Digerati50: Creating a global tech hub (and playground)

Digital News Asia (DNA) continues its weekly series that profiles the top 50 influencers, movers and shakers who are helping shape Malaysia’s Digital Economy, from Digerati50 Vol 2, a special print publication released in February 2016. To download a special e-reader version, see the top of this page. For information on customised reprints of Digerati50, email [email protected].

  • Aims to take Cyberjaya to the next level as a Global Tech Hub
  • One of his motivations is ‘knowing that you can make a difference’
Digerati50: Creating a global tech hub (and playground)

WHEN Faris Yahaya (pic above) was given the opportunity in mid-2013 to become managing director of Cyberview Sdn Bhd, the master developer of Malaysia’s first smart city Cyberjaya, he didn’t take too long to mull the challenge.
Before he took the helm at Cyberview, Faris was the group chief financial officer of property developer UDA Holdings Bhd. He has more than 20 years of professional experience in the auditing, financial advisory, investment banking, and management fields.
The Cyberview role “was an opportunity for me to put into practice various management theories on turnaround and transformation management.
“Also, I like the challenges posed by the shareholders, who wanted to put Cyberjaya on a higher level,” he says.
That higher level was to turn Cyberjaya into a ‘Global Tech Hub,’ a city which would attract multinational technology companies to set up offices or regional hubs.
But that’s not all. “Our long-term goal is to elevate Cyberjaya into a Global Tech Hub that is a meeting place for technologists, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists – and also a playground for innovators with creative ideas,” says Faris.
“No doubt, the foreign investment element is still required, but we want to ensure local input. Hopefully, Cyberjaya will one day become a real ‘living lab’ and birthplace for many future innovations,” he declares.
Cyberview has identified nine tech focus areas to help accelerate the process, and among its initiatives is the Cyberview Living Lab.
“We believe that all companies, especially startups, require not only funding and manpower but also ample access to various platforms for them to pilot-test their applications and solutions before they go to market,” he says, explaining the Living Lab initiative.
Most startups are small and have limited access to the market. “Many of them would require reference points and project portfolios before they can approach the bigger market and compete against the giants,” says Faris.
“Many still need to piggyback and leverage on more established entities to help them achieve this goal.
“We believe Cyberview is the right entity for them to collaborate with, and Cyberjaya – with its existing ecosystem – is the right place for them to innovate for growth,” he adds.
Having steered Cyberview towards these goals, Faris acknowledges that a number of obstacles stands in the way.
Chief among them would be the perception of how far away Cyberjaya is from the Kuala Lumpur (KL) city centre.
“Today, there are people who still think that Cyberjaya is far. Distance is relative, and it depends on where one lives.
“Cyberjaya is just next to Puchong, Seri Kembangan, Putrajaya and Bangi. But I think some people still prefer to work in KL and enjoy the traffic jam every morning,” he quips.
Faris and his team are working to counter this perception. For a start, Cyberview front-liners are going to the ground to actively work with the industry and universities, as well as individuals, to provide them with more accurate information on the city.
“We are also working very closely with those in charge of transportation services in the country. As you know, Cyberjaya will have two stops under the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) Line 2 project.
“To ease the burden of both employers and employees in Cyberjaya, we also provide a dedicated transport system to and from Cyberjaya to nine different locations within an 80km radius,” he says.
With all these initiatives and marketing campaigns – some already running, and others in the pipeline – Faris is confident that Cyberview will be able to ‘re-profile’ Cyberjaya.
“In fact, many foreign investors and visitors are already very impressed with our progress. The local audiences are the toughest to please,” he argues.
Beyond meeting the challenges he took on, what keeps Faris motivated in this role?
“I must say one of the main motivations is the sense of achievement, and knowing that you are in a position to make a difference,” he declares.
Although his role and responsibilities have changed significantly, Faris, who is an avid jogger, claims he is still pretty much the same person.
“I feel that I am still the same person with both feet well-grounded, and I am not adversely influenced by the trappings of power and the privileges of being managing director.
“But perhaps this would be best judged by my colleagues.
“On another note, with this new role, I think my ability to handle stress has improved,” he quips.

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