(Malaysia) – On July 15, the US-ASEAN Business Council (the Council), in partnership with the Ministry of Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives of Malaysia, conducted a webinar for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Malaysia. The event was part of a broader webinar series in response to the COVID-19 crisis. More than 100 owners and executives of Malaysian SMEs participated in the webinar session titled, “Enabling Digital Capabilities of Malaysian SMEs through the COVID-19 Crisis.”
The webinar was officially opened by Ambassador Michael Michalak, Senior Vice President and Regional Managing Director of the Council, and YBhg. Dato’ Suriani binti Dato Ahmad, Secretary General, Ministry of Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives, and also the Chair of the ASEAN Coordinating Committee on Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (ACCMSME) 2021.
“Our commitment through this program is to empower Malaysian SMEs. Their adeptness in using digital tools is increasingly important as a means to be agile in surviving and adapting to digital transformation accelerated by the pandemic,” said Amb. Michalak. “This is a crucial time for SMEs to make the transformation to a digital business —in fact, this is a crucial time for all businesses to transform but the urgency for SMEs has never been more important since they make up the backbone of Malaysia’s economy.”
“We hope to see more SMEs to seize these opportunities in emerging technologies and the digitalization as an effort to propel innovative solutions to solve socio-environmental challenges while at the same time equip the workforce with necessary skillsets to embrace widespread transformation and actively participate in community and socioeconomic empowerment agenda” said Dato’ Suriani.
The webinar consisted of four sessions featuring prominent speakers from the Malaysian Government and US-ABC member companies. In the first session, Mr. Amrul Nazri Abdullah, Director of International Cooperation Division, SME Corp. Malaysia, shared a new initiative called MatchMe under the MyAssist MSME.
“Due to the pandemic of Covid19, the usage of Digital technology is no longer an option but a must to the MSMEs to sustain their business activities or upgrading their capabilities. The introduction of MatchMe Platform under the MyAssist MSME portal by SME Corp Malaysia is a right move to ensure MSMEs continue to expand their markets while respecting the Standard Operating Procedures set during Movement Control Order, it is cost saving and convenient,” said Mr. Amrul.
In the fireside chat session, Ms. Surina Shukri, CEO of Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation, addressed challenges and opportunities in the Digital Transformation for Malaysian SMEs and how COVID-19 has affected the National Digital Policy plan. She also emphasized the importance of SMEs successfully being able to navigate today’s digital marketplace.
The Council remains committed to empowering ASEAN SMEs, especially Malaysian SMEs. As Malaysian SMEs are heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to help them adapt and survive the crisis in the face of a changing business landscape. At the same time, the pandemic has provided an opportunity to accelerate the pace of digitalization, including the adoption of digital payments and e-commerce. Therefore, it is vital for SMEs to enhance their digital capabilities skills and transform their business to emerge stronger and accelerate economic recovery.
The webinar was also supported by Visa and Facebook. In Visa's Session, Mr. Jason Phua, Head of Business Development, Visa Malaysia, and Ms. Ng Say Ling, Head of SME, Visa Asia Pacific, explained the importance of digitalization for small business and the advantages of digital payments. Mr. Lance Cheang, Managing Director of VLAN Asia, spoke about his own digital transformation experience. In Facebook's Session, Mr. Justin Murugaya, Acting Country Director Malaysia, Facebook, spoke about how Mega Sales Days have evolved beyond a discount-driven activity, to a cultural moment which presents new brand building opportunities
SMEs capacity building in ASEAN Member States (AMS) has been a key pillar of the Council for one decade now. In 2011, the Council established a training program for ASEAN SMEs in response to a request by ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) to support ASEAN SMEs in leveraging technology and the intra-global consumer and supply base. Currently, nearly 10,000 SMEs have benefitted from Council’s SME programs in all ten AMS. This is the 5th SME capacity building activity that the Council has conducted for SMEs in Malaysia.
In line with making material on the SME Academy more accessible to entrepreneurs, the Council launched the online ASEAN SME Academy in 2016. The Online Academy is a self-help and self-paced learning platform for SMEs that provides access to free courses and resources from the Council’s member companies. The Academy is co-administered with the Philippines Department Trade and Industry (DTI) and Philippine Trade Training Centre (PTTC) on behalf of the Coordinating Committee on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (ACCMSME). To read more about the academy or should you want to know more on how to develop your SME, please visit the link www.asean-sme-academy.org for more information.