Digerati50: Driven by her ‘Amanah’ belief
By Karamjit Singh September 30, 2017
- Aims to accelerate vision of creating global champions
- ‘If you don’t take risks, you cannot make an impact.’
Digital News Asia (DNA) continues its series that profiles the 50 influencers who are helping shape Malaysia’s Digital Economy, from Digerati50 2016-2017 (Vol 2), a special print publication released in February 2016. The digital version of that publication can be downloaded from the link at the top right corner of the page thanks to the sponsorship of Telekom Malaysia Bhd, Malaysia’s convergence champion.
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EARLY in her first interview as chief executive officer (CEO) of Multimedia Development Corporation (renamed in May 2016 to Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation) in January 2015, Yasmin Mahmood flagged that the biggest gap between the vision and execution of the Multimedia Super Corridor project (MSC Malaysia) was the development of Malaysian technology companies into global champions.
It was just one observation made within a far-ranging 75-min discussion, and was quickly forgotten by the writer. But not by Yasmin, who 12 months later made achieving this target one of her main objectives as MDEC CEO. “We have to accelerate achieving that vision,” she declared on January 2016.
Considering that the average revenue of the top 24 MSC Malaysia companies 2014 stood at US$63.2 million (RM267 million), it was a bold declaration of intent.
Yet, in doing so Yasmin is living up to the promise she made from that first interview: That she is not afraid of failing.
Especially if that failure is a result of MDEC having taken on risky endeavours where success would be able to move the needle a lot more, rather than just making incremental progress with “business-as-usual programmes.”
Echoing a key belief of all successful entrepreneurs, she says, “If you don’t take risks, you cannot make an impact.”
And as MDEC celebrates its 20th year in 2016, the consensus is that Yasmin is doing a good job in driving the national ICT custodian and its companies forward. In that sense she already is making an early impact.
She especially has her eyes on the larger MSC Malaysia companies, challenging them to think bigger, be bold, and to expand globally.
And while declaring emphatically that MDEC will not spoonfeed them, she has already launched some intervention programmes to spur them on.
GAIN or Global Acceleration and Innovation Network is one. The August 2015 establishment of an MDEC Americas office in California, staffed by two senior executives, to help connect companies to relevant parties in Silicon Valley, is an example of GAIN in action.
Having herself been exposed to how world-class companies operate during her stint at Hewlett-Packard and at the helm of the Malaysian subsidiaries of Dell and Microsoft, Yasmin is well aware of the importance of innovation and research and development (R&D) as well.
Which is why in November 2015 she forged a collaboration with the famous Palo Alto Research Centre (PARC), a Xerox company focused on R&D and based in Silicon Valley. The collaboration will offer MSC Malaysia companies insights into PARC’s key research areas, patents and intellectual property licensing models, as well as opportunities to work with its research scientists and officers.
“This collaboration provides an opportunity for suitable MSC companies to not only be innovative and work with best-in-class technology scientists, but also find commercialisation partners,” according to Yasmin.
Observing her in action, especially on her mission to support more companies to be global, the CEO of a listed company approves. “She is not picking winners but rather telling those who have already done well, ‘Here is how we can help you do even better.’
“I think this will spur on other companies to want to do better so that they can get on her radar as well,” he says.
What’s driving Yasmin herself, on a deeper level, is her belief that she has inherited a seat of responsibility, an amanah (an Arabic word that has a broader Islamic meaning, the moral responsibility of fulfilling one’s obligations.)
And she’s determined to do everything possible to live up to the responsibility she has been entrusted with.