar.”

Digitalisation and Transformation

And then Gartner moved to suggest that “digitalisation” is when you use digital technologies to change a business model and provide new revenue and value-producing opportunities; it is the process of moving to a digital business. Examples of this include converting and automating manufacturing processes under the control of digital technologies: this may be illustrated by automating what were previously manual workflows in producing new products.

Analyst firm Deloitte adopts a similar approach, suggesting that digitisation means ‘Doing digital’ while digitalisation means ‘Being digital’. So, it is not simply a matter of digitising the touch points, it’s also about transforming your traditional organisation into to a digital organisation, essentially making your company digital at the core.

Putting it in a populist terms, digitisation is when Star Trek’s teleportation device (pardon the Star Trek reference; I’m a Star Wars fan, truth-be-told), changes your body into digits whereas digitalisation is about transforming the whole process and business of teleportation with the latest technological strategies.

Therefore, I suggest that digitalisation is essentially rooted in the holistic process of transformation across different sectors and different areas of our lives. The potential for change is suggested by this journey of digitalisation.

When we adopt these clarified definitions, we will be able to communicate more efficiently about the potential for change in our vision, in our planning and in our achievement. Our conversations about digital transformation are rooted in the fertile ground of digitalisation.

A few words to finish: Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) is focused on building a digital future – Digital Malaysia – in a holistic manner, one which unlocks significant economic, environmental, and social values. The four strategy pillars of digitalisation we are using to achieve transformation are: to drive investments; build local tech champions; catalyse digital innovation ecosystems; and enable more digital inclusivity.

  • “Digitisation” is the process of changing from analog to digital form.” A simple example is converting an analog music piece – vinyl record to a digital file. Or to convert “brick and mortar” to “click and mortar.”
  • “Digitalisation” is a broader, more strategic word to embrace the holistic process of transformation across different sectors and different areas of our lives: digitalisation is when you use digital technologies to change a business model and provide new revenue and value-producing opportunities.

Datuk Yasmin Mahmood is the CEO of Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation.

Change and the Importance of Core Values

The only thing that’s constant in life and business is change. And change is best exemplified in the Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) industry which is constantly evolving for the better, with newer innovations to improve lives, and enable businesses to run more efficiently and productively.

Having been at Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) for more than three years thus far, after having spent my previous chapter at multinational companies such as Microsoft, Dell and HP; I have witnessed first-hand the power and magnitude of digital transformation that pave the way for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

I have always thought of innovation as being the intersection between invention and insight. And with innovation comes transformation that transcends government, business and society for the better.

However, there is one aspect of transformation that is equally important. And that’s cultural transformation which, done correctly, brings positive benefits and significant changes within a company.

Allow me to share the MDEC example.

MDEC’s mission is to champion Malaysia’s Digital Economy, and for this to happen, it must be rooted in our core values and we must hold ourselves accountable to the highest standard of integrity.

Visitors to the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) headquarters in Cyberjaya would inevitably see a statement of our core values on the ground floor. They are:

  • We serve the nation, and are here to help bring meaningful impact to our country. And we do so with utmost integrity, sincerity and accountability.
  • We are go-getters, and do things with passion, courage, agility and resilience.
  • We are forward-thinkers, and constantly look towards the future, anticipate change, are not afraid to challenge the status-quo and connect the dots to maximise impact.
  • We are collaborators, meaning we are approachable and respectful, and we believe in the power of partnerships and teamwork.
  • We have fun… are adventurous, creative and we inject “Wow (!) into everything that we do.
Photo Credit: Nurul Shafina Jemenon, New Straits Times

As CEO of MDEC, I am very proud of these values and the MDEC team – because I see my MDEC team bringing them to life on a daily basis.

These core values represent “our true north”, because they are what makes the MDEC team a highly impactful and highly collaborative one. Evidence of this is how the Digital Economy contributed some 18.2% to Malaysia’s GDP in 2015 and is expected to further increase in the years ahead.

However, corporate cultural transformation can be challenging.

At times, the MDEC leadership team and I have had to make some tough decisions to ensure that these core values and integrity continue to be at the heart of everything we do.

We have had to transform processes and to make them more transparent – and be seen as transparent.

I admire and respect MDEC Chairman Tan Sri Sidek Hassan’s position on “Zero Tolerance” or “ZeTo” on corruption.

It is a position MDEC as a company can relate to: MDEC has Zero Tolerance for any form of corruption.

Let me give you an example: Through our audit process in 2016, we uncovered issues concerning Foreign Knowledge Workers (FKW) Approval Process and Governance. This goes against the grain of what MDEC stands steadfastly for.

As a result, under the purview of the Board Audit Committee, we undertook an extensive audit and process transformation to drive transparency. This included:

  1. Engaging credible third-party consultants to undertake the Business Process Reengineering and an extensive forensic audit to validate issues that had been uncovered.
  2. The approval process was redesigned to make it a ‘committee-based’ approval system. Most of the changes came into effect in mid-2017. Since then, we continue to further fine tune and make improvements in the best interest of transparency.
  3. Issues that may have been discovered during this exercise would have been notified and reported to the relevant authorities.

Embarking on this clean-up exercise was no easy task. It required commitment, patience and most of all, courage – especially in the face of many obstacles and people who were against this positive change for a more transparent and fair process.

As one of the leading organisations in the nation, MDEC is also pursuing the Corruption-Free (also known as “IBR”) pledge with MACC. What this means is that MACC will have direct access to us and our people, myself included.

It pleases me to say that, when we announced this process, the MDEC Senior Leadership Team volunteered to be the first to go through this audit and to be checked. It’s very heartening because it shows that core values and integrity are not just corporate statements, but that the team is leading by example even if such a process may be perceived to be inconvenient and tedious.

Another initiative that MDEC is implementing is developing our very own Code of Ethics and Business Conduct.

While such processes may be time-consuming and tedious, it is our commitment to our core values and integrity that would ensure MDEC continues serving Malaysia and helping our country realise our digital potential to its fullest. Failure to see through such commitment would mean that we have let down the country.

At the end of the day, though, integrity is what defines us as people and as professionals.

Yes, change is constant and transformation is important – but what’s equally or more important is integrity and the core values within us all to always do the right thing.

This article “Change and the Importance of Core Values” also appeared on New Straits Times on 10 February 2018  at 1.21pm.

© 2017 Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation Sdn Bhd (389346-D). All rights reserved.