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Malaysian SMEs gather to share experience on digital adoption

According to a recent report, a broadsheet newspaper company and a social enterprise focused on leadership are organising a CEO Conference to be held, entitled “Malaysia Living Dangerously”.

The Minister of Communications and Multimedia noted that as the whole world goes digital, Malaysians and Malaysia must as well.

And, Malaysia has been doing exactly that decently. In the IMD’s World Digital Competitiveness Ranking 2018, Malaysia ranked 27th, which was actually a drop of three spots from 24th in 2017. And there are other global rankings that place Malaysia higher.

However, the focus is not so much on how Malaysia ranks but rather how fast the country adapts to a fast changing digital world to seize the opportunities that open up from this disruption.

The fact that Malaysia slipped three spots in the recent IMD rankings is not because the country is not moving ahead, rather that other countries are moving faster – Malaysia has to move faster.

One area wherein Malaysia’s Digital Economy struggles is with its SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises). Making up 98.5% of all Malaysian business establishments and numbering at 907,065 a recent study that was released as part of the SME Corp 2017/2018 Annual Report gave a glimpse into the current state of digitalisation among Malaysian SMEs sector.

Titled, “Accelerating Malaysian Digital SMEs: Escaping the Computerisation Trap”, the study highlights challenges being faced by SMEs in order to be completely digitalised.

SME Corp worked with a massive telecommunications equipment company, which sponsored the study; it was conducted during the period of May to June 2018, supported by IDC Malaysia and University Consortia in conducting the Malaysia Digital SME Study.

The study found that SMEs are caught in a computerisation trap, not realising that they have stopped short of greater productivity gains and sales growth from investing further. To be truly digitalised, SMEs must re-engineer their businesses by ensuring that their business strategies, processes, and infrastructures are aligned and fully integrated to support their digital transformation, the study noted.

The results of the study do not surprise the keynote speaker at the CEO Conference, who thinks factually, at the end of 2017 SMEs contributed 37% of GDP, yet only 20% have adopted some manner of digital tools – and it is even lower for the manufacturing sector. So there is a real risk for Malaysian SMEs to be left behind, warn the Partner and head of Communications, Media and Technology practice at a major management consulting company.

The keynoted speaker will talk about the consequences for Malaysia and the companies that remain low in using technology to improve their competitiveness during his keynote.

One SME owner noted that a data-driven method helped her identify an effective way to engage customers in terms of keeping the retention rate up and ensuring customers come back more often.

She noted that the data extracted was ‘like gold’ as the owners were able to grow the customer lifetime value to almost triple what it was before. However, the owner would like to see even more growth.

The aforementioned SME owner is not the only SME owner to come share her experiences in adopting digital to increase revenues. Many SME onwers, like the owner of a forklift business who twice failed to apply an e-commerce layer to his own family’s flower business but is now succeeding at the third attempt, will be joining in the discussion.

The various SMEs that have been invited to come share their experiences are not household names or great speakers, they are just SME owners who are using whatever tools they can to help their businesses be more competitive and ultimately more successful.

It was noted that in the current era, with the Digital Economy being a mega-trend, going digital is a logical path forward and upwards.

Thus, SME owners of all sizes who are reluctant still to adopt digital in their business are encouraged to attend the conference.

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