Talent drain to Singapore will never go away; Malaysia just needs to deal with it
Need to do more to highlight various ecosystem efforts going on; for Mimos, to change old perceptions
THIS was an interesting week where Singapore kept cropping up in either the conversations I had or the articles I wrote about.
Actually, I can say that Singapore always crops up in my conversations about the ecosystem in Malaysia. Without going on and on about Malaysia losing people to Singapore and lamenting about it, we just need to accept that fact and focus on making the best of what we have here.
There has always been a war for talent. I was made aware of this in 1999 by the then head of the Malaysian office of management consultants McKinsey, Dr Nikolai Dobberstein, who gave me a book published in 1997 by a trio of McKinsey consultants titled ‘War for talent.’
That really opened my eyes and since even back then, I would regularly hear about us losing talent to Singapore. That was back when the exchange rate was just around S$1 = RM1.40 as opposed to the current S$1 = RM2.52.
Little wonder that one engineer, Ho Yoke Keong from the team that won the Innovate Malaysia Excellence Award on July 4 is joining a company in Singapore. He shied away from telling me why he chose Singapore but his two team mates, who have accepted jobs in Penang, told me it was for the money, as Ho smiled sheepishly.
But let’s not waste time about that. Singapore is the tech hub for Asia. An Australian based there reinforced this recently. According to him, a large number of American tech companies have long been using Sydney as the base for their Asian expansion.
But a few years back these companies have started moving thousands of jobs to Singapore. Of course there will be a fair number of Malaysians filling these positions.
The positive side to this is the presence of a large tech talent pool in Singapore, that is global. I think, given the right opportunity and challenge, probably 2% to 3% of them will be open to joining a Malaysian tech company. Leave it to our entrepreneurs to sell them their vision and opportunity that awaits them, if they move over.
That’s what I told the COO of Mimos, Abdul Aziz Kadir this week. He asked what could be done about the talent situation and also why the various initiatives that Malaysia has on the ground do not seem to be well known, even to Malaysians.
“You just focus on your job in creating the best environment possible for entrepreneurs to thrive and leave it to them to sell their vision and passion in hiring Singapore-based talent to come across.”
This is already happening by way of the likes of Vishen Lakhiani, Ganesh Bangah, Matt Chandran, Mark Chang and Patrick Grove – all of whom have proven track record in hiring talent, though not necessarily just out from Singapore.
By the way, they don’t have to be physically here to contribute either. The Internet has collapsed distances. People can collaborate no matter where they physically are.
In fact I know of one guy based in KL who uses his space time to work on a market strategy for a US-based company looking to expand to Asia.
As to why the various ecosystem activities are still not widely known or recognised, I just told Abdul Aziz that Mimos had to do a better job of telling their story and I advised them to join the Technopreneur Association of Malaysia (TeAM) as a council member or on any committee.
In one swoop here, they get exposed to an ecosystem of over 500 entrepreneurs who are TeAM members plus one ‘content-preneur’ in yours truly!
In fact, just this morning I met an entrepreneur who has a poor impression of Mimos but this was based on what he knew of Mimos from seven years back.
While Mimos has transformed itself and is a much more relevant and industry friendly research outfit today, this startup founder said he has not heard of anyone he knows bringing Mimos up in their conversations.
“You remember negative things a lot more than the positive,” was his response when I shared with him that Mimos is a totally different organisation today. They themselves have a lot to do to sell their story!
This past week, I also met a retail entrepreneur who also happened to be a hobbyist inventor. He told me his frustration over his difficulty in finding a prototype lab that someone like him could easily get access to and translated his ideas into reality.
He told Agensi Inovasi Malaysia (AIM) about this key gap he saw missing – something that could be used to promote creativity and innovation.
I am not sure what is being done here but a Mimos executive told me it has a prototype lab and that Sirim, a government agency that focuses on industrial research and standards development, has received some funding to build a prototype lab too.
But how many people know about this?
So, we’ve got a hole in the ecosystem through which talent gets sucked out and we have this perception gap that Mimos specifically needs to deal with.
We also have a gap in easily accessible prototyping for the rakyat. Clearly, there is a lot to be done to address these.
Finally, looking forward to next week, DNA is excited about our next DNA-TeAM Disrupt series which will look at the challenges and opportunities in eCommerce next Wednesday, July 24, from 5pm-7pm at Plug & Play Technology Garden, Level 7, The Gardens South Tower, Mid Valley City.
Entitled ‘Is the game over for e-commerce?’ the seesion will see Masaya Ueno, chief executive officer (CEO) and president of Rakuten Malaysia and Maximilian Bittner, CEO and founder of Lazada Southeast Asia as panellists.
Do RSVP if the topic strikes your fancy.
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