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Bringing innovation and sustainability to the startup ecosystem

According to the Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2020, Malaysia ranked 11th as the Top 100 Emerging Ecosystem, with an ecosystem valuation of RM 63.5 billion. The study further rated Malaysia as an ideal startup location, citing low prices, high quality of life and expertise, coupled with strong government support as primary reasons for entrepreneurs to either start or move their companies to Malaysia.

Playing an equally important role in building the ecosystem, the Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC), an agency under the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation malaysia ( MOSTI ) is tasked to empower technology startups and social innovators while developing a vibrant and sustainable entrepreneurship ecosystem.

“MaGIC’s DNA is in creativity and innovation. With a proven track record in the tech startup ecosystem to accelerate the realisation of the country’s innovation policy agency, our mandate also extends to social innovations in line with MOSTI’s agenda to spur wealth creation through innovation,” says Dzuleira Abu Bakar, Chief Executive Officer of MaGIC. Since its inception in 2014, MaGIC has achieved a value creation RM409 million, has organised 294 programmes, accelerated 189 startups and created 690 jobs.

National Technology And Innovation Sandbox

The National Technology & Innovation Sandbox (NTIS) is an initiative mooted to cater for the needs of technology startups in Malaysia. NTIS is also known as the the national solution co-ordination centre that allows innovators and startups to stress-test their products, services, business models and delivery mechanisms in a secure and live environment, with some relaxations from all or selected regulatory requirements.

“NTIS also aims to provide a structured framework for the latest innovations to be tested in a controlled environment for innovators, researchers and product developers. The test will run at a suitable facilitation provided by NTIS partners both from the government and private sectors,” says Dzuleira.

NTIS will facilitate startups operating in heavily regulated industries and technology verticals such as healthcare, drone operations, agriculture, communication, mobility and so on. We have to recognise that technology and innovation, in which case tech startups are usually ahead of their time and operate in grey areas. Regulations and laws unfortunately do not move at the same speed. Hence the conundrum we are in as far as regulating tech & innovation is concerned.

NTIS Funding Schemes

“Through NTIS, we will assist drone powered solution companies by working with regulators such as the Civil Aviation Authority Malaysia (CAAM) to ease and streamline permit applications especially in situations where drone operations pose lower risk,” she adds on.

The CEO further highlights the positive impact that has come from drones in the logistics and healthcare segment. With better case studies and adaptive regulations that promote innovation, she says MaGIC is confident that NTIS will help Malaysia achieve its goal to become a frontrunner in DroneTech.

However, Dzuleira has also highlighted some of the challenges the agency faces in delivering these initiatives. Along with regulatory red tape, the lack of participation from private sectors, high dependency on foreign talent for high-tech solutions and low commercialisation rate after R&D stage has prevented the initiatives from achieving their most.

“The Covid-19 pandemic and the Movement Control Order has also made these challenges more pronounced,” says Dzuleira.

Public-Private Partnerships

As part of their efforts in enhancing social innovation, MaGIC seeks to increase partnerships across the ecosystem value chain. “We look at agencies under MOSTI and across ministries and find many ecosystem players who are ideal partners such as Agensi Inovasi Malaysia, Cradle Fund, MDV and MAVCAP to help achieve inclusive and sustainable growth in SPV 2030 and SDG 2030,” Dzuleira tells BusinessToday.

“In NTIS, we have the Innovation Acceleration Network partners which consists mainly of investors and corporates from the private sector. Their involvement and participation within NTIS are essential and important to bridge the gap between government and private sector and to increase private investments,” she adds on.

 MaGIC has reached out to approximately 31 corporate partners who are acting as supporters and enablers by giving industry inputs. These partners further assist in product and solution commercial viability.

Keeping Malaysians Connected and At Heart

BusinessToday speaks to Idham Nawawi, Celcom’s Chief Executive Officer on his journey with the company, the changes the telco player has undergone and what is in store for the company

One of the oldest and most recognised mobile telecommunications provider in the country, Celcom, is a brand that has been bridging communications and advancing multimedia services for Malaysians for decades. Known for its wide coverage nationwide, the telco has almost 13 million users and owns over 11,000 network sites covering 2G, 3G, 4G, making Celcom one of the leading broadband network providers in the country. Leading the company in the past two years is Idham Nawawi, who very much like the brand itself is no stranger in the industry. With experiences spanning over two decades in both Malaysia and Indonesia, the former Axiata Group Chief Corporate Officer is currently the engineer behind the telco’s revamp efforts and its future direction.


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“We do things beyond short term prospects, and sometimes we take the longer-term view route,”

“Time just flies, it just shows how fast paced the industry is. The journey has definitely been both challenging and exciting,” Idham recalls as September marks the completion of two years since he took the wheels. “Celcom as a 32-year-old company has its own culture and my responsibility is to turn into a more sustainable company for the next 3 decades,” he says. As part of his efforts to revamp the company, Idham introduced the Celcom Compass. “What it does is it helps to build an institution with a soul. Companies can get very technical and very mechanical but with the Celcom Compass, we can introduce a new set of values.

“I wanted to achieve a balance in what Celcom is all about,” he says. Celcom’s aim is all about advancing societies, Idham says, who also comments that while the company hopes to continue impacting the lives of its customers positively, it also keeps in the mind the need to become a high performance company.

“We have got shareholders and strategic partners who expect to prosper by working with us.” While the company has had a streak of being a high-performance player in the past, Idham says the company has also hit a couple of roadblocks recently. Despite that, the CEO says it is the long-term view that matters to him. “We do things beyond short term prospects, and sometimes we take the longer-term view route,” he says. Operating in a highly competitive field and with consumer behaviour changing every day, Idham tells BusinessToday, that the challenges he faces daily comes not just locally but also internationally.

“Malaysia can be described as a hyper-competitive field. There are so many more players today, its more than what the 32 million population market can sustain,” Idham says. Competition is not the only challenge Idham faces, regulatory changes are also impacting some of the decisions he make. Celcom is among the country’s three biggest cellular service providers, joined by Maxis Bhd and DiGi.Com Bhd. According to a report by The Edge Financial Daily, TA Securitis analyst Wilson Loo stated that the telco giants have continued to cede market share to small players in the last year.

“This is not a short journey to shape this 32-year-old company, we have had our challenges but we want to get established as fast as we could,” Idham tells BusinessToday, further highlighting that introducing agility in the company has been one of the more important aspects of his journey when he first started in Celcom. “We have to keep in mind that the market doesn’t remain constant,” he says.


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“Celcom will leave no one behind and is committed to stand together with Malaysians.”

“When the MCO was implemented, it was a test to see how ready we were as an organisation. I was proud with the way we adapted and moved,” Idham shares. The Movement Control Order (MCO) implemented on March 18 had impacted businesses nationwide, resulting in a temporary three months slowdown but with Celcom being one of the country’s largest mobile communication provider, the show had to go on.

“At the time, I had three priorities. The safety of our people, how do we make sure the network is not disrupted and as a responsible organisation, how do we keep providing service to Malaysians nationwide,” the chief executive officer tells BusinessToday. “We changed the way we work, monitor and manage the demand geographically in order to make the network continued uninterrupted.”

The telco remained committed in supporting Malaysians throughout the pandemic. For a start, it ensured everyone remained connected by providing free SIM cards to returning Malaysians who are required to undergo the 14-day mandatory quarantine. The prepaid packs were pre-loaded with 1GB data and 10GB access to Facebook, Instagram, and Games Walla.

“Celcom will leave no one behind and is committed to stand together with Malaysians,” Idham assured during the period. “I am also quite pleased by how we took care of our employees. The network engineering team and customer service team braced through those difficult periods to continue ensuring Malaysians stayed connected,” Idham further highlights.

The telco had also helped hospitals when the healthcare industry needed communication services. Frontliners were also awarded free data and free calls as part of the telco’s recognition of their sacrifice. The telco also extended the much-needed aid to students and the B40 group nationwide, staying through to its motto of prioritising people.


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The Jalinan Digital Negara (JENDELA) or also known as the National Digital Network is a collective effort by industry players and Putrajaya to set ambitious aspirations for Malaysians to have quality access to digital connectivity. The national aspirations it hoped to achieve includes 100 percent 4G coverage, Gigabit access fixed broadband and more than 100 Mbps mobile broadband. It also aims to set the foundation for 5G.

Supporting the launch of JENDELA, the National Digital Infrastructure Lab Report (NDIL) highlighted that the national aspirations will be achieved via a phased approach and the priority is to maximise the existing resources and infrastructure. As of 2020, the plan has achieved 91.8 percent of 4G coverage with 25Mbps mobile speed and more than 4 million premises have passed. Phase of the plan which is currently taking place from 2020 till 2022 hopes to achieve 96.9 percent 4G coverage.

“JENDELA came out of the lab that Celcom was part of. There were a lot of debates and we identified the gaps in certain areas. The challenge here now is achieving the last 10% coverage,” Idham says. The telco veteran goes on to share that achieving that target might be a lot harder than it seems.

“We need to set the right expectation because shutting down 3G completely has to be done carefully to minimise impact to users. There are still customers using 3G as the network is widely used for voice messages as well as machine-to-machine application which mostly involves household meter reading,” Idham stressed, further staying on that these part of the process that needs to be thought through. “While it is costly to ensure complete wireless coverage for the last 2 percent, Idham says there are other technologies that telcos can bring over to ensure connectivity.

“We also have to ensure that when the 4G coverage is completed nationwide, consumers have to have the right device to keep up with the changes made,” Idham urged. Speaking further on the telco’s preparation for 5G, Idham tells BusinessToday while JENDELA’s plan is to ensure a 100% 4G coverage, 5G has not been abandoned.

“It will be a very important of our future moving forward. Covid-19 has showed us that. Now, with the rise of hybrid classrooms and SMEs adopting digitalisation, 5G is more important than ever,” he says.

“The way we consume network is going to be very different when 5G gets rolled out. While many assume 5G will fuel innovations to do with AR/VR, automation, and robotics, it may also give birth to different ideas which I’m not sure what it might turn out to be,” Idham says. However, the telco veteran also opines that given the limited availability of devices and applications, it is yet the right time to commercialise 5G and it could be costly for network infrastructure service providers to do so at an earlier stage. “There is currently no mass production of 5G equipment and limited content suitable for 5G usage that is being released to boost demand for the technology,” he was quoted by The Edge Markets.


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While the pandemic may seem as a catalyst for Celcom to come with innovative ways to help SMEs, the telco has previously showcased its commitment towards SME owners.

One of the more common observations during the pandemic and MCO were the rise in digital adoptions among SMEs. Business owners nationwide saw the need to digitalise to be more sustainable in the future. And playing an important role in helping them, Celcom offered SMEs nationwide its, Celcom Business Suite. As MDEC’s technology solutions partner, Celcom obtained a business digitalisation grant to finance 50 percent of the digital kit’s subscription fee, amounting to RM 5,000. “We introduced it a couple weeks back and the interest has been overwhelming. We are also reaching out to business association to expand our reach and I want this to be a success,” Idham aspires.

Additionally, the telco’s campaign, “Celcom Business: Reimagine SME for Tomorrow”, is part of its efforts to accelerate digital adoption among local SMEs. The campaign will run until year-end and will see Celcom partner with 13 partners, which will include MDEC, SME Corp, and Bank Simpanan Nasional. While the pandemic may seem as a catalyst for Celcom to come with innovative ways to help SMEs, the telco has previously showcased its commitment towards SME owners.

In January this year, the telco partnered with Alliance Bank Malaysia Bhd with the objective of helping SME owners grow and manage their businesses better with a combination of connectivity and banking solutions. The Celcom Business Suite for Retail which was launched at the time was adapted to the needs of retailers.


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“Celcom is everywhere. It’s part of Malaysians’ lives and it touches them from the moment they are awake and even as they travel overseas, we are there to keep them connected,”

“Celcom is everywhere. It’s part of Malaysians’ lives and it touches them from the moment they are awake and even as they travel overseas, we are there to keep them connected,” Idham proudly claims. Establishing that Malaysians will always be at Celcom’s core, Idham says he is looking forward to seeing what is in store with for the telco in the next three decades as it continues to move forward. “We are constantly finding a way to impact the lives of Malaysians in the long term and as homegrown Malaysian company run by innovative Malaysians, it’s our responsibility in ensuring that happens,” Idham concludes.

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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.”


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.


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.”


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.


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.


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

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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.


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.


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.”


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?

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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.


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


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.





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.


Building a vibrant ecosystem through passion

Through passion, Hisham Talib found the solutions to an array of challenges. Now through Ra’e Ventures, he seeks to help other business founders to do the same. He shares his tips and quips to BusinessToday.

“I come from a family of entrepreneurs. Each one of my siblings have their own business and this was a trait passed onto us by our parents, who were business owners themselves. I eventually got myself into several jobs early on and it was during one particular job with a German MNC that I managed to see markets outside Malaysia,” Talib tells BusinessToday.

The entrepreneur who has ventured into starting several startups shares his experience with the publication on what it takes to get into different fields and how challenges have evolved over the years.

It was through his travels in between Cambodia, Indonesia, Singapore and eventually a business venture in Myanmar that gave him the ability to see the Malaysian market from the outside looking in. “The network that I had built during my earlier engagements gave me the opportunity to really look for any gaps in the markets especially in Malaysia,” he says.

This foresight led to his first tech-based company, Pasar Tap and being one of the early adopters, Talib had the opportunity to talk to different people from inside and outside the ecosystem.

And because he had built his credentials in building a digital business, it was only natural for interested parties with ideas to sought him out for advice and support. With sufficient knowledge in dealing with investors to market and tech requirements, Talib also saw the opportunities to start businesses with others.

Currently the Founder of Ra’e Ventures, Talib says the challenges in his early days differed to what it looks like today. “Back then, an idea was enough for you to get investments. And there were little to benchmark your business idea with. So, you can get away with having a half-baked business model and yet get people to invest in the business. In a way this is good for entrepreneurs,” he tells BusinessToday.

He goes on to say that if projections were too conservative, it only meant founders were not considered hungry enough and investors shied away.

“In today’s day and age, for young founders, things are different. Investors might not need you to emphasise on your growth projections as much. And they are more interested to look at your ‘path to profitability’,” he says, implying that with ready and available data, benchmarking business ideas is easier.

“So, find the right data sets and match it to your business plans and hopefully they can come up with a more realistic growth projection.”

When it came to founding startups and business through identifying solutions to issues, Talib says businesses must scale to sprout solutions from the problem. And by scale, he means that it affects people or parties in different markets and that it is scalable.

“In my opinion, some entrepreneurs get too close to the problem that they are trying to solve. When you invest a lot of effort in building the business, but you find that the business is not scalable, then it gets harder to grow. And it will be even harder to attract investments,” he tells BusinessToday.

He further highlights that the issues he chooses to find a solution to are those he is passionate about. Coming from an architecture, F&B, supply chain background, Talib’s business ideas resonate with the said themes that usually get his attention more than others.

What is next?

“The differentiator for Ra’e is that our focus is for businesses that gives impact to the Muslim market globally. The Muslim market has been forecasted to be at US$3.2 trillion (by 2024) in Halal economy. We have built a strong network of Muslim businesses and faith leaders globally,” says Talib.

Ra’e is currently working with different companies at different stages of their operations. The latest addition to its roster is Alunan Wellness which requires a complete overhaul of their branding and marketing.

Talib and his team is also working with Qalby App ensuring content from the relevant partners will be conveyed on the mobile app and social media platform seamlessly. Another project Ra’e is involved in is with the Sentuh App, a booking platform for the beauty and wellness industry. Talib’s team was involved in developing the mobile booking platform from the website they were operating from previously.

The Sentuh team will soon be launching their new and improved mobile app by February this year.

 Support from all corners

We need to build a solid ecosystem that covers all phases of running a business, Talib says. This ranges from the awareness stage, ideation stage to the market and growth stage as well. He urges for both government agencies and the private sector to take an active involvement in building the ecosystem.

“Personally, I feel that we are great at coming up with programmes and structures. But we do not follow through enough. It would take extraordinary political will from all parties to make sure that we stay the course and execute.

For private entities such as ourselves, with limited reach and resources, we do what we can. But it is our hope that this sort of ‘pay-it-forward’ model will gather momentum and create this giant movement of successful entrepreneurs churning out more and younger entrepreneurs almost in auto mode. This creates a more vibrant ecosystem,” he concludes.

Liberty Insurance Uses Technology To Settle Policy Claims Faster For Flood Victims

Liberty Insurance Malaysia has disbursed RM270,887 in settlement claims to policyholders in flood affected areas thanks to its proprietary state-of-the-art Video Appraisal technology. This timely development comes as part of the company’s digital adoption initiatives, and as a result, home and car policyholders who have protection plans with a flood cover will now be able to have their claims processed within just two to three working days, from up to seven days previously.

According to Mr Puneet Pasricha, Liberty Insurance Chief Executive Officer, the company is cognizant of the dire situations facing the Rakyat, particularly in flood-ridden states such as Johor, Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Selangor, Perak and Sarawak.

“Recognising the added pressure and stress on claimants in these trying times, we are committed to ease their load where possible. While the technology and digital adoption paved the way to make this possible, our real drive to pioneer this effort is because we want to put people first.”

Mr Puneet Pasricha explained that the Video Appraisal technology allows Liberty Insurance’s examiners to virtually conduct surveys from their homes or office. Upon notification by the claimants, the claim will be registered within Liberty Insurance’s digital platform, using the claimant’s mobile number. Then, examiners will contact the given numbers to provide a linkage video with the claimants.  Examiners can then take photographs of the damages with guidance of the claimants using his or her phone at site. Once completed, the examiners will assess the damages from the photos taken and evaluate the claim amount and subsequently proceed with the offer to the claimant.

The company has activated its Claim Flood protocols involving branch personnel and external adjusters to provide claims services and surveys at affected areas including Pahang, Johor, Terengganu and Sarawak. 

For larger losses, Liberty Insurance is prepared to assist by compensating interim payments to alleviate the unfortunate situation and help our policyholders to recoup their losses faster.

To further simplify the process, the affected policyholders are not required to submit any documentation. Upon notification, Liberty Insurance personnel will assess the damages and present a settlement offer. If the amount is acceptable, a discharge voucher will be signed and the Company will proceed with payment processing.

The company has also established a dedicated toll-free customer care line for reporting of flood claims as well as any enquiries relating to submission, processing and status of their claim.

The Emergency – questioning its legitimacy


By Jason Loh, is Head of Social, Law & Human Rights at EMIR Research.

The imposition of a state of emergency on Jan 12, does not in any way alter one of the fundamental and indispensable structures in our constitutional and political system, namely the separation of powers (SOP).

SOP is necessary to ensure a) prevention of concentration of powers in the Executive; and b) check-and-balance between the institutions or branches of government, particularly by Parliament and judiciary, again, in reference to the Executive. The first limb has been taken away by the Emergency as embodying the exigencies of time. The second limb remains intact.

Nonetheless, by its very nature and definition, SOP is meant to also enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of governance so that each of the institution or branch of government can run accordingly.

This means, therefore, that limits and boundaries to the powers of each institution or branch of government cannot be symmetrical, practically speaking, or applied according to the abstract and philosophical principle of equal ultimacy more so when Malaysia isn’t and has never been a constitutional republic but a parliamentary democracy ala Westminster-style with roots in parliamentary sovereignty which in reality means sovereignty of the House of Commons that in turn means, ultimately, sovereignty of the Executive-sitting-in-Parliament.

But notwithstanding, we first stress the role and function of judicial review.

It may seem paradoxical that the latter (i.e., second limb) remains substantially and formally preserved despite the former (i.e., first limb) now being suspended albeit not indefinitely – since both are indeed inextricably linked, mutually dependent and correlated.

However, it is noteworthy that we are dealing with real-world matters where existential tension exists as a matter of nature, and not mathematics or Aristotelian abstract logic of the rule of excluded middle where e.g., either proposition A is true or not, i.e., either/or.

Judicial review, i.e., the inherent power of the superior courts to examine, evaluate and supervise the legal propriety in the exercise of administrative powers by the Executive whether under statute law or, less so, common law (“prerogative”), therefore, remains a constitutional and legal remedy and avenue available to check-and-balance the Executive notwithstanding the Proclamation of Emergency. This is because as noted by Federal court judge, Justice Zainun Ali, in her landmark decision re the case of Indira Gandhi v Pengarah Jabatan Agama Islam Perak & Ors [2018]: “[T]he power of judicial review was essential to the constitutional role of the courts and inherent in the basic structure of the constitution. It cannot be abrogated or altered by Parliament by way of a constitutional amendment” (p. 26). She also cited from the case of Lim Kit Siang v Mahathir Mohamad [1987] whereby it is enunciated that “[t]he courts have a constitutional function to perform and they are the guardians of the constitution within the terms and structure of the Constitution itself”.

Furthermore, in her special address on the occasion of the Lawasia Constitutional & Rule of Law Conference 2019: Constitutional Government, the Importance of Constitutional Structure & Institutions, Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat staed that “[a] corollary to the [SOP] principle is the power of the Courts in judicial review. No Act of Parliament may deprive the Courts of that inherent power. This was what the Federal Court expressly pronounced first in Semenyih Jaya Sdn Bhd v Pentadbir Tanah Daerah Hulu Langat …”.

Secondly, we now come to the limits of judicial review – without in anyway seeking to pre-empt any application for judicial review or influence the outcome there, whether at the initial/preliminary or the substantive stage.

As judicial review concerns itself with exercise of administrative powers by the Executive, there are limits as to its supervisory role and function. In the concrete context of Malaysia, Article 150(8) of the Federal Constitution has already pre-empted any legal challenge to the Proclamation of Emergency, thus representing a “constitutional ouster clause” of sorts. Now, whether this will be considered justiciable (i.e., an issue or matter that can be decided) by the courts remains to be seen – and it must be said that this is not the fundamental legal issue here.

What is under consideration is whether the nature of the application of judicial review will be politicised – leading to the “politicisation of the judiciary” – something that by way of analogy the judges of the High Court and of the Supreme Court of the UK in hearing the case involving Gina Miller v the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union were most careful to avoid. Both courts were at pains to emphasise that what’s at stake isn’t the validity of the In/Out (i.e., Brexit) Referendum that took on June 23, 2016 since that would be political in nature.

Likewise, it’s hereby submitted, as a matter of legal discourse, that any application for judicial review requesting the court to determine the question of whether it’s legitimate for Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as the sitting Prime Minister who has lost parliamentary majority to advise His Majesty to declare a state of emergency would or could be inherently political in nature and goes beyond the capacity of judicial review – which to reiterate limits itself to the question of administrative exercise of power principally in the form of procedural impropriety and irrationality (i.e. substance of the logic behind the decision-making process, again with emphasis on the processes and therefore also the procedures which paves the way as a matter of natural development to the situation where only in very exceptional cases would the decision itself be open to legal challenge) as per e.g., the case of Rama Chandran v Industrial Court [1997].

In short, it is submitted the court will inevitably be “dragged” into determining the question of whether Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has lost parliamentary majority – which is purely an issue of political reconfigurations, manoeuvrings, and arrangements. This is significantly to be distinguished from the role of the Election Court in determining electoral offences and irregularities and improprieties under the Election Offenses Act 1954.

Following on from this, judicial review, therefore, has traditionally and conventionally shied away from pronouncing on matters relating to “high policy”. High policy refers to the decision by the Executive, both at the foreign and domestic levels, based on the Constitution, statute law and common law. In the case of the UK, due to parliamentary sovereignty, it refers to Executive decisions falling into the ambit of the Crown prerogative as per the R v Secretary of State for the Environment ex parte Nottinghamshire Council [1985] where Lord Scarman made the following astute observation that it isn’t “constitutionally-appropriate, save in very exceptional circumstances to intervene on the ground of ‘unreasonableness’ [or any other grounds]” just because it’s not politically palatable to certain parties. 

Any application for judicial review questioning the legitimacy of the Emergency on the grounds that the grounds for such Proclamation does not actually exists, therefore, is surely a purely political and policy question which the courts are not in a position to intervene for that would ironically violate of the principles and rationale for the SOP in the first place. More to the point, it would also be tantamount to questioning the competency and wisdom of His Majesty as a bulwark of the Constitution and fourth branch of the government.

In the final analysis, perhaps the only ground which an Emergency could be challenged, rightly so, would be the timeframe. This Emergency has one – which is limited to Aug 1, 2021 or until the Covid-19 outbreak can be brought under control or has subsided. And a special bi-partisan and inclusive committee is being set up to determine on the question of the latter.

As to the requirement that the Emergency Proclamation be tabled before both Houses of Parliament, it is undoubtedly true that the Constitution assumes the situation and provides for it. But the provision of Article 150(2B) & (3) presuppose Parliament as currently sitting or in session which is clearly not the case when the Proclamation of Emergency was promulgated.

It would be interesting and exciting to observe the applications for judicial review in the coming days and weeks. But this should be appropriately “compensated” and “counter-balanced” with a political sabbatical.

Maxis to continue supporting Malaysian businesses with award-winning eCommerce & Retail solutions

Maxis eCommerce & Retail – a one-stop solution for omni-channel commerce – has been empowering Malaysian businesses over the years, particularly during these difficult times, by acquiring new customers online and continuing to drive revenue with award-winning solutions.

Recently the company was recognized as “Specialist Agency of the Year” and “Local Hero” at the A+M Agency of the Year and MARKies Awards 2020. The pandemic has spotlighted the importance of businesses having a strong online presence to reach customers where they are.

In response to the pandemic, Maxis eCommerce & Retail were agile and quick to offer new services and solutions that would support local brands, particularly SME businesses. The Digital Marketing Starter Kit is an all-in-one digital marketing platform that helps businesses who are new to eCommerce reach more customers and increase sales through launching effective ads on Facebook, Instagram and Google in four simple steps.

The Cloud POS Lite is an affordable solution that empowers F&B businesses to go online swiftly, reach more customers and effectively manage orders with integrated payment and delivery partners on a single platform. Both products are part of the SME Digitalisation Grant offerings by the Government which enables businesses to claim a 50% subsidy of up to RM5,000.

“As a leading converged solutions provider, we strive to be trusted partners of businesses to Always Be Ahead in an ever-changing world. We understand the challenges they face and have the solutions and expertise to help elevate their businesses no matter what industry they are in. Our aim is to enable businesses of all sizes to acquire new customers and drive more revenue through tailored packages utilizing strategic digital marketing and deep analytics,” said Paul McManus, Chief Enterprise Business Officer, Maxis.

Maxis customers, XIXILI Intima (XIXILI), MR.DIY and Kuvings Malaysia recently achieved regional recognition at the Asia eCommerce Awards 2020, showcasing the best players from brands, eRetailers, and marketplaces, agencies and enablers in the South Asia, Southeast Asia and ANZ region.


Maxis worked with XIXILI, an innerwear retailer to integrate webstore innovations across their ecommerce channel. With a mission to educate and engage customers to find their “Perfect Fit” lingerie online, a “3D Avatar Virtual Fitting Room” and “Try in Store” feature were integrated. Maxis also implemented a strategic digital marketing strategy to drive more traffic to the webstore and significantly boost webstore performance. Customers were engaged at every stage of the purchase journey and concerns about purchasing innerwear online were addressed through online educational video advertisements and influencer collaborations.


Webstore enhancements such as Click and Collect features, E-Wallet and QR Pay enablement, optimised website loading speed and enhanced delivery modules were quickly implemented during the pandemic to help drive revenue. Maxis adopted a digital marketing strategy focused on essential products, such as face masks and hand sanitizers, to address customer needs. Collectively, these efforts boosted traffic among the right audiences, and resulted in an exponential increase in online transactions by 350 percent for MR.DIY.

Kuvings Malaysia

Maxis developed a personalised customer journey unique to each user. They also implemented a Buy Now, Pay Later option in partnership with Hoolah, to incentivise more purchases by allowing customers to split their bill into monthly payments.  With an evergreeen digital marketing strategy including personalized content marketing, Maxis successfully drove traffic among the right target audience to the Kuvings webstore, ultimately driving more sales.

Timely assistance but enhancements are welcomed

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 Sofea Azahar

In the midst of still trying to fight the unprecedented pandemic, many things need to be and have been done to save lives and livelihoods via stimulus packages and vaccine procurement. Given another phase of blanket Movement Control Order (MCO 2.0), many are suffering financially and mentally, and also affected by flash floods. The latest stimulus package is rather timely to support rakyat and businesses but monitoring is important to see if any enhancements can be made from time to time.

Economists had estimated that MCO 2.0 will slash Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth this year by 0.7 to 0.9 percentage points, reported by The Edge Markets.

However, this projection was based on the several states being under MCO, initially announced last week. Now, the MCO has been imposed on whole of Malaysia with addition of five more states – Kedah, Perak, Negri Sembilan, Terengganu and Pahang except for Sarawak. So, this could paint another picture for the economy although it is said that the impact will not be as bad as in MCO 1.0.

Prior to this announcement, Permai stimulus package worth RM15 billion is welcomed as it tackles segments of the society which have been severely affected by Covid-19 and the heavy flood. It is driven by three main objectives namely to combat Covid-19 outbreak, to safeguard welfare of the people and to support business continuity.

In safeguarding welfare of the people, some immediate assistances were announced to address the urgent need of emergency funds during this uncertain period.

These include faster disbursement for the last phase of Bantuan Prihatin Nasional (BPN 2.0) and Bantuan Prihatin Rakyat Phase 1 (BPR), increased monthly aid from Department of Social Welfare (JKM), extension of bank loan moratorium and restructuring of loan repayments, one-off financial assistance for tourist guides, taxi, school bus, tour bus, rental car and e-hailing drivers, and advance payments up to RM1,000 from the total amount applied through i-Sinar for EPF members who fall under Category 2.The crisis has also shaped how people spend on necessities such as food and due to income losses, some have had to cut their spending significantly even for essential expenses.

Taking one example from a survey conducted by Unicef-UNFPA on the urban poor (Families on the Edge Part 2) last year, 70 per cent of households said that Covid-19 has affected their ability to meet essential needs with high share on food expenses given that food costs are also rising (37 per cent), and bills and utilities (35 per cent).

Therefore, the Food Basket programme under JKM consisting essential food items valued at RM100 per basket for eligible households should come in helpful for the vulnerable groups.

Since the pandemic, technology has also emerged as a necessity because people have been asked to work from home and students have to adjust themselves to online learning. But not everyone is privileged to adapt to such circumstances like those in the vulnerable and lower-income groups.

Thus, it is a positive move that the government decided to extend the special tax relief of up to RM2,500 on the purchase of digital devices such as mobile phones, computers and tablets until end of this year.

Same for Internet access, not everyone can afford it so the extension of free monthly 1GB Internet data to the public and special subscription package for students sitting for SPM and STPM examinations, as well as those in higher learning institutions are considered as another positive move.

Some initiatives to support the survival of businesses were also included in the Permai package.

One of them is the Wage Subsidy Program (WSP) which has helped businesses since the economic crisis happened – to help retain employees. Under Budget 2021, the government decided to extend it for another three months with targeted coverage for certain sectors but the limit of employees was raised from 200 to 500.

Given MCO 2.0, government did the right thing by tweaking the WSP by allowing employers in all sectors under blanket MCO to apply (WSP 3.0) and this initiative is set to go on for a month. Wage subsidy of RM600 will be given to the employers for employees who earn below RM4,000.

Perhaps, an extension of WSP 3.0 can be pursued for another few months given there is a possibility that MCO will be extended as there has not been signs of daily cases coming down substantially.

Another encouraging measure was the expansion in coverage of Prihatin Special Grant Plus to support SMEs in the states under blanket MCO whereby each SME will be entitled to RM1,000 worth of grant while SMEs in other states would receive RM500 each. Given the increased number of states being under MCO, the number of SME beneficiaries would need to increase as well.

Other key measures to ease the burden for businesses in the near term include accelerating the implementation of microcredit schemes, loan moratorium for businesses and rental discount of 30 per cent on business premises by MARA, special tax relief to companies that provide reduction in rental on business premises for SMEs and non-SMEs of at least 30 per cent, and discounts on electricity bills for businesses in six sectors.

Although measures appear positive as an overall, the significant focus in ensuring these stimulus measures bring positive and enough impact to Malaysians should be effective execution and monitoring coupled with strong political will.

Sofea Azahar is Research Analyst at EMIR Research, a think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research.

The evolving role of the CIO: A look at what’s in store for 2021

By Samuel Greengard, Writer And Author

Business conditions were harsh enough in calmer times. However, with digital technologies converging, the role of the chief information officer (CIO) is under a microscope like never before. As organizations attempt to navigate today’s tricky business environment and future-proof their businesses, the fundamental framework for business and technology have changed.

Cynthia Stoddard, CIO and senior vice president at Adobe, recently spoke about how the role of IT is changing during a CIO.com podcast: “Today, everything we do has some sort of technology. Digitization is part of the soul of every company.” As organizations—and their CIOs—attempt to adjust and adapt, there’s a need for a bolder outlook, different thinking about the relationship between business and technology, and an examination of how to improve interactions with customers, employees, business partners, and corporate boards.

Future tense

As employees work from home, retail stores, as an example, now take on new and different functions. In response to COVID-19 and the restrictions that followed in its wake, businesses have accelerated the adoption of technology. Thirty-seven percent (37%) of SMEs and 32% of the large and listed companies in Malaysia have taken steps to expand or upgrade their technology capabilities. [1]With technology altering the way consumers shop, CIOs must adapt to consumers through implementing technologies such as voice recognition, augmented reality, the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, analytics and much more.

At Adobe, Stoddard has tapped AI and bots to trim inefficiencies. By introducing AI-powered chatbots, Adobe slashed its typical 10-hour IT response time down to 1 hour for cases that required human involvement, representing a 90 percent improvement. CIOs are required to learn a whole new raft of skills to meet a very different set of goals which means unlearning tech-talk and gaining an ability to translate technical topics into actual business terms that have strategic value. In fact, these business and IT metrics are very different from pre-pandemic days. It may be, as Stoddard has focused on, improving incident resolution for remote employees, or something like the availability and use of contactless payment systems.

More than metrics

CIOs are increasingly part of the digital transformation agenda that looks to advance an organization’s mission. As a result, CIOs must understand how to connect with other leaders within the organization as well as with members of the boardroom and speak in a language they understand. For instance, forging a tighter relationship with the CMO to address different messaging and customer connection points in the time of COVID.

To succeed at this task, CIOs must adopt a broader perspective and possess business acumen that wasn’t expected in the past, according to Stoddard. Today, “CIO’s must understand their role in advancing a business strategy and overall digitization,” she explains. “They must be front-and-center and really understand how to partner with business groups and the board.” What’s more, all of this can’t take place at quarterly strategy meetings, it has to happen dynamically and in real time.

Beyond computing

EY’s Johnson concurs that while COVID-19 has forced businesses to work in entirely new ways and altered everything, it’s important to peer over the horizon. At some point, the pandemic will begin to fade. Yet, a return to the old way of doing things should be out of the question. “Business won’t go back to the same as before,” she says. Businesses that have built the right technology foundation, made the right investments in people and processes will be better prepared to deal with whatever ripples that will appear in the marketplace.

Johnson believes it’s important for organizations and CIOs to focus on three primary things:

  • Focus on the technology: Pivot on the technology the organization requires to drive the business forward—with a particular focus on the requirements of “silos, products and people.” This demands strong communication and a willingness to think beyond monolithic enterprise approaches.
  • Improve Deployment and automation of technologies: It is critical for CIOs to find ways to improve the way technology is deployed and automated across the enterprise. For example, “Many companies have people working remotely. If an employee has a problem with his or her laptop there’s usually no on-site support. So, companies need to change the way IT functions and reimagine the end-to-end user relationship.
  • Prioritize culture: CIOs must prioritize culture in the business strategy. Businesses often talk about digital transformation in the context of people, process and technology. The people portion of this is about continuing to motivate your talent and provide opportunities for personal growth. It’s about CIOs engaging with their team and helping them understand the culture even when it’s remote.

Eye on the customer

Yet, all roads must eventually lead back to customers. Tom Puthiyamadam, consumer markets and digital products leader, PwC says, “All things a CIO does should have some tie-in to creating value for customers.” Given the extraordinarily difficult nature of today’s business environment, he believes it’s wise for senior executives, including the CIO, to be present ⁠— to visit stores (once it’s safe), sit in on online sessions with customers and gain first-hand knowledge of what interactions actually look like.

This means finding ways to reduce friction through streamlined apps, quick and easy payments, visibility into inventory and orders, flexible deliveries, and easy ways to connect to a company. Simply tossing technology at the problem doesn’t address fundamental needs. For instance, a sales or support chatbot can serve as an effective tool or a frustrating hinderance, depending on how it is set up and how it connects people and resources. Predictive analytics can help delight or frustrate customers, depending on whether a marketing message is perceived as a value or simply more noise.

Now is the time to make significant investments in technology along with process improvements, Puthiyamadam concludes. Companies and CIOs that get things right have an opportunity to pluck opportunity out of all the chaos and transcend the competition. “The goal isn’t to restore the business to a pre-pandemic form,” he says. “It’s to build a framework that’s better adapted to a post-pandemic world in which almost everything is digital.”

[1] COVID-19 – a game changer for digital transformation, Ernst & Young, 1 June 2020

HPP debuts on ACE market as first listing this year

HPP Holding Berhad (“HPP Holdings” or the “Company”) has made its debut on the ACE Market of Bursa Malaysia Securities Berhad (Bursa Securities) as the first listing this year.

HPP Holdings’ Initial Public Offering (“IPO”) attracted strong interest, with the offering to the Malaysian public being oversubscribed by 33.44 times. The stock name has been as HPPHB and stock code 0228. Price was at RM0.36 per share. Meanwhile, the opening volume is 12,742,500 unit shares with an opening price of RM0.570. 

Non-Independent Non- Executive Chairman, Lau Kim Wah said “We started from humble beginnings and persevered to differentiate ourselves through quality, reliability and expertise in delivering packaging printing for our clients’ products”.

This offset packaging printing specialist will raise proceeds of approximately RM31.9 million, of which RM13.0 million will be utilised for capital expenditure such as acquisition of printing machines, RM7.8 million for repayment of bank borrowings, RM5.2 million for working capital and RM2.0 million for sales and marketing expenses. The remaining proceeds of RM3.9 million will be for defrayment of IPO expenses.

HPP is confident that being listed on the ACE Market Bursa Malaysia will elevate their status and accelerate the expansion plans alongside their  capable leadership on board.  

MACEOS calls for more solid financial aid to support business event industry

Malaysian Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (MACEOS) has conveyed their dissatisfaction over PERMAI Stimulus Package which are not solid enough to uplift the business event industry.

“The business events industry is already severely impacted, plus we are not allowed to operate during this movement control order (MCO). The PERMAI package did not provide a significant financial stimulus package to help revive the business events industry,” President of MACEOS Francis Teo commented.

Under the financial package, each employee earning less than RM4,000, is entitled for a wage subsidy of RM600.  However, this is hardly enough to mitigate cascading impact on businesses which have lost in revenue since the lockdown.  

Notably, the business events industry has suffered terrible losses, close to 90 percent loss in revenue, equivalent to RM2.25 billion since the first MCO started in March 2020 in Malaysia.

Many industry players were struggling to stay afloat, utilising various strategies to keep business going, including salary cuts, work from home arrangements, and taking unpaid leave. “We are cutting operations costs as much as possible,” said Teo.

Instead, MACEOS proposed a wage subsidy of 50 percent for those earning up to RM6,000 for three months to mitigate even after operations have resumed after the MCO. Eligible employers must prove 80 percent or more decline in revenue or income compared to January 2020.

MACEOS also hope the electricity and water bill discounts can be more than 10%, wage subsidies, and reduced assessment rates targeted specifically to the business events industry.

Fitch Forecasts MCO 2.0 Will Be Extended, More Stimulus Announced

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced a stimulus package worth RM15bn, or 1.1% of GDP. The package, dubbed the Permai Stimulus Package, includes the measures to extend tax relief for covid-19 tests, cash aid for 11.1 million receipients, one off handout worth RM66mn to cab and bus drivers, tax break for local assembled cars, handphone and laptop purchase. The government will set aside MYR2.2bn for special charity; and expand the wage subsidy program to cover all employers.

While the announcement of the Permai package is in line with the view for the government to implement fresh
stimulus to counteract the impact of the new round of lockdown measures, however, at just 1.1% of GDP, the impact is likely to be muted. Fitch expects the lockdown measures to last beyond the initial two-week period and the extended duration will do increasing damage to Malaysia’s 2021 growth outlook, which would otherwise have been set to see a swift recovery. According to the agency, the package also poses some downside risks to the 2021 fiscal deficit forecast of 5.5% of GDP, this goes against remarks made by Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul, who said the stimulus will not impact our GDP even if more capital injection is required.

Fitch Solutions believes this will not be the last round of fiscal stimulus enacted in 2021 and is likely meant as an initial stopgap to offset the impact of the first two weeks of the lockdown. They are confident that the lockdown measures will have to be extended as indeed, the previous lockdown in Q220 lasted close to a quarter before the outbreak then was contained, and it was a much milder one compared to the current third wave which has seen daily cases exceed 4,000 on January 16.

The government will likely have to introduce more stimulus, as soon as later in Q1, as the lockdown is extended, especially since PM Muhyiddin has pledged to hold snap elections (and hence needs to shore up support) once his administration has succeeded in containing the third wave. This development lends further strength on the view that the government will likely raise the debt limit again over the coming quarters in order to finance more stimulus to support the economy.

This report from Fitch Solutions Country Risk & Industry Research is a product of Fitch Solutions Group Ltd, UK Company FSG is solely responsible for the content of this report, without any input from Fitch Ratings.

Mastercard launches one stop center microsite to help SMEs digitalise and recover

Mastercard has launched the Digital Acceleration for Small Businesses microsite across most of its Asia Pacific websites with digitalisation information to assist (SMEs) running and recovering business efficiently.

The one stop center feature includes digital transformation, e-learning courses, information about Mastercard products and services for SMEs, cyber security insights and tools to reduce vulnerabilities and access to discounts on business software solutions, e-commerce platforms and digital marketing services.

“SMEs have taken a particularly hard hit from the pandemic, so it’s vital for them to get the knowledge, skills and resources they need to offer an omnichannel shopping and payment experience that drives business and builds customer loyalty in the physical and digital worlds,” Sandeep Malhotra, Executive Vice President, Products & Innovation, Asia Pacific, Mastercard said.

Among its objectives are to foster financial inclusion, help SMEs to digitalise their operations, reduce costs, improve cash flow management, deepen digital awareness while staying safe and protected from cyber risks and fraud.

Additionally, Mastercard has also joined forces with popular website builder Wix and with Zoho, a cloud solutions provider. These partners are sponsoring online guides and articles on various topics.

This will facilitate business to create an online store from choosing the right domain name to migrating to an online expense management and accounting platform.

SMEs need to plan for long-term success in a new world of online shopping. At Wix, “We will draw on the collective learning of the Wix team who built our eCommerce platform and the merchants who run their businesses on it to help SMEs plan and strategize for 2021,” Liat Karpel Gurwicz, Head of eCommerce Marketing at Wix.com said.

Facebook commits to tackle child exploitation issue and protect vulnerable communities on platform


Speaking at the Facebook Asia-Pacific (APAC) Safety Press Briefing webinar, Amber Hawkes, Head of Safety Policy for Facebook in APAC, said that Facebook will continue to mark down more child exploitation and protect vulnerable communities in the social media app.

Amber Hawkes said that Facebook designed the platform to give people control over their own experiences including control over what they share, who they share it with, the content they see, and who can contact them.

The team built in a number of additional protections to keep them safe like;

· Advertising categories for teens are more limited than for people over 18 years of age.

· New accounts belonging to minors on Facebook, are automatically defaulted to share with ‘friends’ only and their default audience options for posts do not include ‘public.’ If a minor wants to share publicly, they must go to their settings to enable the option, and we remind them about the meaning of posting publicly.

·  The team keeps face recognition off for minors.

·  Facebook limits who can see or search specific information teens have shared, such as contact information, school, hometown, or birthday.

·  Messages sent to minors from adults who are not friends (or friends of the minor’s friends) are filtered out of the minor’s inbox.

·  The team takes steps to remind minors that they should only accept friend requests from people they know.

·  Location sharing is off by default for minors. When either an adult or minor turn on location sharing, the team includes a consistent indicator as a reminder that they are sharing their location.

The standards provide additional protections for minors in areas such as bullying, harassment and image privacy.

Under their Privacy policy, the platform will remove images or videos of minors under 13 years old when the content is reported by the minor, or parent or legal guardian, and the team have dedicated reporting channels for this content.

Facebook also removes images or videos of a minor between 13 and 18 years old when the content is reported by the minor themselves.

The team also complies with legal guardian requests for removal of attacks on unintentionally famous minors.

“Facebook’s effort to keep people safe is especially important in places where social media can be used to spread disinformation and hate at scale and amplify existing social tensions. This is something the team are very aware of and focused on as a company.

In early 2018, the team established a dedicated, multi-disciplinary team to better understand and address the way social media is used in countries experiencing conflict. The people on this team have spent their careers studying issues like misinformation, hate speech, and polarisation,” said Hawkes.

Facebook has also worked alongside local groups for input on products, and programmes.

MCO 2.0 Costs The Country RM600 Million Daily

Its a bitter pill but one that is necessary, the Movement Control Order 2.0 which has been initiated by the government for the second time due to the raging third wave of the deadly virus is costing the county dearly. Although the financial figure is much lower than the one in March, the government still expects to lose RM600 million daily.

The information was delivered by Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul, “this MCO is unlike the one in March last year as five essential sectors are still open; small and medium enterprises such as stalls and stores can still be opened,” he said in a media briefing on the Malaysian Economic and Rakyat’s Protection Assistance Package (PERMAI)

Malaysia suffered a devastating loss from March to May last year with a reported burn of RM2.4 billion daily during the lockdown, however as the Minister with the operation of certain certain sectors including manufacturing, construction, services, trade and distribution, as well as plantations and commodities will leave a lesser impact on the overall economy.

There has been no clear timeframe given when MCO 2.0 will end, but estimate are that another 6 weeks will be needed to flatten the current situation. In view of another prolonged shutdown, the Prime Minister recently announced the PERMAI stimulus package to aid those affected. According to Tengku Zafrul, PERMAI is an improvement of the initiatives announced in Budget 2021 as well as ongoing initiatives in the Rakyat Prihatin Economic Stimulus Package and PENJANA.

Despite the unknown locked down period, Malaysia will still maintaining its GDP growth projection, in hoping the recent subsidy initiative will keep the momentum going for the country. Tengku Zafrul said Malaysia’s GDP recorded a contraction of 2.7 per cent in the third quarter of 2020, which was among the best in Asean compared to Singapore (-7 per cent), Indonesia (-3.5 per cent), Philippines (-11.5 per cent), and US (-2.9 per cent).  

The Finance Minister has additional ammunition if required, apart from the allocated RM15 billion the treasury can inject an additional RM6.6 billion if required.

PERMAI Stimulus, A Letdown For Events Industry

The PERMAI Stimulus Package revealed yesterday by the Prime Minister of Malaysia was a let down, said Malaysian Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (MACEOS) president, Francis Teo.

“The business events industry is already severely impacted, plus we are not allowed to operate during this movement control order (MCO). The PERMAI package did not provide a significant financial stimulus package to help revive the business events industry,” Teo commented.

Under the financial package, the wage subsidy programme (WSP) would be extended for one month to all employers regardless of the business sector. They stand to receive a wage subsidy of RM600 for each employee earning less than RM4,000, but Teo says this is hardly enough. 

Instead, MACEOS proposed a wage subsidy of 50 percent for those earning up to RM6,000 for three months to mitigate the cascading impact on businesses even after operations have resumed after the MCO. Eligible employers must prove 80 percent or more decline in revenue or income compared to January 2020.

“A one-size-fits-all wage subsidy does not work here. The business events industry has suffered terrible losses, close to 90 percent loss in revenue, equivalent to RM2.25 billion since the first MCO started in March 2020 in Malaysia. Many will be on the brink of winding up if a stronger financial package is not provided,” he said.

Teo also felt that the 10 percent electricity bill discount offered to six specific business sectors, including convention centres, was not going to be of much help since the industry was not allowed to operate during the MCO. He hoped that the Government would provide a more solid financial aid programme targeted directly at the business events industry focused on higher electricity and water bill discounts, wage subsidies, and reduced assessment rates.

Teo said that many industry players were struggling to stay afloat, utilising various strategies to keep business going, including salary cuts, work from home arrangements, and taking unpaid leave. “We are cutting operations costs as much as possible. There is nothing else we can skimp on.

Facebook to improve safety and security practice with further digitalisation


Speaking at the Facebook Asia-Pacific (APAC) Safety Press Briefing webinar, Amber Hawkes, Head of Safety Policy for Facebook in APAC, said that Facebook will digitalise to further improve their security and safety in handling threats on the social media app.

Facebook moderates content by utilising three teams which all have their specific roles;

1.      Content Policy

This team writes the community standards, which are the rules which outline what is and is not allowed on Facebook. The team includes people with expertise in topics ranging from terrorism, child safety to human rights, from fields as diverse as academia, law, law enforcement, and government.

2.      Community Integrity

This team enforces the community standards responsible for building that technology which helps the team enforce the community standard.

3.      Global Operations

The community standard through human review. Facebook’s team has more than 15,000 content reviewers that review content in over 50 languages. The team is based in over 20 sites globally which covers every major time zone.

Facebook intends to progress their security and safety by utilising technology as the team’s central role. 

The community standards are better in identifying content and automatically take it down before anyone can see it with the upgrade in technology.

“Between April and June this year 99.6 percent of fake accounts, 99.8 percent of spam, 99.5 percent of violent and graphic content, 98.5 percent of terrorist content, and 99.3 percent of child nudity and sexual exploitation content, 95 percent of the content the team has removed from Facebook was identified and removed by our technology, Hawkes said.

“Without needing someone to report to Facebook’s security and safety team,” Hawkes added.

Using technology to prioritise content in review like suicide. Child exploitation or terrorism are sent to human review in chronological order, with user reports over content flagged proactively by Facebook’s technology.

However due to advances in technology in recent years, Facebook is now able to prioritise content that needs reviewing, after considering several different factors:

·        Virality: Content that is potentially violating that is being quickly shared will be given greater weight than content that is getting no shares or views.

·        Severity: Content that is related to real-world harm such as suicide and self-injury or child exploitation will be prioritised over less harmful types of content such as Spam.

·        Likelihood of violating: Content that has signals which indicate that it may be like other content that violated our policies will be prioritised over content which does not appear to have violated our policies previously.

It also means the reviewers in the team’s Global Operations team spend more time on complex content issues where judgment is required, and less time on lower severity reports that technology is capable of handling.

Facebook also applies a combination of technology and reports from the community and human review to identify and review content against the community standards.

Until recently, most of the technology that the team used to moderate content looked at each part of a post separately on two dimensions.

“Content type and violation type. For instance, one classifier would look at the photo for violations of our nudity policy, and another classifier would look for evidence of violence. A separate set of classifiers might look at the text of the post, or the comments,”

“This can make it challenging to understand the full context of the post,” she added.

To get a more holistic understanding of the content, the team created technology called Whole Post Integrity Embeddings or WPIE.

In simple terms, this technology looks at a post in its entirety, whether the images, video, and text. The team looks for various policy violations simultaneously using one classifier, instead of multiple different classifiers for different content and violation types.

“XLM-R is a new technology that Facebook developed that can understand text in multiple languages. This model is trained in one language and then used with other languages without the need for additional training data or content examples.

With people on Facebook posting content in more than 160 languages, XLM-R represents an important step toward our vision of being able to moderate content globally. It helps us transition toward a one-classifier-for-many-languages approach — as opposed to one classifier per language” said the Head of Safety Policy for Facebook in APAC.

This is particularly important for less common languages where there may not be large volumes of data available to train the algorithm.

Nora Junita appointed as new MDEC CFO to accelerate Malaysia’s digital outreach

The Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) has announced a key appointment to its senior management team member today (19.01.2021) naming Nora Junita Mohd Hussaini as its new Chief Financial Officer (CFO) with immediate effect.

This is the second appointment in 2021, which follows MDEC’s ‘Reinvent’ initiative – a strategic change management exercise that was recently launched to inculcate a high-performing and high-impact organisation. 

She brings over a decade of C-Level experience, including multi million dollar and regional M&A, business turnaround and change management, specifically in telecommunications.

Notably, she is also a Finance and Strategy professional, with over two decades of sound experience across multiple industries and markets in Europe and Asia, especially the UK, Malaysia and Bangladesh.

“I am truly excited to be part of the sterling team at MDEC, who are working tirelessly to propel Malaysia’s digital economy forward and firmly establish Malaysia as the Heart of Digital ASEAN,” she said.

Nora Junita will be working closely with the MDEC CEO, Surina Shukri, and MDEC’s Management Operating Council, comprising the heads of the four key strategic areas – Digital Business, Digital Investments, Digital Talent and Digital MDEC to run MDEC’s overall national strategic objectives. 

Facebook’s security and safety team to focus on 4 key areas in 2021 and beyond


Speaking at the Facebook Asia-Pacific (APAC) Safety Press Briefing webinar, Amber Hawkes, Head of Safety Policy for Facebook in APAC, said that Facebook will continue to approach using four major points in addressing social media safety:

1.      Partnerships

The social media app regularly engages with over 500 safety partners around the world. The partners help Facebook by informing to Facebook about the partners’ work and collaborating to deliver programmes.

“In Malaysia, Facebook has partnered with Mental Illness Awareness and Support Association (MIASA) Malaysia. A non-governmental organization (NGO) that provides counselling, assessment and various support to people experiencing mental well-being issues.

A safety advisory board has been established by Facebook in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) to provide inputs on Facebook’s efforts in terms of security and safety,” Hawkes explained.

2.      Policies

Facebook’s community standards outline what is and not allowed on the social media app. The community standards cover areas like;

·        Violent and Criminal Behaviour.

·        Suicide and Self Injury.

·        Child Sexual Exploitation.

·        Sexual Exploitation of Adults (including the non-consensual sharing of intimate images, and sextortion).

·        Adult Nudity and Sexual Activity.

·        Bullying and Harassment.

·        Human Exploitation (including human trafficking).

·        Privacy Violations.

·        Hate Speech, Violent and Graphic Content.

·        Cruel and Insensitive Content.

·        Misrepresentation (using an inauthentic identity).

Facebook’s content reviewers typically review more than two million pieces of content every day in dozens of languages and the ability to review in regional dialects in many countries.

“A network of local civil society partners around the world who can reach out to Facebook via dedicated channels to alert the social media app to emerging issues and provide essential context” she added.

3.      Tools

·        Facebook

Security check-up will help users to get alerts when someone tries logging in an account from an unrecognised computer or mobile device, learn how to protect your password and enable two-factor authentication.

Privacy check-up will help users to look at who can see what the users share, how to keep the users account secure, how other people can find other users on Facebook and users’ data setting on the social media app.

Wellbeing tools on Facebook that allows the users to view how much time spent on the app and introduced the “You’re All Caught up” feature to let users know that every post from the last two days have been seen.

·        Instagram

Remove follower features allows public or private accounts to remove people from the followers’ list at any time.

Restrict is a feature that, once enabled, comments on the users’ post from a person that has been restricted will only be visible to the person that has been restricted.

Filter comments offer users to manage the comments on Instagram. Users can turn off comments entirely, delete and report abusive comments, or block certain people from commenting.

·        WhatsApp

Safety Notifications and Reporting is when a group is reported to the WhatsApp security team and gets the last five messages as part of the report.

If the user confirms “report and block”, the content of the message is transmitted in plaintext to WhatsApp so the platform can analyse it.

The team has a “Contact Us” channel found in the Settings menu, and a dedicated global team that reviews and acts on these reports.

WhatsApp are also researching ways to encourage people to report. For instance, at the time someone exits or groups or deletes a contact, issuing a pop up to ask if they would like to make a report.

Labelling and Forward Limits are introduced to give people essential context when users receive a message that has been shared multiple times. WhatsApp also reduced the number of people; users can forward a message to just five chats at once.

Highly forwarded messages are limited further and can only be forwarded to one chat. This has resulted in a 70 percent reduction in the number of highly forwarded messages on WhatsApp.

Addressing Abuse is a feature that identifies and bans accounts with abnormal behaviour patterns and now banning two million accounts per month. WhatsApp can proactively detect 75 percent without relying on users’ reports.

4.      Resources

·        Facebook Safety Centre

In the Facebook Safety Centre, sections dedicated to parents, youth, online wellbeing and bullying. The team is continuing to add other specialised sections, such as non-consensual sharing of intimate images.

“Also, in the Facebook Safety Centre, users can download a variety of guides in different languages on key safety topics including women’s safety, LGBTQI safety, senior’s safety, school safety and more,”

“All these guides are produced in partnership with third-party experts, and have been designed for use by individuals, organisations, educators, and caregivers,” said APAC’s Head of Safety Policy for Facebook.

·        Instagram Safety Centre

In the Instagram Safety Centre, we have dedicated sections on online bullying, a guide for parents and details on the various programmes we lead and support on safety.

Facebook spent US$3.7 billion on safety and security in 2019 and it was more than the application’s entire revenue at the time of the Initial Public Offering (IPO).  

F&NHB to invest on sustainable growth through halal food segment expansion

Fraser & Neave Holdings Bhd (“F&NHB” or “the Group”) is set to establish Halal food as the Group’s new pillar of growth following the acquisition of three food & beverage (F&B) companies Sri Nona Food Industries Sdn Bhd, Sri Nona Industries Sdn Bhd and Lee Shun Hing Sauce Industries Sdn Bhd worth up to RM60 million.

F&NHB Chief Executive Officer, Lim Yew Hoe said that the Group is constantly exploring ways to ‘reimagine’ its business through organic growth and business synergies to ensure a more sustainable future.

The Annual General Meeting (AGM) held virtually today, to realise its ambition of becoming a leading total F&B company in the ASEAN region.

“Our latest investment will serve as a platform to expand into more halal food segments and to meet the rising demand for convenience and ready-to-eat food products. With our robust R&D capabilities, we are confident that the new acquisitions will help us grow our halal food categories,complement our offerings, introduce more innovative products and increase our profit margin in the long run,” said Lim during the AGM.

F&NHB has also recently sharpened its route-to-market and channel strategies to understand its consumers buying behavior better thus meeting their expectations.

Having scaled up its e-commerce operations in 2020 to tap into the exponential growth in this channel, F&NHB continues to explore different order fulfilment options to strengthen its competitive edge.

Meanwhile, Food & Beverages Thailand (F&B Thailand) continued to contribute and invest in various initiatives to drive innovation and business sustainability despite the challenging circumstances and ensuing emergency decree in Malaysia.

“F&N also have identified various opportunities to fuel growth and cost efficiency, driven by three strategic priorities, namely Innovation, Cost Competitiveness and Excellence in Execution. We are confident that our knowledge, skills, expertise, capabilities, resources and commitment will continue to steer us to achieve our goals in these unprecedented times,” Lim added.

The investment will enable F&NHB to add an established Malaysian household food brand to the Group’s portfolio of renowned brands.

Eight key trends leading to the future of gig economy

EduCity Leadership Summit (EdLeadS) 2021

Speaking at the EduCity Leadership Summit (EdLeadS) 2021, Shareen Shariza Abdul Ghani, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Co-Founder of GigXGlobal, discussed key trends that will lead the gig economy to be the future in major businesses.

Firstly, the trend of wellbeing at the forefront. She explained that a holistic approach is needed for wellbeing and, not just in policy making, but in practice and in behaviours. The care and support, as key success factors, are essential for work and home. For instance, mental health issues in the workplace.

Next, the trend of remote working is quickly alluding into the mainstream business. This is mostly due to the Covid-19 outbreak, but this trend will acquire a foothold as companies see the economic benefits of this style of working.

Flexibility and agility are also contributing to the trend towards the gig economy. Currently, all work is based on their work. In contrast to the more traditional work environment, it is based on the effort shown to the higher ups like staying late every day for work.

Additionally, the future of the gig economy will lean more on skills and not qualifications. The future of skills will move from the linear to a more ‘Z-shaped skills’. The skills mentioned are shaped skills which combine deep business and digital literacy with soft skills.

“The hybrid generation also implies the future of the gig economy. Look how EdLeadS uses Zoom to initiate a programme like this. The integration of humans and automation to complete a task can benefit not just the people in the gig economy but to almost everyone in the post Covid-19 world,” she said. 

“Covid-19 also accelerates the bond between devices and humans to create a better future for the gig economy.”

“Gig economy also is an On Demand workforce which actively contributes to the trend leading to the future of the economy. Now, contingent workers represent 15-25 percent of the global workforce and the number will keep growing,” added Shareen.

Serba Dinamik Holdings secures 11 projects worth RM548.2 million


Serba Dinamik Holdings Bhd., an integrated engineering provider, has secured 11 projects in operations and maintenance (O&M), engineering procurement, construction, and commissioning (EPCC) and information, communications, and technology (ICT).

The company acquired the projects through a wholly owned subsidiary which are SDIT International LTD (SDITIL), Serba Dinamik Sdn. Bhd. (SDSB) and the 75 percent owned subsidiary, PT Serba Dinamik Indonesia (PT SDI).

Nine of the projects are O&M contracts and one each for EPCC and ICT respectively.

The total value of the nine projects is RM548.2 million and two other contracts were not disclosed. This is due to the two contracts being on a “call-out” basis.

The basis’s work orders are awarded at the discretion of the clients based on their activities’ schedules and rates throughout the duration of the contracts.

“The company is pleased to start 2021 with projects worth a total of RM548.2 million. Serba Dinamik Holdings were granted five O&M projects from PT Pilar Bahtera Energi which enables the company to participate into the power industry in Indonesia,”said Mohd Abdul Karim bin Abdullah, Group Managing Director and Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Serba Dinamik Holdings.

“Additionally, acquiring an ICT project in India for implementation of Smart Solutions for the development of Smart and Safe City is also quite a feat. These new contracts will definitely give Serba Dinamik Holdings the push to gear up to a productive year and the company is confident to continue in delivering promising financial results for 2021,” he added. 

KPMG highlights need for security teams to move beyond traditional approaches

KPMG’s latest report, Securing the cloud has detailed  the need for security teams to move beyond traditional approaches to effectively manage security and protect vital business assets in today’s new reality and threat landscape.

“Cloud investment was considered the third most important technology investment during the onset of Covid-19[1]. But in the rush to shift online, businesses may have taken an ‘act now, ask questions later’ approach to their digital transformation and cloud implementation. This could mean some sizeable gaps in their cloud security, leaving them vulnerable to new forms of cyberattacks,” cautioned Alvin Gan, Head of IT-enabled Transformation at KPMG in Malaysia.

“In fact, our 2020 KPMG/Harvey Nash CIO Survey revealed that 4 in 10 IT leaders reported their company having experienced an increase in cyber-attacks last year. Unless they begin enacting crucial steps to better govern their cloud security solutions, an attack on their system becomes a matter of ‘when’, not ‘if’,” he added.

Holding the threat landscape at bay requires security teams to move well beyond manual asset management and configuration, access reviews and incident playbooks. Here are some key lessons and insights that can provide companies with practical steps to effectively govern cloud security solutions:

  • Beware of threats lurking in the shadows

A ‘shadow cloud’ concerns the use of cloud infrastructure, services and applications outside the boundaries of an organization’s corporate IT policies. These solutions will usually result in an increased risk of exposure for corporate data, personally identifiable information and intellectual property.

Organizations should enact efficient oversight and governance of cloud technology to discourage staff and stakeholders from deploying shadow cloud solutions and this includes addressing shadow cloud issues in policies and employee standards, or blocking access to unauthorized cloud-based applications.

  • Cloud-based email — opening the front door to attacks

While cloud-based email offers much needed flexibility to businesses enduring today’s disruptive pandemic, the convenience can also unknowingly grant access to crafty hackers at anywhere, anytime. This has given rise to large-scale business email compromise (BEC) attacks.

Common cloud-based email services often come with a suite of authentication and monitoring capabilities as add-ons, which should be carefully maintained to effectively detect malicious activity.

  • Test your incident playbooks

Security teams are often reassured by the range of security monitoring tools offered as standard by cloud service providers. This could result in a false sense of security as incident response procedures look and feel different in the cloud. Thus, security teams must not be complacent and should ensure they adapt their incident response procedure to be effective in the cloud.

“Maintaining customer trust in such a volatile situation is more challenging than ever before. Companies should move boldly and strategically to better safeguard their enterprise assets and customer data, ensuring they have the right systems and controls in place to protect their business, their customers, and avoid a cyber security breach which can result in reputational and financial damage,” concluded Alvin.

To download the report and for more insights, visit www.kpmg.com.my/insights

[1] 2020 KPMG/Harvey Nash CIO Survey