Disrupt: No joyride for bumiputera firms either: Page 2 of 2
By Edwin Yapp December 19, 2013
Another audience member said that these days, the new breed of bumiputera entrepreneurs were pivoting away from trying to win government or GLC contracts, as they believe it’s better to go after the global market as a benchmark of their success, rather than honing in on the domestic market.
Dr V. Sivapalan (pic), cofounder of entrepreneurship training firm Proficeo, said that based on his involvement with Cradle’s Coach and Grow (CGP) programme these past two years, most bumiputera entrepreneurs he comes across were trying to sell their wares globally, and to private corporations.
Cradle is the funding arm of Malaysia Ministry of Finance. Its CGP is a coaching and mentoring programme funded by the Government and launched in 2011. To date, CGP has trained approximately 700 entrepreneurs.
Sivapalan said that of the 700 entrepreneurs in the CGP, about 40% of them are bumiputera. Acknowledging that in the early days, bumiputera entrepreneurs might have been looking for deals from the government or GLCs, he said that this was no longer the case today.
“What we see in the CGP are very good, capable people, bumiputera or otherwise,” said Sivapalan. “They are very hungry, they work hard and they are not dependent on selling to the Government.”
Sivapalan also argued that there are differences between true bumiputera entrepreneurs and those he termed ‘pseudo entrepreneurs.’
“The former are actually people who have invested to create a company, hire staff, create technological products and services; while the latter are those who comprise three people and who often use their connections and influence to secure projects, only then to pass it on to someone else [to implement the project]. These are not hungry entrepreneurs.”
Asked by Karamjit Singh, DNA’s chief executive officer and panel moderator, if these bumiputera pseudo-entrepreneurs are bad examples for others to follow, Sivapalan conceded that such cases do exist but noted that true bumiputera entrepreneurs did not engage in such practices, nor would they want to.
“There is still such a perception and we do need more genuine bumiputera entrepreneurs to be successful so that they can show the way,” he said.
“What I’ve observed is that either very large bumiputera GLCs or those pseudo-entrepreneurs are the ones who get large contracts from the Government, and not these genuine bumiputera entrepreneurs.
“This might be the reason why they have chosen to tackle the global market instead of relying on the home market,” Sivapalan said, alluding to a more level playing field overseas.
To another question by Karamjit as to whether hiring good talent was a problem for bumiputera companies, TeAM’s Azlan was of the opinion that talent is not just about individuals but about a collective group of people with different specific skills coming together to build solutions.
“I think we should stop thinking about whether we are bumiputera or non-bumiputera or even foreigners, and we should just acknowledge that we are people with different strengths and weaknesses,” he said. “The art here is how to get these people to work together and create value.”
Skali’s Farith (pic) said his company has gone out of the way to get non-bumiputera staff, but conceded that it has not been easy as they shy away from a bumiputera company like his.
“We want them as we want variety. But still, polarisation is a concern because we are restricted from attracting talent.
“For a company like us, we want more non-bumiputera staff because, to be honest with you, we also want to sell to non-bumiputera companies and I will need these people to sell to these companies,” he said.
Furthermore, Farith believes that companies like Skali also compete with the Government for talent as staff leave for greener pastures, especially jobs offered by banks.
“There is a ‘crowding out’ effect because of the big investments made by the Government, and we are competing against the Government and GLC-based banks. These banks give many other perks and it’s a no-brainer for people to go over; we struggle with this.”
Disrupt#13: Where are our bumiputera ICT champions?