SOBA judges laud quality submissions

SOBA judges laud

PETALING JAYA: Small and medium enterprises, as well as the country’s non-listed companies, have seen improvement in various aspects as compared to previous years.

The Star Outstanding Business Awards (SOBA) judges, SME Association of Malaysia national council member Datuk Grace Chia and Malaysian Associated Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry council member Selva Nagappan, both acknowledged the progress of companies in growing their businesses in different ways.

While there was a ‘big gap’ between companies that achieve revenue slightly over the RM25mil mark and bigger ones that rake in RM300mil, both noted there were also a number of SMEs putting in admirable effort with the resources they have.

Speaking after the final round of judging for SOBA 2020 submissions, Chia said that there were higher quality applications for the above RM25mil turnover tier, with an increase in participation from larger non-listed companies that have diversified in the marketplace and achieved strong revenue growth through product, market development or digitalisation.

Leaders in the areas of green initiatives and corporate social responsibility (CSR), she added, excelled in well thought-out efforts that brought about positive change to the environment and the community, respectively.

“In terms of a sustainable green initiative, those that stand out with high marks are very clear on their objectives.

“To be truly sustainable in nurturing environmentally friendly practices, companies must get the buy-in of customers and the understanding of stakeholders along their supply chain to implement it, ” she said.

For CSR, Chia stresses that it must go beyond one-off monetary donations to focus on the value and impact it gives back to communities.

She added, “The execution of any initiative is by staff, so first of all, the staff must believe in it and embrace it fully internally. Next is really making the effort with on-the-ground follow through to sustain such initiatives, after the initial outreach to truly make an impact.”

While employment is a different category altogether, Selva echoed similar sentiments as he said that being a good employer does not necessarily require deep pockets, but instead a keen focus on consistently developing the talent pipeline and fostering a conducive corporate culture that attracts younger talent.

Noting that there were many smaller companies with ‘fantastic initiatives’, he opined, “For the younger leaders and smaller companies, the way they position the company is quite innovative and differs from conventional methods, especially under the employer category, through the way they incentivise and compensate their employees.

“The current generation would rather be a part of companies where their contributions would be recognised and their ideas will be acknowledged.

“It’s a new way of thinking and strategy on talent development for entrepreneurs and a challenge that companies have to tackle [in order] to attract and nurture their people to be part of their business.”

In addition, he was also impressed with the willingness of SMEs to invest more in technology for digital transformation as a competitive advantage in the current market.

When it comes to submissions, Chia also pointed out that companies needed to clearly delineate the difference between green initiatives and CSR as they are not one and the same, so as to better fit the SOBA categories they apply for.

For Selva, the way that companies must ‘put their heart and soul into their applications’ with attention to detail, by properly telling a good story, as judges would not be able to accurately assess their initiatives otherwise.

SOBA 2020 is the first time the awards programme has had its two judging sessions conducted entirely online, which has been well received by its panel of judges.

Citing the boost to objectivity as an added boon, Chia said that utilising digital documents and online platforms enabled a faster and more efficient judging process, as individual judges in a certain category can go through submissions concurrently, rather than having to wait for their fellow judges to finish assessing manual applications.

SOBA 2020 is organised by SMG with Digi, PKT Logistics Group Sdn Bhd and RHB Bank Bhd as main sponsors, Credit Guarantee Corporation Malaysia Bhd as co-sponsor and Matrade as official trade promotion partner. It is endorsed by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, supported by Bursa Malaysia and audited by BDO with dimsum, 988 and Suria as official media partners.

Currently in its 11th consecutive year, the awards - which cast the spotlight on the contribution of enterprises to the nation’s economy - aim to inspire and steer local, non-listed companies towards greater success by promoting business excellence and stimulating positive competition.

For more information on SOBA 2020, email Lily or Poh Ern at or visit

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