The Challenges Malaysia’s Small Enterprises Faced Selling Online Compared To Their Larger Peers

The Koble team conducted its inaugural Malaysia SME growth survey to better understand the challenges large and small businesses in Malaysia face

Koble, the Tinder-meets-LinkedIn B2B matching platform launched in Malaysia this year through its partnership with Axiata Group and Celcom. In light of this recent expansion, the Koble team wanted to understand better how Malaysian businesses are looking to grow their companies and find prospects and partners today.

Specifically, we wanted to compare how small enterprises in Malaysia may differ from larger organizations when it comes to their readiness for digitally conducting business, their ability to sell on the Internet, the growth challenges they are facing this year and ultimately how they best aim to capture new customers for their businesses this year and beyond.

The survey was administered to more than 500 Malaysian business employees through Google. Around half of these employees self-identified as working for smaller enterprises with less than 200 employees and the other half identified as working for larger enterprises with more than 200 employees.

The survey found that for large and small enterprises, finding customers is the biggest challenge. For employees at businesses of over 200 employees, 28% noted this was their top challenge this year and for small enterprises that number rose to 32%.

Small enterprise employees noted that access to capital would be the next most significant challenge for their company (19%), followed by the macroeconomy (16%) and hiring (14%).

Comparatively, large enterprise employees saw the macroeconomy as their second most prominent challenge of 2018 (26%), followed by hiring new employees (15%).

The survey also found that, large enterprises are more ready to sell online. In fact, 43% of large enterprise employees noted their company is prepared to sell online compared to 26% of small enterprises said their organization is ready to sell online. The majority of small enterprise representatives said their company was working on it (46%), followed by not prepared at all (30%).

The disparity means that small enterprises are missing out on a big opportunity to sell online to other businesses domestically and internationally — especially China. While promotions like Alibaba’s ‘Malaysia Week’ have assisted in turning the light on consumer businesses in Malaysia that are coming online, many small B2B companies in Malaysia are still in the dark when it comes to online sales.

Both small and large enterprises agreed on the top action they felt would best help their company become more ‘digitally ready’. These groups agreed that building a digital presence (38%) should be their top action. For small enterprises, getting educated on digital business (36%) was next, followed by access to digital payments (17%), and owning a smartphone (8%). Even Jack Ma of Alibaba has noted the need for digital education among Malaysian small enterprises recently.

 While mobile wallet providers like Grab are making it easier for small businesses in Malaysia to accept cashless payments, the sheer of digital payment providers in Malaysia can make it difficult for small enterprises to understand what payment system may be best for their online businesses.

For both small and large enterprises, Sime Darby Berhad and Maybank were the dream large domestic customers for respondents to our survey.

Overall, 27% of the total respondents noted they would like their employer to work with Sime Darby Berhad in the future, and 25% indicated they would like their employer to work with Maybank.


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