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TM ONE strengthens enterprises and public sectors’ digital resilience with end-to-end cloud infrastructure

By Sharon Chang

As the saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining.

We have been caught off-guard by the unprecedented pandemic. However, Covid-19 can be looked at as a game changer to accelerate digital transformation of our nation. Until two months ago, the actual transformation has been rather slow for many. Now, companies are speeding up the adoption — which was either in discussions for years or put on hold — as they see digital readiness is no longer a choice, but a must.

Both organisations, in the private or public sectors, must rethink their strategies to invest in more integrated digital infrastructure to manage current disruptions and stay relevant in the future.

Viewing it in a wider context, the use of technology has seen a rapid uptick during the Movement Control Order (MCO). Many digital solutions have been innovated and are energising an ecosystem which were in a transitional stage of transformation. We have seen business behaviours reshaped, consumer activities shifted to online platforms, social and conducting business done across online conferencing tools.

By using robust connectivity, complemented by the most effective digital infrastructure, TM ONE is playing the role in providing the most effective platform to help drive Malaysia’s digital strategy forward.

Equipped with newly launched comprehensive digital solutions, TM ONE, the enterprise and public sector business solutions arm of Telekom Malaysia Berhad, is determined to help businesses rapidly adapt and continue operations in these challenging times. As an enabler of the Digital Malaysia, TM ONE is wellpositioned to enable the ecosystem for digital society, digital business, and digital government.

In an exclusive interview with Ahmad Taufek Omar, Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of TM ONE, the leader explains why with every crisis there comes an opportunity.

Without a doubt, technology played a key role during the MCO in keeping us connected and safe, Ahmad Taufek points out. We have witnessed an increase in cloud adoption as businesses leverage on the power of cloud to stay in operation and connected.

At TM ONE, we aspire to spearhead the digital transformation for the nation but as it turns out, the pandemic has accelerated many of our initiatives,” Ahmad Taufek says. When the government enforced the first MCO in March, I threw a challenge to the team to come up with a digital solution to help businesses during the pandemic.

Hence, towards the end of March, they launched TM ONE Cloud α (Cloud Alpha), the key enabler of the digital transformation for Malaysian businesses and public sectors. Its objective is to help organisations to reduce information technology infrastructure complexities towards cloud adoption and particularly to boost their resilience amidst the challenging times.

Ahmad Taufek Omar, Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of TM ONE

Forging resilience through optimisation and technology-driven strategies is crucial across industries”

Cloud Alpha’s robust and r e s i l i e n t infrastructure is hosted in our highly secured, Tier III certified, and global standards compliant data centres within Malaysia.

“We want to ensure our customers are able to fulfil their data residency requirements, and ultimately, data sovereignty,” Ahmad Taufek explains, adding that customers then will have peace of mind, allowing them to focus on their business.

In a response to a question, the CEO also points out the key factor that differentiates Cloud α from other cloud services is the comprehensive offerings, and multi-cloud offerings that provide flexibility to complement multiple deployment models customer’s cloud adoption strategy and business objectives.

Case in point was when our valued customer needed a scalable solution as a stop-gap measure for the temporary surge on their website. Cloud α was deployed as the solution and within one week, from capacity planning to deployment to testing, the government’s backend system was put in place to support the wave.

As with the recent collaboration with Huawei, it will enable TM ONE to offer an additonal array of cloud computing services under the umbrella of Cloud α. With the additional of Huawei and existing collaborations with other other hyperscale cloud providers such as Microsoft, AWS and VMware, will further strengthen TM ONE’s positon as Cloud Aggregator and to become the leading Cloud Services Provider in the country.

“It is another testament of TM’s promise and prominent role as the enabler of Digital Malaysia aspirations.”

According to Ahmad Taufek this partnership will enable them to accelerate the digital services and solutions to the nation, forging ahead as the only Malaysian-owned end-to end cloud infrastructure service provider.

This adds another milestone for TM ONE as they now have full cloud capability as a core offering to capture growth in Malaysia, which is expected to grow at a Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 27 percent in the next five years.

In May, when the government announced the extension of the conditional movement control order (CMCO), it meant that more Malaysians are beginning to return to work. This has raised its own set of questions, primarily on how businesses can ensure a safe work environment for its employees.

One such solution has presented itself. TM ONE, unveiled their smart digital health screening solution – TM ONE Predictive Analytics Screening Solution, or ONE PASS. It works by screening the body temperature of individuals as they enter business premises.

It is a purely local product developed by their own software designers, software architects and coders.

“ONE PASS is aimed at providing business continuity for organisations to declare their building as a ‘safe zone’ to work by implementing state-of-the-art health screening solutions,” Ahmad Taufek elaborates.

ONE PASS is a non-contact connected solution with three main digital service features such as visitor management, thermal sensors, and monitoring and contact tracing. The real-time digital solution includes an employee and visitor management app for selfdeclaration assessment and deployment of thermal cameras and sensors to check body temperatures prior to entering a building.

“We leveraged on the opportunity to launch two key products which are beneficial to the nation while working at home, Ahmad Taufek remarks proudly.

“In essence this is congruent to TM ONE’s actual plans, where our role is towards the nation’s digitalisation process.”

DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION IS KEY TO SURVIVAL

In this Covid-19 period, digital transformation is no longer an option for businesses. It has become a necessity for operational efficiency and business survival.

International Data Corporation (IDC) reported that by 2020, cloud-based IT spending will reach up to 60 percent on IT infrastructure and 60 to 70 percent on all software, services and technology, whereas Global Data estimated Malaysia’s spending on cloud computing is RM10 billion.

The CEO is optimistic and remains committed. “TM ONE’s role as part of TM Group is to deliver a Digital Malaysia, hence the pandemic has allowed us to really show our support for the country and its entire ecosystem.”

“Malaysia is on the right track towards digital transformation, and Digital Malaysia sums up what we are as a developed nation,” Ahmad Taufek says positively.

On another note, the CEO tells Business Today that some businesses are not able to embrace the transformation coherently. Previously, digitalisation was largely seen as IT driven and required high investment. Technology moves so fast but not all companies are able to keep up in terms of the financial capability. Hence, because of this, they become irrelevant very quickly.

And, digital transformation requires agility and speed. There is a saying “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” If the culture of the organisation does not embrace agility, business leaders will find that their digital transformation strategy will falter.

Ahmad Taufek explains that for businesses to embrace a coherent transformation, firstly they must be customer-centric. It is always customers first – creating the best experience for them. It applies to all business strategies as well as digitalisation.

Secondly, business leaders must ensure that people strategy evolves to support their business transformation. When the whole team has a common objective, the journey will be smoother, and things will fall into the right places.

And finally, you must have strong collaborative partners, Ahmad Taufek emphasises. Trusted partnerships with other players in the technology ecosystem will help your customers achieve their digital journey.

Nevertheless, TM ONE is part of TM Group, and each line of business within the Group, has its very own part to play in driving transformation and helping Malaysian companies transform digitally.

“We remain committed to play our part in improving the ecosystem. TM ONE is the only local player with its own state-of-the-art core Data Centres and Cloud infrastructure with full data residency, locality and sovereignty in Malaysia. Our twin core data centres are located in Cyberjaya and Iskandar Puteri respectively,” Ahmad Taufek says with conviction.

With these digital infrastructures and services, TM ONE offers a comprehensive data residency and locality in Malaysia. Holistically, they are an ideal cloud services provider for the nation.

Regarding why businesses should no longer be hesitant on their transformation journey, the CEO says it is the only means of staying relevant in these trying times.

“We have the capabilities to support them,” Ahmad Taufek affirms. If they turn to us from an infrastructure standpoint, TM ONE has the network, software, and platform and most importantly, full data sovereignty, but if it is from an advisory perspective, we have the expertise from top solution consultants.

“Our role as a responsible organisation is to support businesses to elevate to an era of digitalisation”

Furthermore, TM ONE, also working is with the Government to support local small and medium businesses (SMEs) so that they #stayinbusiness in these challenging times.

“We are offering some free services for businesses to leverage, according to their specific needs. Hopefully, they will get a perspective of where they want to head towards by adopting the necessary applications for digitalisation in their business,” Ahmad Taufek says.

WEATHERING THE COVID-19 STORM

To some extent, during the MCO, the use of technology has already been proven to enable many business operations and social connectivity to remain in place. However, the increased deployment of technologies will also speed our path in the post-Covid world.

Undoubtedly, Ahmad Taufek stresses that during any crisis, telecommunication is one of the critical sectors, and at TM ONE their role is to ensure business continuity for their customers to stay in operation.

“It is business as usual. We are committed and ever ready to serve our customers in these trying times,” he states. The team’s responsiveness to address the demands of our customers and our scalable offerings have helped many businesses and public sectors to stay connected, stay in business and stay served.

Understandably during this time, businesses are pulling the handbrakes and accessing the overall expenditure of their business for survival. Hence, to convince the market to spend, Ahmad Taufek says they must ensure the services they offer are well managed and serviced.

“We are here for long-term.”

THE ADVENT OF IR4.0

This is the biggest objective for the TM Group, according to Ahmad Taufek. “We fully support TM in the Group’s role as a national telecommunications infrastructure provider of Malaysia’s Digital Nation aspirations.”

TM Group will continue to lay the foundation for Industrial Revolution 4.0 (IR4.0) and roll out 5G nationwide if it is awarded to us – serving a more digital society and lifestyle, digital businesses and industry verticals, as well as digital Government – to enable a Digital Malaysia.

“We fully engage ourselves around key industry verticals, and with the team and industry experts to enable us to gain a deep understanding of industry needs to exploit the market quicker,” Ahmad Taufek points out.

“We believe in long term partnerships and customer-centricity.”

Ahmad Taufek also shares that TM ONE will continuously develop and deliver digital solutions enabled by Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

“Through our end-to-end digital solutions, we will fulfil the dynamic needs of the various industries in today’s hyper-connected ecosystem,” he says.

STEERING AHEAD

Now, acceleration is key. “We are focused on taking transformation forward for every one of our customers, buoyed by our digital solutions, Ahmad Taufek says with commitment.

“Our role is to enable a reliable hyperconnected ecosystem, one which will empower Malaysia’s enterprise and public sectors to realise the full potential of their digital opportunities through our end-to-end digital solutions and industry experts, he adds.

“We are fully committed to combat this pandemic, to help industries, and the nation move forward – stronger than ever before!”

The digital enabler’s approach opens the avenue for growth in a post-MCO landscape and helps to build resilience for future upheavals.

“At TM ONE, we want to provide technologies which will further assist businesses and organisations to bounce back safely and responsibly to revive our economy,” Ahmad Taufek concludes.

 

Hubris among International school operators

The current Covid-19 induced societal, health and economic disruption has resulted in potentially fundamental radical changes in how we live and work moving forward. This has caused tremendous economic dislocation and we are possibly on the threshold of a global depression that could be worse than the Great Depression of the 1930’s.

Despite the gloomy macro and microeconomic picture, one sector of business seems to have their heads in the sand – International schools.

But before we examine that phenomena, let’s take a look at the industry.

ISC Research’s Market Intelligence Report for Malaysia, the total number of English-medium international schools in the country have increased by 75 percent since 2012, and student enrolments have also gone up by 87 percent. A further 12 new international schools opened in the 2018/19 academic year. There are now approximately 80,000 students studying in international schools.

Approximately 80 percent of students attending international schools today are the children of local families who hope their kids can get an English centric education and a leg up in the future.

Since the MCO started 2 months ago, schools have been going on full e-learning mode to varying degrees of sophistication depending on how prepared they are with relevant e-learning tools.

E-learning is ready for prime-time but it is not, and never will be a substitute for face-to-face learning. Global experts have been advocating blended learning for years which is the combination of face-to-face learning, 2-way learning online via video conferencing tools as well as online lectures, webinars, podcasts and other digitised material.

Online learning cuts the cost of delivery while at the same time increases retention and engagement among students. The costs of these solutions can be quite affordable. For example, www.kidslearning.asia only costs USD60 per annum (about RM 20+ per month)!

However, it is not a substitute for face-to-face learning provided by the school environment.

International schools however seem to feel that they are performing their roles as per normal and are shockingly choosing to continue charging parents normal fees with token discounts of 5 to 15 percent being offered!

In essence, they are trying to make this a net revenue neutral exercise for them!

If schools are closed, essentially, they save money on running costs of the buildings and facilities in areas such as utilities, cleaning and security staff (which is normally outsourced).

From a service delivery perspective, however, the parents (who are the customers of the school) are shortchanged. Not only do they have to supervise their own kids, the quality of education is lower and absolutely no access to normal facilities and interaction which normally an international school provides.

In the corporate world, no vendor will dare charge customers the same fees while delivering lower quality of services. Essentially, they would be setting themselves up to lose customers or worse still, open themselves up to lawsuits.

Schools are also able to act in an arbitrary manner because parents have to pay deposits prior to children entering the schools and therefore, if at least a term’s notice is not given, the deposit is forfeited. So, essentially for most parents, pulling the kids out of school is not an option and hence, they are at the mercy of the school.

What these schools don’t realise is the threat of being out of touch with the market, as well as  potential disruptions to their business model by alternative providers such as homeschooling which is a viable alternative product, if they blend it with e-learning.

After all, the MCO has been a game changer for how we work, live and study.

In an article in the Edge Financial Daily in 2018, Eduseeds Sdn Bhd founding chairman Kevin Gan Muk Chun, said that “There are easily more than 100 [homeschooling] centres in the Klang Valley alone.” Eduseeds is a home-grown virtual curriculum provider for private learning or homeschooling centres.

Gan, who manages five such homeschooling centres in the Klang Valley( at that time), is among a growing number of educators benefiting from parents clamouring for cheaper and more effective educational alternatives to what they perceive as a poor national school system and the high cost of international  schools.

Industry players report that, on average; homeschooling centres enjoy a profit margin of between 20 percent and 40 percent. Across the Klang Valley, homeschooling centres’ monthly fees range from RM700 to RM2,500 per month.

“If my centre can make a 35 percent profit from a monthly fee of RM1,300 per student, how much more profit do you think a RM2,000 fee could command?” a homeschooling centre operator said in the Edge article.

So, what is the middle ground here for the schools and parents, particularly for the majority of middle-class parents who make tremendous sacrifices in order to send their kids to international schools?

My daughter studies at UCSI International in Subang Jaya. Parents across the board have requested a reduction in fees. I proposed something which I felt was logical and fair to both the school as a business and to parents which is to split the fees by timeline and service delivery in the following manner:

  1. Pre-MCO it should be 100 percent of fees payable as full service was rendered by the school.
  2. During MCO, it should be based on the number of hours of online teaching delivered versus what is normally delivered via regular school hours. A reduction in fees should be calculated based on service delivery, with some quantum of discount added on for the fact it is only e-learning.
  3. No miscellaneous fees should be charged, given that no facilities are being used.

The school’s response was a feeble one, that is, their business rental is not being reduced!

And, to top it off – NO DISCOUNT on fees, but payment deadline extended for one month!

The Ministry of Education as the regulator, should come out with a clear policy that is fair to parents. Otherwise the schools will continue to do as they please.

Minister, this is an opportunity to display decisive leadership, protect voters and set yourself apart from discussions about drinking warm water to neutralise covid-19, Doremon, Tik Tok and wearing of Hazmat suits!

By Brian Fernandez


Brian Fernandez is a former business presenter at BFM and at MoneyFM in Singapore. He heads Talent Search International, a regional executive search company and in January launched 360learning.asia, an e-learning business.

Editor’s Note: MCO extends

By Sharon Chang

It’s Friday again, the week just zoomed past despite having to confined to my small unit typing away on my keyboard. Anyways, hoped you have had a smooth week and Happy Ramadan to all our Muslim readers out there.

Looks like we’re going to get another big test to persevere and sustain – both individual and businesses – with the movement control order (MCO) at the tail-end of the third phase and moving into the fourth.

Surprisingly, we’ve got a ton of news today to close off the week.

With the oil price dip being the largest in history, Business Today explores what that could mean to the Malaysian economy. MIER has also released their annual report job indicating that job losses are projected to decline from 2.41 million to 1.46 million if the MCO keep extending.

UOB Kay Hian fears that the extended MCO will create an economically monumental hollowing-out effect which plunders the economy, and reverse reinvestment decisions of both local and foreign investors.

The foreign research house also warned that the long MCO period will be destructive to post-MCO consumption recovery trends as consumers fear job losses and salary cuts. Business failures and consolidations will manifest in the months to come as a slow post-MCO consumption recovery will wilt entrepreneurs’ optimism.

With the coronavirus mowing down bottom lines worldwide, Netflix, the entertainment streaming giant, said 15.8 million more people had subscribed from January to March, as billions were confined to their homes to help stem the spread of Covid-19.

But, sad to say most other business sectors were singing the blues, however.

Dutch brewer Heineken said its net profit was down by more than two-thirds, or 68.5 percent. French hotel giant Accor reported that sales fell by 17 percent as it closed two-thirds of its 5,000 establishments worldwide.

And on the local front, our country’s airline industry faces an estimated USD3.32 billion loss in revenue, affecting some 169,700 jobs.

Lastly, let’s end the note on a lighter side.

The Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development at long last opened their mouth to clarify the issue regarding the government-funded RM100 Covid-19 food baskets.

According to the Ministry’s minister, Rina Harun, the food items in the bundle cost RM35, and the remainder RM65 is for delivery charges.

Wow, I would’nt pay RM65 for delivery charges. That’s my two cents worth. Would you?  Let me know your thoughts.

Have a good weekend!

 

 

Digital Transformation in Covid-19 era

Photo credit: Pixabay

In an email interview with Business Today, Azlan Ahmad, Head of Sales, Start Up & Small Business, Sage Asia, shares his insights on digital transformation measures SMEs need to undertake in the short and medium term to win this tide.

By Sharon Chang

“Because of this pandemic, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Malaysia have finally woken up, realising digital transformation is a priority.”

It’s apparent the SMEs have been hard hit by the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic. Many face declining sales, challenges in production, issues caused by supply chain disruptions and the inability to physically engage with customers.

Nonetheless, it is also clear that the SMEs most prepared for this climate have begun their journey into digital transformation some time ago, with the pandemic acting as a catalyst for acceleration.

“However, for businesses that have been caught off guard,” Azlan says in a emailed response to questions from Business Today, there are key steps that can help them adapt to the current climate and navigate the post Covid-19 era.

“It is time to explore online collaborative software and virtual conferencing as a culture.

“A commitment from all stakeholders to prioritise these efforts are pivotal,” he says, adding that by embracing digital communication both internally and with customers ensures the business will run continuously at optimum engagement levels, while keeping intact both the business identity and employer branding, despite the current distancing.

The Magic of Personal Touch

He also adds that it is imperative to adopt the magic of personal touch. Even amongst all the technological advancements and collaboration tools in the market, do not forget that the staff and customers are above all, people.

Develop robust work from home and customer relations measures that prioritise video conferencing and calls over just email communication.

“In this unprecedented time, the entire nation is lacking the social interaction that they are accustomed to, making that personal touch all the more important,” Azlan remarks.

Whilst this period may have kept many of us on a roll and busy working harder to get results, stop and make exclusive time for people, it will pay off.

E-learning as a Staple

In response to questions, he says, “Many schools and training centres are already offering virtual learning options in view of the current situation, hence it is essential that businesses leverage this period to pick up digital skills and software knowledge to future proof the business.

“Upskill employees in areas of digital transformation – adopt e-learning as a staple. This is the time to prepare for what lies ahead.”

Engage with Virtual Events

In addition, he says that companies should begin to convert any workshops, conferences or seminars into virtual platforms. It is likely the public will be advised to practice social distancing for a longer period even after the movement control order (MCO) is lifted.

“Leverage platforms that are user friendly and allows ease of engagement with the viewers and vice versa,” Azlan adds.

Automate for Improved Productivity

Under this current circumstance, he also points out that many businesses are facing the looming prospect of reduced productivity or even staff retrenchment.

It is vital that all functions are working efficiently to ensure maximum output with the key focus to improve productivity and reduce time wasted on repetitive administrative work.

“Leverage on software which can automatically repeat recurring entries periodically, this will drastically cut down on manual entries,” Azlan explains.

The ability to automate tasks is an important aspect of digital transformation.

Access Government Grants

Azlan adds that the government has rolled out many initiatives, such as the SME Digitisation Initiative which allows qualifying SMEs to apply for 50 percent matching grants of up to RM5,000 to acquire Accounting/ERP systems, Point of Sales systems, Payroll and others.

“Companies should take advantage of this but, find out and choose the technology and software which are affiliated with the grants.”

Yet, Azlan emphasises that at the end of the day, it’s about a community sharing of expertise and knowledge to ensure businesses can overcome this disruption.

Companies that fail to adopt and accelerate digital transformation as a core concept, will find it increasingly difficult to stay competitive both amidst and post-Covid-19.

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are likely to last for months if not years, and in line with SME Corporation Malaysia (SME Corp) target to digitalise all SMEs by 2024, there hasn’t been a better time to make the shift.

Whilst the agency has intensified efforts to assist SMEs in adopting digital technologies since last year, there has been no greater push than that presented by this pandemic.

The shift has taken its course and the conversation is not about if your business will digitally transform but when and how.

“The economy needs all its players to rise up in order for it to bounce back from this colossal episode,” Azlan concludes.

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In an effort to ensure SMEs have easy access to the kind of information they may need to ride the disruption, the team at Sage has put together the Coronavirus Hub. This hub is an online platform with practical, straightforward advice on tackling the challenges businesses are facing, quick access to solutions that enable businesses to operate remotely and useful resources from government and official sources to help organisations navigate the evolving situation.

Azlan Ahmad, Head of Sales, Start Up & Small Business, Sage Asia

Azlan Ahmad, as  the head of the SSB  (Startup & Small Business) business at Sage is responsible for looking into the needs of this segment, managing and growing all SSB product lines across Asia, and work in close collaboration with marketing, product development, partner operations and Customer Success team.

SC’s game changing funding options for SMEs

By Sharon Chang

The coronavirus is predominantly a global tragedy, not only affecting hundreds of thousands of people, but also having a growing impact on the world economy.

Businesses in Malaysia have plummeted tremendously which led the Securities Commission (SC) to come up with further relief options for companies in its commitment to ensure continued access to fundraising.

Datuk Syed Zaid bin Syed Jaffar Albar, Chairman of Securities Commission Malaysia

The SC chairman Datuk Syed Zaid Albar said during a virtual conference on the SC Annual Report 2019, that proactive measures are required to facilitate greater access to funding in order to maintain confidence and ensure long-term recovery of the market.

In response to the increased interest by small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to tap into alternative funding channels, the commission lifted the funding limit on equity crowdfunding (ECF) platforms to RM10 million, and allowed ECF and peer-to-peer financing (P2P) platforms to operationalise secondary trading with immediate effect.

“The raising of the limit to RM10 million will also enable bigger companies to use ECF for fund raising,” Dr V. Sivapalan, Co-Founder and Senior Partner of Scaleup Malaysia Accelerator and Co-Founder of Proficeo Consultants tells Business Today, adding that startups can also utilise this as a substitute for Series A fund raising especially if venture capitalists (VCs) become more cautious

According to Syed Zaid, there is still demand from issuers to raise funds, but investors are hesitant. Hence, to  address this the government’s Co-Investment Fund (MyCIF), administered by the SC, has increased its funding matching ratio from 1:4 to 1:2 for eligible ECF and P2P campaigns.

This means that the ECF issuers/promoters will need to raise less money from external investors to reach their funding targets.

However, this will run from now until September 30, 2020.

Sivapalan applauds the SC’s positive announcement, he says that the MyCIF ratio increase is excellent as it decreases the risk of ECF investors while assisting issuers in speeding up their fund raising.

“This is a vey proactive policy approach especially during this period where conditions remain volatile, he says.

Lastly, Sivapalan tells Business Today that he hopes the secondary trading of ECF shares which was proposed earlier but has yet to be executed, will be expedited as it will provide liquidity for ECF investors.

The SC assured investors that the Malaysian capital market remained fundamentally strong and was functioning in an orderly manner.

“Over the years, Malaysia has withstood many crises and the SC has worked closely with the industry to strengthen the capital markets and address systemic weaknesses.”

 

Investment management helps protect and grow wealth during turbulent times

Phot credit: Pexels

Ronnie Tan, Chief Executive Officer of GAX MD, shares with Business Today in an email interview, how investment management helps reposition investment portfolios and reassure investors during market volatility.

By Sharon Chang

The finances of individuals and companies will be at crossroads in the coming months due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Covid-19 has an unprecedented impact on markets, driving volatility to a point where meaningful changes is made in asset valuation daily.

While we reckon that investors will likely hope their investments can continue to serve them as a trusted store of value and means of wealth preservation, as we continue to spiral uncontrollably into uncertainties.

Ronnie Tan, CEO of GAX MD

In a response to email questions, Tan says, it is important to note that this is not the first nor would it be the last market dip we may face in our lifetime.

Nevertheless, it is a good opportunity to get investments strategies in check.

The right kind of investments

There are investors holding different types of investment portfolios.

“Firstly, if you are one of those conservative investors who have suffered sharp losses recently, what you can do now is start setting aside your required emergency funds, then, later, leverage on your excess fund and plan out a long-term investment goal,” Tan advises.

He also points out that it is important to practice dollar cost averaging by starting small and invest gradually with a fixed amount regularly.

“Furthermore, always ensure your investment is well diversified.”

Time in the market is more important than timing the market

Investment strategies to adopt must best fit the investors’ risk profile; like a discipline investment methodology with well diversification of assets (comprising equities, bonds, treasury bills, gold/commodities, REITS), supported by portfolio rebalancing and optimisation driven by smart innovation.

While, also complemented by a team of professional portfolio managers who are competent to do what is best for their clients based on the investor’s risk appetite, investment horizon, income and assets – which can be tailored to the investor’s requirements whether in a bullish or bearish market.

Then, there are the value investors, Tan says, who see quality blue chips at great value to invest.

“While it might be an attractive short-term strategy to buy stocks in oil & gas, airline industry, hotel and travel-related companies whose shares have plummeted recently, it will not be wise to make hasty updates or to predict the market performance for clients, Tan explains, because the impact of the coronavirus on the economy and on the capabilities of companies has added so much uncertainties and volatilities to the market.”

Trading halts due to triggered circuit breakers seem to be the norm at this juncture, with the number of new coronavirus cases globally is just as volatile.

“And it is precisely during this economic climate where there are so much uncertainties, investment managers should advise their clients to participate in passive investment according to their risk profile via exchange-traded funds (ETFs) instruments that are well diversified over multiple asset classes.”

Photo credit: Pixabay

Recently, the local FTSE Bursa Malaysia Kuala Lumpur Composite Index (FBMKLCI) was down by about 18 percent, while S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) have each plummeted by about 30 percent in its year to date (YTD) performance.

Hence, it is more evident than before that now is the best time to start investing early.

Although there may be a lot of doubt and fear in the market, there are also opportunities.

However, one common mistake that many investors do is wager and try to time the market.

Instead, they should have a mindset towards a long-term investment strategy and practice diversification, Tan says.

And lastly for investors who have a bigger risk appetite – an aggressive investor – higher risk leads towards higher gains. Investment managers should give their clients the option to have multiple functional portfolios by customising them according to their preference.

According to Tan, there are three functional portfolios in MYTHEO, GAX MD’s digital investment management service which are Growth (equity-centric), Income (bond-centric) and Inflation Hedge (real asset-centric) which investors can choose from to best suit their appetite.

“MYTHEO uses an algorithm based on AI and sound investment strategies to automatically create, maintain and optimise an investment portfolio to help investors grow their wealth,” he explains.

The goal of the Growth portfolio is to obtain high returns on a long-term basis in line with the global equity market. In order to achieve this, the portfolio invests in assets with a high long-term rate of return, like stocks.

Meanwhile, the income portfolio is mainly composed of fixed-income ETFs which is designed to achieve relatively stable and steady returns with much-protected downside risks –  recommended for people who are retired or do not want to take extra risks of the sudden decrease in assets while obtaining stable income at low risk.

And as for the Inflation Hedge portfolio, it is designed to match and exceed the Malaysian inflation rate. For this purpose, the portfolio focuses on investing in asset classes that tend to do well in high inflationary environment such commodity (Gold, Metal and Agriculture), Infrastructure, Real Estate and Inflation Hedge Bonds.

Hence, it is recommended for people who have already built up substantial value of assets and want to prevent the asset value from eroding due to inflation.

Tan points out that the aggressive investors who have high-risk appetite and longer investment periods should put more weightage on the Growth portfolio which is made up of diversified equity ETFs that yield higher returns.

While the aim is high returns, the Growth portfolio construction process does not rely on trying to forecast the returns of individual companies which is very difficult to do accurately.

In addition, the Growth portfolio uses optimisation techniques to minimise risk (i.e. return volatility).

In this way, aggressive investors can in a way have the best of both worlds.

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GAX MD was granted a Capital Markets Services license by the Securities Commission Malaysia to carry out the regulated activities of fund management in relation to digital investment management.

Digital investment management is a fund management business which incorporates innovative technologies into discretionary portfolio management services.

Celebrate the upcoming festive season at home with Shangri-La

In accordance with the extended Movement Control Order (MCO), Shangri-La Hotel, Kuala Lumpur are offering guests to have Iftar dishes delivered to the comfort of their own home or office from April 23 to May 23.

Shangri-La’s culinary team has put together three different Iftar sets to choose from throughout the fasting month.

“The Horizon” includes Malay Kuih Muih, Tunisia Dates, Ulam-Ulaman Kampung (Local Salad with Chili Dip), Daging Masak Rendang Pedas (Beef in Malay Herbs and Dry Coconut Sauce), Ayam Kapitan Berkentang (Chicken Kapitan with Potatoes), Kari Kepala Ikan (Fish Head Curry with Lady Finger and Eggplant), and Dhall Cha Sayur (Lentil Stew with Mixed Vegetables and Spices). The set is completed with Steamed Rice, Sliced Tropical Fruits and Cheesecake.

The set is priced at RM60 nett per person

The second offering by Shangri-La is “The Horizon”. This set includes Malay Kuih Muih, Tunisia Dates, Ulam-Ulaman Kampung (Local Salad with Chili Dip), Daging Masak Rendang Pedas (Beef in Malay Herbs and Dry Coconut Sauce), Ayam Kapitan Berkentang (Chicken Kapitan with Potatoes), Kari Kepala Ikan (Fish Head Curry with Lady Finger and Eggplant), and Dhall Cha Sayur (Lentil Stew with Mixed Vegetables and Spices). The set is completed with Steamed Rice, Sliced Tropical Fruits and Cheesecake.

The set is priced at RM60 nett per person

The third set being the “The Shangri-La” set, contains Malay Kuih Muih, Tunisia Dates, Ulam-Ulaman Kampung (Local Salad with Chili Dip), Daging Masak Rendang Pedas (Beef in Malay Herbs and Dry Coconut Sauce), Ayam Kapitan Berkentang (Chicken Kapitan with Potatoes), Kari Kepala Ikan (Fish Head Curry with Lady Finger and Eggplant), Dhall Cha Sayur (Lentil Stew with Mixed Vegetables and Spices) and Nasi Biryani Kambing (Lamb Shank with Biryani Rice). The set is completed with Steamed Rice, Sliced Tropical Fruits, Cheesecake and Chocolate Cake.

It is priced at RM80 nett per person.

Shangri-La Kuala Lumpur is also offering Hari Raya Hampers which comes in three different content customisation.

The Raya Delight, Lebaran Treasure and Aidilfitri Platinum hampers are priced at RM688, RM888 and RM1,288 respectively. The overall look and feel of the hampers are designed to capture the essence of Hari Raya, suitable as a gift for family and friends.  Minimum two day pre-order time is required for the hampers.

When place the booking, do take note that a minimum order for three persons is applicable for all Ramadhan delivery sets, available from 10am to 4pm.

Guests can also call +603 2074 3900 or WhatsApp +6019 390 2257 to in order to place their orders. Orders can also be completed through Shangri-La Specials Mobile App.

Shangri-La will also be offering delivery services for the orders made, with respective delivery fees charged according to the distance. Alternatively, self-pickup is also available at the Concierge Counter, Lobby.

 

Covid-19: Emerging threats for Malaysia’s trade

By Evelyn S. Devadason

Monitoring the potential threats of the Covid-19 pandemic to international trade is important for a highly trade dependent country like Malaysia. The latest monthly trade statistics released by the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE) revealed that exports and imports had declined by 11.5 percent and 14.2 percent respectively, between January 2020 and February 2020. In fact, export contraction had already begun in 2019; the first ever recorded decline since 2009.

The level of uncertainties in the growth of trade in Malaysia continues with the outbreak of Covid-19 due to disruption of supply chains, social distancing policy, production stoppages, slowdown in foreign direct investment (FDI) and rise in trade protectionism.

The first threat to Malaysia’s trade is the disruptions to the regional and global supply chains. The share of foreign value-added in Malaysia’s gross exports of merchandise goods is relatively high at 37.6 percent. The interruptions in the supply chains would adversely affect Malaysia and is expected to fall disproportionately on sectors like electronics and automotive, which are highly integrated with the global market through regional supply chains.  Social distancing in major import sourcing countries has disrupted the imports of intermediates or parts and components to Malaysia. In turn, the national social distancing measure has also affected exports, as production operations are halted, with the exception for essential products designated under the Movement Control Order (MCO). The result of factory closures is under-utilisation of capacity, a problem that already plagues the manufacturing industry.

The second threat to the country’s trade relates to its interlinkages with FDI. The export-oriented manufacturing industry is largely driven by inward FDI, and this explains why FDI uniquely parallels trade for a country like Malaysia. On the back of lower profits and weak external demand during this pandemic, existing multinationals in Malaysia are showing signs of slowing down their capital expenditures, and some may even plausibly consider reshoring their activities back to their home country if this pandemic prolongs. Worth noting at this juncture is that inward FDI has already been declining somewhat dramatically since the second quarter of 2019. A further drop in investment inflows to Malaysia can be anticipated especially with the projected drop in global FDI by about 30 percent to 40 percent. A slowdown in FDI or delayed investments will have profound implications for trade.

The third threat to trade is transmitted through disruptions in services (transportation and logistics), leading to general increases in domestic and international transaction costs. As services have become more tradeable now than before, identifying the ultimate impact of this pandemic on trade in services of Malaysia will also become more complicated than trade in merchandise goods.

The fourth threat to Malaysia’s imports is the rise in export restrictions among its major trading partners. Based on a recent database released on trade policies during this pandemic, Malaysia is reported to have a “very high exposure” to global export restrictions in personal protection equipment, namely, 78.5 percent of its medical masks’ imports alone come from countries imposing such restrictions.  “High exposure” to export restrictions by global producers is also noted for imported components of hygiene and case management, such as hand sanitisers (34.6 percent) and venturi masks (30.6 percent). The short-term policy response through export restrictions by most major global producers, enacted to fulfil the surge in their domestic demand, will impair the global supply of critical goods, cause shortages and subsequently price escalations. Shortages in personal protective equipment are already evident in Malaysia.

The unilateral or containment measures enforced globally are not just related to medical equipment and supplies, but are also extended to food supply, thereby threatening that access for countries like Malaysia.  Though Malaysia is ranked as a relatively food secure country, occupying 28th position in the 2019 Global Food Security Index, it is still a net importer of food. Therefore, the export bans in major food exporting countries, compounded by the logistic constraints mentioned above, could have potentially devastating effects on food imports, resulting in food insecurity in the near term.

The rise of uncoordinated trade protectionist policies, globally, even if they are temporary, will dictate and shape recovery in the aftermath of the pandemic. Short-term policy responses, undeniably, are a compromise to global trade over the long-term.

Questions arise concerning whether Malaysia’s trade will rebound in the post Covid-19 period closer to the pre-pandemic trend, or will it taper to a lower new norm. Any change in trade trajectory in future will inherently be subject to whether this pandemic is viewed as a one-time shock or a recurring shock by governments and businesses.  Based on the ways in which this pandemic could unfold, speculation about the trade impacts of Covid-19 remains rife.

Evelyn S. Devadason is a Professor at the Faculty of Economics & Administration, University of Malaya. Her research focuses on international trade and regional integration. She currently serves as an Associate Editor to the International Journal of Social Economics and as a member to the Editorial Board of the Journal of Contemporary Asia.

The brunt on the hospitality industry during this pandemic

Business Today speaks to Jason Chong, chief executive officer & co-founder of Cornerstone Partners Group (CPG), on the impact to the hotel industry due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the measures to cope with the situation.

By Sharon Chang

The hospitality and tourism industries have taken a brutal beating with tourist arrivals coming to a halt since the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic and Movement Control Order (MCO) was implemented.

Though it’s true that such occurrences are hard to predict – the ‘black swan’ event – they cause catastrophic consequences.

Now, as the pandemic has spread to major global tourism markets, the hotel industry is at risk of experiencing a business downturn from lower levels of global and regional travel.

Jason Chong, CEO & co-founder of Cornerstone Partners Group (CPG)

“This pandemic and travellers’ behaviour are expected to set Malaysia’s tourist arrivals back by two decades to less than the 10.22 million recorded in 2000,” Chong says, adding that the tourism industry will not pick up even after the MCO is lifted because this global pandemic will deter tourists coming in from other countries.

People will be wary of travelling and as most countries have stopped their citizens from travelling, the industry will continue to suffer.

According to Chong, the hotel industry will be so badly affected to the extent that it’s something most of us will not experience during our lifetime.

Despite the hotel business being listed as an “essential service”, there are two defining aspects of the MCO’s effect on hotels: firstly, restrictions imposed on hotels from taking in domestic guests, and secondly, the freeze on inbound international travellers.

“These two aspects can be viewed as somewhat oxymoronic, as domestic guests aren’t allowed to check-in and there aren’t any international guests arriving, thus making it difficult for hoteliers to keep their workers gainfully employed,” Chong explains.

According to the Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH), business volumes across hotels in Malaysia have dwindled to a third, year-on-year, while Smith Travel Research (STR) claims they see unprecedented historical low levels of occupancy. External factors contributing to this are travel bans imposed by many countries as well as traveller sentiments.

Chong also says that on an operational perspective, some hotels have temporarily closed to weather out the pandemic, while others are trudging along with single digit occupancies. There are even some hoteliers who volunteer their hotels as quarantine stations for returning Malaysians.

“The low guests’ volume has severely disrupted cashflow for both the property management operating level and the investment company in terms of servicing financial obligations, he adds.

“To mitigate the financials, lay-offs, pay cuts and other payroll reduction measures have inexorably been announced at some hotels. But the cleaning and sanitisation costs have increased to upkeep the hygiene of the hotels.”

In the instance of CPG, Chong says the company is fortunate to have their presence in three distinct countries, with access to many financial affiliates to allocate and reroute their resources and capital where it’s most required.

“Our regional coverage has also allowed us a diverse perspective on the virus’ impact on hotels. The ability to compare data on social practices, consumer sentiment, the virus’ effects through these regions, and different national and specific hotel strategies applied does give us a bit of an upper hand in tackling the reduced business volumes.” he remarks lightly.

Chong tells Business Today that while the industry is reeling from the brunt of Covid-19’s short-term effects, they believe that this pandemic will change the course of the industry and will create a lasting impact.

“Travel patterns and cost management methods will evolve, and this serves as an opportunity for us to look at things we’ve taken for granted in the past, and reposition ourselves,” he opines.

Sustenance to survival

In response to questions on how long the industry can sustain before drastic changes or measures need to be taken, Chong says it depends on the maturity of the property.

“Most hotels in Malaysia should have sufficient working capital on the property to sustain for around two months. With prudent cost management and mitigation initiatives, I would believe, like other hotel owners, we should be able to weather out at least 3 months of reduced business, he says.

“Nonetheless, bearing in mind that salaries constitute the single largest fixed cost of any hotel, every hotel owner is working tirelessly to preserve liquidity. Even a significant amount of capital reserves may not be sufficient if there’s an imminent delay to recover.”

Recovery

The road to recovery can be long – hopefully not, but the bulk of the tourists’ receipts will be from domestic travellers. Malaysians will likely be travelling locally for the time being.

Chong says the domestic tourism is easier to predict, as he thinks the industry can expect an influx of domestic guests within 3 months after the MCO is lifted, which is also in line with MAH’s prediction, the 3rd quarter of this year.

“This is partly due to Malaysia’s competent management of the outbreak.”

On global travel, he mirrors the thoughts of economists. If there is a salient and viable containment “solution” to the virus, it may take possibly anywhere between 6 months to a year.

While we applaud the Government’s initiatives to the hospitality sector such as the wage subsidy programme and the special relief fund, but according to Chong, the special relief fund is limited to RM1,000,000, which unfortunately isn’t particularly helpful to the larger convention hotels.

While MAH has lauded a higher wage subsidy and MATTA having urged the government for a longer period beyond the 3 months, Chong believes a tailored approach may be more appropriate.

“Hotels are resource intensive businesses, and no two hotels are alike.”

Take the wage subsidy programme for example, the limit is capped at 200 employees, which may be more than sufficient for budget and small-scale hotels, but totally inadequate for larger hotels or resorts with higher room counts and facilities.

Furthermore, the cap on RM4,000 qualifying salary only benefits the rank and file of the property, and may exclude supervisory & management personnel, which contribute to a significant and necessary portion of the payroll.

“As one of the most direly hit industries, I would advocate for any hospitality targeted stimulus to be catered to those who really need the support, fully scalable to the size of the hotel, and for the recovery strategy to be systemically forward looking, Chong stresses.

“There should be a semi-assured light at the end of the tunnel.”

Strategies moving forward

At the property level for our Malaysian hotels, domestic guests are the priority for the immediate future.

Hotels should craft strategies towards that effect.

“We have to realise, travel habits have indubitably changed, guests will place higher emphasis on hygiene and prevention, and we have to ensure our hotels are able to adapt to our client’s dispositions,” Chong points out.

Covid-19’s impact would dictate travel patterns as well, such as less Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) but more staycations and self-contained resort experiences.

“Therefore, we are taking the opportunity to reassess our products’ positioning and would not rule out repositioning after market stabilises.”

In a way, the reduced business volume is forcing the industry to take a good hard look at itself, and as a result, neoteric cost mitigation exercises are now being implemented.

“While we have always fostered a close relationship with our management and brand partners, but in times of crisis, we’ve forged even closer ties and work hand-in-hand with them in bolstering the business,” Chong shares.

Therefore, Chong says the company is pleased and appreciative to their associates such as InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) and Hilton for taking drastic immediate steps to curb spending and preserve liquidity.

“On a corporate level, as a group, we have been on a sharp growth/acquisition phase for the past half-decade, focusing on new developments, he adds.

“However, our near-term strategies, given the economic outlook may involve risk-adverse acquisitions of operating assets with proven track records or hedging products with potentially lower but secured yields, we expect favourable deals to be slowly seeping into the market in the near future.”

Even prior to the pandemic, CPG has foreseen a potential market downturn, and hedged into mixed developments such as the announced CPG Tower in Melbourne.

“The company, as a group, is and will be hospitality centric, but we are studying other real estate asset classes as well, with diversification as a strategy,” Chong concludes.

There is much to be said on the buoyancy of the hotel industry, evidenced by how we overcame a range of past crises.

Having said that strategy developed at this point has to be centred around resiliency. Nonetheless, no strategy developed by an individual organisation can survive on its own, we will require both global and national cohesive efforts to surpass this challenge.

MATTA: should’nt the government protect the travelling public too?

Photo by Omar Prestwich on Unsplash

The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) is concerned with the disclosure by the Malaysian Aviation Commission (MAVCOM) that it had given leeway to airlines in providing refunds to customers due to challenges faced by commercial carriers following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Airlines operating in Malaysia indicated approximately 13.6 million seats were cancelled, which literally means hundreds of millions of consumers’ hard-earned dollars are stuck with the airlines including more than the 100 foreign airlines currently operating in Malaysia.

Datuk Tan Kok Liang, MATTA President

In a statement, MATTA President Datuk Tan Kok Liang said that MAVCOM’s function is also to provide a mechanism for protection of consumers.

“If so, the Commission ought to ensure that consumers (which include travel agents who act on behalf of consumers) get their due refunds without delay or offer equitable proposals acceptable to ticket holders,” Tan remarked.

He said that the least MAVCOM can do is to accept this extraordinary challenge and provide a timeline plus a mechanism for refunds and provide options and solutions both to airlines and consumers.

“Ticket holders need to be given an option on monies back or any alternative solutions acceptable to the consumer,” Tan said, adding that regulators in the US and EU have generally instructed airlines to refund ticket holders their monies.

“By allowing airlines to dictate terms at its commercial discretion especially during this time of crisis is poor supervision and governance.”

Henceforth, MAVCOM should consider the drastic impact to consumers if any of the airlines were to go into liquidation.

What good will be the value of the vouchers and points then?

“Has MAVCOM taken all of these factors into account?” Tan asked.

In a related context, under the IATA Billing Settlement Plan (BSP), travel agents must provide financial security in the form of Bank Guarantee (BG) or Default Insurance Program (DIP) in order to sell tickets. Similarly, IATA should now insist that airlines provide financial security to protect travel agents and passengers should the airlines close.

MAVCOM should be aware of IATA’s Passenger Agency Conference Resolutions in which airlines are being protected from the failures of travel agents but not otherwise (i.e. travel agents are not protected should an airline fail).

Also, Section 12, First Schedule, Item 5 of the Malaysian Aviation Consumer Protection Code (MACPC) 2016 (designed to protect consumer interest in air travel) requires airlines to resolve complaints and remit refunds to consumers within 30 days of receipt of complaints.

The least MAVCOM could do is to direct airlines to pay refunds within a given timeframe or offer any alternative solutions acceptable to consumers, Tan said.

“Perhaps the Ministry of Finance should scrutinise the current practice of airlines, as what they have done is similar to deposit taking cooperatives that were banned in the 1980s for utilising collections from consumers to cover operating costs.”

MATTA reiterate that while they are sympathetic to the adverse conditions of the commercial aviation sector, they stand firm on their position that taking deposits for future services and the inability to provide refunds is not prudent financial management.

Customers’ deposits ought to be placed in a designated or trust account until services are rendered.

“Why must airlines be allowed to delay refunds when they are not the only business affected by the pandemic? This is akin to telling every business that credit vouchers will suffice instead of refunds.”

“Ironically, all passengers except those on transit, children below two years old, and passengers using the Rural Air Services in Sabah and Sarawak are made to pay RM1 levy to MAVCOM since 1 May 2018. Perhaps it is time for MAVCOM to cease collections due to its failure to protect consumers,” Tan added.

Booking trends and travel patterns will be stifled unless this issue is settled in order to boost public confidence.

“MATTA urges the government to seriously study the possibility of providing financial support such as soft loans to our local aviation industry and local airlines Malaysia Airlines Bhd and Air Asia Group Bhd to survive this period as they are crucial to the recovery of the travel and tourism industry”, concluded Tan.

Preparing for the worst but looking forward to the future

Photo by Headway on Unsplash
[Part 1 of this article appeared on Mon: Recession Today, Opportunity Tomorrow: How To Build Sustainability Today And Prepare For The Coming Economic Recovery]

By Dr V. Sivapalan

Most entrepreneurs don’t look too far ahead. They are often caught up fire fighting on a daily basis and worry about operational matters and survivability more than strategic matters. However, when a crisis hits, thinking about the future of their industry and forward planning take on an equally important position within their daily roles.

The Malaysian government has already introduced two stimulus packages to assist individuals and companies to get over the current pandemic. While there is a lot of support for individuals and conventional SMEs, these packages don’t do enough for the tech sector especially Startups.

Most Startups are small, young (less than 3 years old), don’t have sufficient cash flows to take on loans and most don’t have a track record to even apply for a loan. The Prime Minister has indicated that there may be a third stimulus package for Startups so I think we need to wait for his announcement.

However, companies shouldn’t just wait for government assistance. Now that we know the recession is here, there are several critical things entrepreneurs need to do. These are divided into two areas, building sustainability and preparing for the recovery.

Building Sustainability

To take advantage of the recovery and future potential, you have to first stabilise the ship so that you can survive the next 12 months.

Preserve Cash

Many companies don’t have sufficient cash flow for even a couple of months, but there’s ways to preserve and stretch your cash for a longer period.

Firstly, look at your debtors ageing and identify who owes you money and assess how much you can collect and how soon. A lot of companies have uncollected billings that may give them a lifeline. Work on collecting as much of this as you can. Give debtors discounts for early payment if you have to. But get this cash into your bank account.

Are there customers who may buy your products or services at a discount? If you have to give discounts for cash sales then this can increase your cash buffer too.

Some services can be sold now for future use. Airline tickets and hotel rooms for example sell tickets and rooms that will only be used sometime in the future but collect the payment in advance. Can you also do this? If yes, then do it.

Stretch Your Cash

As you build your cash resources, you also need to stretch this for as long as possible. Ideally build sufficient cash for a 6 -9 month period. As some normalcy returns you will start selling again and revenue will return.

In the tech industry staff costs are the highest, often 70 to 80% of total costs as its primarily a knowledge based industry. Find ways of reducing staff costs. You don’t necessarily have to retrench staff, start with across the board pay cuts instead. It must start with the founders and management right down to the staff. However, cuts for staff earning smaller salaries should be much less than for those earning more. But make sure everyone has a pay cut.

Explain to everyone why pay cuts are needed. You’re trying to save the company and saving jobs. If cuts are not made then either the company closes down or there will be retrenchments neither of which are desirable. You staff will understand and good staff will stay together to save each other’s jobs.

When making pay cuts, do it in one big round, don’t do small cuts and then make more cuts later. That will create uncertainty and will cause staff problems with planning their own cost cutting measures. However, try and ensure that what they take back is sufficient for living costs.

I’ve been asked whether these should be pay cuts or pay deferments i.e. you cut their pay now but agree to pay the difference later. This is not a good idea as this can cause serious cash flow implications in the future; essentially you’re just pushing the problem into the future. Cut salaries but as soon as the business stabilises increase their salaries again and if the business does well pay them a bonus as appreciation for helping the business survive.

In some cases you may need to retrench staff, perhaps because just cutting salaries alone is not sufficient or because the business has fundamentally changed and some staff may not be needed. In that case make one major cut of staff you no longer need and make sure you don’t cut anymore in future. The worse thing you can do is cut slowly. This creates a lot of uncertainty and will affect staff emotionally as they won’t know who else will lose their jobs in the future.

This may be the hardest thing you do as a founder, but it may be necessary to save the company.

Ultimately, the amount of money you save from pay cuts should allow you to stretch your burn rate for a longer period.

Then talk to creditors, your landlord and other business partners and ask them for payment extensions. If necessary pay in instalments over a longer period and keep to your promised schedule. They will understand.

If possible re-negotiate tenancies and other costs, ask for short-term discounts or reductions. No one wants you to fold up so most people will try and accommodate.

Secure Additional Cash

If it’s possible secure some additional cash either via investments or a loan. But remember that a loan has to be paid back and you will need revenue and cash flow to do this. So raise only the extra sum you’ll need for the next 6 to 9 months and ensure you can pay this back. Also, if the government has any grants or is offering any support via their stimulus packages go grab it immediately.

Resource and Performance Reviews

As part of the plan, review your resource requirements especially staff. How many people do you really need, who do you need, what must they do, can they do more? Some companies actually have more staff than they need or if the future of your business has changed maybe some staff are no longer needed. Do the necessary restructuring to your staff requirements so that going forward you have optimum staff levels.

You also need to improve productivity of your staff. Are you tracking their productivity? What metrics are you using? Are you benchmarking against industry norms? In a recession everyone has to give 150%, so everyone has to do a lot more. Everyone’s performance has to improve significantly.

Product Reviews

You also need to do a complete product review to determine which products or services are providing you with better return on investment than others. For products that bring poor ROI or cause you to lose money, cut those products and focus on those with better margins. This may also require less staff and lower your costs. Better margins mean more cash flow.

Future products or research and development must also focus on products that will bring better ROI and not just vanity products with poor returns.

Better Business Models

Review your business model and pricing strategy to make sure it’s optimised to bring the best returns at the lowest cost. Look for innovative models that may bring more sales or better margins. Don’t assume the old ways of doing things are the best. Some ideas can be found in my book, “Blue Sky Innovation” which is available on Amazon Kindle. If you can create a model that brings in recurring monthly or annual incomes that is a better way to build a sustainable business than one time sales.

Check your unit economics to ensure that the lifetime value of your customer (i.e. how much you make from the customer over the period the customer buys from you) is at least three times your customer acquisition cost. Founders often do not realise it but their customer acquisition costs are much higher than they think and their customer lifetime value (LTV) is lower than expected and this leads to a poor business model. Review this and ensure that the returns justify the costs.

Sometimes this depends on your pricing strategy. If you don’t price it right you may be earning much less than you can and this can lead to poor margins. So review your pricing and do some experiments to determine if you can price the product higher. Better positioning or packaging can also lead to better pricing and a higher margin.

Hopefully these suggestions will help you to sustain your company for the next 12 months and help you manage the recession better. Once you are able to do this, you need to then prepare for the future, as there will be a lot of opportunities when the world economy recovers.

Preparing for the Future

Every storm has a silver lining and if you can weather the storm you will be in prime position to take advantage of the strong growth of the global economy that happens after every recession. History has shown us that recessions are generally short but the recovery and subsequent growth period is long and profitable.

With less competition in the market, the addition of good talent, stronger financials and a better business model you will be primed to enjoy the benefit of a long period of growth.

However, you’ll need to ensure that you tap all the opportunities available post recession.

Explore the Potential

Use this time to explore and study your market and industry to discover what new opportunities are available for the next 5 – 10 years. How will changes in consumer behaviour, market and technology trends and government support change your business environment? Does it open up new markets, new sectors? Do you have to adapt your product to new problems or needs?

The more you explore, the more you talk to customers and ecosystem leaders the more understanding you’ll build about the future and this will help you to change, adapt and position your company and products for the future.

Be prepared to serve your customer needs better and grab the opportunities faster than competitors. Remember some competitors won’t make it; many others will be badly bruised and won’t be able to compete as effectively as before, so this means you have the upper hand.

However, as you do this remember that you must build a financially strong and long-term sustainable company because funding will be scarce, so the only way to fund the business is via sales and margins. Build a company that is profitable and you’ll not just survive but thrive.

No matter how bleak it looks now, if you do all of the above, you’ll be a very successful company from 2021 and beyond.

Building a Pegasus Business with ScaleUp Malaysia

In mid-2019 I was already predicting a recession. Not because I’m super smart or that I have a crystal ball, but if you go back 100 years, you will realise that every 8 years or so after a recovery a recession happens. The global economy started recovering from the GFC from 2009 and it’s been one of the longest periods of prosperity over the last 100 years. With this prosperity comes excesses and this will always lead to a recession. It’s a predictable cycle. We only don’t know what the trigger will be but it’s always been a black swan event. Unfortunately for this recession it was the coronavirus and the disease it causes, Covid-19.

Knowing a recession was looming, when we launched ScaleUp Malaysia Accelerator, our model was premised on building a “Pegasus” which we define as a high growth but profitable company. Hence we don’t believe in the “Go big or go home” mantra or the build market share at all expense model either. This was ok in the go-go years of the 2010s but as you approach a recession this is a dangerous strategy. We can see the possible failure of multiple companies that have this model, from WeWork to OYO to the many other VC funded companies that sacrifice cash flow and profitability for market share. In fact many of these companies don’t even know if they’ll ever turn a profit. That model is now dead, for the next few years anyway.

Hence in ScaleUp Malaysia we selected companies that have high growth potential, but also have a business model that allows us to build a path to profitability. Even if growth is not as fast as some of the VC funded companies, its ok, as we are willing to sacrifice some growth in return for profitability and a positive cash flow. Today cash is king, so a positive cash flow is highly desirable and this is what all ScaleUp Malaysia companies are working towards.

We are not worried about the recession because we already knew it was coming. All our investee companies have solid business models and great prospects going forward and we will prepare them to be resilient and to have a business model that helps them to build a sustainable and long-term profitable business.

We will use the strategies and ideas mentioned above to do this.

I am sharing these ideas because I am passionate about entrepreneurship and have spent the last 2 decades helping entrepreneurs to build great businesses. So I hope you’ll take advantage of what I have shared and work on building a solid business that you can be proud of. And if you do, apply for future cohorts of ScaleUp Malaysia because we would love to work with you.

Until then, stay strong, stay positive and stay safe.

Dr V Sivapalan (seated in the middle – blue shirt) with the cohort of ScaleUp Malaysia.

(Dr. Siva has a Ph.D in Venture Capital from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. He is the Co-Founder and Senior Partner of Scaleup Malaysia Accelerator (www.scaleup.my) and Co-Founder of Proficeo Consultants (www.proficeo.com). Visit his LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/drsivapalan/ )

He is also the author of “Blue Sky Innovation” published in Feb 2013.

This article was first published in Digital News Asia

Carsome sets up $50,000 Covid-19 support fund for employees

“We were already digitalising the used car industry as much as possible to consolidate a very fragmented market. The pandemic has accelerated the digitisation of the entire automotive industry,” says Cheng.

Used-car selling service, Carsome has announced that they have set up a $50,000 Covid-19 Support Fund for all their employees across their bases in Southeast Asia.

The fund is expected to cover Carsome’s 700 employees financially across SEA, should an employee contract the virus.

“Covid-19 is unlike any other previous crisis we have seen and has caused major disruption in businesses, healthcare and the economy. With the support fund, we hope we can help alleviate the stress the crisis has brought to our employees by contributing to the fight against the pandemic” said Eric Cheng, chief executive officer and co-founder of Carsome.

The fund will also be utilised to provide living expense support to employees if they have contracted Covid-19.

Carsome will also issue a one-off gratuity payment totalling $1,000 to each infected employee and undertake additional costs up to $3,000 should the employee require further treatment.

“As we grapple with the scale of this pandemic, we will continue to provide our employees with the utmost attention and do our very best to care for their safety and well-being,” added Cheng.

Recession today, opportunity tomorrow: how to build sustainability today and prepare for the coming economic recovery

credit: freepik/xb100

By Dr V. Sivapalan

As I write this article more than 1.5 million people worldwide have been infected by COVID-19, ninety thousand people have lost their lives and the pandemic is escalating in the United States and India. My heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones especially the older generation.

I pray that governments will take painful but necessary measures to curb further infections and deaths and that the people will comply. The rest of us can only stay at home and pray for the safety of the most vulnerable in society.

While this unfolds another tragedy is happening – a recession. There is no doubt in my mind that a recession is already here.

Over the last two weeks 10 million workers have been displaced in the US, the largest in history and there’s already a 10 percent unemployment rate there, more than during the great recession of 2008-2009.

It is only going to get worse as the US starts enforcing a nationwide lockdown. Some experts predict a 15 percent to 30 percent unemployment rate in the US; worse than the Great Depression of 1929 when the average was about 20 percent.

Bank Negara Malaysia predicts a 2020 GDP growth rate of between -2 percent to +0.5 percent while the World Bank predicts a contraction of -0.1 percent this year which means more likely we will see a recession too – a mild one.

Bank Negara Malaysia predicts a 2020 GDP growth rate of between -2 percent to +0.5 percent, AFP PHOTO (Photo by STR / AFP)

This may change as the rest of the world grapples with the pandemic. If our major trading partners or the rest of the world falls into a worse recession, then ours may be worse as well. There is still too much uncertainty to make a better prediction.

Depth and Length of the Recession

The bigger question is not just how bad the recession will be but how long will it last?

There are generally three types of recession and recovery scenarios. There is the “V” shaped recession which predicts a sharp and fast fall in economic growth, often caused by what they call a “black swan” or totally unpredictable event like the current pandemic, followed by an equally fast and sharp rebound. The recession after the 9-11 terrorist attack in the US is an example. Recovery is generally quite fast on average about 12 months.

Then there is the “U” shaped recession, which can be a fast or slower fall, but it stays down for a longer period and then recovers to pre-recession levels. Imagine the letter “U” and you get what I mean. A “U” shaped recession often takes between 12 to 36 months and the recovery takes longer than a “V” shaped recovery.

Dr V.Sivapalan

And, there is the “L” shaped recovery, which starts with a fast or slow fall but takes a very long time to recover. This is often classified as a depression and can take a decade for the economy to recover. The recovery period is also not easy to predict.

The Great Depression in the US that lasted from 1929 to 1939 is such an example. In fact, if it wasn’t for World War II that started in 1939, the depression may have lasted even longer. The war required the US government to spend on war preparations and it got the factories to work producing weapons and other war needs and this got the US out of the depression. Yes, government spending works.

Photo credit: AFP

I have personally been through many slowdowns and recessions in Malaysia from the 1984-86 oil shock, the 1994 stock market crash, the 1997-98 Asian Financial Crisis (AFC), the dot com bust in 2000, the 9-11 terrorist attacks in 2001, the 2008 Global Financial Crisis  (GFC) and now the Covid-19 pandemic induced 2020 recession.

So, this is nothing new to me. And one thing is certain – every recession ends with a recovery, often a strong one that lasts for a few years. The AFC was probably the worst in Southeast Asia (SEA) and it lasted a few years but by the 2000’s all the SEA economies recovered strongly. The GFC was the worst to hit the world since the Great Depression but then we had 10 years of strong economic growth.

Hence, the most important lesson is this: that there will be a recovery and when that recovery happens, will you be around to take advantage of the strong growth or will you be watching from the sidelines wondering “what if?”

In my opinion, and most analysts predict this as well, we will experience a “U” shaped recession, which means a sharp fall followed by recovery in 12 to 36 months. If that is the case, as an entrepreneur how do you prepare for such a situation? What must you do?

Before we go there let’s explore what will happen in the next couple of years.

The Recessionary Period

It will be painful. Many people will lose their jobs, businesses will close and there may be a dramatic change in the economy. Entire industries may fail, some will recover but many won’t.

-Competition and closures-

Many companies with weak financials and product-market fit will close. Most startups fall into this category.

A recent survey by the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC) shows that 40% of startups can’t survive beyond 2 months and only 2.9% can survive beyond 12 months. These are dire figures but goes to show that we have too many startups with weak fundamentals. This means there will be less competition so while it is bad for those that have to shutter, it will be good for survivors as it gives them a better chance to build stronger companies.

-Availability of Talent-

As more startups close, their employees and even founders will be looking for jobs or be available to join the management teams of the survivors.  This is good because over the last few years talent has been one of our biggest problems. Many of them will also have startup experience and this is great for the survivors.

-Funding-

While existing funds still have money to invest, they are going to be more selective and their mandates or criteria will change.

We are already seeing more and more venture capitalists talking about looking for companies with a path to profitability. This is common.

It happened after the dot com bust, the GFC and now this crisis. So, generally over the next couple of years only the stronger companies with better fundamentals and solid revenue models will get funding.

I predict however, that investors will return to their market growth at all costs model in the future as they always do, but the next three years will be about fundamentals.

So, while funding is still available it will be harder to get.

-Market Access-

In a recession, companies and consumers will be a lot more careful about spending. High levels of unemployment mean consumers have less money to spend so they will be selective with their spending. Companies will want to preserve cash to ensure sustainability and maintaining profitability so they will only spend on necessaries. However, they will spend on technology that improves productivity, reduces costs and increases their bottom line.

So, while access to markets will be tougher, companies that offer solutions and products that their market needs will still be able to grow. There will always be opportunities, so companies have to adapt and be creative in capturing these opportunities.

-Market Changes-

The market will change, and in some ways, it may be a dramatic change.

The demand for some products will disappear but new demands will appear. For example, more things will be done online as people have learnt to use online tools during the Movement Control Order. Ecommerce will flourish even more, retail sales will drop, more people may be working from home and this may lead to less office space requirements and much more.

In every industry or sector there will be changes and entrepreneurs have to study their own markets to determine what these changes are and prepare for and adapt to these changes.

The Recovery

In a “U” shaped recession there will be a reasonably fast recovery. Why will we see a “U” shaped recovery? It’s mainly because governments all over the world have learnt that by spending money and pump priming their economies, they will literally “force” their economies to grow.

It happened during the Great Depression and also during the GFC. During the AFC, the IMF imposed prudent spending guidelines on many countries that led to a slower recovery. The same happened in much of Europe with economies like Greece and Spain having slow growth because they couldn’t spend themselves out of a recession.

This time around led by the US with their USD2 trillion stimulus package, every government is doing the same. Even the Malaysian government has a USD57.5 billion (RM250 billion) stimulus package with more to come to save the economy from going into a deeper recession. I believe we will see record spending by governments like we’ve never seen before. All this will trickle down into the economy and induce growth.

With interest rates at or near zero among the OECD countries and in some cases negative interest rates, companies find that borrowing costs are extremely low and just like during the GFC sooner or later companies will borrow to grow their companies. This will lead to higher employment and more money in the economy.

A recovery will happen that is a given, likely in the second half of 2021. That being the case what do entrepreneurs have to do to prepare for this?

Some of the companies that we have coached including from the Coach & Grow Program are very concerned about the future and I’ve been asked on several occasions already what they need to do to overcome the current problems and how do they prepare for the future. I’ll address this in the second part of this article tomorrow.

Dr. Sivapalan Vivekarajah has a Ph.D in Venture Capital from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. He is the cofounder and Senior Partner of Scaleup Malaysia Accelerator (www.scaleup.my) and cofounder of Proficeo Consultants (www.proficeo.com). Visit his LinkedIn

This article was first published in Digital News Asia

Brace for impact

Photo by Azlan Baharudin on Unsplash

By Dr Mohd Afzanizam Abdul Rashid

Little that we know, micro-organism such as novel coronavirus disease or famously known as Covid-19 has a severe impact to humanity globally. It all started in Wuhan City, China, whereby the first cases reported was on 31 December 2019.  

When the World Health Organisation (WHO) commenced their Situation Report on 21 January, the number of infected countries was just four and they were namely China, Japan, Republic of Korea and Thailand. Total number of confirmed cases stood at 282 while the total number of fatalities was 2.  

Fast forward, more than 200 countries have been infected by Covid-19, cumulative cases soared to 1.21 million and total deaths stood at 67,841 as of 7 April 2020.  

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has called for global output contraction on 27 March while the World Bank says that the prospect of global financial shock and recession would hurt the developing countries.  

About 193 countries have begun injecting the economy with cash and financial assistance in order to expand the healthcare facilities and capacity, safeguarding jobs and businesses cash flows. Not to mention the major central banks like the US Fed and the European Central Bank have dialled back their Quantitative Easing (QE) measures.  

The move was none other than to flood the system with cash so that the economy would keep going.  

In a nutshell, the global economy is expected to experience its recession this year. The last time the world economy went into recession was in 2009 whereby the global GDP fell by 0.1 percent. Back then, it was originated from the US following the proliferation of toxic assets also known as Sub Prime Mortgage crisis which have been held by various countries and institutions.  

The Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) could not agree more too.  

In their latest communique, the central bank is of the view that Malaysian economy would contract by as much as 2 percent or the GDP could grow by a maximum of 0.5 percent in 2020. The net exports are expected to fall by 27 percent while domestic demand would only grow by a paltry 1.1 percent 

The Federal Government has also announced the total fiscal stimulus amounting to RM260 billion. The focus has been to ensure employers will keep their employees by subsidising their workers’ wages for three months commencing April. Maintaining a healthy cash flows are also the immediate priority with various financing packages with super low rates are being poured in.  

Indeed, the scale of the public health crisis is unprecedented.  

Kudos to BNM which has implemented an unconventional means to address the current predicament. The six months loan moratorium is by far the largest stimulus in our view. The RM100 billion bandied around the measures are, perhaps quite conservative.  

Total loans repaid in February 2020 stood at RM97.5 billion while in January, the figure was RM109.8 billion. This should give us a monthly average of RM103.7 billion. Last year, the monthly average of total loans repaid was RM101.1 billion.  

Assuming if its RM100 billion per month, we are looking a total of RM600 billion worth of savings by the businesses and households. If its 50 percent take-up rate, that would put the figure at RM300 billion. Still that’s a 20 percent of GDP, give or take.  

In that sense, the potential economic recovery is enormous. The BNM has estimated that it would yield 2.8 percentage points of impact to the economy. That, too, is still conservative.

From our estimates, the economic impact from the loan moratorium could be more than 5 percentage points should all segments of the economy opted for the six months instalment deferment.  

Imagine if someone is paying RM500 per month for car financing and monthly instalment of house financing of RM1,000, that would give RM9,000 worth of savings. Assuming 30 percent savings from that amount, that would leave him or her with RM6,300 to be spent on other stuff.  

This year, the average loans repaid by the households stood at RM30.6 billion between January and February. That’s RM183.7 billion worth of savings to be made by the households if all of them decides to take on the six months loan moratorium. Applying 53 percent of Marginal Propensity to Consume (MPC), that would translate into RM97.4 billion worth of spending and that is equivalent to 6.6 percent of GDP. It’s massive indeed.  

Notwithstanding that, it is easier said than done. All the permutation and hypothetical estimates are hinges upon the duration of Movement of Control Order (MCO) and the success to contain and to break the chain of Covid-19 spread.  

The economy is almost at a standstill. That is what it is.  

Therefore, it is imperative for everyone to adhere the MCO ruling. Otherwise, all of us will have to pay the economic cost that is so dearly and most importantly, our lives. So folks, please stay at home!

 

Dr Mohd Afzanizam Abdul Rashid is Chief Economist of Bank Islam Malaysia Berhad

Are we thinking right about migrant workers in Malaysia?

Photo credit: Change.org

By Evelyn S. Devadason

Malaysia is the second largest migrant-receiving country in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), after Singapore. Based on the United Nations (UN) database, the country accounted for 28 percent of the total migrant stock in ASEAN in 2019.

Though the plight of migrant workers has constantly occupied policy debates, it continues to be entrenched in divided feelings between employers, unions and the government in relation to the economic (workers’) rights. With the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and the enforcement of the movement control order (MCO) in Malaysia since March 18, 2020, migrant workers once again garner the media attention.

With no work during this MCO because of the temporary halt of jobs in most sectors, not only is the livelihood of migrants affected, but they are also struggling to meet their basic needs.

Migrants are a vulnerable group; living hand to mouth, subject to abuse and exploitation by employers, and with no or minimum social protection.  They are also highly vulnerable to infections given their unsanitary living conditions. Paradoxically, the “deservingness” of migrants to decent work, healthcare facilities and safety nets have long been contested, despite their role and significance to the Malaysian economy.

First, migrants are indeed an indispensable workforce that has and continues to instrumentally contribute to the economic development of Malaysia. Representing 31 percent – 40 percent of the labour force, they work in critical sectors, such as plantation, manufacturing, construction and essential services (security and cleaning services). It is therefore no longer justified to treat and consider migrants as “disposable” workers.

The second point is linked to the first point above in that it relates to the contribution of migrant workers to economic growth through international trade. Migrant workers dominate jobs as production operators in most export-oriented and multinational companies for the trade-dependent Malaysia.  More revealing is the extensive contribution of migrants during this pandemic. A case in point is that migrant workers are utilised by rubber glove manufacturers, which are permitted to operate during the lockdown with a restricted number of workers, to meet the surge in demand for medical gloves. Migrants continue to work diligently for these companies that already have a history of mistreating them. Migrants certainly deserve respect for their essential contribution during this pandemic despite the risks.

Third, Malaysia is not just a migrant-receiving country, but also a migrant-sending state.  Approximately, 15 percent of the ASEAN migrants came from Malaysia based on the latest 2019 UN database.  Malaysia has therefore emerged as the third largest migrant-sending country (after Myanmar and Indonesia) within the region. Migrant-sending states, on balance, are of little help to their migrant population abroad as it is difficult to influence state behaviour of host countries, even though migration is regarded a shared responsibility of receiving and sending countries. Given Malaysia’s dual (receiver and sender) contribution to migration flows within the ASEAN region, it only seems appropriate for it to integrate migrant workers into the national (financial and healthcare) policies and demonstrate a high respect for human rights.

It is even more timely now, with the battle against the Covid-19 crisis, that the relevant actors put a positive spin on their thoughts on the rights of migrants instead of challenging them. Human rights should be made available for all, leaving no one behind, including migrant workers. A rights-based approach should therefore be applied to addressing the welfare of migrants in this MCO period.

The national response during this pandemic therefore needs to consider the plight of this vulnerable group of migrants, without discrimination against both the documented and undocumented. To date, the public policy measures seem a far cry from addressing the welfare of migrants.

Social distancing, for one, is impossible for the migrant group given the congested state of their accommodation. On the contrary, this measure puts migrants at risk. It therefore comes as no surprise that almost 10 percent of the Covid-19 positive cases in the country were reported to be non-Malaysians, as at April 9, 2020.

The government must also rethink its healthcare policy to be more inclusionary. The March 23, 2020 announcement that COVID-19 tests will be made free for foreigners does not mention if it includes the undocumented migrants. The government obviously needs to take a stand on policy inclusivity. For example, Portugal has already done so by temporarily giving all migrants and asylum seekers citizenship rights, that is granting them full access to its healthcare during this Covid-19 outbreak.

The Covid-19, therefore, is seen as a major stress test for the government to respond inclusively to the human rights concerns of the vulnerable group of migrant workers.

Evelyn S. Devadason is a Professor at the Faculty of Economics & Administration, University of Malaya. Her research focuses on international trade and regional integration. She currently serves as an Associate Editor to the International Journal of Social Economics and as a member to the Editorial Board of the Journal of Contemporary Asia.

Social enterprises come together to battle the Covid-19 disruptions

By Poovenraj Kanagaraj 

In times of crisis when the Covid-19 outbreak has disrupted lives globally, Malaysia’s frontliners as well as the marginalised who are facing severe impacts are in a battle against the unpredictable nature of this pandemic. 

Businesses in various industries have come together to support each other to stay afloat since the movement restrictions were enforced nationwide. 

The virus has not just taken more than 60 lives in the country, but also disrupted the normalcy of life for many, causing businesses to fold and the needy to be cut off from their daily necessities.  

However, there are two social enterprises that have stayed open throughout the outbreak in the country to continue doing what they do best – helping others.  

“Our roles are more prominent and important as of now, this is why we exist in the first place,” says Kim Lim, founder of PichaEats, who also points out that many more people will fall into the poverty line and for those who are already in the marginalised group will suffer deeply during this ongoing crisis.  

PichaEats, a social enterprise that feeds the needy and the marginalised has continued its efforts,despite the government’s Movement Control Order (MCO) announcement even though their orders for events were severely impacted around middle of February which affected their B2B sales due to the coronavirus outbreak.  

Credit: PichaEats

“We had to quickly adjust to the B2C sector and grow that channel,” says Kim, adding that they were also working on pivoting their business to expect the worst, as they might not get any catering orders the rest of the year. 

InitiallyPichaEats only delivered meal packages of five pax and 10 pax mini-buffet delivery, but due to the current situation, they had to adjust their current model to serve more people. 

Furthermore, Kim and her team re-activated a movement to get people to contribute to the frontliners who need food in order to continue their services. 

Kim told Business Today that her team must be more creative to help the marginalised, but it’s not without its challenges. 

“The challenges we face will be the availability to run our business to support the people working with us which also means there’ll be a need of more creativity to make this happen and survive through together.”  

“Now, it’s also the best time to experiment with new ideas and strengthen processes,” Kim adds.  

Masala Wheels, another social enterprise, also plays a significant role in lending a helping hand not just to the frontliners but to students and communities that have no access to food.  

Credit: MasalaWheels

Kuhan Pathyone of the co-founders of Masala Wheels, initially started the #foodwithoutborders movement to sponsor meals for stranded university students for a week during the MCO period.  

The #foodwithoutborders is a “Pay It Forward” social campaign which allows contributors to sponsor suspended meals for the needy which are delivered through their volunteers to the identified beneficiaries 

Soon the campaign grew sizable and MasalaWheels found themselves partnering with the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Non-Profit Organisations (NGOs), and hospitals in the state  

More so, they continued to garner attention from the banking sector, universities as well as the Prime Minister’s Office.  

“As a social enterprise, we felt the calling to act immediately and what we started for the stranded students became a large and significant social movement for many towards remedying the unfortunate situation,” Kuhan tells Business Today 

Thus far, the movement has raised over 8,000 meals and fed more than 7,000 beneficiaries including poor households, medical frontliners, welfare homes and university students, and they have 16,000 meals to raise further.  

Though, PichaEats and Masala Wheels received support from government agencies and various stakeholders, they hope this can lead to a more sustainable collaboration that will allow social enterprises to continue working together with NGOs rather than in silos.  

“Social enterprises work on strict accountability which allows both the private and public sector to work with us knowing full well that the funds will be channeled in a proper manner, Kuhan affirms 

While the Prime Minister announced further aid for the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) during the MCO period, Kim points out that there is confusion as to whether social enterprises fall under the same category as SMEs.  

Lastly, Kim says that the government will not be able to address all the issues, and thus, social enterprises which are already working on the issues at grassroots level will be able to assist.  

Alchemist Codes becomes first Malaysian company to be reverse acquired on the London Stock Exchange

The spread of the novel coronavirus has led to a global pandemic and economic stagnation. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and JPMorgan Chase bank, industries that have been severely hit include financial services, tourism, aviation, public transportation and hospitality.

New opportunities emerge

During this period of severe global market turbulence, there is economic slowdown and stagnation, but for some industries, new opportunities can arise. Alchemist Codes is proud to announce the recent acquisition by AIQ Limited.

AIQ Limited aims to create a modern-day online ‘Silk Road’, spanning Eastern and Western markets. The vision is to facilitate the interconnection of small and medium-sized enterprises in Eurasian countries to establish a global e-commerce network.

By choosing to support Alchemist Codes’ OCTAPLUS application, AIQ has provided validation of the platform’s technical potential and value. Alchemist Codes believes that its creativity and strength will enable it to surpass the pandemic and move into the economic recovery period where it will be able to fully leverage its advantages and become a major player within the global market.

OCTAPLUS App was officially launched in 2019. The core concept is to allow users to selectively screen the items they are interested in when shopping online. Superior to other online shopping platforms such as Lazada, Shoppee and 11Street, OCTAPLUS boasts of an excellent shopping cashback system with instant online retail promotion functions.

The platform provides users with discounts and quality information on the products including price comparison data, product information and reviews.

It is imperative for international communities to join hands in fighting the pandemic!

In the past, the rapid spread of a virus across international borders has resulted in catastrophic plunges in global stock markets. This pandemic is no different as both European and American stock markets have generally fallen by more than 20 percent.

In efforts to alleviate the impact of this pandemic on the global economy and financial markets, certain overseas central banks have announced emergency monetary policies such as interest rate cuts and quantitative easing initiatives which are designed to increase market liquidity and provide effective support for their financial systems.

The temporary halt in the global economy caused by the pandemic is real, however it is part of the overall economic development trend which experiences highs and lows. Many believe that though there are hardships, the overall trend will be to move forward, rather than take a permanent pause or recession. Once this pandemic period is over, economic recovery can begin and a new generation of business opportunities are expected to emerge.

Highlights in the haze

Founded in April 2018 by Charles Yong, Alchemist Codes is a provider of specialist software solutions that utilise artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. Its areas of expertise include software engineering, mobile web application development, and social chat platform development. Alchemist Codes has its own professional information technology research and development team dedicated to designing and developing comprehensive information technology solutions for customers within the field of e-commerce.

Charles Yong had analysed and researched the Malaysian e-commerce industry and realised the developmental growth opportunities of the shopping cashback market. This, combined with the implementation of big data analysis, data mining and AI, showed real potential, which led to the initial development of the OCTAPLUS e-commerce platform and mobile application.

From February to March 2020, OCTAPLUS saw a 47.6 percent growth in total users, and the platform has proven itself attractive to both e-commerce retailers and end-users due to its cashback system.

Through the use of social media platforms, OCTAPLUS users can connect with each other. Retailers are also able to connect with users to answer customer inquiries and build brand awareness. Alchemist Codes also utilises the analysis of real-time big data, which helps e-commerce retailers to better target their offerings and anticipate changes in consumer behaviour.

Going forward, Alchemist Codes aims to leverage the rollout of 5G networks, build greater relationships with e-commerce retailers, establish social media partners and extend its consumer and B2B offerings.

AIQ Limited – A Unique Vision

In 2020, Alchemist Codes was honoured to become the first company to be acquired by AIQ Limited. Charles Yong is confident that the backing of AIQ and its investors will have a positive impact on Alchemist Codes’ market value going forward

Charles Yong’s operating concept is also in line with the core concept of AIQ, which is to “Integrate Differential Industry Alliances & Resources”. It is through the combination of wisdom and co-existence that the world may be united!

Covid-19 and its dual shock on the world economy

credit: freepik/xb100

By Professor Dr. Christophe Schinckus

The world economy faces an unprecedented challenge due to what economists are calling a dual shock generated by the lockdown of almost three billion people around the world.

Even though these lockdowns are inviting people to stay at home and practice social distancing as a precaution for sanitary reason and limit the spread of the Covid-19; they also interrupt the majority of national and international productions.

Professor Dr. Christophe Schinckus, Head of the School of Accounting and Finance in the Business School, Faculty of Business & Law at Taylor’s University

According to a study from the Department of Labour in the United States (US), only 29 percent of workers can really operate via teleworking processes in a service-based economy.

This number is certainly lower in emerging countries where manufacturing sectors account for a significant part of the GDP. Forced to remain at home, workers do not produce, and closed factories simply must interrupt their supply and scale down their operations.

The impact of the Covid-19 on the manufacturing activities can be seen as a “supply shock”, referring to a sudden exogenous reduction in abilities of national companies to supply goods.

If the supply disruption does not last too long, factories can reopen, and the supply can bounce back quickly supporting a relatively quick recovery of the economy. In case of a longer disruption, companies facing this forced interruption of activity miss business opportunities and may lose their ability to continue paying their staff salaries.

A number of these companies might even have to reduce their number of employees.

A recent analysis from the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER) indicated that the Covid-19 might generate up to 2.4 million of job losses in Malaysia in 2020 – this challenging situation will negatively affect household income, which is expected to fall by 12 percent in Malaysia according to MIER.

A reduction of households’ income generates a decrease of national consumption that directly affects all other (non-manufacturing) economic sector. This snowball effect creates a “demand shock” might create dynamics of recession.

The Covid-19 is hitting national economies by generating this dual shock and creates a growing uncertainty for policymakers who, instead of debating between monetary and fiscal tools; must combine them to keep the economy afloat.

But what are these monetary and fiscal tools? And how can they contribute to the recovery of the economy?

A traditional firepower of the Central Bank aims to reduce the interest rate in order to restart of production and supply and promote economic development with more incentives for investment.

This is a current option recently taken by leading Central Banks such as the FED the US, the Bank of Canada, the Bank of England and the Central Bank of China for instance. In order to support production and economic activities with accessible loans, commercial banks are encouraged to lend more and to do so, they require enough liquidity leading monetary authorities to inject liquidity in the economy via the banking sector and/or to reduce the reserve requirements imposed on commercial banks.

These actions are not without risk given the fact that banks will be under further pressure due to a significant decrease of business investment and corporate bankruptcies. To help alleviate this situation, several countries are offered state guarantees for bank loans to the most affected companies.

Some Central Banks such as the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan already have very low (even negative) interest rates, and as a result, these monetary authorities have a very small room to react limiting their actions to the two measures evoked above (inject liquidity in the banking system and/or reduce the reserve requirements imposed on commercial banks).

In the context of the Covid-19, a monetary policy alone will definitely not suffice to boost the economic recovery. This is more so since one might wonder whether the classical monetary policy consisting in an interest rate cut will have a real effect simply because the spread of the virus generated a growing uncertainty reducing the enthusiasm of households to save less or companies to invest.

In other words, monetary measures must be combined with an appropriate fiscal policy.

With well-targeted fiscal measures, the government can spend money through an appropriate support to help impacted households and businesses.

In the short-term, fiscal policy aims at protecting incomes and supporting workers and their families as well as ensuring an effective continuity of the national health system.

The creation of a temporary income for vulnerable households in Brazil; targeted cuts in taxation in Canada and China, or the development a specific fund decided by the European Union (EU) to help SMEs affected within the regions and labor markets are among the measures taken.

These expenditures must also be supplemented with the significant increase in spending on epidemic control and hospitals.

All these fiscal measures have a direct impact on government spending and some countries might have less room than others for fiscal stimulus simply because of the existing debt-to-GDP ratios.

This subsequently limits their borrowing abilities, as in the case of Japan and most countries in the EU.

The Malaysian government also implemented a combination of fiscal and monetary measures with a bigger emphasis on the fiscal stimulus. Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) reduced its interest rate from 2.75 to 2.5 in addition to providing a RM 2 billion worth in loans for SMEs, especially those involved in food production.

To encourage companies and SMEs to invest, RM 500 million will be used to fund start-up and early stage Malaysian micro-companies while the Securities Commission will waive fees for enterprises looking for market investment by being listed. These measures aim to limit the supply shock by ensuring that companies will invest and boost their future activities.

Additionally, to increase the liquidity for households, the employee contribution towards the Employee Provident Fund (EPF) has been reduced from 11 per cent to 4 per cent to ensure more cash (estimated at RM 10 billion) in hand for families. This option combined with a financial assistance to low-income household is expected to limit the decrease of national consumption.

As mentioned, the government decided to combine several measures to maximise their fiscal stimulus: deferring taxes, government fees and loan payments as well as a particular package for tourism (one of the most affected sectors) combined with tax exemption on equipment and machineries are examples of targeted measures taken in Malaysia.

Some Keynesian measures have also been implemented to support the national economy.

To support national contractors (and therefore the national consumption and investment), the government will spend RM 2 billion  in infrastructure projects (maintaining roads, bridges, water supplies etc.) with a particular emphasis on the improvement of broadband quality and internet access across the country.

This measure will be combined with the allocation of RM 300 million  in loans for SMEs looking to digitalise or automate their business.

The Covid-19 has place all national economies in an unprecedented situation, which has generated an important economic uncertainty in which classical economic tools must be combined instead of being debated.

 

Uncertainty dominates Malaysia’s property sector

By Poovenraj Kanagaraj

The Covid-19 outbreak has caused a global disruption, causing economies around the world to be under stress which in return has led to industries such as aviation and tourism to be affected from the very start of the pandemic.

In Malaysia, different sectors have already seen the impacts arising from the outbreak. With the Movement Control Order (MCO) in place, the country’s entire economy has been put to test and this includes the property sector.

According to IDEAS senior fellow, Carmelo Ferlito, the property market will be under stress from different perspectives. He points out that projects under construction cannot go ahead under the MCO and with a dominant climate of uncertainty, investments are on hold both for commercial and residential properties.

In recent weeks, tenants of both commercial and residential units have been affected in their capabilities to pay rents. Ferlito points out that this is particularly true for activities within the malls and for individuals who are losing the job and in return will affect landlords as well.

“Such difficulties add on to the structural difficulties experienced by the industry in the past few years, where both the residential and the commercial sector have faced a slowdown,” says Ferlito.

Putrajaya had recently announced three stimulus packages in order to better aid Malaysians as well as businesses in the country, in particular SMEs. Ferlito points out that the stimulus package recently announced is more oriented toward the generality of the public and presents further measures for SMEs.

He further points out that the property market, together with all other industries can enjoy some of the credit facilitations or loan payment deferral which are introduced however, nothing specific is foreseen for the property market

“It has to be said that, according to some studies, the construction sector is the one that has cash enough to stand longer than other sectors,” Ferlito says.

He also cautioned that if the MCO were to last longer than expected, property segment will remain stand still with some projects abandoned for good and some firms will face bankruptcy however the extent of the impact will still very much depend on the MCO duration.

Foo Gee Jen, group managing director of CBRE, who shares a similar sentiment with Ferlito stressed that the property market will not be exempted from a pandemic of this magnitude.

“The property market is known to be lagging behind economic changes, thus there may not be significant changes in the first-half of 2020 while economies around the world are still contemplating and domestic consumption and investment behaviours are unlikely to change immediately either once the MCO is lifted,” Foo says.

He added that the effects would be more evident in the second half and challenging times are to be expected ahead.

Impacts vary according to segments

As for the residential market, Foo says the market has been on the bear run prior to the pandemic and the market is anticipated to remain subdued in short to medium term. Lack of spending confidence and more stringent lending policies are expected to deter residential purchases as well. A similar effect will be seen on new launches and price appreciation as Foo points out, will take a back seat.

CBRE Malaysia managing director, Foo Gee Jen

“By segments, the conventional housing segment could be lesser impacted compared to the stratified properties with higher density intended for tourism and accommodation for expatriates as sharing communal space may be perceived as a risk during this sensitive time,” Foo opines.

“Challenges may be felt first-hand by the mid and lower range housing that caters to the vulnerable B40 and certain portion of M40, especially the self-employed and daily wage earners,”  he added.

He is however optimistic that in the long run, organic drivers such as urbanisation and population growth shall continue to induce stabilising effect on the residential market.

In regards to the office sector, CBRE Malaysia told Business Today that the sector is likely to experience a more minimal adversity in short to medium term since office tenancy by default, has longer lease term. Foo points out that that the MCO does induce organisations to be more agile in their operation and it is an eye-opener to remote work arrangement.

“The greater threat to the office actually lies with the ongoing oil price war in the international market. If the race to bottom persists, another gust of headwinds could await the oil and gas industry in the country. As the industry is one of the nuts and bolts in Malaysia’s economy, it’s downfall will certainly trigger a damaging chain effects in the downstream,” Foo stressed.

Data by CBRE Malaysia shows that occupancy rate of Klang Valley’s office market – which measures 112 million square feet in size – is still hovering slightly above the healthy benchmark of 80 percent. Rental has also remained stable in the past few years as well and there is 10.2 million square feet of office space in the pipeline to be completed in the next two to three years.

“Should the oil and gas industry enter into a downturn, office supply in Klang Valley will come into the picture,” Foo told Business Today.

As for the retail and hotel segments, CBRE Malaysia says malls in sub-prime areas may see increasing vacancy rate and the upcoming ones could expect difficulty in securing tenants. While the services industry contributes to more than 50 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Foo says it is also the likeliest industry to experience longer lasting adversity from the pandemic.

“On the other hand, businesses are staring at a possibility of capacity reduction post-MCO may it be due to labour shortage or mandatory requirement by the authorities,” Foo told Business Today.

The retail and hospitality segments which are in the eye of the storm are expected to foresee a painstakingly slower recovery after the impacts arising from the outbreak subsides.

Foo stressed that e-commerce has to be the breath of fresh air in the gloomy retail and tourism markets where a number of e-commerce platforms have acknowledged surges in their orders for groceries and food deliveries in particular.

“This may be the time for offline retailers to explore omnichannel while hoteliers could undertake enhancement actions such as renovations, upgrade, innovative marketing, collaborations among many others to future proof themselves,” Foo says.

One of Malaysia’s leading mixed developers, Mah Sing, told Business Today as Mah Sing is heavily reliant on technology, their employees are working from home using collaboration tools, which have been implemented companywide for some time now.

Mah Sing founder and managing director, Leong Hoy Kum

Founder and managing director, Leong Hoy Kum pointed out that Mah Sing employees are using online platforms to showcase their products currently with most of their new projects available for viewing via virtual showrooms. “Our property advisors are also available to video chat with potential buyers,” he said.

Furthermore,another segment of the market that will face an inevitable temporary slowdown according to Foo is the industrial segment where industrial sector is foreseen to moderate as well as on both local and foreign fronts.

According to CBRE Malaysia, from a long-run perspective, the industrial sector will continue to be the bright spot in Malaysia’s property market with logistics and warehousing being the silver linings. “The economic fundamentals and the prospects of industrial sector of Malaysia with reference to high value manufacturing, regional logistics and distribution are still very tangible,” Foo says.

Moving forward

CBRE’s managing director, Foo told Business Today there are a few curative and corrective measures that could be considered moving forward, for one, getting the government to bring back another edition of Home Ownership Campaign (HOC) to spur the soft residential market.

He added that the new HOC should be broadened to cover both the primary and secondary markets with indiscriminate rebates for properties for all prices.

“Unsold bumi lots holds back cashflows of developers, there should be simplified mechanism for quicker release of the unsold bumi lots,” Foo stated.

He has also pointed out that recognising a possible higher incidence of project delays after this couple with prevailing residential overhand in which the authorities must assess the demand and supply condition before granting new approvals.

Mah Sing’s Leong also shares a similar sentiment to Foo as he proposes for the continuation of the HOC, not only for ongoing and completed residential projects, but to also extend to commercial developments.

“We hope the government can consider introducing a new HOC scheme with additional incentives such as higher margin of financing for first property, reinstating maximum loan tenure for 45 years, lower interest rate for first property as well as considering the developer interest bearing scheme (DIBS) for first-time homebuyers.

“I would start with a gradual lift up of the MCO, in order to restore economic activities,” Ferlito on the other hand says while expressing that he is quite sceptical on the efficacy of the stimulus package, as it both massive, too general and short-sighted.

“The Government, on the advice from public health authorities, should create a zoning system for production clusters or territories as a basis to gradually allowing employees to return to work and businesses to resume operating,” he added.

However, in terms on how the property market will shape in the second half of the year, Ferlito says he is not very positive as he does not see signs of a different policy.

“The situation is very difficult to predict now. we do not have a clearer picture of the medical situation and signs of easing the MCO, the economy (which is not an it, but a group of he and she) will keep on suffering,” Ferlito stressed.

 

 

 

 

 

Hun Sen bans re-entry of 150 Cambodians from Malaysia amid Covid-19 fear

By Poovenraj Kanagaraj

Cambodian Prime Minister, Hun Sen has banned a flight carrying 150 Cambodians from Malaysia in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus outbreak in the Kingdom.

According to Japanese daily, The Mainichi, the premier in a press conference stated that the decision to turn down the planned return of the Cambodians, who have been working in Malaysia, was for the safety of the country’s population of 15 million.

Sobri Salleh, a Cambodian student from the International Islamic University Malaysia was among the 150 passengers that was denied re-entry today into Cambodia.

“We have informed the Cambodian embassy in Malaysia but there was no answer if we could get another flight back or a refund,” Sobri told Business Today.

He further added that a number of Cambodians among the 150 did not have a valid Visa anymore or money to keep staying, pointing out that buying necessities might become a struggle.

Patrick Lee, legal consultant for the Central Alliance of Labor and Human Rights told Business Today that the ban on the flight was a violation of Article 40 of the Constitution, where it is stated that all Khmer citizens have the right to settle abroad and to return home.

“We heard that there are around eight workers sleeping in the airport because they don’t have enough money to go anywhere else,” Lee said

A news report according to Khmer Times stated that 70 of the passengers due back were fisherman who had lost their jobs and their flights were paid by the fishing company that hired them.

The Cambodian Embassy in Malaysia has also issued a statement in accordance to the Prime Minister’s ban, urging Cambodian workers to not return home.

The statement did not include any form of aid or remuneration from the embassy for the stranded workers.

In early February, the prime minister had personally greeted 400 who had disembarked from the Westerdam cruise ship after two weeks at sea.

The cruise ship previously turned away by such countries as Japan, the Philippines and Thailand over virus fears.

This was seen as a likely show of goodwill to the U.S. and Europe.

Cambodia has recorded up to 115 positive cases with 80 of it being imported.

Hun Sen has also cancelled the upcoming Khmer New Year from April 13 to 15.

Covid-19 update: 80 recoveries, death toll at 63

(Photo by Mohd RASFAN / AFP)

The Health Ministry has announced that 80 Covid-19 cases have been discharged bring total number of recoveries to 1,321 with one death.

Total number of deaths from the infection is currently at 63.

However, 170 new cases have been identified bringing number of positive cases to 3,963 with 92 cases in the intensive care unit. 50 out of the 92 are currently on ventilators.

The Health Ministry has also urged for Malaysians residing or working in Singapore to stay on for another two weeks.

 

Allianz Malaysia CEO resigns from Socso

Allianz Malaysia Berhad has confirmed news reports that Zakri Khir has resigned as Chairman of the Social Security Organisation (Socso).

Zakri, who is also Chief Executive Officer of Allianz Malaysia Berhad and Allianz General Insurance Company (Malaysia) Berhad, tendered his resignation to the Minister of Human Resources, Datuk Seri M. Saravanan this morning with the resignation taking immediate effect from April 7.

“I was appointed by the Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) to helm Socso as Chairman on October 8 2018 due to my 30-year experience in the insurance industry. I looked at it as doing national service to the country. But with any new government, there will come changes and I am of the opinion that my services are no longer required.

“I have done my best and am grateful for all the support received and that I was given the privilege to serve the government for the last 16 months,” said Zakri.

Renewing hearts and hope

Credit: Freepik
Since performing the country’s first heart transplant, IJN has continued to make strides in giving patients with heart failure a new lease of life

One of the chief concerns for people with heart disease is having their condition develop to the point of requiring a heart transplant. The procedure is usually carried out when a patient has experienced heart failure, when other treatments and interventions have not worked.

Clinical Director of Transplantation and Mechanical Heart Services, Datuk Dr Mohd Nazeri Nordin

While the thought of going under the knife to receive a whole new organ can be daunting, Institut Jantung Negara (IJN) Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon and also Clinical Director of Transplantation and Mechanical Heart Services, Datuk Dr Mohd Nazeri Nordin says it’s a necessary treatment option for some.

“We have much better medication and treatment options for heart patients now; coupled with some lifestyle changes, these can effectively help most patients manage their conditions,” he says. “However, if the heart disease is very severe, a transplant can make a significant difference in prolonging a patient’s life.”

Since carrying out Malaysia’s first heart transplant in 1997, IJN went on perform the country’s first lung transplantation in 2005 and subsequently the first double lung transplantation in October 2007. Capping off all these milestones is the fact that IJN remains the only hospital in Malaysia to offer heart transplantation and mechanical heart implantation surgery.

To date, IJN has successfully performed 23 heart transplant surgeries, 5 lung transplantations and 3 heart-lung transplantations. It’s a number that Dr Mohd Nazeri feels is relatively low when compared to the transplantation rates in other countries.

“At the top transplantation centres in countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia, about 50 to 70 heart and lung transplants are performed every year. Here at IJN, we carry out about one or two transplants a year – I think the highest number of surgeries was in 2011, when we performed five heart and lung transplants,” he says.

Aside from a limited number of specialist available to perform transplantations, a main reason for this is the lack of organ donors in Malaysia.

“Donations” that save lives

As reported in the media late last year, over 20,000 Malaysians are currently waiting for donor organs. However, on average, there are only 30 organ donor cases annually.

While this is partly due to Malaysia’s low organ donor rate, another major factor lies in the lack of awareness among family members of people who have pledged to donate their organs. Based on Health Ministry statistics, as of October 2019, around 1.3 percent of the country’s population (432,215 people) are registered as organ donors. However, in almost 80 percent of the cases handled, healthy organs were not retrieved due to opposition from family members.

Dr Mohd Nazeri thinks that this is awareness raising regarding organ donation can play an important role – particularly in highlighting the urgency and need of patients who can benefit from such donors. “It’s not a new concept, the Health Ministry has been carrying out an ongoing campaign for the past 20 years,” he says.

“But we need to further educate potential donors about communicating their wishes to their immediate family members as well. Once a patient is brain dead, it is the family members who have to decide on their behalf.”

On its part, the Health Ministry in November last year unveiled a plan to revamp how it runs organ and tissue procurement services. Among its plans is to streamline the functions of the National Transplant Resource Centre (NTRC) to effectively coordinate all organ and tissue donations upon the death of donors.

At present, the NTRC manages organ donations in Malaysia by maintaining a list of donors and organs available. Dr Mohd Nazeri explains that coordination with NTRC is crucial as a heart or lung transplant usually needs to occur within four hours of organ removal for the donor organ to remain usable.

“It can be quite an intense process,” says Dr Mohd Nazeri.

“First, a team has to go in and carry out an assessment of the organ donor, to see if the organs are suitable, and subsequently retrieve them if they are. This has to be done within two hours at most. Then we have to coordinate with the donor recipient, bring them in, and perform a final check on their suitability as well. And of course, finally, it’s preparing for and performing the surgery itself. So, we’re looking at a team of 20 to 30 personnel to do all of this within the tight time frame we have.”

He adds that another crucial component of this process is more emotional than clinical. “We take care to counsel patients who waiting for organs, and prepare them for all the possible scenarios. It can be quite overwhelming to handle, and they need to be ready to come in for surgery at any moment. But most of all, it’s the waiting that can be tough to handle,” he says.

A little from machines

While transplantation is the ideal solution for end-stage heart and lung disease, IJN has made significant efforts at exploring other forms of treatment for heart failure patients – namely, mechanical systems. “These systems are particularly useful to act as a bridge, while patients wait to receive an organ,” explain Dr Mohd Nazeri. “Some patients are unable to receive heart transplants at all, either due to their specific type of heart condition or other illnesses present such as cancer.”

Here, IJN also boasts of being the first hospital in the country to perform a mechanical heart implantation in 2005. Since then, various state-of-the-art mechanical systems have been introduced for patients suffering from end stage heart disease. These systems offer patients full circulatory support, and are lightweight enough to offer patients the freedom of mobility to continue carrying out their daily activities.

Among the latest in these are the left ventricular assist device (LVAD) and the extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO).

The LVAD is an implantable mechanical pump that helps pump blood from the ventricles to the rest of the body. A control unit and battery pack are worn outside your body and are connected to the LVAD through a port in your skin. While commonly implanted in patients awaiting a full heart transplant, the LVAD has also been proven useful as a long-term treatment option for patients with heart failure who are not good candidates for a heart transplant for various factors such as age and other underlying conditions.

Dr Nazeri shares that the centre has achieved significant success with LVAD implants, even receiving patients from other countries for the procedure. “However, the only problem is that is incurs quite a high cost and not everyone can afford it. The IJN Foundation has helped to sponsor a number patients for the LVAD, but we are definitely open to more funding – this is truly a life-saving procedure,” he says.

Meanwhile, the ECMO is a mechanical circulatory support systems that temporarily takes over the function of lungs and heart for patients experiencing failure in both these organs. Generally, it is used either post-cardiopulmonary bypass or in late stage treatment of a person with profound heart and/or lung failure.

“While the ECMO can help stabilise a patient experiencing heart and lung failure, it does not treat the underlying cause of the patient’s disease or injury,” explains Dr Mohd Nazeri. “But it is one of the most advanced tools we have to support the patient while the doctors work on treating them – it goes a long way in buying us the time we need and minimising risk to the patient as much as possible.”

With more options available to end-stage heart and lung disease patients, Dr Mohd Nazeri reiterates that the diagnosis is not necessarily a life sentence. “There are more advanced treatment methods in development right now, and these have the potential to improve the patient’s quality of life,” he adds.

Cushioning impact through hashtags

Credit: macrovector / Freepik

Business Today Malaysia speaks to Fave Managing Director, Jake Abdullah and founder of DiineOut, Lionel Lau and co-founder of The Other Kitchen, Albert Wong on how their initiatives are helping businesses in the F&B industry to stay afloat

By Poovenraj Kanagaraj

In any given day, businesses in the food and beverage (F&B) industry face daily struggles to keep operations running smoothly. Today, these struggles have amplified, raising questions if the existing players in the industry will be able to have their doors open after the crisis subsides.

Restaurants, in all shapes and sizes in the country are asking themselves a similar question. With the outbreak and the announcement of the Movement Control Order (MCO) following suit, restaurants and cafes alike have been seeing close to zero revenue in the last couple of weeks.

However, arising from the crisis are several movements that are hoping to cushion the impact the industry is currently facing with hopes that everyone can come out unscathed after the outbreak subsides.

Digital merchant platform, FAVE have launched the #SaveOurFave movement encouraging consumers to support their favourite merchants by purchasing eCards that could be used at the time of purchase or within the next six months.

“Our goal with the ‘Save Our Fave’ movement is to help cushion the business closures that restaurants and retailers will face over the next few months,” says Fave Managing Director, Jake Abdullah.

FAVE, Managing Director, Jake Abdullah shows his support to local business via his Instagram post

With over 300,000 nationwide restaurants and retailers in Malaysia, 17,000 restaurants and retailers are registered under Fave.

“We have seen many joining the social media movement by posting a picture of what restaurant or service they are missing the most and tagging five other friends to the same along with the hashtag #saveourfave,” Jake told Business Today Malaysia.

The movement has also seen local personalities join in to further encourage Malaysians to support their favourite merchants by purchasing the eCards in order to keep businesses afloat during the crisis.

According to Jake, within the first week of the movement (4th week of March), Fave have seen the eCards sales grow three-fold and the same upward trajectory has since been seen daily as more people continue to join the movement to express their support towards local businesses.

Until the end of April, Fave will not be taking any commissions or cuts from the eCards that merchants are pre-selling on the platform. This will allow merchants to obtain 100 percent of sales until April 30.

“We encourage other platforms to reduce their commissions, so we can all chip in to help ensure restaurants, retailers and businesses do not bear the brunt of the economic damage,” urged Jake.

He further says that more needs to be done for them to help mitigate the situation as well as to address business challenges as most F&B retailers are already trying to salvage the situation in the form of token gestures and paying it forward.

#JomTapau, another movement that came about during the crisis has been seeing a similar traction among Malaysians. The hashtag in Malay meaning ‘Let’s Takeaway’ is an initiative launched by The Other Kitchen, a F&B focused digital marketing agency and DiineOut, a local pioneering online marketplace for unique dining and F&B events,  aiming to help F&B businesses to offer self-pick-up or delivery options to their customers.

The #jomtapau logo

Both firms had come up with an Online Ordering System (OSS) called app’etite which allows restaurant partners to create a simple webpage within just 24 hours to list menu items, images, pickup and delivery options.

Lionel Lau, founder of DiineOut says challenging times call for a change in the way things have been done.

“We know the small eateries as well as local home-grown eateries that are dependent on day-to-day sales for their livelihoods are struggling,” Lau says.

A flat rate of RM 2 per order for the payment processing fee and a two percent transaction fee will be imposed over the transactional fee will be waivered until industry is in a better position.

Co-founder of The Other Kitchen, Albert Wong says they have partnered up with the likes of MrSpeedy and Lalamove as delivery partners and will continue to see more partners come on board as the numbers of F&B businesses listing themselves on app’etite continues to grow as well.

Currently, the number stands at 70 with up to 10 to 15 inquiries coming in from various restaurants on a daily basis.

According to Albert, there have been an increase in deliveries registered by restaurants, estimating a 20 percent jump from a usual day of operations. While the significant jump is unusual for restaurants due to the MCO, the services provided by the team is proving to be an alternative for many currently confined to their homes.

“People are realizing that there are alternatives as not all delivery services can deliver to certain locations due to the shortage of riders,” says Lionel.

While Lionel and his team continue to approach small and local eateries, it is not without its challenges as some eateries have resisted to the changes taking place on the belief that things will go back to normal in a couple of months.

“Delivery is here to stay and it will continue to grow,” Albert tells Business Today Malaysia as he goes on to say that it is the smaller eateries will face the biggest impact.

“What we are trying to do is give them this option and not lose the diverse food options we have out there. It would be a sad day if all we are left with is large chains. You will see a number of players collapse but we will continue to help as many to stay afloat,” says Albert.

 

 

 

 

Mah Sing donates 30,000 masks to Housing Ministry

Mah Sing Group Berhad (Mah Sing), together with its corporate responsibility arm, Mah Sing Foundation (MSF) has donated 30,000 pieces of face masks to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (KPKT).

The face masks will be distributed to KPKT in support of the Ministry’s on-going efforts to mitigate the outbreak of Covid-19 through the Public Sanitisation Exercise at hotspot locations in the red and orange zones nationwide particularly the People’s Housing Programme (PPR) located in red zone areas.

Mah Sing’s chief executive officer,Ho Hon Sang presented the donation to KPKT Minister, Hajah Zuraida Kamaruddin at a presentation ceremony held at the Ministry’s office in Putrajaya today.

Mah Sing’s founder and group managing director,  Leong Hoy Kum said “We appreciate KPKT’s Public Sanitisation Exercise to ensure the level of cleanliness of the community across various different segments is well taken care of in respect of the current Movement Control Order.

He further expressed his appreciation to the KPKT front liners’ to provide their services throughout the ongoing crisis.

“We laud the government’s move to introduce the RM10 billion Prihatin Stimulus Package for SMEs as this will certainly ease their financial burden – ensuring the
SMEs continue to support the corporate and economy of the country,” he added.

Together with MSF, Mah Sing has presented a pledge of 20 units of heavy duty critical-care ventilators worth RM3.9million for National Disaster Management Agency (NADMA), to front line hospitals in need.

This is part of the Group’s RM4.175 million pledge in support of the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, which
includes Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for Johor government front liners, whilst 150,000 face masks have been allocated for five government agencies.

PM announces additional RM 10 billion aid

(Photo by Mohd RASFAN / AFP)

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhiyiddin Yassin has announced an additional RM 10 billion to help sustain SMEs and retain employment nationwide.

The announcement made by the PM increases total wage subsidies to RM 13.8 billion, which is expected to benefit 4.8 employees nationwide.

Further measures included special grants worth RM 3,000 that will be offered to micro finance companies. This is expected to benefit up to 700,000 micro SMEs.

Additionally, companies with up to 75 employees will receive RM 1,200 in wage subsidy for each employee while organisations with 76 to 200 employees will receive RM 800 in wage subsidy.

Companies with more than 200 employees will receive wage subsidies of up to RM 600.

The wage subsidies are granted for up to three months and for employers who have registered under SSM before January 1.

The Government has also allocated RM 200 million in order waiver Micro Credit Scheme interest rates from two percent to zero percent while easy loan schemes for micro SMEs will be extended to a limit of RM 10,000 with zero percent interest rate.

SMEs renting in government buildings will either receive rental discounts or be exempted from paying rents.

Putrajaya has also announced a 25 percent levy for foreign workers starting April 1 until the end of the year.

Astro Malaysia confirms one Covid-19 positive employee

(Photo by BILLION LIM / AFP)

According to a news report by Astro Awani, Astro Malaysia has confirmed an employee to be positive of Covid-19 infection after tests were done.

Astro’s spokesperson in a statement stated that the employee stationed in the headquarters was tested positive on April 5th.

The employee is currently receiving treatment in a public hospital.

Following the news of the infected employee, Astro Malaysia is tracing those who had been in close contact with the infected employee.

The Bukit Jalil broadcasting centre has been closed for sanitisation purposes.

AirAsia Foundation launches digital donation drive

AirAsia Foundation has launched a public digital donation drive as part of AirAsia Group’s #InThisTogether campaign to help vulnerable communities impacted by the pandemic.

Donations will be channeled to social enterprises and charities such as Perak State Parks, SEED Foundation and Beyond Borders Malaysia that provide food and medical aid to Orang Asli families, people without permanent shelter and refugees.

The Foundation will also be monitoring the situation of its social enterprise grantees and the community members involved, as many had lost daily subsistence wages as a result of movement restrictions imposed across the region.

“The pandemic has disproportionately affected those who were already socio-economically disadvantaged. Among our grantees, several have reported appeals from community members for food aid. In these extraordinary times, we call for collective action and hope that as many people as possible will give their support,” said AirAsia Foundation Executive Director Yap Mun Ching.

AirAsia will also be redirecting its commercial and transportation channels to provide a lifeline for small businesses.

Other than the Foundation’s fund-raising drive, the Group is also providing e-commerce and delivery solutions via its e-ecommerce platform OURSHOP and Teleport delivery service to bricks-and-mortar businesses.

Enterprise Singapore collaborates with food delivery platforms to aid F&B businesses

Enterprise Singapore have collaborated with three food delivery platforms to launch the Food Delivery Booster Package.

The platforms involved are Deliveroo, foodpanda and GrabFood.

The initiative announce aims to benefit food and beverage businesses in Singapore that are existing operators on as well as new entrants to online food delivery platforms.

Starting from April 7 till May 4, the Food Delivery Booster Package will fund five percentage points of the commission cost charged by the three food delivery platforms.

Additionally, there will be no cap on the qualifying food delivery transaction value.

In order to qualify, food and beverage businesses must be selling food that have been prepared on the premise for immediate consumption.

The initiative will cover small establishments for instance hawker stalls and cafes as well as larger establishments such as restaurants.

Enterprise Singapore is a government agency committed to support Singapore’s small and medium enterprise development.

4 reasons SMEs should embrace cloud collaboration

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By Gibu Mathew, Vice President and GM, Asia Pacific, Zoho Corp

The evolving digital business landscape in the Asia Pacific region is seeing a trend of operations moving into the cloud. Firms are collecting massive quantities of data that requires analysis, protection, and storage. This data brings significant business opportunities along with it.

SMEs, in particular, can utilize this information to achieve a competitive advantage. As suggested by IDC data, smaller enterprises are increasing their investments in IT products and services, indicating that digital transformation spending worldwide will grow steadily throughout the 2019-2023 forecast period, achieving a five-year compound annual growth rate of 17.1 percent.

However, many of these types of businesses still lack the dedicated internal IT support teams required to pursue their business objectives.

Lacking the resources available to large enterprises, smaller companies generally struggle to gain a competitive edge, even as they continue to pursue innovation. However, as researchers note, social media can be a relatively cost-effective way for these companies to create brand awareness and pursue innovation, increasing their website traffic and sales.

That depends, of course, on whether these businesses can overcome the potential technological challenges facing IT teams, like providing employees with the mobile devices and cloud applications necessary to facilitate collaboration.

Cloud collaboration tools in particular help internal teams become more creative and engaged when developing solutions for increasing revenue.

The increased accessibility of data across multiple devices also allows for improved mobility of business processes, since approvals and decisions can be made more quickly.

Because of their direct engagement with customers, sales and customer support staff typically have access to customer information that isn’t always available to marketing.

On the other hand, marketing may be developing their campaigns without keeping sales teams in the loop. When sales and marketing teams are able to collaborate, they can greatly improve a company’s ability to make informed decisions.

The sales team can share live feedback with marketers to improve new content in real time, and other internal teams can quickly access up-to-date lead information remotely. With cloud tools, IT admins gain more control over access rights for legitimate users, which facilitates stronger data security.

 Among the clear benefits of adopting cloud collaboration solutions, four key reasons stand out for any organization undergoing transformation projects:

1) The Cloud benefits organizations with limited budgets

In the past, IT has been a differentiator for large enterprises that could afford to invest in software, hardware, and ongoing maintenance.

Over time, IT departments have evolved to embrace cloud software. For SMEs, adopting SaaS solutions helps bridge the gap in IT resources.

When seeking to minimize IT costs, businesses have become more resourceful in leveraging cloud platforms, as they avoid the huge upfront cost that comes with on-premises ERP systems.

 2) Cloud collaboration tools reduce complexities

Traditional on-premise office productivity tools are cumbersome to install, maintain, and update—in terms of both licensing and software upgrades.

Cloud collaboration tools, on the other hand, make solutions more accessible to employees and require less IT oversight. As the priorities of a business evolve, cloud solutions require less adjustments to meet changing needs.

Cloud platforms also offer greater stability over time, since software upgrades are taken care of by the vendor, allowing business owners to focus on higher priority tasks.

3) Integrating third-party software is simpler when data is in the cloud

When products that you use on a day-to-day basis are integrated, productivity and usability increases, boosting their combined value.

In the past, Application Programming Interfaces (APIs)—which are critical for integrating tools from different vendors—were hard to acquire or even non-compatible, and integrating different software solutions involved in one business process required highly paid consultants to get working.

Today’s cloud collaboration tools are much less complex with much more open architecture that encourages integration between diverse platforms and products.

4) The interface will match employees’ experiences with consumer tech

Consumer technologies and social media platforms, like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram are part of the lifestyle of Asia’s young workforce. So, it is no surprise that at work, employees work better when their business software provides a comparable experience. With the right tools for collaboration, employees will be empowered and motivated to be more productive.

 

For businesses that want to stand out in a highly competitive environment, the cloud is the way forward. The benefits of these tools will be felt long into the future as the business world continues to become more mobile.

 

 

 

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Bank Negara urges financial institutions to treat climate risk like any other financial risk

AFP PHOTO (Photo by STR / AFP)

By Poovenraj Kanagaraj

Bank Negara Malaysia continues to highlight the growing intensity and frequency of climate-related events that are increasingly posing physical and liability risk to the economy.

According to BNM, the country has experienced more than 50 natural disasters, affecting more than three million people through displacements, injury and death.

Between 1998 and 2018, the Malaysian economy suffered a total damage of RM 8 billion due to climate-related events.

Source : BNM Annual Report 2019


The central bank stated that immediate transition towards a greener future will put jobs and industries at risks and changes in policy, technology and market changes without caution can affect asset valuations and significantly increase business risks in the coal and energy industries for instance.

Source : BNM Annual Report 2019

BNM has also pointed out that the banks, insurance and takaful operators are also exposed to liability risks, asset impairment and rising claims.

“With about 11.7 percent of their assets in sectors potentially exposed to climate change, it is important that the Malaysian financial institution treat climate risk like any other financial risk which has the potential to affect their profitability and balance sheets  that in turn may affect the ability of financial institutions in raising funds,” the central bank stated.

Source : BNM Annual Report 2019

“A recent example is the prolonged drought last year which led to supply disruptions in palm oil production and had a visible impact on the growth of the Malaysian economy particularly in the fourth quarter of 2019,” BNM stated.

The central bank late last year issued the Climate Change and Principled based Taxonomy Discussion Paper to solicit feedback on the classification of assets associated with fun raising and investment activities in,  based on their exposure to climate risk.

According to BNM, taxonomy, backed with better date and insights into climate-related risks, it is expected to increase financial flows to activities that will support the transition to a low-carbon and climate resilient economy.

The central bank has partnered with Putrajaya, industry and other domestic regulators in responding to climate risk. September last year saw the central bank and Securities Commission Malaysia establish the Joint Committee on Climate Change (JC3) to drive and coordinate the financial industry’s collective response to climate risks.

Furthermore, BNM is also part of the Malaysian Green Financing Taskforce,which is chaired by Securities Commission Malaysia to spur private sector financing in the renewable energy sector.

 

Kwasa Land appoints Hafiz Kassim as managing director designate

Kwasa Land has appointed Mohamad Hafiz Kassim as its managing director designate effective April 1.

The wholly-owned subsidiary of the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) new managing director will lead Kwasa Land’s strategy and execution of the company’s role as a master developer of Kwasa Damansara, a 2,300-acre mixed development covering residential, commercial, educational and recreational offerings.

Kassim first joined EPF in 2008, taking on several leadership roles within the Investment Division and will continue to lead EPF’s real estate investment team.

Bringing with him over 20 years of experience, Kassim’s focus has been on real estate, capital markets, private equity, financial services and accounting.

The role was previously held by Mohd Lotfy Mohd Noh who retired end of March 2020.

Philips escalates production to meet demand in coronavirus fight

Business Today through an email interview with Philips, the Dutch health technology company, finds out their efforts in managing production of critical care products and solutions during this challenging time.

By Sharon Chang

The shortage of ventilators is inevitable. Runaway demand for ventilators has laid bare the grim reality for healthcare professionals who need them to treat patients impacted with the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic.

“While we acknowledge that there is an unprecedented global demand for medical equipment to help diagnose and treat patients with the virus, we have also put in protocols to ramp up efforts to meet these demands,” Philips says in an emailed response to questions from Business Today.

“As a global leader in health technology, our effort is to prioritise increasing the production of certain critical care products and solutions.

“We are working around the clock to double our hospital ventilator production within the next eight weeks and are aiming for a four-fold increase by the third quarter.”

Given the circumstances, such as shortage of parts due to the disruption of the supply chain and the lockdown implementation, Philips says they are working closely with their suppliers to secure materials supply to feed the increased production at their manufacturing facilities.

In addition, Philips is leveraging on its innovation capabilities to re-purpose adjacent product ranges and, also, engaging with third party contract manufacturers to address the increased demand.

“Furthermore, we are also hiring additional manufacturing employees and adding manufacturing lines and increasing the current work shifts to 24/7 shifts,” it says.

Philips says that currently, the most needed products are patient hospital (portable) ventilators and medical consumables for non-invasive and invasive ventilation to treat a broad range of respiratory conditions.

Meanwhile, Philips is hoping to increase production of other equipment critical in the fight against Covid-19, such as vital signs monitors, diagnostic imaging systems and software solutions for hospitals to monitor and manage patients in intensive care units.

“These will help our frontline medical teams address the preparedness, response and recovery needs from diagnosing to assessment of respiratory conditions,” it explains

In a response to questions, Philips says, “For a more data-driven and connected approach, we will explore how we can leverage our hospital telehealth solutions to centrally monitor and manage patients in the intensive care unit (Philips eICU program), and solutions to connect caregivers and patients at home.”

Philips adds that their ventilators are designed to be easy-to-use and simple to maintain.

The intuitive, graphical user interfaces and menus are created to simplify ventilator set-up and boost productivity. Advanced, automated features, such as mask auto-calibration, can save time, and built-in monitoring alerts you to patients’ changing conditions.

Together, these advances can help to improve workflow.

“Backed by our deep clinical knowledge, our hospital ventilators and masks are developed using only high-quality parts,” Philips shares, adding that their ventilators, patient-friendly masks and accessories deliver non-invasive ventilation (NIV).

Government needs to act

In line with the recent call to action by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and World Health Organization (WHO), Philips says they are calling on governments to facilitate enhanced access to critical materials and components by not imposing restrictions such as export controls and tariffs.

“Besides, the government must also provide help to accelerate logistics, as well as exemptions for critical suppliers from lockdown measures,” it says.

Critical medical equipment, such as hospital ventilators and patient monitors, should be made available across the world, Philips believes, adding that priority should be given to those communities and countries which need them the most,

And most importantly, use a fair and ethical approach to allocate supply to acute patient demands based on data such as the Covid-19 risk-classification of a country/region.

Light at the end of the tunnel

Despite these turbulent times, the company has been able to continue its global business operations and serve its customers, according to Philips.

However, the impact of the outbreak on public life and industry in the most affected regions is resulting in a decreased demand for Philips’ consumer portfolio and is affecting Philips’ global supply chains.

While this is expected to have a negative impact on the financial performance in the first half of 2020, the company cannot quantify the magnitude and duration of such impact at this time given the continued fluidity of the situation.

Philips continues to monitor and assess its business operations daily and will provide an update as appropriate.

Digitising the path ahead

Business Today Malaysia interviews Bryan Boo, Pet Lovers Centre, operations director on how the biggest pet retail chain has adopted digitisation and discusses their strategies moving forward

By Poovenraj Kanagaraj

“Our business strategy is focused on targeting the middle class groups who frequent malls and those that are hands-on with their pets and are interested in learning more on how to care for their furry best friends,” operations director, Bryan Boo told Business Today Malaysia.

Known as the biggest pet retail in the country, Pet Lovers Centre (PLC) is a household name that has since achieved over 53 store openings since its flagship store back in 2016. And with rapid expansion brings about opportunities and with it, comes challenges.

Tackling challenges 

PLC, like many of its counterparts are facing an increasing need for storage as spatial need proves to be a burden for traditional brick-and-mortar stores, and many stores and malls are facing stiff competition for rapid footfall to meet a quota of customers per day.

Pet Lovers Centre, Operations Director, Bryan Boo

“There is a pressing concern on the freshness of stock and PLC aims to reassure that we have a robust protocol for ensuring that our customers get the freshest and best from the range,” Bryan said.

However, a pet retail chain has a few advantages on being at a bigger capacity operations-wise to store food and keep track of the expiration date through a meticulous tracking system both online and offline.

Bryan further states that a higher inventory turnover rate ensures that a retail store sells its average investment locked up in inventory during a particular period of time and generates employee morale which leads to higher loyal customer conversion rate and improves the image of the store.

When it comes to guarding against losses from product perishability, PLC practices the  ‘first-in-first-out’ method (FIFO) which ensure that product expiration is stringently followed through according to the dates.

“Product perishability is a possibility that every business must plan for and comprehend. As mentioned, PLC has a standard protocol where we check for the product’s freshness every month and the automated system for weekly deliveries to stores,” Bryan pointed out.

Providing a more holistic experience

PLC believes in becoming the centre that provides the best for pet needs and for the convenience of owners around the country. The opening of it’s Ikano Power Centre mall (IPC)  flagship store, The Pet Safari (TPS) later this year, is aimed to serve as an extension of the PLC stores which features specialised themes suited towards the needs of pet owners.

Through this space, the brand will be working together with longtime partner, PAWS Animal Welfare Group, to provide potential owners with a one-stop centre for their adoption needs ranging from available stray animals to be adopted, food, hygiene products and starter kits to help these owners ease themselves into their new roles.

At MyTown, TPS focuses on a garage theme and provides additional services would benefit both the owners and pets. PLC believes these add-ons diversify offerings at the store which includes a pet bakery, small animal grooming section and a vet pharmacy among others.

The pet retail brand is also planning to venture further into pet care which will include pet insurance, pet cremation, a vet pharmacy in Klang Valley, pet relocation services, a dog training centre and a daycare centre for pets.

Digitisation, partnerships and strategies moving forward

According to PLC, digitisation is giving leverage to technological advancements such as high-tech toys and veterinary applications which showcases the information about health and welfare and this will further equip pet owners with the information to afford better care for their pets.

“We are seeing more and more NGOs utilise social media and the voices of these passionate individuals to preach for the need for adoption. This ensures that the message of adoption is propagated,” Bryan told Business Today Malaysia.

He further pointed out that the increase in demand for better quality products along with the ease of information available in the digital streams will be a part of the ability for the pet sector to move forward.

“In line with increasing digitisation, partnerships with e-Commerce sites will be beneficial to improve brand accessibility,” said Bryan.

Beyond its brick-and-mortar presence, PLC is innovating itself into adopting omni-channel marketing via social media and building partnerships with e-Commerce applications such as HappyFresh.

“We also foresee that there will be a rise in pet-friendly apartments and high-rise buildings, pet inclusive homes becomes trendy and many property developers – in a bid to remain on top of their competition – will offer this feature as a way to appeal to this trend,” said Bryan.

This will lead to more pet-friendly homes where interior designing will take centre stage as owners are looking towards integrated designs such as decorative litter boxes with sustainable litter which is eco-beneficial.

“PLC has continuously emphasised on a strategy to expand and have more stores within the malls because it improves the economies of scale, as there were no other pet shops penetrating the malls back when we were just getting started. Till this day, it has remained one of our key strategies,” Bryan told Business Today Malaysia.

Malaysia in 2020: Navigating Overlapping Shocks

A man wears a facemask, amid fears over the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, at Saloma Link Bridge in Kuala Lumpur on March 12, 2020. (Photo by Mohd RASFAN / AFP)

By Firas Raad

World Bank Country Manager for Malaysia

Malaysia is no stranger to external shocks affecting its macroeconomy. Over the past two decades, it was buffeted by the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis (AFC), the 2001 global slowdown after 9/11 and the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, each shock affecting the Malaysian economy in different ways.

The first one resulted in the steepest economic contraction in Malaysia’s history – reversing growth to negative 7.35 percent in 1998. The country surmounted this massive crisis through prudent policy-making and drew important lessons to protect itself from the latter two economic shocks.

This latest global COVID-19 crisis is particularly unique given the context in which it emerged and the dual threats it poses to states and societies across the world. Before COVID-19’s global spread during the last two months, economic growth in almost all countries had already slowed on the back of trade tensions between the United States and China.

Against this softening economic backdrop entered the COVID-19 virus. What began as a localized epidemic in Wuhan, China has now transformed into an international public health crisis and an international economic crisis creating supply shocks and demand shocks in over 180 countries. Amidst this unfolding global pandemic, international oil prices, too, began to plummet in early March adding additional fiscal pressure on oil-producing countries including Malaysia.

World bank Group Global Knowledge and Research Hub in Malaysia country Manager Dr. Firas Raad (Pics by Hussein Shaharuddin/TMR)

The public health shock created by COVID-19 first evolved slowly and then expanded rapidly in March of the year. Within four weeks after February 27, the cumulative number of infections skyrocketed upwards to 2,766 confirmed cases, and there were 43 deaths and 537 recoveries (as of March 31).

These trends are already placing the Malaysian health system, particularly the public hospitals, under considerable strain. A third ‘tsunami wave’ in the words of MOH Director-General Datuk Dr. Noor Hisham Abdullah, if not prevented through more expanded testing, case isolation and enforcement of public compliance, could easily flood Malaysian healthcare facilities and result in numerous fatalities not least among the elderly and persons with chronic health conditions.

COVID-19’s shock to the Malaysian economy has deepened with the mounting public health crisis. Initially, the effects of the crisis were felt in the electrical and electronic products (E&E) sector which is closely tied to the Chinese market; and in the tourism and retail sectors due to a significant drop in incoming tourists.

These effects widened recently resulting in broad-based disruption to all economic activities in the country including the financial and currency markets.

Looking forward, recent projections by the World Bank indicate that substantial economic pain will be inescapable in all countries in the region. In our latest regional economic update East Asia and Pacific in the Time of COVID-19 launched earlier this week, economic growth in developing East Asia and Pacific countries is estimated to slow to 2.1 percent in 2020 under a base case scenario; and to negative 0.5 percent in a lower-case scenario.

For Malaysia, economic growth in 2020 is forecasted to drop to negative 0.1 percent under the base case and negative 4.6 percent under the lower-case scenario.

Along with significant economic retrenchment, the global pandemic will have a large impact on poverty in the region with 24 million fewer people escaping poverty in 2020 under the base case scenario than was forecasted in the pre-COVID-19 projections.

These estimates were generated under continuously changing conditions and based on available data as of March 27.

The World Bank update urges countries to take immediate action to strengthen containment, to boost healthcare capacity and to implement targeted economic measures to lessen the impact on Malaysian households, businesses and workers including the injection of greater liquidity and repayment flexibility into the financial sector.

The report also promotes the importance of countries adopting an integrated approach towards containment and macroeconomic policies, and international cooperation and public-private partnerships to ensure the production and supply of key medical supplies across international borders.

In line with these recommendations, the Malaysian Government issued two economic stimulus packages and placed the country under a ‘Movement Control Order’ (MCO) for an initial two weeks – now extended to mid-April. The MCO, through banning public gatherings and mandating home-based learning and work for all students and workers (except those involved in essential services), seeks to limit further widespread diffusion of the virus.

Public compliance with MOH testing policies and movement restrictions will be crucial to preventing a new and sweeping wave of infections from gathering momentum.

The economic stimulus packages, on balance, contain the right elements for mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. The second and larger economic package announced on March 27, rightly prioritizes supporting front-line workers in the healthcare system and purchasing medical supplies.

It also contains important additional measures to protect the income of vulnerable Malaysian households through cash transfers, help individuals and businesses smoothen out their debt repayments, and provide support and wage subsidies to Malaysian businesses. The goal of the wage subsidy measure is to encourage struggling companies in the private sector to retain their employees during this downturn.

Although this second package is prescribing the right economic medicine for the COVID-19 crisis, there may be questions about gaps in the medication and the appropriate dosage of some of the measures.

Specifically, how best to support medium-sized, small and micro-enterprises will require further thinking and action, and the relatively modest size of the wage subsidy may prove insufficient to prevent job layoffs by firms in weaker financial positions. If the public health crisis continues unabated and requires an extension of movement restrictions, a third economic stimulus may be necessary.

In retrospect and taking the long view, Malaysia has seen many economic crises in its day. With enough determination, clear-eyed thinking,careful policymaking – and capitalizing on its prior experiences – it will be able to weather this unusual storm.

Celebrate The Best Of Malaysia’s Tech Ecosystem

Malaysia Tech Week 2019 (MTW19) is a city-wide festival of industry driven events that will congregate the best of Malaysian corporates, ecosystem partners, investors, regulators and tech start-ups along with delegations from around the world to the tech hub of Southeast Asia.

Knowledge Group, together with Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) and other partners will be organising the nation’s first Malaysia Tech Week from 17th to 21st June 2019.

MTW19 is a 5-day event which will feature a variety of activities, such as innovation showcases, business matching opportunities, pitching platforms, and access to Malaysia’s tech ecosystem network.

This event also offers experiential engagement in a casual setting with an abundance of networking opportunities for all participants.

“Malaysia, with its strategic location and diverse culture, has long been a favoured tech foreign investment destination in the Southeast Asia region,” says Surina Shukri, CEO of MDEC.

“We are a nation with a rapid-growing tech ecosystem that has so much to offer the world. With that, we would like to welcome tech start-ups, companies, investors and more from all over the world to come witness what Malaysia has to offer right here at MTW19!”

In conjunction with MTW19, the Central Bank of Malaysia (BNM) will also host MyFintech Week (MyFW), an event that brings together the industry movers and shakers in the fields of finance and technology for meaningful exchanges to shape the future of financial services.

 

Organisations need to rethink business resiliency by adopting smarter technology, says Lenovo Malaysia

Suggested imagery for the Home from Work campaign with Services focus.

Following the previous WFH study earlier this year, Lenovo has once again conducted another research, Essential Technology Solutions For Pandemic Management, to learn more about how organisations are sustaining their businesses for the long haul. It also identifies the essential tools and solutions organisations will need to operate in the ‘new normal’.

“While organisations may have so far adapted to a business landscape that had evolved at an unprecedented rate, they are now in a transformative period that can either make or break their chances of survival and level of competitiveness in the post-Covid world. From the study, we know that organisations should continue to stay agile and be prepared to constantly rethink their business resiliency for the long run by adopting smarter technology that provides optimized flexibility and portability for their businesses,” said Varinderjit Singh, General Manager, Lenovo Malaysia.

The study further highlighted the need for organisations to focus on tools and solutions to support any potential risk and crisis that may arise, especially since most of the workforce are currently distributed and are working at unsecured networks at times.  A reliable and secure cyber environment must also be established for their remote workforce.

Additionally, it remains critical for them to ensure that employees’ communication and work devices, as well as confidential corporate information, are safe and protected against malicious cyberthreats. Thus, Lenovo ThinkShield has been recommended as a compelling option to provide world-class security and at the same time enable them to stay safe and secure with customizable packages tailored to differing needs and budgets.

For organisations, having the right technology tools and solutions for customer experience, employee experience, cybersecurity and business risk during and after the health crisis will be key to staying relevant. Adopting smarter technology and solutions to manage the day-to-day operations of an organisation may be the differentiating factor between organisations that do fold, and those that survive.

“While a suitable partner is needed for organisations to work with that can help them to bounce back strongly when the storm passes, smart solutions such as ThinkSmart are needed. It offers organisations an end-to-end solution for businesses to cultivate positive employee collaboration and enable flexible working and empower organisations to equip their workplace for greater agility, creativity and engagement,” said Varinderjit.

As organisations are adapting to the uncertain circumstances and some are facing business impacts that have consequences on IT budgets, the adoption of smarter technology and solutions is inevitable. Organisations needs to have relevant software to identify, evaluate and mitigate the ongoing operational and financial risks to help ensure business continuity and overall planning.

Furthermore, the study also shows that as face-to-face communication is drastically reduced, businesses can opt to establish technology-enabled solutions such as chatbots or customer feedback management platforms to keep their customers engaged for efficient communication and obtaining timely feedback virtually. Besides, businesses can also adopt collaboration tools and solutions, such as ThinkSmart View and Microsoft Teams, to keep employees engaged during this trying period.

Digital transformation for the retail CIO: Connecting digital with physical

By Bruce Richards, Senior Industry Marketing Manager – Retail & Consumer Goods, Adobe,

Digital is certainly disrupting retail. Today’s shoppers are multichannel, and they expect amazing experiences as they move through the web and apps on their mobile devices for the shopping journey. Add to that a slew of options on where to buy and whom to buy from, and it’s easy to see that in order to build customer loyalty, retailers need to create experiences that stand out.

But if all you’re thinking about is digital, you aren’t thinking big enough. The successful retail CIOs are finding exciting new ways to connect digital and physical shopping experiences.

Retail CIOs are on the hook for enabling customer experience innovation, which means building a foundation for customer experience management (CXM) and investing in the right technologies and solutions to support it. And CXM isn’t just a digital strategy — it needs to be part of your brick-and-mortar strategy too.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for success, there are some emerging best practices that can help you design amazing shopping experiences that bridge the digital and physical worlds. Here are three of them.

1. Hire a CDO

The role of chief digital officer/chief data officer (CDO) is still relatively new — most CDOs have been hired in the past three years — and the job is evolving. However, 82% of CIOs believe there’s a compelling case to hire a CDO. At organizations where commerce comes into play, such as in the retail space, CDOs are what’s next.

Indeed, CDOs bridge all the functions, including marketing, strategy, e-commerce, and IT, that have to work together to deliver exceptional shopping experiences. Perhaps more than any other member of the C-suite, your CDO must focus relentlessly on understanding your customers’ current behavior and anticipating their future needs and expectations, and then use those insights to shape business strategy and technology decisions.

CDOs are often responsible for experimenting with digital tools that drive growth and efficiency (such as programmatic media buying) and transforming the customer experience (such as mobile apps that improve the in-store shopping experience).

2. Bring digital experiences into your physical stores

Storefronts and current technology systems are often disconnected, and information exists in silos. As CIO, you must be agile and adaptable as you deploy technology solutions in a world that is always changing and increasingly calling for digital experiences in a physical space.

Most major retailers already offer customers the option to buy online and pick up in store (BOPIS) and we’re starting to see many retailers adopt in-store technology options that enhance the overall in-store shopping experience when 18.5 per cent of the nation’s economy is obtained through and eight per cent was made via e-commerce[1].

These solutions address inventory and product availability, helping customers find the product they want, even if it’s out of stock in their store. Customer can seamlessly shop online from a desktop, mobile device or at a physical store.

3. Make it happen with mobile and AI

There’s no question that mobile devices are key to connecting physical and digital experiences. With Malaysia being a mobile-first nation with 88 per cent smartphone ownership, people are looking forward to how the fifth generation of mobile Internet connectivity will affect their lifestyle. From synchronised grocery shopping lists, self-checkout, and mobile wallets to item locators and in-store delivery of targeted online content, mobile continues to revolutionize how retailers like you engage customers.

Nearly half of retail CEOs have listed in-store mobile experiences as a top priority for the coming fiscal year. Despite clear benefits in adopting the technology, only 26% of organizations in Malaysia today have embarked on their AI journeys.[2]

Augmented reality (AR) is a mobile tech category every retail CIO should be exploring. Customers can point their phone camera at a corner of their living room and then drop a true-to-scale 3D image of a comfy chair into the scene — no measuring tape required. Mobile app development is the remit of the CIO, especially since there’s a direct correlation between an organization’s mobile maturity and its profitability. In the retail space, an app is a really important driver of commerce, one that’s growing in importance as revenue from mobile continues to climb.

Don’t forget about the power of artificial intelligence. AI helps retailers quickly process mountains of data to find insights and make decisions to personalize shopping experiences. Examples include in-store robotic assistants and digital touch panels that can help customers locate an item, and chatbots that answer questions, offer suggestions, and provide timely support.

Business leaders who are adopting AI face three top challenges a lack of thought leadership and leadership commitment to invest in AI; lack of skills, resources and continuous learning programs and lack of advanced analytics or adequate infrastructure and tools to develop actionable insights.

A slew of emerging technologies is helping to promote business agility and innovation in the development of mobile apps. If you’re not already doing so, now is a good time to explore how you might use container technology, to design, deliver, and manage mobile apps for your customers and your employees.

This journey starts at the top. As your CIO position transforms from a tech seeker to a customer experience innovator, your entire organization will enter a new phase of success.


[1] Department of Statistics Malaysia, 2018

[2] Artificial Intelligence to nearly double the rate of innovation in Malaysia by 2021: Microsoft Study, Microsoft and IDC, 2 April 2019

A “new deal” for Felda

By Jason Loh

In calling for a new deal on behalf of the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) fit for the 21st century, we shouldn’t rush into swinging to the other extreme of the pendulum – so that if the problem with the statutory body is “mismanagement”, for example, the solution shouldn’t be privatisation if at all but enhancing its accountability, competency and transparency.

On Apr 10 last year, a White Paper was tabled in Parliament to address the perennial problems faced by Felda internally as well as externally and sets out the measures to resolve them.

Among the main highlights of the White Paper are the government will allocate a total of RM6.23 billion for repayment of principal and interest on debt; and divestment from non-core and non-strategic assets. The terms of the land lease agreement between Felda and Felda Global Ventures (FGV) is set to be revisited.

Of course, privatisation isn’t on the cards but arguably this will not stop the idea from being floated and pushed for in the future, nonetheless.

FGV is already the principal target under scrutiny, perhaps a favourite whipping boy because of failed investments in the past. It is a subsidiary of Felda that concentrates mainly on the three core sectors of plantations, sugar and logistics. It is involved in all the streams of the supply chain and business activities of its plantations and sugar portfolios.

Through FGV, Felda manages 439,725 hectares of oil palm plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia whilst producing approximately 3 million metric tonnes (MT) of crude palm oil (CPO) per year on average.

But the real and ultimate concern is Felda.

Hypothetically, should it be raised later as an option to be considered for privatisation, the counter-argument is that privatisation would erase Felda’s status as a living and institutional symbol of our nation’s identity.

The question to be asked in this regard is why is Petronas, another of our living and institutional symbol of national pride and success, not saddled with problems the same way as Felda is?

Concomitantly, privatisation would, in effect, relegate Felda’s contribution to national development and nation-building into a relic of the past not even worth of totemic significance.

A proposal for full-blooded privatisation will undermine the above and only protect the interests of the shareholders and reducing Felda settlers in effect to plantation workers with little bargaining and negotiating rights and interests.

The government must never be seen to overtly or covertly diminish or dilute the sacrifices and toil of the Felda pioneer settlers and their successors.

As such, business and financial considerations should never override the social and welfare interests of the smallholders. After all, collectively, these smallholders contribute to one of the nation’s key exports and, by extension, its economic growth and development.

In addition to privatisation, other basic options/models for the reforming and restructuring of Felda as statutory body and agency formed under the Land Development Ordinance (1956) are as follows – for it to be transformed into a:

  1. Government-linked company (GLC);
  2. Government-linked investment company (GLIC);
  3. Full blown corporate entity; and
  4. Trust – arm’s-length from the government  

Only the trust model would enable the interests of all stakeholders defined as the government (not only federal but state as well), smallholders, other players and the nation writ large to be properly balanced, and allow for the retention of the original vision and mission of Felda as the premier State-sponsored agri-business organisation for smallholders.

It would preserve what is rightfully a social contract in its own right between Felda and the smallholders – embodying and giving concrete expression to the socio-economic dimension of the wider social contract that is embedded in our Federal Constitution.

Not to mention, at the same time the uniqueness of Felda will be upheld also – as the world’s most successful resettlement and land development scheme as acknowledged by the World Bank.  

To be sure, this trust model would incorporate the best of all worlds.

Felda would become a semi-government trust entity acting as agent and mediator on behalf of both the government and smallholders.

The transformation into an autonomous and semi-independent trust or Yayasan should be based on a mixture of secular and Islamic principles, where relevant, including the principles of waqf as suggested by Prof Dr Ismail Omar, President of the Land Professionals Association of Malaysia (Pertama).

This trust model would infuse greater accountability, competency and transparency into Felda and combine the best of both public and private governance styles and practices.

Towards that end, technocrats, civil servants and corporate figures, both retired and serving, should be brought in to helm and manage Felda as a trust entity shorn of political pressure and influence. The chairman of Felda should no longer be a politician from the ruling coalition party.

The new plantation model should maintain palm oil as a primary driver of income but integration of all the streams should be deepened. The R&D and production of biofuel, for example, are an integral and inseparable component of the overall oil palm/palm oil industry which must continue to be the “centrepiece” of the Felda story.

All of this in the context of FGV – as the main arm of Felda – de-listed and going private.

Its revenue would be recycled back within Felda itself into a semi-sovereign wealth fund where a fixed or variable allocation is reserved for Felda smallholders and their families. It’s Felda’s revenue and income that’s to be “privatised”, in the final analysis.

The government could be less reliant on Felda in terms of exports earnings which can be channelled back to the settlers and more focussed on the investments, including in green energy and renewables, made by that semi-sovereign wealth fund.

In short, to move forward, we need to go back to basics – come back to full circle, that is. Hopefully, the new deal which the Felda Task Force will be releasing in due course reflect this.

Jason Loh Seong Wei is Head of Social, Law & Human Rights at Emir Research, an independent think tank focussed on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research.

Enabling a seamless digital transition for SMEs nationwide

BusinessToday speaks to Amanda Chin, Chief Executive Officer of Revenue Monster, a financial technology company aiming to create a more integrated digital ecosystem in Malaysia 

By Poovenraj Kanagaraj 

The digital services ecosystem in Malaysia is bigger than ever. Recognisable players such Boost, GrabPay and Touch’n Go eWallet are among those that have led the way in the digital financial services segment. Joining them, logistics and healthcare services have also transitioned over to the digital world, offering users to do just about everything from their smartphones.  

While digitalisation may be all the hype now, and thanks to the acceleration brought on by Covid-19, the growing ecosystem is also more disintegrated than it was. As a result, businesses both old and new would have to source for different digital services from various channels. 

Hoping to simplify the process for SMEs in the country, Malaysian based financial technology company, Revenue Monster is aiming to integrate all digital services in the country into one platform and at the same time, fast-track the transition for businesses into the fully-digital ecosystem.  

“A majority of our customers are in the F&B segment and during the MCO, we also figured that there’s not going to be any payments. So, we came up with the idea of à la carte,” Amanda tells BusinessToday

“I think there are several factors SMEs have had a slow time in adopting the digitalisation process pre and post Covid-19. The first being the lack of understanding followed by being forced to understand what’s essential for the business and now it’s keeping up with the urgency brought on by the virus,” says Amanda Chin, the chief executive officer of Revenue Monster.  

“Even ourselves as an organisation, we are trying to simplify the process. And we are doing it by removing all these jargons and hoping to pitch businesses a more simplified platform. It’s a very complex industry and it requires some level of familiarity,” Amanda shares. Her team of engineers down the hall may have just figured out on how to achieve it.  

One of the more common questions by SMEs, Amanda says, is if they can recover the cost they have invested by subscribing to different digital services. Some even ask if they can do it based on a hybrid model.  

“SMEs need to also know which aspects of their operations needs to go digital and by subscribing to all in one platform such as Revenue Model, they will be able to do so,” she says.  

“Before Covid, there were all these social media and payment platforms, but they were all disintegrated. Merchants who wanted partners for different functions would have to subscribe to different platforms. These services were not developed in a post-Covid world,” Amanda points out.  

The financial technology platform is hoping to bring together digital services across the nation onto one platform, creating an integrated ecosystem in the process.  

“There needs to be an ecosystem of services between merchants and partners and one that will also allow them to list all their services and products. A platform that will enable them to have a more seamless payment experience,” says Amanda, adding that besides ensuring that all of these services are integrated on platform, it also needs one point of contact.  

With over 5,000 merchants subscribed to the platform, merchants can access 13 e-wallet services and two delivery partners, GrabExpress and Mr Speedy. Notable names like Starbucks, U Mobile, Proton, Tealive and Mydin are among the merchants subscribed to the platform.  

“A majority of our customers are in the F&B segment and during the MCO, we also figured that there’s not going to be any payments. So, we came up with the idea of à la carte,” Amanda tells BusinessToday.  

à la carte, one of the services available for F&B merchants, allows them to create an online store with a single URL. Merchants will be able to push their services remotely through a QR code and at the same time offer their clients a pick-up option as well as a drive-thru option.  

With à la carte, merchants only have to undergo one registration process to activate their access to the multiple payment channels which includes e-wallet services as well as credit and debit options.  

“Ultimately, I think the rest of the delivery channels charge high commission fees and we gathered this through the F&B players who mentioned that they would not be able to recover the delivery costs,” the chief executive officer says. Merchants subscribing to Revenue Monster only pay typical MDR charges.  

Aside from being able to create an online store, merchants will be able to experience a seamless payment offering through the platform’s e-invoice service. “Lately there have been a rise in e-invoices especially with people needing to go cashless and during the MCO, a majority of merchants operating from homes had to collect payments remotely proving once again how disintegrated the ecosystem is,” Amanda tells BusinessToday.  

With the e-invoice service, merchants will be able to share the payment link generated by the platform via messaging platforms, Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger.  

“Through Revenue Monster, we hope to enable merchants experience a smoother digital transition and at the same time create additional revenue streams. The key here is to make sure they have a good understanding of profit and loss,” Amanda says.  

As for plans in the next coming months, the chief executive officer hopes to streamline operations and work towards getting a sizeable market share and to ultimately become the ecosystem’s lead driver.  

Penang Government advocates talents to explore various high-quality job opportunities in the State

Penang Job Fair

Penang’s strong talent pool has long been a key driver in the state’s success in attracting strategic investments, especially in selected niche industries. The state government recognises this endeavour in ensuring that local talent is identified, nurtured and developed to its fullest potential, it said in a statement.

In its efforts to continuously attract the right talent to join the Penang workforce, the state government, though InvestPenang, has embarked on a public-private employment initiative with JobStreet, a leading online employment platform in Southeast Asia.

Through a 7-day virtual career platform (26 September – 2 October 2020) titled ‘Career Exploration Week: My Penang My Workplace’, the Penang state government welcomes talents from all over the country to explore an array of exciting employment opportunities and to understand Penang’s thriving industry that opens up vast career growth.

At this virtual launch, the Penang chief minister Chow Kon Yeow (main pic) said that Penang has attracted strategic investments in the past years, which translated into thousands of high-quality job opportunities.

He emphasised that the state government is focused in elevating the liveability stature of Penang, one of the key goals of Penang 2030.

Embracing the concept of Smart City, offering affordable housing, ensuring a clean, green and safe environment as well as mounting efforts in promoting STEM education are among the state’s collective efforts in making Penang the destination of choice for “Work, Live, Learn and Play”.

“We believe that this virtual platform will not only benefit active job-seekers but also our industries as companies are able to promote their employment branding and career opportunities for current and future hires.” he added. 

According to the InvestPenang CEO Dato’ Loo Lee Lian, from Jan-2019 to Mar-2020, Penang attracted RM24billion of manufacturing investment inflows, out of which, 90% are from the electrical and electronics, equipment and medical technology industries.

Particularly, Penang FDI accounted for 34% of Malaysia’s total FDI during the period, underscoring the State’s role in driving the country’s participation in the global supply chain, as well as MNCs’ continued confidence in the State as a conducive and sustainable investment destination.

Investments recorded in Jan-2019 to Mar-2020 are estimated to create 22,921 jobs in Penang.

Meanwhile, JobStreet country manager Gan Bock Herm said that JobStreet is constantly looking for ways to improve the experience of both employers and candidates.

“The pandemic has disrupted all industries and the way we used to work,” said Gan. “As the MCO is changing the way companies operate in order to survive and thrive, skills related to digital and IT are highly sought after these days.”

Gan shared that JobStreet is seeing demand for emerging roles like data analysts together with artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and digital transformation specialists due to the pandemic having accelerated the need for companies to move towards a digital first workforce.

“During MCO, our platform observed a drop in jobs offered across all industries. However, when restrictions were progressively loosened, JobStreet saw an increase in jobs offered of some 70% compared to when the pandemic was at its height.

“As a result, job applications through our platform also increased accordingly in the past few months, an encouraging sign which shows that the economy is recovering,” added Gan.

He also shared that the JobStreet employment platform has also been enhanced with AI, making it easier to comprehend what a candidate is looking for, and thereby routing them to the most relevant job opportunities.

“Our refreshed mobile app, also powered by AI, now comes with a new and refresh look. People who are interested in exploring and applying for new job opportunities are now able to use the app anytime, anywhere.” said Gan.

Gan also shared that, in recent months, JobStreet had embarked on the #WorkNow campaign which has helped over 20,000 Malaysian job-seekers connect faster and more efficiently with potential employers.

“The constant growth of Penang candidates, as well as other Malaysian candidates, in our database shows that we continue to connect candidate to their desired job,” said Gan.

The ‘Career Exploration Week: My Penang My Workplace’ platform is available from today until 2 October 2020 for job-seekers to explore career opportunities via exhibitors’ virtual booths. It also offers insights into the employment market through various on-demand webinar sessions.

For more information, please visit: https://www.jobstreet.com.my/event/penang/career-exploration.htm

Bursa Malaysia named ‘Best Stock Exchange for Islamic Listings’ at 14th Annual IFN Services Providers Poll

Bursa Malaysia Berhad (“Bursa Malaysia” or the “Exchange”) has been named by Islamic Finance News (“IFN”) at the recent 14th Annual IFN Services Providers Poll.

This is the second consecutive year Bursa Malaysia emerged as the winner for this category, which was introduced in 2018 in recognition of the most outstanding stock exchange for the listing of Shariah-compliant securities in an enabling and conducive ecosystem.

Commenting on the recognition, Muhamad Umar Swift, Chief Executive Officer of Bursa Malaysia said, “Malaysia is widely acknowledged as the global leader in the Islamic financial marketplace, and Bursa Malaysia is proud to be able to play a significant role in its growth. Together with the support of our Islamic brokers, we will continue to develop and provide more Shariah-compliant opportunities to both issuers and investors.

“This global recognition from IFN is yet another milestone that will encourage our ongoing efforts to further advance and strengthen Bursa’s capabilities in the Islamic capital marketplace.”

As of Aug 31, Shariah Market capitalisation stood at RM1.2 trillion or 71.1 percent of total market capitalisation. As a leading emerging market exchange, Bursa Malaysia offers a good breadth of Shariah-compliant securities that are listed on the Main, ACE and LEAP Markets.

For the same period, 715 or 76.6 percent out of a total 933 companies listed on the Exchange are Shariah-compliant, tradable on Bursa Malaysia-i, the world’s first end-to-end Shariah- compliant investing platform.

Bursa Malaysia-i incorporates a full range of Shariah-compliant exchange-related services including listing, trading, clearing, settlement and depository services, augmenting Bursa Malaysia’s leadership as the global marketplace for Shariah listing and investments.

Honda Sensing now available in B-segment

Honda Malaysia (or the Company) announced that the 5th Generation All-New City RS i-MMD will be offered with Honda SENSING, the most complete advanced safety features in the B-segment. The enhanced Honda SENSING system in the All-New City RS i-MMD utilizes a front wide view camera to recognize better road boundaries during day and night driving conditions.

Developed by Honda to meet the objective of ‘Safety for Everyone” and to realize the vision of a collision-free mobile society, Honda SENSING is an advanced safety system to alert and assist drivers during various driving situations.  

The 5th Generation All-New City RS i-MMD is equipped with enhanced Honda SENSING features as below:

  1. Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC)
  2. Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS)
  3. Forward Collision Warning (FCW)
  • Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS)
  • Road Departure Mitigation (RDM)
  • Lane Departure Warning (LDW)
  • Auto High-Beam (AHB)

Honda Malaysia Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Mr. Toichi Ishiyama said, “I believe the upcoming 5th Generation All-New City will excite Malaysians with its advanced safety technology and class-leading features. Last month, we organised an on-going nationwide tour where people can take the opportunity to view the All-New City RS i-MMD up close. We are delighted to receive high interest and positive feedback from the public and bookings have been very encouraging. The All-New City RS i-MMD offers first in segment features such as Remote Engine Start, Honda LaneWatch and Electric Parking Brake. We are now raising the benchmark further to introduce a most complete Honda SENSING feature in its segment which was previously only available in the C, D and SUV segment.”

“For the All-New City, we have implemented several technology enhancements for facilities in the Melaka manufacturing plant such as new inner frame welding to enhance its body rigidity and new spray polyurethane foam to reduce body noise and vibration. This is to ensure utmost quality so that customers can continue to enjoy owning a Honda car. On top of that, Honda Malaysia is the first and only car manufacturer in the country to assemble an Intelligent Power Unit (IPU) from individual lithium-ion battery components to a complete power unit where the assembly process is on par with the technology in Honda Japan. We are confident that the exciting and advanced features in the All-New City will be attractive to our customers and we look forward to bringing the Joy of Buying to all Malaysians,” added Mr. Ishiyama.

Overall, the All-New City presents a sleeker appearance. In terms of body dimensions, the All-New City measures 4,553 mm in length, 1,748 mm in width and 1,467 mm in height. Compared to its 4th Generation predecessor, the All-New City is now longer by 111 mm, wider by 54 mm and lowered by 10 mm, providing a low and wide stable stance. The body size dimensions of the
All-New City are above a B-segment sedan and comparable to a C-segment sedan.

Aside from that, the All-New City portrays a modern and sporty exterior design which accentuates a sense of large vehicle size class. It features New LED Headlights (RS & V) with LED Daytime Running Lights (DRL) as well as New LED Taillights to signify an unrivalled exterior appearance. To further enhance its exterior looks, the New Carbon Patterned Front Lip¹ and New Rear Bumper with Diffuser¹ gives a sporty impression. Additionally, the Gloss Black Ducktail Spoiler¹ and the New Gloss Black Door Mirror¹ creates a two-toned expression of the body colour while the aesthetically attractive 16” Alloy Wheels in Dual-Tone¹ further compliments the sleek appearance of the car.

The 5th Generation All-New City’s line-up will feature four new variants. The RS variant with intelligent Multi-Mode Drive (i-MMD) powertrain delivers maximum torque of 253Nm, which is highest in its class and is comparable to D-segment torque performance, for an exciting and thrilling acceleration driving feel. The All-New City will also be offered in a new 1.5L DOHC i-VTEC engine, providing a balance of performance and fuel efficiency.

The Remote Engine Start is a first in segment new advance feature to be offered in the All-New City RS i-MMD. This technology allows driver to start their vehicle while the doors are locked and to activate the air-conditioning to cool down the cabin with a simple push of a button on the keyless remote – a welcomed element in Malaysia’s hot and humid weather. Additionally, the Rear Ventilation Air-Conditioning of the All-New City ensures convenience and comfort for passengers at the rear seat, thus making every journey enjoyable and cozy for everyone.

Booking for the All-New City started on Aug 14 at all Honda Malaysia’s 101 authorised dealerships nationwide. Customers will receive a RM1,000 Service Voucher² when they place a booking now for the All-New City under the ‘Special Early Booking Programme’³.

Petronas Dagangan Berhad becomes first LNG solution provider for off-grid customers in Peninsular Malaysia

Malaysia's iconic Twin Towers are seen in the background of the Malaysian oil and gas company Petronas logo at a petrol station in Kuala Lumpur on August 13, 2014. Malaysian state energy firm Petronas is expected to announce its second quarter earnings later on August 13. AFP PHOTO / MANAN VATSYAYANA / AFP / MANAN VATSYAYANA

Following the launch of the Virtual Pipeline System (VPS) solution via the Regasification Terminal (RGT) in Pengerang, Johor, Petronas Dagangan Berhad (PDB) now becomes the first LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) solution provider using road trucks for off-grid customers in Peninsular Malaysia.
 
Through the VPS solution, PDB now has the capability to deliver LNG using trucks fitted with cryogenic tanks, providing industries within Peninsular Malaysia that are not connected to the natural gas infrastructure with access to cleaner energy.
 
The innovative solution is part of Petronas’ commitment to environmental sustainability in facilitating the growth of natural gas usage in Peninsular Malaysia. Natural gas is the cleanest form of fossil fuel, which has lesser emission of carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury and other particulates than coal.
 
Commenting on the milestone, Azrul Osman Rani, PDB’s Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer said, “We are excited to be the first LNG solution provider for industries in Peninsular Malaysia. As businesses continue to prioritise the sustainability agenda, our capabilities of on-road delivery will definitely be an advantage for companies that are looking to switch to a cleaner and cost-effective energy option.”
 
“Earlier this month, we completed our first delivery of LNG to Continental Tyre Alor Setar Malaysia Sdn Bhd’s manufacturing plant and we look forward to expand our customer base,” he added.
 

Huawei Malaysia signs MoU with Serba Dinamik to establish Smart Campuses in Malaysia

Huawei Technologies (Malaysia) Sdn. Bhd. (Huawei) and Serba Dinamik Group Berhad (Serba Dinamik) have teamed up to explore and develop innovative digital solutions as well as to jointly establish a digital industry and Smart Campuses in Malaysia.

The digital industry will include a digital platform for education, a smart living ecosystem and automation for manufacturing.

Both parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Friday, September 25 at DoubleTree by Hilton, Kuala Lumpur, marking the start of a partnership that aims to cover the following areas:

  • To jointly develop digital solutions through the adoption of Huawei Cloud and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology.
  • Commercialise and jointly innovate to build a digital industry and Smart Campuses in Malaysia.
  • Establish go-to-market programs in relation to enterprise digital transformation, Smart Campus planning and AI training programs.
  • Jointly explore, design and execute cloud-based connectivity device solutions for commercial deployment.

The MoU aims to bring about digital transformation of the oil and gas industry, innovative IT solutions on Cloud and to reach the unreached by digitally enabling those in rural areas, as well as to look into setting up smart industry areas in Sarawak and Johor.

“Huawei’s vision and mission is to bring digital to every person, home and organization for a fully connected and intelligent world. We believe that through this partnership with Serba Dinamik, we will be able to drive ubiquitous connectivity and bring Cloud and AI solutions to every corner of Malaysia, reaching the previously unreached,” said Michael Yuan, Chief Executive Officer of Huawei Malaysia.

“Huawei is one of the players in the industry that is able to provide a complete set of end-to-end ICT solutions, the essential building blocks in creating Smart Campuses. These solutions include a cutting-edge combination of cloud computing, Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, big data analysis and AI. Our Huawei Cloud and AI solutions will provide easy to use platforms and a solid technological foundation for Serba Dinamik and Huawei to jointly develop digital solutions,” said Yuan, adding that partnerships like these are crucial for the success of such initiatives.

Huawei and Serba Dinamik will collaborate as technology partners towards realizing their vision for the ICT sector in Malaysia.

Chief Executive Officer of Serba Dinamik Group Berhad, Mohd Abdul Karim Bin Abdullah said the two companies will collaborate to develop a strong cloud and AI ecosystem to drive innovation and talent development in the region.

Commenting on the partnership, Dato’ Karim said, “We are excited to establish this groundbreaking partnership between Serba Dinamik and Huawei. The combined expertise and technical capabilities of the two companies will build a strong foundation to position Serba Dinamik as an AI innovation hub.”

“This is an exciting time for Serba Dinamik as we continue our international expansion plan. We are developing a strong foothold in the region and this agreement is an important step for us as we further establish our presence in Asia.”

Karim also mentioned that as part of the arrangement, both companies have set up a joint working group to develop Smart Campus innovations in Malaysia by providing strategic and technical expertise.

“We are continuing to increase our market share through new as well as existing contracts both domestically and internationally despite the volatile market. On top of that, we have also provided value-added solutions by adopting IR 4.0 elements to help asset owners achieve better performance and productivity, such as with the use of AI and data analytics pillars,” he said during the MoU signing ceremony today.

Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) Vice President of Investment Development Hew Wee Choong hailed the collaboration between both companies as key to providing the support that businesses now need to overcome this new era of disruption. He said that this is a partnership that MDEC is fully appreciative of and that he looks forward to the success of this collaboration.

“As the world is now more appreciative of what digital transformation can do to push forward economic development, it is now more apparent that industries and organizations need to be digitally transformed if they want to be more agile, efficient, dynamic and competitive.

This partnership demonstrates a remarkable collaboration between a world-renowned technology company and a leading Malaysian company that strives to build digital platforms that help businesses to understand and embrace the need to go digital,” Hew said, adding that  partnerships like these are in line with MDEC’s goals to establish and grow a vibrant local digital ecosystem and reinforce Malaysia’s role as the digital heart of ASEAN.

Shopee finds demand for premium and branded segment multiplied by over 300 times since 2015

E-commerce platform, Shopee has seen growing confidence and comfort in purchasing premium and branded items priced RM3,000 and above in addition to regular personal and household items on its platform.  This shift is reflected in what users are searching for and buying on the platform.

In recent months, most popular keywords on Shopee were iphone, laptop, washing machine and smart TV while bestsellers include Apple MacBook Pro, Bosch Built-in Dishwasher and Delonghi Coffee Machine. According to the platform, these changes were driven by the 100 percent authenticity guarantee provided by Shopee Mall.

Shopee noted that the use and familiarity with e-commerce accelerated rapidly in the outskirts of Perlis, Kedah, Sarawak, Sabah and Labuan in 2020. As e-commerce solves the perennial challenge of limited access to consumer goods outside of Klang Valley, Shopee also found that demand for the premium and branded segment multiplied by over 300 times since 2015.

Rural buyers were also seen to be getting more comfortable with the entire digital ecosystem as many have converted from using offline payment methods to ShopeePay for their checkouts.

Ian Ho, Regional Managing Director of Shopee said, “Demand has accelerated for e-commerce in 2020 and we see a parallel increase in the level of trust and comfort that people have with online shopping. These developments signify new heights for the e-commerce industry. As we work closely with brands and retailers to capture growth, we see many successful campaigns created for our partners. Trusted brands such as Samsung have broken records in 2020, recording up to RM46,000 in a single transaction, among many other achievements.”

2020 has also pushed more brick-and-mortar brands and retailers including the likes of Billion, Al-Ikhsan, Eco Shop, Machines, ADIDAS, and Muji to explore a hybrid operating model with e-commerce. Through Shopee’s integrated e-commerce ecosystem such as its strong logistics network, marketing tools, brands and retailers are able to provide consumers a seamless and enjoyable shopping experience. Besides helping them digitalise, Shopee is reinstating its commitment to assist them in scaling and succeeding online with its annual Shopee 10.10 Brands Festival.

Ho added, “We are encouraged by the growing number of local and international brands on our platform; it just goes to show that there is a place in the digital economy for everyone. Shopee as the enabler of e-commerce trade for brands, retailers and traders will continue to provide the support they need to thrive in this recovering yet competitive business environment. Our annual 10.10 Brands Festival will further serve as a springboard for them to bridge and build connections with buyers.”

Taking place from Sept 25 to October 10, as the region’s biggest online shopping event for brands, the Shopee 10.10 Brands Festival will surprise users with greater savings. They can enjoy exclusive RM10 deals, free shipping with a minimum spend of RM10 and choose a wide selection of 100 percent authentic products from favourite brands via the Million Dollar Brands Discounts in-app portal.

On October 10, users will get to enjoy RM10 free shipping platform-wide as well as deals with big discounts of up to 70 percent from 12AM-2AM. Users stand to win prizes, vouchers and Shopee Coins worth up to RM1,000,000 when they play Shopee Games such as Shopee Farm, Shopee Claw, Shopee Poly and more.

Social Enterprise Education Lab showcases journey of teams in 1st cohort

SEEd.Lab Open House guests, including President & Group CEO PETRONAS, Tengku Muhammad Taufik Tengku Aziz (fourth from right); EVP & CEO Downstream PETRONAS, Datuk Md Arif Mahmood (first from left); Country Head of TCS Malaysia, Jeevan Rajoo (back, white shirt) and CEO of MaGIC, Dzuleira Abu Bakar (second from right) being briefed by a representative from Foodlab Venture on how their social enterprise helps the local foodpreneurs grow their business.

Social Enterprise Education Lab (SEEd.Lab), a programme developed by Petroliam Nasional Berhad (PETRONAS) and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), marked its first Open House on Wednesday, September 23 to showcase the journey of the teams in the first cohort.

Dedicated to addressing youth unemployment whilst leaving a positive impact on communities through social entrepreneurship, SEEd.Lab also supports the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by forging sustainable solutions to manage community pain points and bridge youth employment gaps in Malaysia.

“We have seen a large gap on social enterprise initiatives for job creation in emerging markets like Malaysia, and this is now further intensified by the impact of COVID-19. In line with PETRONAS’ sustainability agenda, SEEd.Lab aims to empower budding leaders and changemakers to address this rising issue and shape a more sustainable future for a better tomorrow,” said Md Arif Mahmood, Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of Downstream, PETRONAS.

“Our partnership with TCS demonstrates our commitment to build on our efforts towards nation-building whilst enhancing partnerships to deliver sustainable value creation. It is our hope that SEEd.Lab will expand through collaborations with other players in supporting the social and economic development of the nation,” he added.

SEEd.Lab is the first initiative of its kind in Malaysia, which incorporates an end-to-end journey that spans over the essential stages of a start-up’s growth. Established in January this year, the programme takes the participants, aptly named SEEd.lings, through the process of ideating their vision and plans, incubating their ideas to build the solutions, and commercialising their social enterprise to scale and grow across the target market. Through PETRONAS and TCS, SEEd.lings can tap into learnings and insights from a panel of industry experts to develop their business models.

“TCS is very happy to be partnering with PETRONAS to develop SEEd.Lab, an open social innovation centre modelled around the TCS Digital Impact Square (DiSQ) that encourages innovation using digital technologies to address social challenges prevalent in the community. SEEd.Lab is the first iteration of DISQ outside of India that will be effecting and affecting change by accelerating the changemakers’ journeys from being ideators to entrepreneurs, researchers or corporate leaders, for the betterment of the Malaysian society,” said Girish Ramachandran, President of TCS Asia Pacific.

From more than 1,000 potential candidates, SEEd.Lab shortlisted 200 applications from graduates and budding entrepreneurs across Malaysia. Three social enterprises have been established to date; Teman, Solvnex and Foodlab that address specific community pain points using digital and technology solutions. Since its inception, the social enterprises were given insights to develop their skill sets through a series of master classes and workshops led by recognised coaches and subject matter experts.

“All around the world and at our home ground, the power of the young is rising, with so much potential and capability to be tapped into. SEEd.Lab wants to be proactive in nurturing these talents through entrepreneurship and creating employment to get ahead of the future challenges in the job market, and there are no better experts to solve this national issue than the young people themselves. The solutions that come out of SEEd.Lab are the results of the passion and perseverance demonstrated by the SEEd.lings in realising one common goal: to enrich lives and give back to the community,” said Aidonna Jun Ayub, Programme Manager of SEEd.Lab.

Currently in its incubation phase, the three social enterprises are expected to achieve commercialisation by Q1 2021.

HSBC Malaysia bags 2 accolades in Malaysia Technology Excellence Awards 2020

The Malaysia Technology Excellence Awards laud exceptional companies who are leading the technological revolution and digital journeys of their respective industries to boost Malaysia’s fast-growing economy. With the many new digital features that the international bank has been introducing to its customers, HSBC is recognised to be one of the leading digital banks in Malaysia.

The revamp of its Premier proposition page on the Bank’s website allows HSBC Malaysia
customers to drop a lead and the international bank will get in touch with them for further service
or sign up assistance. This earned HSBC the award in Information Management.

HSBC Malaysia also introduced the Remote Engagement Service that allows customers to
interact with the bank without the need to be physically present at the branches. This is an
alternate channel to interact with the Bank, supported by Zoom, Live Connect, and Live Sign.
As a result of this innovation, relationship managers were able to stay connected to serve
customers’ banking needs during the Movement Control Order (MCO) period. Customers were
also able to practice social distancing without disruptions to their banking services during andafter the MCO period.

Commenting on the win, Tara Latini, Head of Wealth and Personal Banking, HSBC
Malaysia said, “The awards are a testament to our commitment to enhance our digital
innovation and features to provide a more convenient and seamless banking experience to our
customers, even among challenges brought about by the pandemic. Our vision is to create a
safe and convenient 24/7 bank for its customers that can be accessed any-time, anywhere.”

“The recognition in our digital initiatives is an endorsement on our customers-centric solutions
in our journey of digitising our banking experience,” said Heather Goh, Head of Digital, Wealth
and Personal Banking, HSBC Malaysia, “this win drives us to keep delivering innovative
technology to deliver our Bank in the Pocket vision and continuously serve our customers.

Affordable rent-to-own scheme for the youth of B40

By Sofea Azahar,

In addressing the issue of housing affordability and ownership within the youth in low-income group (B40), one way to go about it is by implementing Rent-to-Own (RTO) scheme across the affordable housing units.

Some might ask why is this needed? They would be able to afford a house since they are “affordable”. But the terms “affordability” and “affordable housing” should be adequately defined so as not to confuse people as affordability varies from state to state and not everyone will be able to even afford the affordable houses.

The crux of this issue is that anecdotal evidence has shown that it will become harder for youth to purchase a house amid this challenging time when employability is uncertain for them as new entrants in the labour market. Therefore, they are at risk of earning stable and sufficient incomes.

There was a positive first signal in May after the announcement made by the Federal Territory Minister Annuar Musa about the government considering a Rent-then-Own scheme for B40 youth in Kuala Lumpur who are civil servants or running their own businesses but cannot afford their own homes.

Under the proposed scheme, over 1,000 housing units will be rented out for RM800 to RM850 per month while waiting for affordable houses priced less than RM200,000 to be built. Once the housing projects are completed, the rental payments can be used to pay for deposit for the new house or used as a rebate.

Perhaps the same scheme can be implemented in other states, say, for youth who have to reside in other states for work purpose and they plan to own a house but are unable to. Instead of going through the difficulties to own a house, they can be given the option to rent first while saving money to buy the house in the future.

Under the RTO scheme, the B40 youth who are first-time house buyers should be given the assistance to rent houses at affordable rates for a few years and allow them to purchase the house at the end of the rental period or when they are able to secure mortgage loan from the banks.

Through this scheme, the attraction seems to be that the entry cost is low because the tenants do not need to pay for the 10 per cent down payment.

To make it workable, the government alongside financial institutions and property developers should collaborate to try to cater to this group’s needs in the most effective and coordinated way.

This move should be welcomed as it could help address the worries in relation to home ownership for the youth – difficulty in getting loans and insufficient money to pay for the 10 per cent down payment.

It could also help solve the issue of property overhang in the country which involves affordable homes priced at RM200,000-RM300,000, accounting for 43 per cent of the total in the first half of 2019, according to the Valuation and Property Services Department (JPPH) as reported by Free Malaysia Today.

This measure can be in conjunction with the Housing Integrated Data System (HIDS) whereby buyers can select their preferred location and type of house which suits their incomes, expected to be ready by next year.

With this convenience, the underprivileged youth can be prioritised in the allocation process of affordable housing units. If they are still unable to afford the house, they can be directed to the RTO scheme.

Although the Home Ownership Campaign (HOC) has been lauded by the public due to its incentives, RTO scheme could be another booster to help youth to afford their own home as some are still constrained from purchasing due to the issue of affordability, job stability, commitments and high house prices, based on a survey conducted by City & Country.

Considering youth are likely to be part of the B40 group who are found to allocate the highest share of their expenditure on housing – 25.6 per cent – and income growth tends to not keep up with the growth in house prices, the issue of housing affordability should be addressed.

With that being said, the rental market should be strengthened further to become a viable option for youth who are financially burdened in the short term. Hence, an RTO scheme should be one of the action plans to be looked into.

Sofea Azahar is Research Analyst at EMIR Research, a think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research.

Space Rider Online tournament winners bring home prizes worth RM200,000

Gamewars by Techninier Sdn. Bhd., an e-sports tournament platform with more than 10,000 active players in Malaysia organised the Space Rider Online Gaming Tournament recently to encourage gaming enthusiasts to showcase their gaming skills to win amazing prizes worth up to RM200,000.

Since its launch in 2018, the Space Rider gaming app has garnered more than 50,000 installs via Google Play and App Store.

The tournament recorded more than 200 participants from all over Malaysia, ranging from the age of 19 to 40 years old, each playing the main character ‘Ace Starfield’ whose task was to ride on a futuristic bike down a highway whilst encountering enemies to obtain scores.

Techninier designed the Space Rider game with appealing features including high-adrenaline fast action on the Cyber cycle, a variety of galactic landscapes and game-friendly for novice and experienced players.

“At Techninier, we aim to design games that will appeal to different interest groups. There are many game developers around, but we aim to bring gamers closer through exciting game such as Space Rider, Ghost Force and Super Jones and build a healthy gaming community in Malaysia. Hence, we organised this online tournament to encourage more gamers to share their tips and techniques as all players share the same goal which is to win the tournament,” said  Lion Peh, chief executive officer of Techninier.

The first prize winner was a 31-year-old from Kelantan, Mohd Farhan Bin Hassin who scored the highest and won himself a Samsung Galaxy S20 worth RM3,599.00. While the second and third places went to Selamat Bin Abdul Rahim and Teoh Khay Sheng respectively. Selamat Bin Abdul Rahim 40 years old from Johor won an iPhone 11 worth RM3,399, while Teoh Khay Sheng 26 years old from Kedah won a Realme X3 worth RM1,999.

Consolation prize winners also went home with prizes including Huawei Nova T5 and Redmi Note 8 Pro phones on top of shopping vouchers valued at RM800 and RM400.

Following the success of this online game tournament, Techninier aimed to organise another online game tournament featuring another game, Super Jones, a puzzle game that takes players to ancient mines with the main character, Nathan Jones to uncover hidden treasures and defeat monsters along the way.

The tournament runs from May 19 till Oct 19 and is open to all Malaysian players from the age of 18 and above. Techninier is offering prizes worth up to RM200,000 including latest smartphones, gadgets and shopping vouchers. Gaming enthusiasts are welcome to register at http://www.gamewars.my .

Kenanga partners Merchantrade to introduce Kenanga Money, nation’s first stockbroker e-wallet

Kenanga Investment Bank Berhad (Kenanga) has announced its partnership with Merchantrade Asia Sdn Bhd (Merchantrade) to introduce Malaysia’s first stockbroker e-wallet, Kenanga Money, which will be supported by a Visa prepaid card feature.

As part of Kenanga’s ongoing digitalisation journey, Kenanga Money marks the investment bank’s entry into the cashless payment space, enabling its clients the freedom to easily transfer funds from their stocktrading account into an e-wallet and prepaid card for retail payments, remittance and withdrawals worldwide. Users will also benefit from the innovative multi-currency function which enables them to buy, sell and store up to 20 foreign currencies at any given time, at Merchantrade’s competitive exchange rates.

“With our shared vision to innovate financial solutions, this strategic collaboration with Merchantrade, will enable us to reshape the stockbroking experience clients have with us. In addition to enjoying an interest income on their credit balances, our clients will also be able to seamlessly access their funds through the e-wallet and card, for day-to-day purchases, cash withdrawals and multi-currency transactions locally and abroad, bringing new levels of convenience and flexibility to their everyday lives,” said Chay Wai Leong, Group Managing Director of Kenanga Investment Bank Berhad.

“With almost 300,000 Kenanga account holders, our pursuit of digitalisation is centred on augmenting our ecosystem to create new value-add for our clients. Kenanga Money will complement the growing suite of digital solutions we have in the pipeline that are geared towards the delivery of an integrated, seamless and multifaceted environment for our fast-expanding client base,” added Chay.

“We are constantly seeking for new opportunities with the right partners to work with, to broaden our reach to serve a wider market with our unique technology and solutions and are excited at the partnership with Kenanga Investment Bank Berhad, Malaysia’s leading retail stockbroker to launch Malaysia’s first stockbroker e-wallet. Both Kenanga and Merchantrade are homegrown brands that have stood the test of time, and are thriving through digital innovation. We are confident that Kenanga Money will be a game changer for the stockbroking industry and will be enthusiastically received by digitally-savvy and discerning stocktraders in the country today,” said Ramasamy K Veeran, Managing Director of Merchantrade.

Merchantrade is Malaysia’s leading fintech and e-money player, and the country’s largest Money Services Business operator. It serves a customer base of over three million through its digital online and app-based channels and extensive nationwide physical network. The company has built a comprehensive digital ecosystem of purposeful financial and other services through industry partnerships and collaborations to enrich the lives of its customers and their communities.

Kenanga Money will be rolled out in phases over the next few months.

The pandemic push to pivot: The reality of a renewable energy leader

By Ko Chuan Zhen, Chief Executive Officer & Co Founder of Plus Solar,

The pandemic was an acid test for companies. Those that were meant to survive – did, and those that did not make the change – were knocked out, without fear nor favour. The pandemic was the kingpin that ruled how businesses must move or face a known end.

At Plus Solar, the pandemic taught us never to be comfortable in our own skin. Yet, ironically, it also taught us how to never waste a crisis. Reacting quickly made all the difference as we raced to ride the crisis. Looking back, the Covid-19 was a push factor for us to pivot and we have indeed come out tougher.

To sustain all 150 headcounts and four branches across Malaysia, we had accelerated our efforts in three main areas. Firstly people safety and security was prioritized, then business models were re-examined and an energy efficiency digital solution was developed, all whilst our management principles were unrelentlessly tried and tested.

  1. Keeping Our People Safe and Secure

Trust, passion, persistence. Core values that we insisted on when we looked for people to join our team. But were we, as employers, able to be trusted by our people in times like this? Were we able to keep our part of our deal – that the team could trust us and that they would have jobs?

To be ready to pivot, we understood that we need to keep the team’s wellbeing a top priority. We did not want to compromise their physical health and placed needful and stringent SOPs from the start.

Next was mental and emotional wellbeing, the management decided to bite the bullet, take the impact and announce that every person’s job was safe. Fortunately, we had our business fundamentals in place and were able to forecast some sustainability during the MCO. No jobs were removed nor salaries affected.

That immediately set the tone and pace – for the rest of our journey. The employees’ commitment soared at this time and we were able to harness great results as we worked together as a tight team with trust at its core.

  1. Optimising Solar FInancing Solutions To Help Bottom Lines

Businesses were struggling with high repayment of loans, running operational costs and shrinking cash reserves.

We talked to our clients who endured pressing pain points,  in specific from the commercial and manufacturing sectors that risk massive overheads. With this segment, the main costs that burden them were raw material, human capital and electricity.

We began to focus on the Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) model which is a zero upfront financing solution, backed by investors who were attracted to this low risk scheme. This solution helped our keen clients to lower energy costs without incurring capital expenses.

Our end goal was to optimise energy spending, yet allow for flexibility in terms of financial commitments as we understood a lot of companies were not able to afford solar investments during this time yet wanted to enjoy lower overheads and increased bottom lines.

We thus focused on solving their high energy or electricity cost by allowing them to utilise solar solutions without hefty upfront payments. Instead they were able to pay back in attractive installments that were equivalent or less than what they would pay to TNB. This was a winning formula as many had little to lose when desiring such a solution.

  1. Fitbits for Buildings – A Truly Smart Energy Solution

The pandemic was a blessing in disguise as it accelerated our digital path. Essentially, akin to a fitbit which tracks vitals such as steps taken, heart rate and sleep patterns, Plus Solar’s digital solution is akin to a heart monitor for a building. It is essentially an Energy Performance Management System (EPMS) which leverages sensors, IoT and AI to track, monitor and analyse energy usage and consumption in a building.

Statistics show that heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) costs can take up to 40% of a building’s consumption – a very considerable pain point.

Using a shopping centre as an easy example, air-conditioning often is not well optimised to suit shifting crowds. Shoppers may feel too hot in one area when it is crowded or too cold when there’s lower human traffic. This means cool air is insufficient in one case, and a wastage in the other.

Through the use of sensors and software which supports machine learning, the EPMS studies patterns and adapts preemptively to channel cool air where most needed and reduce its flow where redundant.

This solution can be used across many industries in more sophisticated settings, and to date, our customers have experienced up to 25% of operational energy savings in their HVAC, which can then be channelled to better usage and add to profitability.

The Storm will Pass and The Sun Will Rise

An upbeat young colleague of ours said this “The storm will pass, and the sun will rise.” And literally so for us here! Harnessing the sun in more efficient ways that people could reap from is the pulse that pivoted our direction in this stormy season.

We are aware that there is much pent up demand for renewable energy – the world is changing and we too must change. Many will look forth towards a liberalised renewable energy market in a digital world filled with never ending possibilities. We must reshape, refine, adapt and most importantly have faith in the process.

I am often left in awe of the capability, creativity and perseverance of the people in our team. I am inspired and believe that there are better days ahead with trust, respect, teamwork and persistence. Swimming in uncharted waters becomes possible when people build a net of resilience and strive together!

Setel introduces Deliver2Me, nation’s first in-car shopping service

Setel, an e-payment solution that enables fuel purchases directly from mobile devices, is delivering on its promise to disrupt the retail-on-the-go scene in Malaysia through Deliver2Me and in-store cashless payment with the Setel Wallet. These new, innovative features offer greater convenience and maximise safety for Setel users at Petronas stations nationwide.

Deliver2Me allows Setel users to purchase selected items from participating Kedai Mesra outlets and have it promptly delivered directly to their vehicle while refuelling. Targeting those on-the-go, Deliver2Me offers a convenient way to shop without having to leave the comfort and safety of their vehicle.

For those that prefer the full shopping experience, Setel has introduced a cashlesssystem to easily pay for items at 800 participating Kedai Mesra outlets through the Setel Wallet. The highly requested feature provides the option to pay for items in Kedai Mesra with minimal physical contact as an added safety feature easily via Setel. Customers will not only be able to earn Mesra points, but also perform Mesra points redemption directly through the application.

“At Setel, we’re constantly pushing boundaries to deliver a seamless and frictionless experience to our customers beyond fuel. For instance, customers no longer need to wait in line after refuelling to grab a cup of coffee and nasi lemak through Deliver2Me. Today, we are pleased to offer greater convenience to over 1.5 million Setel users through our cashless payment system in Kedai Mesra. This is just a stepping stone in our journey of expansion as we add more intuitive features tailored to individual customers, in line with PETRONAS’ growing offerings,” said Iskandar Ezzahuddin, Chief Executive Officer of Setel.

Deliver2Me is now available at six participating PETRONAS stations in the Klang Valley and will progressively roll out to all Setel-enabled stations nationwide starting Q1 2021. Setel is available at over 900 PETRONAS stations nationwide and it is free on iOS and Android via the Apple Store, Google Play Store and Huawei AppGallery.

Ikano Centres to launch new drive-thru concept in Penang

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Building on the first phase opening in December last year, Ikano Centres, part of IKEA Southeast Asia, will launch a new drive-thru concept next to IKEA Batu Kawan in North Malaysia.

Focusing on food and beverage (F&B), the drive-thru will be the next phase in the development of its meeting place that embraces the convenience and grab-to-go concept.

Expected to be fully operational by mid-2021, the drive-thru component will complement the current dine-in IKEA restaurant and F&B tenants. The latest addition will see more great food options across the 200,744 square feet gross leasable area.

“Malaysians have a great love for food and appreciate convenience,” said Christian Roejkjaer, Managing Director of IKEA Southeast Asia & Mexico. “For many, drive-thrus have become a quintessential part of their lifestyle and may play a crucial role in our ‘new normal’. Building our first drive-thru concept in Batu Kawan is one way for us to create a safe and positive space for the community to come out and enjoy their favourite food.”

IKEA Southeast Asia’s Shopping Centre and Mixed-Use Director, Christian Olofsson added, “We look forward to welcoming more partners that share the same community-spirit, to further build a retail destination that Malaysians and tourists will want to visit.”

“About 97 percent of our retail space was leased out in the first phase and that has motivated us to continue developing and creating spaces for more global and local businesses to grow with us. Collectively, we will continue to serve and engage with the community,” Olofsson continued.

Ikano Centres has welcomed its first partner to complement the on-the-go concept – McDonald’s Malaysia. Taking up approximately 35,000 square feet space, the quick-service restaurant at Batu Kawan will be Penang’s 16th free-standing McDonald’s Malaysia outlet.

According to Azmir Jaafar, Managing Director and Local Operating Partner of McDonald’s Malaysia, this outlet will reflect the iconic fun, bright and comfortable atmosphere that most Malaysians have come to love.

“At McDonald’s Malaysia, we continue to cater to changing trends among customers who are increasingly seeking convenience, as well as fast and friendly service to complement their on-the-go lifestyles. We are excited to expand our drive-thru footprint to Batu Kawan, where customers can now enjoy ‘feel-good-moments’ just by conveniently driving by and ordering their favourite meals from a McDonald’s restaurant window,” said Azmir.

Also, Ikano Centres is in dialogue with petrol station operators to meet the high demand within the growing township of Aspen Vision City in Batu Kawan.

The latest anchored-by-IKEA commercial development is a joint-venture between IKEA Southeast Asia and Malaysia’s Aspen Group to develop Aspen Vision City, transforming Batu Kawan into an iconic hub in the Northern region of Malaysia.

“Batu Kawan’s development has been tremendously progressing towards becoming the third satellite city of Penang. We are elated to welcome another well-known international brand, McDonald’s to Aspen Vision City’s (AVC) neighbourhood. As a globally famous quick service restaurant chain, their presence in AVC will surely be a crowd-puller, which also caters to a workforce of approximately 16,000 at the Batu Kawan Industrial Park.

Earlier this year, we also saw students joining the newly launched The Ship Campus as well as the University of Wollongong KDU Batu Kawan Campus. Other projects to be completed are Vertu Resort, Vivo Executive Apartment and Viluxe with 3,132 units of residential units which will add traction to AVC,” said Dato’ Murly Manokharan, President & Group CEO of Aspen Group.

Within the region, IKEA Southeast Asia owns and operates five shopping centres anchored by IKEA. Both the blue-box home-furnishing stores and its meeting places are committed to serving the evolving needs of millions of visitors to create a better everyday life for the many people.  

Jeffrey Cheah Foundation to launch endowment fund

Malaysia’s largest education-focused social enterprise Jeffrey Cheah Foundation, has announced its plan to launch an endowment fund. The endowment fund targets to exceed RM1 billion within the next 10 years.

The commitment was announced in conjunction with Jeffrey Cheah Foundation’s 10th anniversary. The endowment will be managed by a committee including members of the Board of Trustees.

The announcement was made by Jeffrey Cheah Foundation founder and trustee Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah today at Sunway University, in the presence of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees including YAM Tunku Zain Abidin Ibni Tuanku Muhriz, Tan Sri Datuk Seri Razman Hashim, Tan Sri Zarinah Anwar, Dato’ Sri Idris Jala, Tan Sri Dato’ Professor Dr Lin See Yan, Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Dr Ranjit Ajit Singh and Toh Puan Dr Aishah Ong.

Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah also announced that Tan Sri Dr Jemilah Mahmood, who was present at the event, has accepted the invitation to join the board of trustees. Tan Sri Jemilah, the founder of MERCY Malaysia, currently serves as the special advisor on public health to the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

To date, Jeffrey Cheah Foundation is worth more than RM1.2 billion backed by RM800 million in net tangible assets.

Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah said that the establishment of the endowment fund would help ensure the sustainability of the foundation. “We are engaging with the Government on making the necessary amendments to the Malaysian law to enable us to launch this endowment fund.”

Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah pointed out that under current rules, the foundation is required to disburse at least 50% of its funds received in the following year.

“This is very different from the rules in many other countries such as the United States and even Singapore. In these countries, institutions that are allowed to receive donations can set them aside for investment or to be placed in fixed deposit accounts.

The institutions then use the investment yields or the interests from the banks to fund their activities, leaving the principal amount intact to ensure the institutions’ long-term viability.

It is very similar to an individual who places money in a bank account or invests it and lives off the returns while the principal remains untouched,” said Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah.

Once it is launched, the endowment fund will pioneer a new path for the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation to expand its contributions to nation-building, in perpetuity, through its initiatives in education, research and sustainable development.

The endowment fund will enable the foundation, among others, to establish professorial chairs at Sunway University, in perpetuity.

The foundation aims to position Malaysia as a regional hub of excellence in education and research as well as healthcare, while making quality education affordable and accessible to all qualified and deserving Malaysians.

Over the past 10 years, the foundation, which owns and governs all 16 institutions and entities of Sunway Education Group, will have disbursed almost RM540 million by the end of this year, in the form of scholarships and grants.

It has also established collaborative partnerships with some of the world’s highest-ranked universities with Sunway University. These include the University of Cambridge, Harvard University, University of Oxford as well as the University of California, Berkeley and MIT in Boston.

These initiatives also comprise the establishment of the University of Cambridge Clinical Research Centre, the Harvard Global Health Delivery Center and the Jeffrey Sachs Centre on Sustainable Development in Sunway City Kuala Lumpur. Also in the pipeline, the foundation plans to establish a medical school at Sunway University in collaboration with the University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine. 

“All these partnerships are aligned with our view that in order to become the best, we have to work with the best and learn from the best. They are also aimed at bringing world-class expertise to Malaysia and enhancing the nation’s knowledge base,” added Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah.

The Jeffrey Cheah Foundation was set up in 2010 to contribute towards nation building by focusing on quality education, research and sustainable development. The latter initiative received a boost when the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network selected Sunway University, located at Sunway City Kuala Lumpur, as one of its three centres globally to implement continent-wide sustainability agenda.

The centre at Sunway City will oversee Asia alongside New York City and Paris, which oversee the Americas; and Europe/Africa respectively.

Ferrari Malaysia introduces the SF90 Stradale

Naza Italia, official importer and distributor of the Ferrari brand in Malaysia, has launched the highly anticipated SF90 Stradale, in conjunction with the unveiling of the newly renovated Ferrari Petaling Jaya showroom. As the Prancing Horse’s first series production PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle), the SF90 Stradale turns the page to a whole new chapter in Ferrari’s history.

“The Ferrari SF90 Stradale is a symbol of innovation, growth and adaptation – a model that rises to meet the changing needs of the industry and Ferrari’s discerning clientele. Ferrari has successfully taken on the challenge of combining conventional and electrical power sources with its first ever plug-in hybrid vehicle, once again drawing upon its advanced technology from the track and making it applicable for the road. As the brand explores its potential in the hybrid era, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to bring models such as the SF90 Stradale to the Malaysian market,” said Dato’ Nik Hamdam Nik Hassan, Group CEO, Automotive Group, Naza Corporation Holdings Sdn Bhd.

The new model delivers unprecedented performance for a production car, with figures such as 1,000 cv, and a weight-to-power ratio of 1.57 kg/cv, and 390 kg of downforce at 250 km/h elevating the SF90 Stradale to the top of its segment. It also means a V8 is the top-of-the-range model for the first time in the marque’s history. Ferrari’s first hybrid production series model received the 2020 Red Dot: Best of the Best Award and was also the only car to have been bestowed one of 75 Gold Awards at the prestigious iF Design Awards 2020.

Its name, “SF90” – a reference to the 90th anniversary of the foundation of Scuderia Ferrari and “Stradale” – which translates to “road”, underscores the distinct link that has always existed between Ferrari’s track and road cars. A brilliant encapsulation of the most advanced technologies developed in Maranello, the SF90 Stradale is also the perfect demonstration of how Ferrari immediately transitions the knowledge and skills it acquires in competition to its production cars. 

The SF90 Stradale has a 90° V8 turbo engine capable of delivering 780 cv, the highest power output of any 8-cylinder in Ferrari history. The remaining 220 cv is delivered by three electric motors, one at the rear, known as the MGUK (Motor Generator Unit, Kinetic) due to its derivation from the Formula 1 application, located between the engine and the new 8-speed dual-clutch transmission on the rear axle, and two on the front axle.

This sophisticated system does not, however, make for a more complicated driving experience. Quite the opposite, in fact: the driver simply has to select one of the four power unit modes, and then just concentrate on driving. The sophisticated control logic takes care of the rest, managing the flow of power between the V8, the electric motors and the batteries. 

The SF90 Stradale is also the first Ferrari sports car to be equipped with 4WD, a step necessary to allow the incredible power unleashed by the hybrid powertrain to be fully exploited, ensuring the car has become the new benchmark for standing starts: 0-100km/h in 2.5 sec and 0-200km/h in just 6.7 seconds.

Ferrari’s engineers were able to further broaden the spectrum of dynamic controls by introducing the full-electric front axle, known as the RAC-e (electronic cornering set-up regulator). As well as exclusively providing propulsion in electric drive, the two front motors independently control the torque delivered to the two wheels, extending the concept of Torque Vectoring. Fully integrated into the car’s vehicle dynamics controls, the RAC-e governs the distribution of torque, making driving on the limit much simpler and easier.

The introduction of this hybrid architecture was a challenge with regard to managing the additional weight which was resolved by an obsessive attention to detail and the overall optimisation of the whole of the car. For maximum performance in terms of overall weight, rigidity and centre of gravity, the chassis and bodyshell of the SF90 Stradale is all new, built using multi-material technology, including, for example, carbon fibre.

The development of a hybrid car of this kind demanded the development of a series of innovative aerodynamic solutions. The significant boost in the power unit’s performance brought with it an increase in the amount of heat energy to be dissipated and required the development team to carry out an in-depth review of the aerodynamic flows on the radiating masses. It also demanded new solutions to increase downforce efficiently and guarantee maximum stability at all speeds and in all driving conditions.

Particularly noteworthy is the innovative shut-off Gurney, a patented active system located at the rear of the car which regulates the air flow over the upper body, reducing drag at high speeds with low lateral dynamics loads and increasing downforce in corners, under braking and during changes of direction. 

The new car is epoch-changing from a stylistic perspective as it completely rewrites the mid-rear-engined sports berlinetta proportions introduced on the 360 Modena twenty years ago, instead taking its inspiration from Ferrari’s recent supercars. A good example is the cockpit, which has a smaller frontal section and is placed closer to the front of the car to reduce drag. This was also achieved without impacting on-board comfort.

The track-derived “eyes on the road, hands on the wheel” philosophy takes on a truly central role for the first time too, significantly influencing the ergonomics and styling of the interior. The result is an HMI (Human-Machine Interface) and interior layout concept that are a complete departure from previous models.

Another major innovation is the steering wheel which now has a touchpad and a series of haptic buttons that allow the driver to control virtually every aspect of the car using just their thumbs. The central instrument cluster is now entirely digital with the first automotive application of a 16” curved HD screen which can be fully configured and controlled using the controls on the steering wheel.  

On the central tunnel, improved ergonomics have been combined with an element from the past: the automatic gearbox controls are now selected by a grille-style feature that references Ferrari’s legendary manual gear-shift gate. Thus past and present skilfully merge to point the new Ferrari towards the future. 

The SF90 Stradale also sees the debut of the new ignition key with full keyless technology which will gradually be introduced across the rest of the range, personalised with the model’s name. Thanks to a special compartment in the central tunnel, it becomes an integral part of the car’s styling.

In addition to the sporty version, which references the shape and colour of the signature rectangular Prancing badge sported by Ferrari’s road cars, there will also be a more elegant metal-coloured version.

For the first time on a Ferrari, clients can choose between the standard car and a version with a more sports-oriented specification. The Assetto Fiorano specification includes significant upgrades, including special GT racing-derived Multimatic shock absorbers,   extra lightweight features made from high-performance materials such as carbon-fibre (door panels, underbody) and titanium (springs, entire exhaust line), resulting in a weight-saving of 30 kg. Another difference is the high downforce carbon-fibre rear spoiler which generates 390 kg of downforce at 250 km/h.

The Assetto Fiorano includes Michelin Pilot Sport Cup2 tyres designed specifically to improve performance on the track in the dry. They feature a softer compound and fewer grooves than the tyres provided as standard.