What keeps the MDeC CEO awake at night
By Karamjit Singh February 13, 2015
- Five focus areas established within InfoTech cluster
- MDeC needs to do what nobody else has done, and do it innovatively
THERE is a perception that Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) chief executive officer Yasmin Mahmood is focusing more of her efforts on the InfoTech cluster, one of three clusters that make up the Multimedia Super Corridor project (MSC Malaysia).
In an interview with Digital News Asia (DNA) at her office in Cyberjaya, she argues that this view is inaccurate. “I am focusing on all three of the clusters: InfoTech, Global Business Services and Creative Content, equally.”
MSC Malaysia was a national project that kicked off in the late 1990s to boost the ICT industry in the country, offering companies incentives to set up their operations here, and including programmes to develop domestic players. MDeC, the country’s national ICT custodian, manages the project.
What has lent weight to this perception is the fact that Yasmin focused on the InfoTech cluster immediately upon taking on the CEO role last September. But she says this was because the cluster had been without a head for 18 months, and had seen its revenue decline by 4% in 2013.
“It needed my utmost attention,” she says.
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MDeC first lost its InfoTech head when director Dinesh Nair left to join Microsoft Malaysia in October, 2012. In the interim, vice president Michael Warren was put in charge while a replacement was sought.
But his double role ended when Warren left MDeC to take the helm of Fujitsu Malaysia in August 2013. When he returned to MDeC in early 2014, the InfoTech role was left vacant.
Meanwhile, because InfoTech was both the largest and broadest cluster, identifying focus areas, setting Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) around developing the focus areas, bringing in lightning rods (anchor companies), and using them to catalyse local players were key tactical decisions that had to be made and acted on, says Yasmin.
And that’s what she says she has done. A new cluster head has finally been identified, with the person starting in March. Meanwhile, from within the broad cluster, five focus areas where MDeC sees strong potential have been carved out. These are:
- Data and Analytics
- The Internet of Things
- Cloud and Content Services; and
Existing activities within the cluster are going on as usual, but it is expected that the arrival of a cluster head will see some changes made here.
Meanwhile the cluster formerly known as Shared Services and Outsourcing (SSO) has recently been renamed Global Business Services to better reflect the changing nature of the global outsourcing market, and the strengths Malaysia can play to.
Yasmin describes this cluster, still led by Warren, as “the jewel in the crown” mainly because Malaysia has been ranked for 10 straight years by AT&Kearney as being the third most attractive outsourcing destination in the world, and for its success in already being an outsourcing hub for many multinationals.
“We clearly have a compelling attraction here,” she argues. At the same time, Yasmin is also keenly aware that the numbers (jobs created) and investments coming in suggest that the cluster is not maximising its full potential.
“There is still a large opportunity out there and our rallying cry for the cluster is to double its footprint, be this from investments coming in, or its exports,” she says.
Already established in IT outsourcing, human resource, finance and accounting services, the goal is to move up the value chain and target healthcare and legal services as well.
At the same time, the cluster is also embarking on pursuing a counter-intuitive strategy of going after lower-paying jobs.
For instance, while the Klang Valley is not competitive in winning outsourcing jobs that require lower costs, Yasmin feels Malaysia can still compete against some of its neighbours for these types of jobs.
“Take these jobs and match them to lower cost, not necessarily lower skilled talent, in our secondary cities,” she suggests.
“I am excited about the potential of this, as you can still be competitive in … this type of work, and at the same time, we can bring the impact of MSC Malaysia to our secondary cities.”
But Yasmin is also aware the talent is the biggest hurdle to this cluster achieving its full potential. “In fact, this is the single biggest thing that keeps me awake at night,” she says.
That, and MDeC’s own forecast that by 2017, the sector will face a 42% shortfall of jobs in just entry-level positions requiring a degree.
“I know talent is the enabler here. If we can produce the talent, the companies will come,” says Yasmin.
Determined to do something here that can solve this perennial problem, she says MDeC will pilot some new approaches.
It is risky and there is the potential the approaches won’t work. In fact, she says that she has been cautioned against trying to solve this problem as it has not been cracked by any strategy yet. Still she is trying and calls it one of her BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals).
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