Junior World Entrepreneurship Forum makes Malaysian debut: Page 2 of 2
By Gabey Goh July 3, 2013
A partnership in 90 days
Ask Nazrin what motivated the opening of a JWEF chapter in Malaysia and his answer will point to the frustrations in trying to raise global awareness of the nation’s bourgeoning startup ecosystem.
“There is a lot of potential here versus other countries in the region, but we tend to undersell ourselves and lose out. Part of the motivation for getting JWEF to Malaysia is to put ourselves on the map and step up to a global platform,” he said.
Nazrin added that he would not be surprised if the Malaysian JWEF chapter ended up taking on a leadership role in future, as the country’s student population has a high level of dynamism and drive.
“Our role here is merely to act as a catalyst and help amplify the efforts of our youth in our on-going quest to answer the question: ‘How do we sell Malaysia better?' ” he said.
That quest saw the shortest turnaround time from planning to execution in Nazrin’s own experience.
The confirmation of interest internally for establishing a Malaysian chapter of JWEF was only received in February, with Cradle raising its hand to take the project on as its champion.
In early April, Nazrin, along with Teoh and Jeyasothy Palakrishnar, INTI’s vice president of employer relations, travelled to Lyon in France to introduce themselves to the WEF team and get a better understanding of the requirements for bringing JWEF into Malaysia.
That trip and the work that happened after resulted in the JWEF chapter's official launch in July, making it an astonishing 90-day journey.
When asked if he felt Cradle was stepping out of its comfort zone and roots as a pure funding agency under the Ministry of Finance, Nazrin said he felt these initiatives were supportive of its mandate rather than conflicting.
“We’re still operating in the entrepreneurship space and at the core of it, in the will to help businesses grow, we’re funding entrepreneurship and not just in the technology sector,” he said.
“Malaysian companies keep getting categorised as not hungry enough, especially after they’ve reached a certain stage. There are complaints that we do not think big enough and I think part of the solution to that is international exposure,” Nazrin said.
He added that there must be a platform in Malaysia for youth to get to know their counterparts across borders and know how they operate and do business as part of the agenda of pushing entrepreneurship.
“It is senseless to talk about going global when you don’t even have a friend abroad,” he said.
That focus on enabling entrepreneurship amongst the youth echoed INTI’s own concerted efforts to do the same.
“From a university perspective, we see this as a growing opportunity and employment option. Students graduating need not just try to apply for a job in a company and now have opportunities to fulfil their passions via the entrepreneurship route,” said Sevak.
He added that educators have an obligation to ensure that they are equipped with the right tools to pursue their dreams. In line with these goals, every degree student starting their course in January 2014 will be required to take a course in entrepreneurship.
“With students in our care for three to four years during their formative years, it is important that they get exposure to that entrepreneurial mind-set, identify opportunities and capture them,” he said.
Sevak added that part of the reason the partnership with Cradle and JWEF materialised so quickly was a case of perfect timing.
“When we were approached to be a partner, it was a great match as we were already executing complementary initiatives internally,” he said.
Cradle will be funding the operational costs of the JWEF Malaysia secretariat for two years, with the mission given to Teoh and his team to secure private sector sponsorship moving forward to allow the chapter to stand on its own. Nazrin declined to share how much the agency will be providing but claimed that the amount was "minimal."
INTI will be sponsoring JWEF Malaysia, via use of office space in its Subang Jaya campus, to serve as the chapter’s headquarters.
Teoh, an INTI alumni himself, expressed excitement for his role as chairman and noted the challenges ahead in trying to position Malaysia as the top chapter within the JWEF network.
“The question is, how do we give merit to Malaysia? How do we prove and showcase to our counterparts what young Malaysians can achieve? We are optimistic about the energy we’re seeing from our youth and see JWEF as playing its role as a facilitation platform,” he added.
Teoh said that the chapter is committed to providing guided opportunities with training and exposure to a global fraternity to enable its members in their pursuit of entrepreneurial potential on a global stage.
He also revealed that the team is working towards making a bid for Malaysia to be the host country for the next World Entrepreneurship Forum, which traditionally takes place in Singapore.
In the interim, in line with the key performance indicators (KPIs) put forth by Cradle as part of its sponsorship, Teoh will be working on securing corporate partnerships in order to fund and sustain JWEF’s operations moving forward.
“We do welcome interested corporate sponsors and are open to discussions right now. JWEF Malaysia is still in its infancy but as a pitch to organisations, they should see it as a greenfield opportunity and would definitely get a lot of perks as part of the sponsorship package,” he said.
To find out more about JWEF Malaysia, visit its Facebook page.