Week in Review: Malaysia’s DFTZ expected to be ‘massive game changer’

  • Silicon Valley VC shares importance of open innovation mindset, collaboration
  • Get invited to speaker’s dinner with your What’s Next conference purchase

DESPITE yesterday’s budget 2018 announcement being the expected election year budget, there was enough support from new incentives, programmes and policy to further push Malaysia’s drive to evolve into a winning Digital Economy.

You can read some of the highlights here but for the full list of benefits, you can read the budget speech itself. One of the announcements that caught my attention was on the Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ). And while my discussion with some SMEs shows that they are quite wary of the involvement of Alibaba as the partner to this initiative, believing it to offer China’s SMEs an easy way into the Malaysian market, there is also the other side of the argument led by the government and MDEC about the opportunities waiting to be seized from the DFTZ.Week in Review: Malaysia’s DFTZ expected to be ‘massive game changer’

Infact, Yasmin Mahmood (pix), CEO of Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) in her post-budget comments, contends that the DFTZ is “proving to be a massive game changer for Malaysia which will see Malaysia’s SMEs doubling exports, establish Malaysia as a regional trans-shipment hub for e-commerce logistics and creating 60,000 jobs by 2025.” With the DFTZ going “live” on Nov 3, it won’t be long before we will get a real picture of who is right about the impact of the DFTZ.

Speaking of impact, Oct 20 also saw the New York Stock Exchange listing of regional gaming company, Sea Limited whose holdings include online gaming service Garena, virtual payment app AirPay, and e-commerce marketplace Shopee.

It is the second Southeast Asian (SEA) based startup to go for a listing in New York. MOL Global Inc was the first in 2014 and back then, in this same column, I predicted that the MOL listing would be an inspiration to other startups in the region. But I was wrong. It didn’t create any buzz, nor serve to inspire or motivate too many others startups in the region.

This surprised me and looking for a reason for this lackluster impact, I realised that it was because MOL took a long time to go for its listing, having been around since 1998. It was no overnight story. It also had an investor who owned a large conglomerate and this gave the feeling that MOL’s success wasn’t too hard to achieve when one can leverage on a multi-billion ringgit parent.

Interestingly, Sea also has a powerful investor behind them. Not a Brick & Mortar player but the Tencent Group, a digital business. So, will this mean that Sea won’t be able to inspire too many entrepreneurs in the region? Watch for any buzz on this as I won’t be making any predictions this time!

And also, rather than make any predictions, a VC from the Silicon Valley, Bill Reichert of Garage Technology Ventures shared some of the key success factors that underpin the success of the Silicon Valley. One of them was on the importance of practicing an open innovation system in recognition of the fact that you won’t be able to gather the best brains into your company. Another was on the importance of collaborating with the parties in the ecosystem and in the marketspace your company is in.

And while I have not seen Astro collaborate with the disruptors like Hooq, iflix and Netflix, the leading content player in Malaysia has been doing a lot to adapt its culture and products to the disruption that digital is causing in its marketplace. And those efforts has just seen it recognized by International Data Corporation (IDC) Asean in its inaugural Digital Transformation Awards (IDC DX Awards) where ASTRO Malaysia Holdings Bhd was awarded the Digital Transformer in Malaysia. It was a significant enough recognition that Astro Group CEO Rohana Rozhan personally received the award. “In our journey of reinvention, Astro is embracing change brought about by digital, online and mobile while staying true to our core as a consumer-focused company,” she said.

And on Nov 9 at What’s Next: The Business Impact of Disruptive Technology conference, you can head first hand from other CEOs and CSOs on how their billion ringgit companies are dealing with the disruption caused by digital to ensure they emerge winners as well. One of the speakers, Michael Foong, the Chief Strategy Officer of Maybank Group challenges the notion that big fish can’t be nimble or fast and grow even bigger in this digital era.

Another speaker, Mohamed Hassan Kamil, Group MD of listed insurance player, Takaful Malaysia Bhd does acknowledge that his older staff have a challenge in understanding the significance of digital innovation. So how is he dealing with this? And how is another CEO, who privately admits to me that his company feels like a dinosaur in this era, is coping with disruption?

Hurry up and get your tickets here and come listen to corporate chiefs like, Foong, Mohamed Hassan, Lim Kim Heng, co-founder and MD of Senheng Electric, the leading electronics and electrical chain store, Michael Tio, Group MD of PKT Logistics, NK Tong, Group MD of Bukit Kiara Properties, a leading property developer, and others who will share their thoughts and concerns about how they are leading their companies into the Digital Economy. Get your tickets now and you may even get invited to the speaker’s dinner on Nov 8th as well.

And for those who want their managers to have a better understanding and handle of how Digital could affect your business and what they can do to deal with the disruption, get your tickets for the Raise Your Digital Quotient workshop. Details are on the What’s Next microsite.

Have a restful weekend and a productive week after.

Editor’s Picks:

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Indonesia’s Snapcart raises US$10mil in Series A funding

Nvidia to further develop future AI talents in Singapore

Garage Ventures VC shares Silicon Valley lessons in innovation

What’s Next: Who's to say the ‘big fish’ can’t be fast and nimble?

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