MDEC eUsahawan Level-Up: From local micro-entrepreneur to international players

  • Programme uplifts micro-entrepreneurs, generating 85% annual growth
  • 270,168 micro-entrepreneurs have undergone training organised by MDEC


(From left) Johan Nasir of Proficeo who was moderating, Cradle Fund acting CEO Razif Abdul Aziz; MDEC CEO Surina Shukri; and Proficeo chief evangelist Dr V. Sivapalan.

"IF YOU think about growing for the global market, it's a business journey," said MDEC chief executive officer Surina Shukri. "The next step is, how to become a digital business."

This could be any speech given at any forum attended by Malaysian entrepreneurs. Except in this particular case she was talking to micro entrepreneurs, whose sales turnover is less than US$72,705 (RM300,000).

The idea that MDEC is courting housewives with home industries like sambal-making or batik printing to bring their wares overseas may seem curiously specific and low-level for an organisation mandated to chart the digital future of a whole country. But Surina is quite serious that such individuals are the right people to target.

"The promise is that technology gives you all this freedom to create," she explained to the second cohort of graduates from the eUsahawan Level Up programme, "(and) entrepreneurship is the notion of creating something out of nothing."

The eUsahawan programme to uplift micro-entrepreneurs

For the eUsahawan programme as a whole, that “something” is 270,168 micro-entrepreneurs who have undergone training organised by MDEC by December 2018, resulting in increased sales of US$128.18 million (RM528.91 million).

In fact, the group Surina was talking to was a carefully selected group of 50 entrepreneurs identified as being high-potential, and given special coaching and training in the Level Up programme.

This is a programme implemented by MDEC and Cradle Fund Sdn Bhd, where participants receive the benefit of personal coaches for six months.

Unsurprisingly, it has resulted in higher returns, with an average business growth of 85% annually, and over US$2,67 million (RM11 million) in revenue over six months - more than twice their initial target.

These micro-entrepreneurs are now looking to cross-border commerce, with some exporting to markets like China, and the UK, something Surina points out, that is already planned for in the National e-Commerce Roadmap.

Surina stressed that these are still early days in a crucial space. "What we're figuring out is ways on how to do this at scale," she said. One benefit emerging from these early few years is the cadre of micro-entrepreneurs that have stepped up and now are becoming role-models for others.

Some have even joined the eUsahawan programme to be coaches and help others fulfil the ambitions that they may not have even realised they had.

"The country's stance on entrepreneurship is really important," she continued, while stressing the need for the spirit of entrepreneurship to be infused "in our curriculum and in our mind-set".

Becoming 4IR ready

Ultimately, she says, participants they should ask themselves "How does my company start to become 4IR ready?"

Surina is keen to see these micro-entrepreneurs “grow beyond their usual boundaries”, and be fully-fledged practitioners in Digital Malaysia.

This is precisely in line with MDEC's mandate to champion Malaysia's Digital Economy, the government's push towards Industry 4.0. "Your back office becomes digital - digital invoice, digital supply chain, and others," she explained. "All these things are what we have on our (MDEC's) platforms.

"As an ecosystem builder, our job is to identify the entire journey and make sure we bring the might of the entire government to bear."


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