Week in Review: Innovation talk is cheap but Standard Chartered Saddiq is delivering

  • Mere.ka enters final week of crowd funding campaign to hit US$362k target
  • Malaysian family businesses seem least assured in SEA about their future readiness


INNOVATION in a business can be a very broad area and range from software to hardware and from internal improvements to helping partners and suppliers become more efficient. Some CEOs however like to focus the efforts on an area that will have the biggest impact on their bottom line and when they tend to do this, it inevitably means the mantra of the organization is all about focusing on the customers.

And so it is such at Standard Chartered Saadiq in Malaysia where its chief executive officer Mohammad Ali Allawala told me and my colleague, Kiran Kaur Sidhu that their innovation efforts are all focused around the customer. Better, faster and cheaper are the mantra for all staff, not just those carrying business cards that identify them as being in the digital/transformation/ innovative team.

As this Islamic bank, every employee is empowered and encouraged to think about how any improvements or new ways of delivering a service through digital can meet one of the three mantras.

As the CEO, Ali says all the right things as well, from employing the burning platform analogy, “innovation is a matter of survival for us” to recognizing that the stigma of failure has to be killed, otherwise it will kill any chance of his team daring to be innovative. “You can never be innovative if you fear failure,” he believes.

One can say talk is cheap and one can say, they have read all this before from CEOs. But Ali has results to show for his efforts. His Malaysian-based bank is experiencing a digital banking adoption rate of 45% amongst its client base. That’s a higher ratio than the 39% global average for Islamic digital banking. And it was recently recognised as ‘Global Finance’s Best Islamic Digital Bank - Malaysia’ 2018.   

Meanwhile, the founders of social enterprise Biji-Biji Sdn Bhd, are now focusing on fulfilling their dream of becoming disruptors in education and touching the lives of more customers through their crowd funding efforts with PitchIn for Mere.ka. The duo of Rashvin Pal Singh and Gurpreet Dhillon Singh, both also Digerati50 for 2018-2019, have hit their target of raising US$193,280 (RM800,000) but are now dead set on hitting their stretch target of US$362,000 (RM1.5 million) to enable them to roll out more maker labs around the country like the one they have at Publika Mall in Kuala Lumpur.

What I like is that they are not just focused on rolling out their maker labs in urban areas. They are also engaged in working with undocumented students in Sabah and students in the rural Malaysian peninsula and want to do more to bridge the rural urban opportunity divide. 

You have till Oct 1st to be part of the ‘fuel’ they need for their disruption journey. You can also watch the short video clip I did with Rashvin on the grassy lawn of Bank Negara Malaysia’s amazing training centre, Lanai Kijang.

Another story that caught my interest this past week was a report commissioned by SAP and conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit earlier in 2018.

It was a regional study on family business leaders across SMEs in Southeast Asia and so there was a chance to see how some of the neighbouring countries including Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, rated their future readiness across categories of people, environment, process and technologies.

The surprise was on how low the confidence was among Malaysian firms with family businesses in Malaysia the least assured in SEA about their future readiness. Data from the study suggests at least 40% of respondents in Malaysia, more than double the average from other countries in the region, believe their organisations have to change in order to successfully overcome the challenges in the next three years. This indicates that though they are aware, they are not prepared.

Across the board, respondents from Malaysia scored lower than their regional counterparts when it came to their level of confidence in their employees’ abilities in digital proficiency, development of new skills and their ability to hire and retain talent. This denotes low levels of confidence in the talent pool.

Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) vice president of enterprise development, Gopi Ganesalingam, cites ignorance and fear of technology as the biggest reasons. Not idly sitting by however, MDEC has taken measures into their own hands with their Digital Transformation Acceleration Program which identifies companies that could potentially be disrupted.

The companies are then invited into a digital transformation lab to identify business pain points, brainstorm new ideas and business models before implementing a pilot plan.

Hopefully this intervention by MDEC is most useful to these Malaysian operators, who would do well to adopt the mindset at Standard Chartered Saddiq, where innovation is a matter of survival for them.

With Digital Disruption being all about dealing with change and adapting, you would do well to read what Bikesh Lakhmichand shared during his talk at the recent What’s Next conference organized by Digital News Asia. It is all about how companies raise their Digital Quotient, he says.

With that, I hope you have a productive week ahead and are able to raise the Digital Quotient of your companies!

Editor’s Picks:

At Standard Chartered Saadiq, Digital Innovation Is Totally Customer Focused

Me.Reka Is Crowdfunding To Touch More Lives

Funding To Improve Lives Of 3 Billion People, Not To Find Next Unicorn

Are Apple Watch Innovations Good For Consumers?

Malaysian family owned businesses least confident in SEA on future-readiness

New Cohort Of Fintechs Join SuperCharger’s Second Accelerator In Malaysia

How Companies Can Raise Their Digital Quotient

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