Aaron Sarma joins MDEC as Head of Digital Development
By Karamjit Singh October 6, 2019
- Fixed engagement term to help deliver National Digital Economy Plan
- 3rd industry player to join strategy team after Fadzli Shah Anuar & Anthony David
Two weeks after I wrote about AirAsia.com chief operating officer, Aaron Sarma (pic) exiting the company to pursue other options, including contributing back to the nation, DNA can confirm the exciting news that Sarma has quietly and without fuss joined the Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) on a fixed engagement term.
Sarma joins MDEC as Head of its Digital Development and is part of MDEC’s strategy team, which incidentally is led by another well regarded entrepreneur, Fadzli Shah Anuar, who joined MDEC in April.
It is understood that Sarma will lead the work on strategic digital initiatives centred around the Shared Prosperity Vision 2021-2030, including the National Digital Economy Plan.
First announced on Sept 14 the Shared Prosperity Vision is a road map to restructuring the country's economy to close the gap between the rich and poor, and overcome social issues. Some elements of the Shared Prosperity Vision will be included in Budget 2020, although it will only come into play in the 12th and 13th Malaysia Plan.
The National Digital Economy Plan comes into the picture as among the key objectives of the Shared Prosperity Vision is to move Malaysia into becoming a high-income, high-skilled nation capable of attracting new investments and seizing opportunities, in line with the latest developments in science and technology. Part of the Shared Prosperity Vision is to provide funds for research, development, commercialisation and innovation.
The National Digital Economy Plan is expected to come up with concrete plans to address these areas and accelerate the transition of the Malaysian talent pool into a high-skilled digital savvy work force.
Sarma was the founder and CEO of Vidi (previously known as Touristly), a MSC status travel experience platform that launched in June 2015 and was a part of MDEC’s GAIN Programme
In May 2019, AirAsia Group, which was already a majority shareholder, fully acquired the company and repositioned the businesses as AirAsia.com. Through the restructuring effort Aaron served as COO to develop partnerships and lead the digital product strategy and operational streamlining.
Speaking to DNA, Sarma shares: “I’m thrilled to be given an opportunity to contribute back at MDEC at such a pivotal time in the evolution of the nation’s digital economy. Working at MDEC is an honor; it combines the opportunity to reshape an industry ripe for disruption, while being part of an organization that authentically lives its values - committed, fresh, irresistible and thoughtful. I’m excited about the opportunity to grow with an incredibly talented group of people.”
Incidentally, one of the talented people is Anthony David, a recent hire to MDEC’s strategy team as well, who came on board in June also on a fixed engagement contract to help MDEC deliver on its National Digital Economy Plan as Head of Strategic Initiatives. Also from industry and an entrepreneur, Anthony has a steller track record of delivering high impact progammes and was attached to the UNDP office in Egypt for eight years.
The move by MDEC to bring in both Anthony and Sarma on short term contracts is a smart move as it allows the agency to tap a wider pool of top talent which otherwise may not be keen to be tied down to, even if for a short one or two year contract, with a government agency.
Malaysia’s Digital Economy has been shaping up steadily and nicely over the past few years and now looks set to move up another gear with some recent developments announced. A key announced was the US$5.16 billion (RM21.6 billion) National Fiberisation and Connectivity Plan (NFCP) announced on 28 Aug 2019 that will, over the next five years, raise the bar for high quality connectivity and more importantly, bring the same opportunities the Digital Economy opens, to all Malaysian regardless of which part of the country they live in.